“You need a village, if only for the pleasure of leaving it. A village means that you are not alone, knowing that in the people, the trees, the earth, there is something that belongs to you, waiting for you when you are not there.”
It was during early November, I was planning my next vacation. Since I was taking a break after a long-long time, I wanted to make the most of it. I did a deep research and decided to go to the famed Goat Village near Pantwari, a quaint town 100km away from Dehradun. I took my flight from Delhi at 7 in the morning and reached Dehradun in an hour, 55 minutes to be exact. Sarthak, my college friend was waiting for me at the airport with a pre-booked cab. Loading my luggage in our carrier, we immediately started for Pantwari. After a 4-hours drive in which we crossed past the beautiful city of Mussoorie, we reached Pantwari. The journey offered mesmerizing views and a little motion sickness.
Getting out of the cab was a relief as we stretched our backs and limbs. It was an amusing cab ride as Shamsher, our cab driver kept entertaining us with his folktales. He informed that the Goat Village was 4km away from our drop-off point in Pantwari. It was around noon and we started looking for a transport that would take us to our destination. In the meanwhile we snacked on Butter-Maggie that we got from a village shop nearby.
The toil in the trek
An open jeep took us to Laser Gaon, the last point till motor vehicles can go. It was a 15 minute dusty ride. At Laser Gaon, we saw a sign board that read ‘Goat Village, 1.95Kms & 1:45hrs (approx).’ “Just 2km of trek, that should be easy,” I remarked. But in only 300 meters we were panting and breathing heavily. Sarthak mocked me for the remark I made earlier. I made a mental note, never to carry a heavy luggage to a trek destination. It was a rigorous workout for our legs; we took several breaks in between. I promised myself to work on my fitness as this steep trek gave me a reality check. At last, we made it in an hour and a half. Here we were at TGV, the abbreviation for The Goat Village, 7700 feet above sea level.
The warm reception
Upon reaching the Goat Village, we were directed to TVG’s greenhouse cafeteria by the locals. It was a beautiful piece of architecture built on Koti Banal technique, a traditional procedure that uses easily available materials to build earthquake-resistant houses. The ceilings of the structure were made of glass to produce greenhouse effect and in the center of the hall was a garden where vegetables were grown. Table-chairs and colorful mattresses occupied the rest of the place in the hall. The ambience of the setting was soothing to the senses. I had never seen a cafeteria like that; I couldn’t stop myself from taking pictures.
Mani Makesh, the manager of the place welcomed us with his team and offered us red rhododendron juice. “I wouldn’t call this place a homestay. We are trying to recreate villages in abandoned lands and promote a smart minimalist lifestyle,” said Mani while having lunch with us. The indigenously grown organic vegetables and cereals had a heavenly taste and all we could think of after an arduous travel and sumptuous food was sound sleep.
We were shown to our rooms across the stony paths in one of the few cottages by a village volunteer. The rooms were huge and had minimal furniture. I occupied the King-sized bed and Sarthak laid flat on the single bed facing the window. “The window-bed is mine,” he announced as soon as we entered the room. The view from the window was really breathtaking and thus, the single mattress window-bed was definitely a good bargain over the king-sized double bed placed in the center of the room. One could see the whole valley from the window. The quiet surroundings were very relaxing for tired tourists like us. After a siesta, we started exploring more of this place.
The Blissful Goat Village
Soon we realized that there was no electricity in the village and all we could use were candles, solar lanterns or kerosene lamps. A small solar farm was set up that could charge our mobile phones and batteries. After years we were living without internet and electricity. I missed this simplicity and slow-paced peaceful life in cities. Now I realized why many people left their city lives to serve as volunteers in this place – in search of peace.
In the barns we found many farm animals such as chicken, sheep, mountain cows and of course goats. Mani told that goats are mascots of this region and backbone of the local economy. The Goat Village is an initiative taken by ‘The Green People’ to reverse migration of farmers in the cities. TVG (The Goat village) produces a lot of products derived from goat milk under the brand name ‘Bakri Chhap’. We were quite enchanted by the enthusiasm of the volunteers to make this place up and running. We couldn’t stop us from lending help. These volunteers were quite amiable and were happy to indulge us in services like milking the goats. It was creepy but fun. I had never been so close to nature.
By the time we were done with few voluntary services, it was time for dinner and we were in for a Garhwali treat. The menu looked exciting and we had different types of kidney beans, Red Himalayan rice soup, makki ki roti and yellow lentil curry. The food was cooked on a ‘chullah’ whose smell would surely tempt anybody to devilishly devour the food. At last we savored their local sweet dish ‘jhangore ki kheer’.
While having our evening stroll post supper we could see some lights from a mountain afar. “It’s the city light from Mussorrie,” told Mani. There was a subtle bliss in the chilly air of this hilly village and every face we encountered was pacifying. They all seemed content and joyful, a stark opposite to what I find in metro cities these days. I was enjoying my stay here. Although, there was no electricity in the Goat Village but it was still illuminating by the bright moonlight. Soon we retreated to our rooms and called it a day.
The trek to Nag Tibba:
The next morning we woke up refreshed and quickly got ready for the big trek to Nag Tibba or Serpent’s Peak – the final destination of our trip. I was informed earlier that the trek has to be embarked on the full light of the day. “The route can be adventurous as some wild bears can appear,” said Mani while wishing us good luck. I wish he hadn’t told us that. Sarthak stared at me with doubt. We encouraged each other and started for Nag Tibba. Along the trek, we were greeted by the pet dog of TGV. It guided and entertained us to more than half the way. He played with us for a while and eventually got busy with playing with the snow, stomping on it and creating some funny designs on the ground.
We moved ahead while trudging over the uneven roads filled with stones and gravel. Enjoying the crisp sound of the dried leaves under our footsteps we kept moving, shivering in the cool breeze. The playful sounds of the tiny flowing streams on the way were mellifluous, laying a pure and congenial feeling. The pace and force of our footsteps fluctuated with the height of the mountains and the freezing cold. On the way, we could visit the Nag Devta Temple, where we felt its strong divine magnanimity. The ringing bells’ sounds seemed echoing the aloof forests.
Finally, we reached at the summit of Nag Tibba, 9,915 feet above sea-level. Though it has a high acclivity and rocky trail, it could be concluded as an easy to moderate level trek.
Time for return
After spending a few days in this peaceful retreat it was time to resume my life in Delhi. This trip was a complete tech-detox. I would always cherish the moments I spent here. Before leaving we had group photograph with Mani and his team who bid us an emotional adieu. While I was on my way back on the flight from Dehradun to Delhi, I was wondering how I could live for all these days without electricity and internet, things which are an absolute necessity in my city life. I can safely say that I got the unique experience that I was looking for in this trip.