Day 6 – 8 on tour with Fernweh Fair Travel were full of adventure. We ventured further into the Himalayas to a place called Chopta, a region of meadows confined by the forests of the Kedenerth Wildlife Sanctuary. It would be two days of solitude, away from the hustle of any town centre or village, away from cell reception and light pollution. A place where the main source of light comes from the stars shining in the night sky, ever so prominently.
En route to Chopta, as we ascended to an altitude of 2000m, the air became fresher, the presence of forests and animals became more abundant and we lost sight of the towns and cities, along with any stresses and attachments that city life bestows upon us. Our first animal sightings were a family of Langurs, casually frolicking by the side of the road. They are intriguing creatures, with their dark human-like grey faces surrounded by a soft white mane. They didn’t seem to be bothered by us taking pictures of them. They ride in tribes in order to remain protected, a quality amongst most monkey species.
The higher we climbed, the cooler it got. It was November and so these lands were beginning to brace for the winter months. We were on our way to Camp Ringaal, a secluded camping area founded by Pushpendra (or Pushi for short). Pushi is Poonam’s brother (Poonam is the founder of Fernweh Fair Travel). He built this camp from a passion to create a living space immersed in nature. From an empty block of land Pushi and his team transformed this space into a sustainable campground comprising of 5 3-sleeper tents with ensuites and 1 main cottage (aka the mud hut), built using mud and cow dung plaster. His company PeaceTrips brings guests from all over the world to Chopta, participating in rural tourism with a focus on sustainability and environmentalism. “We want to adopt traditional methods and new age green technologies for cutting our emissions. As a tourist destination, we will be hosting a lot of guests and will be able to display innovative recycling, upcycling, better management and production of energy” Pushi said.
We arrived at the serene grounds of Camp Ringaal. From our tent, we could see the tips of the snow-capped Himalayas and the endless green forests. Cows grazed in the meadows below and occasionally a cheeky group of monkeys would be heard in the distance. At night we congregated in the mud hut over some hot chai tea, always a relief from the colder nights. We sat around sharing stories, playing chess and doing all the things one used to do before the mobile phone stole our attention. It was nice to experience some time away from technology. It’s not until you leave your phone for a few days that you realise what a distraction it becomes in your life.
The next day the true adventure started as our team climbed to near 4000m above sea level to Tungnath, the highest Shiva temple in the world. After a 4-hour trek, being witness to mountain silhouettes and snow, they reached the top. Fernweh had arranged a clean drive where our group assisted in the removal of trash surrounding the temple. Astoundingly they collected 40 bags of trash and were recognised in the local paper for their efforts.
Related reading: Empowering Women in the Himalayas through Sustainable Tourism
Back at camp, I relaxed to the sounds of birds and silence while peeking through my camera lens to see if I could spot a leopard. The camp is located in the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary so animals sightings are frequent. In fact, a week prior to when we were there a group of tourists had spotted a leopard close to the road. Some other animal sightings have included bears, deer and rare birds.
The next day was another day of trekking, but this time to lush waterfalls. The highlight was definitely stopping for a chai tea in Baba G’s cave home. Baba G is a Sadhu, nomads who refrain from the materialistic lifestyle. His home lies in a cave nearby the waterfall where he lives a life of solitude and worship.
That afternoon we trekked back to the town centre and journeyed home to Peaches & Pears Homestay. We descended back down to sea level, back into the hustle, to the sounds of beeping cars and busy lives.
We know Chopta will always be there – a place where we can escape to and become one with nature again.