Here is a counter-view for the “Independent Style Trekking”. I ask myself “Why do you trek ?” The principal reasons are to enjoy nature and to enjoy the walk. If those are the objectives and if I can afford it why not achieve the above objectives with luxury and comfort. That is what “Sahib Style” trekking essentially is. “Sahib Style” trekking achieves the above objectives without the additional challenges (pains if you will) of “independent style treks”.
The following are some of the key characteristics of “Sahib Style Trekking” :-
- Porters/Mules to carry your luggage
- Guides to show you the way
- Cook to ensure that you have tasty, nutritious and timely food along your way (often with desserts included)
- A dining tent where you sit comfortably in a spacious tent replete with tables and chairs
- A Kitchen tent where the cook & his staff (often comprising a helper or two) cook hot meals for you. Sometimes the staff even carries gas cylinders for use in the kitchen
- A spacious tent for you having a sleeping mat, warm sleeping bags and in some cases I have seen a layer or two of quilt blankets/comforters
- Besides the standard medical kit often the trekking agency would provide for an oxygen cylinder for larger trekking groups in a high-altitude trek. This oxygen cylinder would get carried by a porter who accompanies the trekking group (walking along with them)
- Guides would go to the extent of carrying their clients on their backs if you find a particular stretch (say a stream crossing) tough to negotiate
- There is enough safety equipment like rope/harness/carabiners (in case you need to cross a stream etc). Note that I am talking about trekking and not mountaineering expeditions where all of this is mandatory
- Throw in a bonfire at night
Now, you probably have a good picture of what I am talking about. The big question is what does this do your trekking experience ? Well there are 2 ways of looking at it :-
- One view is that it allows the trekker to enjoy the trekking experience, enjoy nature, walk , spend a lot of time capturing nature’s beauty in his/her camcoders/cameras without the inherent risks/discomforts/challenges of “independent style trekking”.
Another view is that it by taking away the inherent risks/discomforts/challenges of “independent style trekking” it takes away a lot from the trekking experience and gives one a reduced sense of accomplishment.
Irrespective of which view one subscribes to there are definitely a few non-debatable benefits to “Sahib Style trekking” :-
It gives you good local company (porters/guides) resulting in a better understanding and appreciation of the local knowledge/culture/customs and practices.
It helps infuse finance into the hands of the local community better (especially if you arrange for the porters/guides directly as opposed through a trekking agency).
It keeps you away from the “Red-tapism” and “Organisational hassles” of getting permits
However, as you will all agree, there are no “Free lunches” in this world. All this comes at a price. The cost of an organized trek is often 3-5 times (sometimes more) that of an independent trek. The magnitude of the difference(compared to independent trek) is a factor of the size of your group (in an organized trek), the level of comforts (from the above list) that you seek.
What is my view on “Sahib Style Trekking” vs “Independent Trekking” ?
Well, I prefer to do my treks within a budget and I also prefer solitude during my treks. So, I definitely prefer the independent style of trek. I also like being self-sufficient, carrying my own backpack and finding the route on my own (where possible). However, when route finding is going to be very difficult then I would prefer to employ the services of a guide (who could also double as a part time porter/cook).