By Anuja Joshi, intern
Himalayan ecotourism, the name itself signifies how exotic this could be. I was so looking forward for this internship. And so I cancelled my meditation course and headed directly towards it.
With mixed thoughts in my mind, I started off my journey.
I landed at Bhuntar airport at 8 in the morning, even though I had to get down at Aut in order to catch a bus to reach Banjar . I remember Stephan (director of Himalayan ecotourism) reminding me a hundred times to get down at Aut. But it was the sheer beauty of the Himalayas and the river Beas flowing down in the valley and the beautiful faces I saw down the road that I feel the excitement took me over or the mesmerizing beauty of Himachal, I missed Aut! So, I had to again come back, and I took another bus to Banjar. After reaching Banjar I was directed to reach the office, i.e. “Life Lovers Café”. In the café I met two wonderful girls Cheena and Anita. Stefan was out for some work so I waited for him.
Finally, when I met him I discovered that Stephan is like a tornado coming and moving around everywhere. When I met him, he came like wind, explained me the stuff I’ll be doing and at the same time was mending the shade umbrellas in the café. After that he got vanished somewhere. And the energy he had, clarity of his thoughts and his purpose made me realise that I too have it hidden in me, and this will be the place where I will explore it out to my fullest and contribute my best to the nature.
I was given a warm welcome in a wonderful chilly place, lush green beautiful mountains. From the café we headed towards Stephan’s home, for me it is like a doll house in Bihar, a village few Km from Banjar in Himachal Pradesh. It is as beautiful as one could imagine in their dream, a beautiful wooden house in the silence and solitude of the valley. The best part was the people of this village. They are so interactive and friendly that they make you feel like you know them for years. That is a sort of connection people make when they are not striving for personnel gains but be as one family in the abode of Mother Nature. It feels like you are connecting to nature and becoming one with it. People often talk about it, or read about it, but few get to live it and I am lucky that I got the opportunity to be one of them.
Okay! So talking about the schedule-
Days starts early morning by 7:30 a.m. or so and then we head towards our café. The café has basically been there to bring out the resourcefulness in women. Women empowerment is the main motive behind establishing the café. The local women are taught soap making through natural ingredients, sunscreen balm making along with business and marketing strategies. The natural products comes under Himalayan eco-creations. These products are 100% natural and good for your body and skin. I feel proud to be a part of this process and overall this social enterprise. Within few days you get this energy in you that yes you may make a positive difference in people’s life. It’s just how they say that if you let your own light shine, you unconsciously motivate other people to do the same. It is very important to empower the people who are in a great need and make them aware. The local women feel that energy in them, so our aim is successful.
Another major concern is the forest fires that are lit intentionally for the short term benefits.
It is awful to see the dense lush green forest cover burnt to ashes. To stop these, we decided to work in a team and create awareness among the villagers by educating them. By showing them the drastic results of these fires. To put this movement into action, a crowdfunding was decided. Since we are a social enterprise, we earn our money. So, this crowdfunding page was basically launched to help us to buy a projector to give presentations among the villages. Help us with the logistics for the visits of at least 50 villages. With the help of interns and volunteers, these field visits are being done.
Though a bit difficult in the starting as being completely stranger to these villagers, thing do not progress how they should. But, once u have developed that bond with them, they are equivalent to your kith and kin. They’ll take the utmost care of your wellbeing. I simply love these people.
When it comes to café, it’s like heart and soul for the local women. It feels so positive to be around those lovely girls. Even if you’re a stranger, they’ll care for you like their next kith and kin. I just love to be around them. Dancing and singing all around. The café is also a place where the trekking equipment are kept and maintained well. Stephan has the top-notch equipment for the customers and hence the maintenance is also of the highest standards. Quality and safety is maintained to its optimum level. You need to be very dedicated when you work wit him.
People who choose Himalayan Ecotourism love Stephan and his services. Even I have made plans to go for trekking with him for sure.
I’ll keep you updated till then.