Holidaying in the hills has its advantages, especially for those who are obese
There may be reasons why you prefer to spend time puffing up a hill rather than pottering about beaches. Whatever they are, you are on the right track. Doctors recently gave 20 obese men a week's holiday in a research centre up Germany's highest mountain — the Zugspitze. They lost a little of their appetite but a significant amount of weight.
They had no food restrictions, and didn't do any extra activities. Yet, their dinner plates remained half-filled, their calorie intake decreased. Their diastolic BP dropped and their metabolism climbed. They lost an average of 3.3 pounds each (published in Obesity).
High altitude causes nausea and loss of appetite. What the study discovered is that even after returning to sea level/regular elevation, the men kept the weight off, for a month. The oxygen in their blood surged when they landed on level ground, making it easier for them to exercise.
Hill-dwellers generally stay within weight limits. Those living in Shimla, Darjeeling, Kashmir and the Nilgiris are candidates for slimness ads.
“A holiday in the mountains complements a want-to-be-healthy lifestyle,” says Dipankar Ghosh, Adventure-n-Nature (99403 55521).
“The climate is wonderfully healthy, with warm sunshine and low humidity. You fill your lungs with clean mountain air, whether up in a cable car, following a trail or walking around the lake. You're away from noise, with a choice between adrenaline-filled adventure and absolute calm.” Food here, he adds, is not labelled “free range” or “organic”, since most of what is served is local — organic and fresh.
Fun doesn't set early here. You can capture mountain views on your handycam, walk on lush meadows, bike along cycle trails, cross valleys on monorail, battle dramatic gorges on rafts. You pass through tea/coffee estates, spice gardens, plantations, pine and shola forests. There are cascading waterfalls. “Tamil Nadu is blessed with three ranges — the eastern and western ghats and the Nilgiris — probably the only state with such a topography,” says Ghosh. The Eastern Ghats go up to 2,000 ft above sea level. Ooty is higher than Darjeeling at about 7,000 ft. Part of the Western Ghats comprises the Anamalai and the Palani Hills (5,000 ft). Hiking, trekking, picnicking, off-roading, gliding and rock climbing are all possibilities. Want some quiet? “Your perfect room/cottage is hiding somewhere in an idyllic mountain waiting to be discovered.”
But don't beaches have their charm? Yes, if you're immune to noise, tacky resorts and clogged road traffic. Ok, that's unfair. The sea does reflect a different blue on different beaches. You wade to spectacular sunsets, join marine camps, go snorkelling and look for coral reefs in a glass-bottomed boat. You learn about deep-sea fishing at the fishing villages, jog up historical Dutch, English and Portuguese forts, walk around heritage sites in Mamallapuram or Puducherry. Been to the mangroves at Pichavaram? Reefs at Mannar? Flamingo roosts at Point Calimere? All can-dos.
So, mountains or beaches? Let me think, says Navin Gulia, who travels through both in a wheelchair. “Beaches are places to relax and rejuvenate. Sitting by the sea, feeling the breeze on your face and body, you don't need to do anything, not even think.”
About mountains, he gets allegorical. “Climbing is like overcoming hurdles in your life. At times, you look back to enjoy your achievement, get a kick and move on. You reach the top, look down and discover the enormity of life. It humbles you down to where you began.”
Sure, for people with breathing problems, a mountain holiday may be a closed option. But doctors do advise others, especially their overweight patients, against a seaside holiday. Head for the mountains, they tell you. The crisp, pine-scented air will do you a lot of good.
Trekking: Ladakh and Zanskar, the Sahyadri range (Pune), Western Ghats (Karnataka)
Rock-climbing: Ramnagaram, Savandurga, Turalli (Bangalore), Kullu/Manali (Himachal Pradesh), Rishikesh (Uttarakhand)
Mountain cycling: Kullu/Manali and Shimla, Garhwal and Kumaon (Uttarakhand)
Skiing: Auli (Uttarakhand), Gulmarg, Manali and Narkanda (Himachal Pradesh)
Snowboarding: Gulmarg (Jammu and Kashmir), Narkanda (Himahcal Pradesh)
Ice climbing: Auli, Manali