The Dilemma of Responsible Travel : Secret Villages in the Himalayas

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.

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Unbelievably beautiful! I wish to return next year when the apples are red and luscious.

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.

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This could be para para paradise… Also, love that coldplay song.

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.

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My workstation! Isn’t this where you want to work from too? 😉

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.

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Cute and studious kids come to say hi to us; the joy of staying in local homestays in a village.

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.

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A photo frame moment for 600 rupees per day. Perhaps the prettiest homestay I’ve ever stayed in.

 

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Local mushroom growing in the vicinity of the homestay. Organic food is so tasty and so powerful for the body.

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.

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Views from a walk; traditional wooden architecture of stone and mud houses.

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.

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Indigenous use of natural resources, our private sit out in the apple orchard.

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.

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Old ladies with memorable experiences to share; these hill people are so sweet.
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Are these the original hippies? Look at those ear piercings. Wow.

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!

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Organic Thali at the homestay, I ate four helpings of that and felt the rush of energy through the body.

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.

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Lazing in the sun while reading a book, great place to spend a peaceful vacation in a secret village.

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.’

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Life is better while swinging on a hammock.

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.

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My heart sang with this endless view. Isn’t this heavenly?

I hope you do not mind my not giving you names. Thanks for reading this.

Update : This magical place is in Kalga, Parvati Valley – Himachal Pradesh.

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48 Comments Add yours

  1. nupurpradhan says:

    Thank you so much for not giving out the name. Although I would really like to pester you for it. But don’t. Just don’t.
    These places need to be preserved from humans.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Nupur for the appreciation of the same. This will definitely help for me to share more places like these without divulging the names! 😀 And well said, ‘these places need to be preserved from humans.’

      Liked by 2 people

  2. That’s so unfair. I want to know the name of the place.
    Village looks so charming. But it looks familiar. Somewhere in parvati valley ?

    Like

    1. 😉 Hehe, life’s not always fair! Hope to meet you someday on the road. Cheers and happy travels.

      Like

  3. Beautiful pictures!! Every picture communicats something, they appear so lively. And I am really glad that you did not mention the name of the place 🙂

    Like

    1. Thank you so much !! I am so glad everyone appreciates this idea :)) Yay.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What an amazing hidden paradise! Lovely photos too!

    Like

    1. Thanks Jenny for checking it out. :))

      Liked by 1 person

  5. arv! says:

    Great post and pictures, Shubham!

    The word “Responsible Travel” seems to be getting popular on the websites, blogs & social media in India. On the contrary, it seems to be merely a “jargon” being passed around. I sometimes wonder, if at all people who talk about it are aware of what it entrails? I’m happy to know that you are one of few travelers who think so much about preserving the surroundings and environs. Mass tourism is killing Himalayas!
    I’m sure a real traveler will find what he is looking for and therefore it’s perfectly fine to withhold the name.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Arvind bhai for this huge appreciation. You are correct, the word responsible travel seems to be in vogue these days without really applying it. Very well said. I hope to make many more posts like these. Thanks again 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. arv! says:

        That’ll be awesome. Will look forward to it. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to list out all that a responsible travel entails?

        Like

      2. That sounds like a really good idea. It will be nice to discuss it in person.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. arv! says:

        It sure will be…anytime! 🙂

        Like

  6. Aakash Mehrotra says:

    Amazing portraits, and it’s a nice decision to not give out names, we bloggers are guilty of giving out names and directions to the masses and thus destroying the sanctity of the place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Aakash! Glad you liked them. Well said and thats why I have withheld this post for the longest time. Although a proper guide could be written! I hope this is the start of more posts like this 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jitendra Kumar says:

    Hope these places don’t become mini Manalis .

