Experiential Himalayan Farm Stays in India – PaliGhar

Origin

The ideals of community service and a deep-seated regard for family tradition stirred early in the mind of this young boy, while still at school. It was no big surprise that the need to safeguard and promote local heritage came embedded in his DNA as we trace a lineage back to an erstwhile ancestor bestowed with the illustrious title of ‘Rai Sahib’ by the British Government back in 1941 for his generosity during dire times.

What was a searing spark gradually bloomed into a flickering flame as Kabir traversed remote regions and lesser known cities across the country through 2007 while in the employ of a reputed travel company.  What struck him most during his travels was a stark realisation that the appeal rested in the fact that the local cultures were always given precedence to. These rural areas held on to their ethnic traditions in every facet of their daily lives giving the overall authentic character to the place itself.

That summer, Kabir returned to his hometown, Kalimpong a little wiser.

PaliGhar was thus borne out of an inherent need to preserve a family’s history, pay respect to the rich cultural flavours of their Nepali heritage while aiming to promote rural livelihood, protect local wildlife & provide education for the less privileged. With acres of ancestral lands to work with, the PaliGhar venture officially commenced in October 2015 and by January 2017 they opened their gates with a flourish.

Location

Approximately 3 hours of uphill drive from Bagdogra Airport along typical winding narrow roads will bring you to the hill-town of Kalimpong in the Eastern Himalayan foothills of West Bengal. Once a critical part of the famous ’Silk Route’, Kalimpong is now another bustling town perched on a ridge above the river Teesta. If you push just a little further and brave an additional 30 mins drive beyond main Kalimpong town you will notice the terrain blending into verdant terraced paddy fields surrounded by dark blue hills. Gradually the fields open into a village called ‘Echhey’ – a panoramic open countryside stuck in time.

PaliGhar – An Experiential Farmstay beautifully merges into the picturesque backdrop, awaiting with its bounty of natural offerings from this side of the Himalayas.

Hawa Ghar overlooking the cottage at PaliGhar

 

About

A holistic experience in its purest form, PaliGhar offers a buffet of experiential travelling like no other with its range of authentic farm-life activities, quaint trekking trails along the Relli River and remote villages. Amusing sights & sounds greet you at every nook and corner with friendly villagers eager to share a cup of tea or a familiar tale.

Set against the scenic backdrop of a rural Himalayan countryside, this place celebrates local craftsmanship and the abundance of unique horticulture and floriculture found only in these parts of the region. Rustic and rural lifestyle merges in this world to occasionally spring up contemporary surprises like a hidden picnic spot, renowned floral nurseries and a glimpse into the nearby Himalayan Trust for Natural History of Art Institute.

PaliGhar offers travellers 02 guest cottages inspired by the traditional indigenous style of Himalayan architecture. Designed to complement the surroundings, the building style involves the use of all familiar natural materials available in the area and is constructed by workers from the community. While one of the cottages comprises 02 guest rooms, the second one comes along with an in-house kitchen and a common dining cum living space.

In keeping with the feel of a genuine Farm-life experience the PaliGhar kitchen dishes out authentic local Nepali cuisines sourced from their own organic kitchen garden.

Be prepared for your senses to be assailed with a heady mix of fragrant homegrown rice and a plethora of fresh seasonal produce lovingly prepared with traditional combinations of local spices.

While their Lunch and Dinner are simple set-menu-affairs offering homely Nepali food, they maintain a comfortable continental theme for Breakfast with few thoughtful options of local fare for the occasional guest request. For the eager culinary enthusiast, the PaliGhar kitchen is happy to demonstrate a detailed ethnic Nepali cooking routine and share a secret tip or two to take home.

General Response

The PaliGhar team have been pleasantly surprised with the turn-over of guests so far. It has been established that age is no bar when it comes to experiential adventures for the discerning traveller in search of unadulterated outdoors and nature. From single woman traveller to families & friends and elderly people, the guest list boasts of a delightfully mixed clientele stream. It is also interesting to note that many of these guests have arrived at the region and zeroed in on PaliGhar as a destination itself. The average stay for a guest at PaliGhar appears to be 04-05 nights, during which every activity in the farm is curated to suit the mood of the traveller. Guests leave PaliGhar with rejuvenated minds, wholesome bodies and refreshed souls to dive back directly into their busy lives.

It is heartwarming and a common sight here to find parents familiarising their children with the goodness of farm-life and encouraging them to participate in outdoor activities during their stay.

While a few local travel agents support this homegrown venture, it has mainly been ‘by word of mouth’ and traveller recommendations that have made PaliGhar the Farmstay Destination of choice in recent times.

Connect with PaliGhar

You can log into the PaliGhar Website for more details or tune into their Instagram handle @palighar and Facebook page for regular updates & enquiries. PaliGhar reservations may be reached via Air BNB, Booking.com or TripAdvisor.

In the recent past PaliGhar has also had its fair share of social coverage and has featured in a few prominent travel journos, each brimming with their own version of the delight in store at this place. Take a look :

Outlook Traveller
Roots & Leisure
Imagine Travel

Tripadvisor has been abuzz with positive traveller feedback for quite a while and you can tap into the link below to read more:

TripAdvisor for PaliGhar

Thank you for reading!
Stay tuned to Sketchywanderer for more vignettes of hidden places and spaces. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this blog.

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.