Arjuna's Trip of a Lifetime
Reproduced herein is a lovely article from the blog of a young teenager who visited us in Garhwal last year. The link to his blog is also below:
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city , deep in the lush and majestic Himalayan mountains lies a village called Rampur .
Thanks to a social enterprise called SaveAGram, that aims to preserve villages across India through home stays, a city slicker like me got the opportunity to spend a few days savouring the simple life.
It is just a 45 minute plane ride from the capital , New Delhi to a rural and sleepy city called Dhera Dun followed by a 2 hour car ride to Rampoor village . We were happy to breathe in the pure Himalayan air and enjoy the total lack of noise pollution compared to the capital which was the other extreme . Like most villages around the area , the entrance is an unpaved and rocky steep hill that only the physically fit would be able to climb with ease . Even though there are a few hundred villagers who have settled down here hundreds of years ago , the only sounds that I could make out were that of cows mooing and the relaxed movement of a nearby stream .
Our guest house- basic but literally spotless!
When we got to our guest house , I noticed how clean the village was with ladies constantly scrubbing their antique metal dishes or dusting the leaves away from the spotless floors . Our house was a basic mud house with two floors – the first level is where our hosts do the cooking and other chores while our rooms were on the second floor. The latter can only be entered by a steep flight of stairs from the outside. From there, you will set foot on the beautiful verandah that overlooks the mountains. To me, the mountains somehow look like stairs too , as each mountain is progressively higher than the previous one
Probably the cheekiest , friendliest and most playful kids I’ve ever met.
Just in case you’re thinking that one can only find holy men and other kinds of spiritual seekers in the Himalayas, I was pleasantly surprised to meet some children my own age. A group of playful kids came running up those steep steps and up to the verandah with ease and confidence and jumped on our ‘guide’ and founder of SaveAGram , Amala Menon. Amala spoke to them in Hindi , a language that I’m completely unfamiliar with . They shyly stared at us at first but once we got to know each other (with Amala playing translator), they were friendly and warm . They offered to take us on a hike the next evening . Soon , it was 6pm and the sun was slowly setting over the mountainous horizon and the kids left for their homes nearby.
The lady of house serving us fresh and simple yet delicious meals!
Our dinner was served to us by an old and wrinkly lady who seemed very steady and fit for her age. She laid the dishes on a small wooden table on the verandah overlooking the twinkling lights of the villages on the opposite mountain . Before hitting the sack , I observed that the room resembled a cave with uneven mud walls . It was sparsely furnished with only a small lightbulb hanging on the wall , a chest for storage , two beds cushioned with a thin mattress and a table . There was no heating despite the 12 degree weather but the duvet and 2 blankets helped keep us warm and cosy.
Waking up to the view of the vast expanse of the mountains felt like a dream. How different it was from waking up back home in Singapore !
Some time later, the same lady who served me dinner the previous night came carrying the exact same polished metal dishes filled with various dishes for breakfast. Luckily for me, the food served here is not spicy. The locals usually have chappatis for breakfast filled with either potato or mashed cauliflower with a spice dip. This was accompanied by some sweet rice porridge. For me, the piece de resistance was the chai, a sweet Indian tea. If you are watching your blood sugar, you might want to give this a miss!
The farms here are terraced and grow a variety of vegetables. Cows are also reared for milk since the villagers don’t typically eat meat especially beef.
After fueling up , Amala took us on a hike around the village . We started off by visiting the fields where they grow fresh produce . The farming is done in a neat and orderly manner, resembling terrace farming in South-East Asia . The farmers, who were mostly ladies, were either hoeing the clumps in the soil or plucking the fresh vegetables or fruits from the rich Himalayan soil . The farm was exceptionally busy this season as it the harvest period .
I seriously wanted to stay longer in that refreshing and chilly water:)
After that , we took a 10 minute walk down a slippery rocky hill to reach a small stream . The stream was located in between two mountains. The water was crystal clear, making it hard to resist taking a dip.
After an invigorating walk , it was time for lunch back at our guest house. We were treated to a simple meal of rice, paratha and dhal curry. Sitting down on the colourful wooden chairs ,reading and listening to music was next on our agenda . The sounds of kids running onto our verandah and screaming interrupted our chilling time . By the way , the concept of knocking doors before entering someone’s house is unheard of there because every villager is considered family. The kids offered to take me on a casual stroll around the area surrounding the village . I gladly agreed and then found myself struggling to catch up with them. Something about the mountain air makes people fitter and more energetic than us city folks .
Their school (G.U.P.S Rampoor ) consists of 7 classrooms including a computer room . It wasn’t easy climbing down the steep hill to reach the school !
They took me to their school , a small school with mould plastered on the walls of the building . To enter the school , we had to jump from a height to get in since there were no roads connecting the school to the village. Then they took me by a less travelled route back to the village .We basically cut through a forest from the road and climbed up a small hill covered with bushes. I was fascinated by how the kids could climb so easily wearing only slippers while I had a hard time with my chunky boots !
Yet another delicious meal consisting of rice , pumpkin , beans stew and paratha
That night after a simple yet scrumptious dinner , a whole bunch of kids came over to visit us. Amala organised a singing competition which they gamely took part in. It was delightful watching their antics as they competed with each other, totally spontaneously.
This is us with the sweetest baby of the village , Ashta, who at the tender age of 2, helps her mother plant potatoes.
All in all, it was a wonderful 2 days in Rampoor. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget. The simplicity of life and the beautiful natural environment are enough to make you want to give up your worldly pleasures and escape to the Himalayas.
Feeling very satisfied with my trip , I would definitely recommend SaveAGram to those who are keen on unique adventures, off the beaten track. . Hopefully you are inspired to visit this hidden gem . To book a vacation at SaveAGram ,email firstname.lastname@example.org and remember to follow them on Instagram @comesaveagram . Thanks for reading this week’s blog! If you want to bring on your wanderlust , please read our other blog posts below . For more visual inspiration , follow us on Instagram @thetravellinggourmand . Till next time !