In the foothills of the Indian mountains, a plan to offer walking holidays for tourists could be the salvation of five ancient villages. Peter Hughes reports.
London Telegraph, 21 June 2007
I can see them now, standing on a ridge above me, their saris rinsed in sunlight. They were waving wildly, laughing and shouting my name, “Peter, Peter. Bye-bye. Bye-bye.” Sheila was there and her sister, the irresistibly named Bubbli, jumping to catch my attention. “Peter, Peter, byeeâ€¦”
I felt an unexpected prickle behind my eyes and had to concentrate even harder as I descended from their hill. Last night, they and their mothers had sung, sitting on the floor and accompanied only by a surprisingly mellifluous upturned wooden waste bin. But my reaction to their farewell was unexpected; after all, it was only a walking holiday.
Well, yes, and no. Village Ways, which started last year, is different. First there is the setting. The walks are in Uttarakhand (formerly Uttaranchal ), just a few valleys south of the Tibetan border and the high Himalayas. It is one of the less visited states of India, unless you are looking for tigers in Jim Corbett National Park or doing some serious trekking. These are the Himalayan foothills – hills only in the sense that Atlantic rollers are ripples.
Then there is the whole concept of Village Ways, of walking with your own guide from mountain village to mountain village and staying in specially built guesthouses. [more]