Himalayan Nature Retreats of India – Tieedi Forest Garden

Origin

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.

Location

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.

About

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.

The ‘Earthy Dwelling’ at Tieedi Garden Forest

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.

Tieedi Projects

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.

General Response

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.

Holistic Himalayan Farmstays of India – Petrichor Farm

Can you recall the musky, earthy fragrance that fills the air instantaneously after the first rains of the season? Or perhaps remember that fleeting sense of deep bonding of the soul with the surroundings as you see the first drops of rain touch the soil?   Well, ‘Petrichor’ defines just that and now promises even more.

Location

For the world-weary traveller in search of a deeper connection or a meaningful reprieve, Petrichor is the inexcusable next stop if your trails lead you towards this part of your next Himalayan adventure. Nestled in the forest of Gorubathan, just an hour’s drive from Siliguri (additional 30 mins Bagdogra airport) in West Bengal there awaits a rural experience like none other.

Origin

Borne out of an inherently shared desire ‘to care for the planet’,  it was sometime back in 2013 that the founding members, Siddharth & Sweta found themselves in possession of a vacant plot of land at Sweta’s mother’s ancestral property.

Drawn inexplicably to the unused site they immediately recognised the dire need to nurture, maintain and develop what they had in hand. So began a  rambling journey as they tried to make sense of the land and its resources, armed only with a familiar dose of reasonable doubt, worldly logic, childlike curiosity and the random tutorials on Youtube. They soon realised that just playing with the soil and observing the natural rhythm was not enough. What they needed was a formal plan and this is exactly what they set about doing to qualify for a certification as Permaculture Designers.

With the certification now in place, Petrichor gradually came into being as a community starting with small-scale local farmers who were invited to collaborate and work,  encouraging them to share resources and their best practices. The resultant produce and eventually the profits were enough to motivate this already existing agrarian locality.

About

Petrichor now stands as a vibrant testimony to a deeply driven desire to restore, nurture and establish a self-sustaining eco-system.  The ‘Petrichor’ experience begins with its exclusive accommodation options :
Sadhana – The endearingly restored Nepali Heritage home.
Abundance –  A lovingly constructed ‘Natural Hut’
Simplicity – A unique Hut made exclusively with reclaimed materials.
Sattva – The Volunteer’s Dormitory.
The Old Granary –  A picturesque old storage space now fitted into a low budget accommodation for a frequently visiting volunteer or an independent traveller.
There are Tents available on request should you prefer a custom-made rustic campsite affair.
It is interesting to note that while the content of this blog was being collated, the Petrichor community along with few volunteers was busy building a unique ‘Cob House’ as yet another accommodation option in the near future.
The ‘Sunset Terrace’ deserves a special mention here. While this is yet another typical structure built with natural local resources, this space was specially designed to capture the breathtaking view of the sunset. The open-air arena is the perfect inspiration for small yoga sessions during the divine hours of dusk & dawn and also serves as a lounge or an outdoor movie theatre. A cosy Reading room with a Library section and a finely tuned Guitar awaits for a quiet afternoon.
Meals at Petrichor’s Cafe Glow is organically Vegan, Vegetarian and Raw. Cafe Glow itself is not confined to any singular space and guests can celebrate the blessing of food in its purest form anywhere in this property.  A regular meal which is a form of indigenous wholesome cooking of the native plants with local spices in a traditional Nepalese style is prepared here. This style is now termed as Slow Food and comprises what we call The Petrichor Plate – a truly authentic Farm-To-Table experience.

You can also pre-order a special 4-course meal for a unique Plant-Based Cuisine experience that is patented by the Petrichor Kitchen as being stylised and contemporary while being greatly inspired by nature.

Not just your regular Homestay or a Farm-stay in an authentic rural landscape, Petrichor extends much more beyond the concept of food and lodging for a traveller with its underlying relentless campaign to promote itself as a sustainability education centre or a working permaculture farm.
Your Himalayan adventure is guaranteed to enter a parallel dimension if not the next level as you become a part of a community working in harmony with local farmers of the region to build a healthy alternative lifestyle as they strive to live sustainably and responsibly with each other.
Petrichor offers a personal opportunity to rediscover nature’s bounty and unravel the secrets of the earth in its vast splendour. An ideal way to experience a slice of unadulterated rustic bliss as you learn and get a hands-on experience about building sustainable structures with natural resources or delve into the hidden rural recipes of food fermentation, herbalism, soap-making, bee-farming or simply enrich your stay by learning a little more about permaculture designing. The ‘slow food’ cooking process in the rustic wood fire kitchens is an experience that stands apart by itself.
Both Sweta & Siddharth modestly refrain from taking ownership of the idea behind Petrichor and are quick to point out that they are but stakeholders of the community.  They claim that all workers, volunteers and even guests are ultimately the ones who benefit from the returns of the Petrichor experience.

General Reviews

This alternate destination has been receiving encouraging reviews so far. Having hosted quite a fair number of international tourists who have been smitten by the simple beauty of the hospitable community and have stayed on as volunteers.  Petrichor Farms – A Sustainable Living Education Centre (as they prefer to be known as) looks forward to opening their doors to share the joy of simple living with even more travellers and adventure seekers.

Contact

Visit Petrichor as they regularly keep their followers abreast with their latest programmes and events through their Facebook page   https://www.facebook.com/PetrichorFarms/  and their Instagram Handle @petrichorfarmkitchenstudio
While their website is currently under construction there has been considerable coverage and traveller’s talk all over the internet especially on Tripadvisor about this hidden destination. Petrichor is also listed on Airbnb for Bookings and can be looked up in Volunteer World as well.

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.