Garhwali villages Matholi and Bwari Gaon are welcoming travellers to come and experience their offbeat lifestyle as volunteers!

There are so many mesmerising sights and sounds about the Gharwali villages that could make you stay there for longer, not just a weekend

Manju Latha Kalanidhi Published :  14th March 2022 08:31 PM   |   Published :   |  14th March 2022 08:31 PM
A panoramic view of Bwari Gaon

A panoramic view of Bwari Gaon

Come for the mountains. Stay for the grass-cutting Ghasiyari experience. Or a slice of the Garhwali rustic life. Or for golden sunrises and crimson sunsets. Or for tea with a view and roasted millet snacks. Or enjoy panoramic views of the Himalayan range. 

There are so many mesmerising sights and sounds about the Gharwali villages that could make you stay there for longer, not just a weekend. “That’s exactly our mission too—to encourage slow travel and get the travellers to give back to the community through volunteering efforts,” states Arpita Nag, Head, Marketing Communications and Volunteer Coordination, Green People India in Uttarakhand, a sustainable tourism and integrated rural development company.

As part of slow travel and immersive experiences vibe, they conducted Ghasiyari, a grass-cutting competition for women on International Women’s Day. The event took place at Matholi, a village located 45 km from Dehradun, and was an example of immersive travel. “We now work on a ‘Pay What You Like’ revenue model.

So travellers visit the village, eat at the locals’ houses and live in the newly-built mud-and-brick dwellings. The typical stay is about a week in which they take treks with local guides and pay whatever they feel like for the experience,” Nag elaborates. 

Those who have visited Matholi or Nag Tibba, also a village in the neighbourhood, know how the days move at a deliciously languorous pace here. It’s nature all around. Sunrises with a view followed by chai and rotis for breakfast.

The daylight hours, which last from 9 am to 4 pm,  are for work and evenings are about early dinners followed by stargazing. The menu comprises rotis made of indigenous Himalayan millets such as Madhira and Jangora, pulses, cereals along with some mono-floral raw honey (sourced from a single type of plant).

The bonus is chirping of birds, the wilderness bounty, playing with the local goats and watching the day change its colours based on the sun’s intensity.  “Travellers are thirsting for such indigenous, nature-driven holidays and we are providing that,” Nag says.

According to a May 2021 report by London-based market data analysis firm GlobalData, slow travel is on the take-off. A trip longer than 10 nights is more highly desired (22 percent) by travellers than a day visit (10 percent) or a short break of one to three nights (14 percent).

Green People India runs  Bakri Chhap, their travel segment, wherein they are calling volunteers to stay with them for anywhere between a week and three months. “Social media is a great marketing tool for travel. We invite travellers who are tech- and social- media-savvy (a great social media following helps) to stay in the village for free and get the complete immersive experience. In the last four years, we may have hosted about 125 travellers who brought us lot more guests and so this model works out great for us,” Nag states. 

These Himalayan villages continue to stay away from commercialisation and urbanisation. Travellers don’t have the luxury of internet, access to running water, or even a place to dispose of their plastics. However, in return, they get a hyper-local experience that is not found on Google.

Nag says that they also have farming volunteer opportunities where one can stay during the cultivation season. “This helps many city dwellers get a taste of rustic life they have been longing to have. And the villages get an extra,  enthusiastic hand at work. It’s a win-win,” she comments. Volunteers could also be asked to handle guest relations—booking rooms, receiving guests and then helping them to get settled. They get to do intense treks with the guests. We have various exciting opportunities.”

Pradeep Panwar, a local, who had managed The Goat Village, farm retreats and home stays managed by The Green People, for four years is now running the Matholi experience. He put in his life’s savings to renovate his house and turn it into four rooms for guests. His homestay is built on the lines of the 1,000-year-old Koti Banal architecture (earthquake-resistant structures). Panwar coordinates with volunteers and travellers. His story is often shared as an example of how a local has become a travelpreneur by adopting a sustainable tourism model.

Go with the slow, it is.

Women at work

Green People India's travel arm Bakri Chhap and The Goat Village are now focussing on their newly-themed village—The Women's Village aka Bwari Gaon. Inaugurated in January, the women of the village provide the entire travel experience here, hence the name.

From coordinating with guests over phone calls to packing them snacks for their treks, from taking them out for local treks to making their beds, the womenpreneurs here are at the heart of every experience. “The real custodians of the village are the hard-working women folk of Matholi who manage the Bwari Gaon. They take the lead in the socio-economic and cultural aspects of life here,” explains Nag. Their page @BakriChhap on Instagram has the latest updates.