American “Experience”: Glamping adventure and climbing delicate arches
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American “Experience”: Glamping adventure and climbing delicate arches

By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC

Recently, I received an invitation from one Mr. Reddy for the inauguration of a “glamping” site at Mysuru. Impressive website.   What is glamping?  Simple, it is  “glamorous camping.” Camping in style. Well, I am happy some entrepreneur has at last thought of this idea, which is quite common in the West and has ventured to provide it to our citizens. We Indians lack adventure and only a few venture out to try these new forms of travel.

RVs or Recreational Vehicles travel is the cheapest form of travel in the US. The vehicles are modified as per your budget and when one travels on a Friday, one can see hundreds of RVs travelling all over the country. Every tourism destination has several camping sites and these vehicles are allowed to park there at a nominal fees ranging from 10 to 25 dollars.

My daughter also decided that we should have some adventure and thus made a booking for a glamping site near Bear Lake, a huge lake several miles long and a picnic spot, nearly three hours drive from Salt Lake City. On a Friday afternoon, in US all picnic spots are crowded and Bear Lake was no exception. Thousands of people were milling around the Lake and we could not get a parking space till 3 pm!

Anyway after enjoying the beach we decided to go around to the camping site where we were booked to stay in a  Western style wagon, not cheap [see pic]. A cool 300 dollars ! There were about 18 wagons placed around the camping site. The wagons were really nice and comfortable with 6 beds, ideal for a small family. The only problem was that one had to walk about 100 meters for bathrooms. Cool breeze, clear starry sky,  open live fire and a guitarist to boot, the atmosphere was enchanting to say the least.

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At about 2 am, all of us suddenly woke up as a thunderstorm decided to visit that area. Lightning, thunder, rain and howling winds. The whole wagon started to shake and it was sheer terror for about two hours.  I really do not know how many times we remembered our Goddess Chamundeshwari.

Next day morning, bright sunshine, no trace of rain ! Not even a single puddle of water anywhere.  At about 6 am, when I went out to the cafe to have my coffee, I met the camp manager who assured me that it was only a moderate thunderstorm and was a common occurrence in these parts. He also wanted to know about “the experience.” Believe me, we can laugh at the experience now, but not then.

Arches Park

I have to share another of these so-called experience. We had decided to go on a holiday trip to the Arches National Park, Utah, the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches. Size of the park, 76,519 acres! Surreal geological wonders, millions of years old, forms created by erosion of water, ice and wind. Though there are more than 400 documented arches, four of them are very famous. The balance rock, devils garden, delicate arch and the windows. The brochures and maps give a detailed indication of the climb, the distance etc. One is asked to carry their own water supply since there are no vendors or shops anywhere in that area.

In spite of being warned that the climb to “delicate arch” would be tough, in our bravado we decided to do the climb of 1.3 miles uphill. In the beginning it was easy but as the climb progressed it started becoming tough. The last part of the climb was the toughest. We had to go around a  huge rock on a small 4 feet walk around with a sheer drop of 1 mile with no support of a railing ! The number of accidents in this area is well-documented. Terrified, we were about to return back but some foreigners motivated us to finish the climb to view the arch.

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When we returned I asked one of the guards as to why they do not put safety railings near the rock so that accidents could be prevented.  His answer stunned me. He said “these rocks have survived for millions of years and is giving us visual joy. These are delicate sand stones, if we try to put railings in this area and the arches crumble we will be depriving our children of the future joy of seeing these wonders. We have mentioned in all brochures that these climbs are tough. So only those who are willing to undertake the risks should  come; for others, they can view the arch from the bottom of the hill on another view point.” A simple but effective lesson on conservation.

In all, 1.5 million people visit these arches every year.  Graffiti, vandalism is prevalent in this park too like our lifts in India. People become creative and artistic and try to draw all over the park. But thousands of dollars are spent by the authorities for clearing these graffiti. If by chance one is visiting the Western part of the US, this National Park is a must-see. Would you believe such a huge park and not a single shop inside! Even water is available only in select places.

Contrast this with our own destructive mindset. In the name of development, Chamundi Hill, Bandipur and Kodagu are destroyed. What are our children going to inherit 100 years from now? K.C. Layout, J.C. Layout and a flat  Chamundi Layout too ?

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March 1, 2018

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