On the hippie trail in ….., it was steadily drizzling when the bus dropped us at the last road head in the valley. The closest village was only a 15-20 minute climb away. Without any sense of direction in the rain we took wrong turn after wrong turn but ended up at the right place; it was a hidden village straight from a storybook.
We were welcomed with fresh mint tea from the green leaves that grew wild under abundant apple orchards. The jagged mountain peaks were shrouded by clouds while locals worked cheerfully in the fields.
As a traveller with no fixed plan, I keep finding myself in places that are not mentioned in tourist guidebooks and maps. These are little havens, very close to popular locations and yet feel away from the world. More often than not, I have chosen to not write about them. Only to find them becoming popular on the internet only a year or two later. This time I bite the bullet; although in a different manner. I shall describe my experiences and share photographs but wont explicitly state the name of the place.
Our joy was immense on stumbling upon a little homestay designed by a South American guy from Venezuela, for only 600 Rupees per day (Teehee). The villagers brought us wild mushrooms among the many organic delights. The sky was overcast and darkness knocked on the doors at around 5 in the evening. It was a lush green valley; flanked by a pine forest and snowy peaks on one side and the river flowed serpentine on the other.
Although I’m not exactly someone who is from a city; still the sheer amount of space every home had, was staggering. The lush greenery was dotted with stone and wood homes, a small water stream flowed through the fields irrigating the crops and apple orchards. A stiff breeze woke me up from my daydream. This felt unreal, there were 200 rupee homestays in paradise. When we found that there was no attached toilet in them, we wandered and came upon a solitary hut tucked away from the world.
It was so green and beautiful, my eyes hurt with all the beauty. Women worked in the fields while their cute kids played among themselves. I wondered if they ever thought about having the biggest playground in the world. Most had never been more than 20 kilometres away and it brought a smile to my face thinking how uncorrupted they all were. Sometimes it is good to not know everything.
Its funny how the addition of a road changes life that has existed for centuries. In the vicinity of this place, was a village where a road had been built to. While the villagers were very happy initially and money flowed awash with tourists, the locals have lost their original way of life. Land meant for farming was sold to make concrete hotels to cater to even more tourists.
As a responsible traveller, I feel it is a part of my duty to promote sustainable tourism that benefits locals. Therefore, I try my best to stay in homestays and that also gives me the opportunity to try local food, experience the culture first-hand, hear legendary stories of local folklore. It was even more of a surprise when I learnt that the owner of this homestay is an outsider, but has made this valley his home. It was heartening to learn from other locals that he is one of the most popular and helpful people in the entire village.
Small apples hung on trees; other fruit like peaches, pears and apricots were already ripe and had been picked away. Having fallen prey to asthma and with it hordes of other troubles, I largely ate a very healthy diet and was also lucky to grow most of the food that we ate at home. There was fresh chamomile growing near the homestay and that prompted me to jump in delight. The owner made us an ayurvedic tea made wholly from herbs growing naturally, and how tasty it was!
Next day when we crossed the roaring ….. river on flimsy bridges, we reached another serene village, set in the gaze of a triangle shaped snow peak. It was accessible by a short walk through the forest. There were hammocks hanging from the trees, where foreigners lounged and chilled. Somewhere along the way; there appeared to be another mysterious village; apparently the villagers aren’t too welcoming of outsiders. There was only a beautiful abode in the middle of nowhere that was visible from faraway.
Although this village was only 20 minutes away from the road, in reality it felt like a world away. We spent 4-5 days in this region doing nothing yet being mesmerised by ‘Dolce far niente.’
A few of you might know about this place and some may have heard about it, and even fewer may have read names on the internet. As a responsible traveller and professional travel blogger, I want these treasures of India last as long as possible.
I hope you do not mind my not giving you names. Thanks for reading this.