True Romance: Bear Necessities in the Dhauladhar

Rhododendron in DhauladharI was trekking in the hills above Dharamsala with my better half the other week when a man offered me a beautiful red flower. Standing next to my man I felt kind of awkward that another man had produced a floral gift, however this feeling soon subsided.

What he’d given me was a rhododendron (known locally as Guras) and little did I know it was a tasty Himalayan snack. Apparently it is used to make jams, juices and chutneys by the locals and it is even thought to have properties that help with heart ailments and blood pressure. It tastes good, slightly bitter but yeah, nice. And here comes the best part – bears love it. No, we aren’t talking Winnie the Pooh here. Forget your cute red-t-shirted bear with a sticky honey pot. We’re talking about the Himalayan brown bear folks, otherwise known as ‘Dzu-The’ or yeti, and yes he likes to eat flowers. Badass.

So, there are two lessons to be learned from this incident…

Firstly, if you’re trekking in the Dhauladhars or some other part of these here mountains, you know what to do if you come across a big brown bear: pacify him with his most favourite delicious snack, then recover from your heart attack and lower your blood pressure by partaking in some guras yourself.   Not sure what to advise you about your soiled undergarments, mind you.

Secondly, a flower is not always a romantic gesture. It could very well turn out to be a great chutney ingredient. Get over yourself.

Know your physical sustenance from your emotional sustenance; they are but mere morsels for us mere mortals.

Your Basic Backpacking Checklist

Your Basic Backpacking Checklist

Contrary to what the local stoner/hiker-dude/hippie/“I have been in India 12 years”- person says, a pair of flip flops, 2 samosas and lots of love for the world may not be the best kit to survive in the mountains. Lord Shiva is not going to save your ass when you are freezing/starving/ravaged by wild animals in the beautiful Himalayas. The best you can do is take a few photos of your sun burnt, freezing and hungry ass during the last moments on earth so that others can learn from your experience (read as fuck up).

You will be asking yourself – ‘how do I avoid being remembered for the idiot that got killed 5 Kms from habitations?’ Well, to start with follow a checklist. Yes, there is a basic checklist of things that can and will assist you in enjoying your outdoors experience.


  1. Navigation
  1. Sun protection
  1. Insulation
  • Jacket, fleece, pants/trousers, gloves, hat
  1. Illumination
  1. First-aid supplies
  1. Fire
  1. Repair kit and tools
  1. Nutrition
  1. Hydration
  1. Emergency shelter


So now you got your basics covered, in the next installment of Rust and Dust we will discuss what to carry in your First Aid Kit. Seriously, it is always good to follow checklists. I did not make them up, they have been around since man started going further from their caves to forage and hunt to keep the tribe alive. So don’t open yourself to ridicule after your long and painful death at the hands of Mother Nature, pack a good kit and enjoy the mountains!!

Backpacking the HimalayasBackpacking the Himalayas