THINGS TO BE CARRIED ALONG
It is understood that you won't forget your passport, your visa, and your identity card. But before leaving, doubly make sure that they are in your safe custody. It is essential that you avoid keeping your documents along with your money, cash and other valuables. You understand that you will be required to regularly prove your identities during security checks, so you wouldn't like the onlookers to get attentive towards your cash, while you take out your passport/visa or identity cards.
While traveling, do not forget to keep tablets of aspirin, paracetamol, and vitamins like the B-Complex. If you have a history of feeling nauseated while traveling, consult your doctor for any medicines you can use while traveling. Keep a pack of glucose powder handy, as you or your fellow travelers might need it. Bandages and antiseptic creams or lotions are also essential. Do keep a pain-relieving balm or spray along in your first-aid kit.
Change of place, climate and food habits tend to make a throat sore, the cure for which is to gurgle with hot water with salt in it.
A good medicine for abdominal problems is the cheap and easily available Isabgol. It is a tasteless dry seed that can be taken with water, milk or yogurt and perform the miracle of holding one's insides intact while on the move. Foreigners often jeered at this native remedy but now that its properties have been acclaimed by science, you can buy a sugarcoated variety.
Medical kits must be attuned to your personal needs. Don't lug around on a trek medicines you know you will never need.
Invariably useful for a wide range of purposes is an old newspaper. You can open it under your sleeping bag on a cold pier waiting for the boat, or spread it on top of your sleeping bag as an extra blanket. It can help dry your shoes; folded it carries fruit and vegetables. It can stabilize a rocking table in a restaurant and enable you to survive a windy night by sealing a window that rattles. Newspapers are ideal to hide behind when you don't want to talk or when you can't find your trousers are big enough to preserve your modesty. They swat files, double up as blotting paper, provide crosswords, and will turn into paper airplanes.
A small torch is an essential equipment. Lights can go off at any time in India, especially in the summer months with the load on the power grid. A pen-torch of plastic or aluminum body withstands the monsoon mildew. It pays each morning to open the torch and turn around the top battery so that it doesn't light up accidentally while on the move.
Excellent advice to a trekker who has climbed to his objective is "cut your fingernails". If you don't, the descent can be excruciating and you may lose the whole nail from the bruising journey back down. If you can't dig out the expedition scissors, use a razor blade that you ought to have taped inside your diary. To have such small but lifesaving gadgets close at hand is the greatest art the traveler can learn.
It always pays to carry a small lock, but not too small. This should be used to double-lock the door of your tourist bungalow or budget hotel. If it opens to a number combination you must remember to carry a torch when you return at night. When carrying a key chain, tie it on a piece of brightly colored cloth or plastic that will enable its easier location if dropped. In India many doors are hinged at both sides and open at the middle in two panels. Make sure the first panel that closes is firmly bolted top and bottom, otherwise both panels will remain loose and offer a security threat.
If you are of the scientific mould and feel an urge to measure everything, an easy measuring rod to carry is a length of string with knots to indicate inches. You can use this to measure the size of a temple frieze or gauge the circumference of a Himalayan cedar. Some travelers consider string the most precious aid and use it to secure rattling windows and mend sagging deck chairs. Nowadays, a good substitute is a roll of scotch tape or plastic insulating tape, which can mend, patch, and close many unwanted openings.
One of the most valuable pieces of trekking equipment is an umbrella. It acts as a walking stick, can scare off dogs and can also do services as a tent support. However, beware of flimsy collapsible umbrellas that may not work in the cold when the oil in their joints freezes. Also, don't open an umbrella on a windy ridge lest you take off. To avoid ownership arguments (since most umbrellas look alike) either take a bright golfing model or tie strips of colored insulating tape around your handle. To avoid the nuisance of forever forgetting umbrellas and leaving them behind in banks and post offices, do what the canny villager does. Tuck the hook of the handle down the back of your collar. You may not look elegant but at least you'll stay dry.
Luxurious it may sound, but for answering the call of nature in wildness areas, nothing can beat a can of moisturized scented tissues. These are available at chemists in the bigger towns. Being moist they serve better than toilet paper in extreme situations, such as Ladakh or Jaisalmer. To be able to choose your own fragrance in unfavorable circumstance is another. (Eau de Cologne never smells better than in the heart of a desert at 15,000 ft nor lavender in the middle of the Pushkar camel fair.)