Sometime in the middle of July, back in 2016, just when the heavy rain-laden clouds provided a brief respite from the lashing monsoons, a young couple fervently planted their first sapling at a family-owned patch of land in the Himalayan rain forest of 8th Mile, Gorabari.
Well-accomplished in their own respective fields, this urban couple had just taken a life-changing decision to give up their steady corporate careers of over 2 decades and move on to pursue a venture of their own. The immediate past six months had sped by in a blurry haze of intense soul-searching for them. Determined that they were, they had set out to seek their true-calling aboard a mutual passion for trekking and mountaineering.
And so, it was during one of those focussed trekking episodes that they had found themselves volunteering at a farm in Uttarkhand; learning about the wonders of Permaculture Farming. Turns out, much more than just a discovery, it was a revelation of their heartfelt longing to work with Nature and live in harmony with the bounty it had to offer. The regenerative and self-sustaining concept of Permaculture struck a deep chord with Aashna and Utsow and they wasted no time moving into a shutdown family-owned factory set up at the foothills of Darjeeling. Soon after they completed their Permaculture Design Certification under the tutelage of Rico Zook, a luminary and respected figure in the field of Permaculture, in April 2016. Two months down, Tieedi project had taken root.
If your next Himalayan sojourn takes you to these parts, it is hard to miss the bustling little market of 8th Mile after a somewhat tumultuous drive of about 2 &1/2 hours from Bagdogra airport. This stretch of the national highway (NH 55) is an interesting junction of former local farmers who have given up their traditional agrarian way of life to move closer to the highway enamoured by the consumerist market economy. Small roadside motels and restaurants have sprung up and they offer popular local cuisine and a selection of indigenous fruits and vegetables, hoping to entice passing vehicles. Discreet off-road trails lead away towards the rural villages and further beyond into the forest. One such trail stands out conspicuously with its long line of bamboo fencing and leads into a different world altogether along with the promise of an unforgettable experience.
Tieedi Forest Garden – a permaculture farm lies in the forest of Gorabari off 8th Mile, near the sleepy town of Sonada in Darjeeling district.
The Tieedi project originally was an endeavour to focus on planting trees and revive the misty rainforests but an unprecedented discovery pushed it off the edge and shaped it into what it is today. As they set out to clear the undergrowth to plant the trees the founding party were overwhelmed with the amount of ‘non-biodegradable waste & general garbage’ stifling the area. It remains a shocking fact that ‘Tieedi’ workers have till date unearthed about 2800 sacks of plastic that had accumulated over time.
Taking the challenge of the state of the terrain in stride, the founders have indeed come a long way into making what ’Tieedi Garden Forest ’is known for today – a first of its kind ’nature resort’ in Darjeeling replete with a natural eco-system that organically sustains the daily needs without hurting the environment. This inherent drive has given birth to their ‘Earthy Dwelling’ – a mud-hut for travellers which stands as a true prototype of its kind.
Besides the awe-inspiring ingenuity with which the ‘Earthy Dwelling’ has been constructed and maintained, this place comes along with its own fare of local gourmet delights. Take a peek into Dine on a Farm to get a taste of what lies waiting in the Tieedi Garden Forest. Authentic farm-to-the-table meal options for visitors and guests comprising of food that is either grown naturally in their gardens; foraged from the forest or sourced from the local organic farmer friends.
So, if they are not already busy with reforesting, growing their own food and experimenting with naturally made construction projects you will find the Tieedi team actively involved in seeking new solutions. They are on the constant look-out to work with the local community and government bodies to find even more sustainable ways to develop the locality without destroying the surrounding natural resources. The burgeoning problem of waste management in the hills of Darjeeling is their major campaign. One of the projects related to this is #Save8MileKhola which is committed to save one of the last perennial mountain rivers in Darjeeling, a beautiful natural spring that bursts forth from the deep dark forests of Senchal Wildlife Reserve (the real mineral water!) and has been bearing the brunt of the underside of an upcoming township in the 8 Mile market area. The project is dedicated to create awareness and encourage composting of all organic waste of the 8 Mile settlement area instead of letting them get dumped in the river.
The Tieedi team’s environmental awareness drive has been positively received in the recent time. They have successfully hosted experiential learning workshops at the local college and school campus hoping to make everyone understand the pressing need of our times for a better tomorrow.
* Godwin Modern School Workshop
* Little Angels School Workshop
* Salesian College Socio-Ecological Outreach Programme:
Connect with Tieedi Forest Garden
For more details on rates and rentals for Tieedi Garden Forest please visit: Tieedi Dwelling. Find out what guests, visitors and travellers are saying about Tieedi Garden Forest on AirBnB Listings, TripAdvisor & Facebook. You can also tune into their Instagram handle @tieedi_forest-garden to get a personal feel of the place as Aashna & Utsow take you through their latest updates with mindful captures and poignant stories behind each of them. Volunteers can reach out to the Tieedi Volunteering Program to lend a hand or share their innovative thoughts on permaculture.
When asked about the response so far Aashna & Utsow spontaneously say that it has been an ‘overwhelming one’. They did not quite expect people to react as positively to the idea & the experience of staying in minimalist accommodations. They had definitely hoped for a few like-minded individuals to understand and appreciate the concept but the last couple of years have made them realise that almost everybody has this gnawing craving deep within. That ever-present and glowing urge to reconnect with Nature and live the way we were always meant to. Tieedi Forest Garden is not just another option for a rustic travel experience in a natural setting but also a consistent source of inspiration teaching us ways to live in harmony with the surroundings. A potent dose of rural goodness naturally packaged for a mindful appeal.
Thank you for reading! Stay tuned to Sketchywanderer for more vignettes of hidden places and spaces. I would love to hear your thoughts & feedback on this blog.