Alchauna, near Bhimtal is a tiny hamlet along the banks of Kalsa River in Uttarakhand. I went there with a group of 18 soul-inspiring women from all walks of life to celebrate Women`s Day Weekend. The trip was meticulously organized by Chandni Aggarwal from Transforming Travels, a travel based company that specializes in trips to the Indian hinterlands.
I love to travel solo, as it’s less of a nuisance. This was the first time when I traveled with such a big group and that too, an all-women group. I was reluctant to go at first but talking to Chandni helped me feel at ease. When I first spoke to her, she was very welcoming and seemed to be a warm person. So, without thinking for the second time, I just went for the trip.
The group met at a common point in Delhi, from where we started our journey in a brand-new Tempo Traveler. It was so comfortable that I slept throughout the way and only woke up when we entered Haldwani in the morning.
We reached Alchauna village at around 8 AM. I was amazed to see our homestay and its surroundings. It was a little tough for me to believe that such a heavenly heaven place which is so close to nature exists at a distance of a couple of hours from Delhi. Our homestay was a bungalow style building having nice and comfortable rooms with wooden floors. The property has so much open space to hang out that it completely captivates you and absorbs all your stress unwinding you rhythmically.
It was a weekend where we formed a great social bond with fellow travelers, stayed in the lap of nature, feasted on vegetarian organic meals, experienced the beauty and timelessness of rural life.
Let me share the highlights of the trip with you:
1. Live the Organic Life
Upon reaching Alchauna, we were served with wholesome breakfast and tea. Having fresh organic food straight to our plates is very rare in today`s time as most people prefer conveniently grown produce full of chemical herbicides and fertilizers. Supplies of fresh vegetables and fruits were sourced from local farmers and grown with natural fertilizers.
After the initial round of introductions and ice-breaking activities, we went to the farm to see dairy and organic farming. We were given a crash course on farm life – how organic manure is made, when to sow the crops, tips for water conservation, plowing methods etc. We were fortunate to get a hands-on-experience; we sowed the Rajmah seeds along with the farm workers, plucked fruits, and vegetables.
Our knowledgeable host also explained to us the biology of mammals, traditional milking process of the cows by hand, how insurance of the cattle is done, and medical precautions are taken for their safety. We petted the young goats and calves, clicked like a hundred pictures of the playful rivalry between their farm dog and the cattle and soaked in the knowledge about dairy farming.
Farming teaches us a simple truth about life, how a small seed grows into a beautiful plant. Getting in touch with our planet is the need of the hour; organic farming is the first step towards it. Learning about how and from where our food comes from contributes to a sustainable lifestyle.
2. Skinny dipping in Kalsa River
Hiking 2 km along the Kalsa River and crossing the hanging bridge to reach the river bed was the most exciting part of the trip. Initially, the group was hesitant to go inside the water, but after a few brave souls took a dip, others also felt at ease to do the same. It was such a pleasant feeling, sitting inside the slowly moving water, sun rays warming your back, munching on snacks and conversations with new friends as if we were long-lost sisters.
3. Village walk
In the evening, we went for a walk to a nearby village with Chandni, she explained to us the specialty of Kumaoni houses. Most of the old houses of Kumaon have stone walls, mud floors, slate roofs and patangans [courtyard of grey stones] and their doors, windows and Kholis [main entrance] have simple motifs.
The small window that you see in the picture beside the main door is specially designed for bees. In Uttrakhand wall hives are used for bee-keeping, a technique called Apiculture. Harvesting of honey takes place twice a year between April to October. Portions of the comb are cut from which honey is extracted. Traditional smokers, huge pans, a pot of water and knife are some of the essential tools used for extracting honey. Bee-keeping is part of Uttarakhand`s heritage, something which the modern advancement hasn’t taken over yet. It’s a part of their daily life and it was amazing to experience this extraordinary relationship, first hand.
We ended the village walk with some games and lot of laughter with the rural kids.
4. Trek to Karkotak Peak
I was hesitant to go for the trek; the adventurer inside me pushed me to go but the stamina inside me played Satan in my mind. It was Chandni who talked me into going for the trek. I was not at all prepared, but her words motivated me to go. Huffing and puffing we reached Karkotak Peak within 4 hours, the view of Nauckuchitaal at one side and Bhimtaal on the other was a pleasure to the eyes. I took a deep breath, opened my arms, closed my eyes and said a silent prayer to the almighty for blessing us with such beauty. For me, trekking to Karkotak was the highest point of the trip.
I had the most memorable trip with Transforming Travels. Not only everything was perfect, but all the group members bonded so well, and our host Chandni truly cared about us. Women from all walks to life coming together as a group was remarkable, it was an eye-opening and adventurous experience for each one of us – something we will remember, draw upon and cherish for many years to come. The comfort and beauty of the mountains, the delicious organic food, the interesting things we learned about bee-keeping, the history of Kumaoni region we learned from our competent and friendly trip leader, along with the serenity of the 100 years` old house were just perfect.
The itinerary was very well thought of, combing adventurous activities with leisure time and to experience the lives of Kumaoni people. Transforming Travels keeps its clients at the heart of the itinerary planning and attention to detail is second to none. The only trouble with the trip was “I want to go back for more”! It was a wonderful trip.