    Like

    1. I agree, and hence the attempt to safeguard the name and make more people aware of the fragility of pristine places.

      Like

  8. If you had given the name the place would soon become as commercialised as Kasol and the likes. It is indeed paradise and each and every frame is so so gorgeous. Thank you shubham for bringing such heartening stories from the Himalayas 🙂

    Like

    1. It is so heartening to see that you agree with the whole idea and appreciate it. Thank you so much, I am glad you like it. I had kept these places safely tucked in my heart. Now I hope to let myself dream and share them slowly with everyone. Thanks always for the support, encouragement and appreciation.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This is such a beautiful post. And yes, some places have to be preserved and protected. Those who wander and ‘get lost’ will find such havens and their own paradise. Though I have a strong sense of deja vue looking at your photographs. Hope to stumble upon you too, Shubham, in real life 🙂 Till then, a Hi from Gurgaon and to catching you on insta etc.

    Like

    1. Hhihhiihi Jayanti ji. Wonderful to read that comment and absolutely agree with what you say. Those looking for magic usually find it. Yes, someday we shall surely meet in Delhi or on the road! 🙂

      Like

  10. Such a beautiful place. Reached here after following a long link trail. But still could not find name of the place. I agree with you that “These places need to be preserved from humans”. Is there any post on how to find such places? 😉

    Like

    1. Thank you Abhishek. Glad to know there are so many people who understand the fragile nature of these places. Hehe, I haven’t written a post about finding them yet but the moment you get away from the beaten road – its better.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Deepika says:

    Beautiful pictures 🙂

    Like

  12. Loved reading the blog and I am dying to taste those organic mushrooms.
    Like you said,”As a responsible traveller, I feel it is a part of my duty to promote sustainable tourism that benefits locals” …so think! It’s okay not to promote the village name extensively, but I think as a responsible traveler you should be okay in disclosing name privately to those who visit the place. Also, it depends a lot on native communities also that how they are preventing people from destroying the place. I have visited a few villages where people are very much cautious in allowing tourists to their village.

    Like

    1. Thanks! I hope you get to go there soon. As a responsible traveller, people I personally know have been going there and are having a lovely time exactly like I did.

      Its a classic conundrum, development vs commercialisation and what ultimately benefits the local economy.

      Like

  13. TravelerInMe says:

    OMG!!! Thats such a beautiful place. ♥ One would want to stay on & on…… I am happy that you did not let out the name. With commercialization slowly killing natural beauty and the tranquility one seeks while travelling, its best to let hidden gems remain one……. Khudh se discover nahin kiya to kya kiya……. Thats travelling at its best….. unexplored, untouched, uintruded 👌

    Like

  14. travelerinme says:

    OMG!! This is such a beautiful place….. One would want to stay on and on….. I am happy that you did not let out the name! Such places with abundant natural beauty, need to remain as hidden gems —unexplored, untouched, uintruded…… khudh se discover nahin kiya to kya kiya ☺ popularity leads to commercialization which is a definite no no.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So many thanks for the appreciation 🙂 So glad you liked it. Made my day.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Micky Kalita says:

    This piece ensured I travelled far away from my current world of deadlines, product launches and rush hour traffic jams. To a place more beautiful. Thank you for keeping it a secret.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is the best gift a storyteller can get! Many many thanks for this heartfelt comment.

      Like

  16. Himadri Negi says:

    Thank you for not giving out the names 🙂 These places are hidden away for good. Love every picture.

    Like

    1. Its really quite nice to hear acceptance of the idea. Many thanks Himadri to take the time to comment 🙂 Thanks for the appreciation too.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Amazing. I had a constant smile on my face on reading it. Could imagine but want to experience in reality. So someday, you got to tell the name 🙂

    Like

    1. Thanks Stuti. Definitely, whenever you are in the hills that side 🙂

      Like

  18. Luv this!… And u mentioned mint :).. Wrote about an herb just this morning… Please come visit me:)

    Like

  19. loveashootingstar says:

    What a pretty homestay and what lovely landscape and people.

    Like

    1. Absolutely. Well said 🙂

      Like

  20. aninp831 says:

    Loved the pics of the homestays,and that plate of local food was fabulous

    Like

    1. Thanks Aninp for taking the time out to comment. It was a wonderful time to be in the midst of nature at that superb homestay.

      Like

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