“This is was not a regular trip. I didn’t book fancy hotels or luxury transportation. I knew it was going to be my last leg of transformation, taking me from a regular city girl to someone who would like to be raw and real for the rest of her life. This trip was going to be about living like a local.”
I had been ignoring Uttarakhand as a potential favourite travel destination for the longest period. But it had to happen. I then stumbled upon NotOnMap, a socially driven initiative to empower traditional villages by allowing the local people via the homestay programme.
I immediately drafted a week’s plan to spend some time at these homestays in the Uttarakhand region. In the culturally rich Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, my first stop was the Rudraprayag district.
Known for the confluence of rivers Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers, proximity to Kedarnath, Rudraprayag are a host to a rich history, culture and religious spots.
A list of top things to do in Rudraprayag
(Places to see in and around Rudraprayag)
- Kedarnath Dham Yatra
- Temples like Jagdamba temple and Shiva temple
- Koteshwar Mahadev Temple near Alaknanda river
- Chopta-Tunganath Temple
- Deoria Tal
How to Reach Rudraprayag from Delhi?
From Delhi to Rishikesh, the sleeper overnight bus journey was so comfortable that I missed my stop at Rishikesh and went till Dehradun in deep sleep. After realising my mistake, I got down and took shared sumo till Rishikesh, from where I had to start my local transportation journey to Rudraprayag. A local bus from Rishikesh bus stand was my next travel companion.
DELHI-RISHIKESH-235 KM (overnight journey)
RISHIKESH-RUDRAPRAYAG-142 KM (5-6 hours)
As a result of this mistake, I got quite late while reaching Rudraprayag, it was almost 5 pm. I booked an OYO for the night. Next morning, I was able to catch a shared Sumo from Rudraprayag market till Ukhimath.
RUDRAPRAYAG-UKHIMATH- 44 km (2 hours)
How to Reach Hudu from Rudraprayag?
After crossing many mucky portions on always-under-construction Uttarakhand roads, I got down at Tala from where another taxi took me to the Hudu village. I never heard about this village until I decided to stay in a homestay there.
UKHIMATH-TALA- 11 KM
TALA-HUDU- 2.2 KM
Tip: The direct bus from Rudraprayag to Hudu village departs daily at 1 pm and 2 pm. (time: 3 hours)
In an abode Of Gods, village Hudu looked one like belonging to heaven. After a period of long and harsh winters, I saw it in a greener phase with trees still devoid of leaves but the soil bore fresh grass.
With cold winds blowing on a gloomy day, a cup of warm tea and local snacks called Roat and Gulgula, made me feel at home in AKASH GANGA HOMESTAY.
Homestay in Hudu Village
The homestay owner, Ranaji, exclaimed hard and wished for me to be there a day before so that I could have attended a Garhwali wedding at their place. Nevertheless, he was happy to receive me. I was made comfortable with these big-warm smiles.
Everyone was a stranger to me yet I felt instantly at home. THE MAGIC OF HOMESTAYS!
Due to Hudu’s proximity to Chopta trek and Tunganath temple, the village is a perfect retreat spot but in an offbeat location.
The traditional homestay was made up in typical Garhwali style of architecture. The walls being constructed of stone, lime mortar and covered with layers of mud, act as insulation layers.
The room was in absolute sync with my theme for this trip, ‘Raw and Real’. I also had a little porch area with a long window alongside my room. Each morning felt like a dream, mountains were just in front of me.
As I was hiking up the stairs to reach this homestay, this colourful door caught my attention. I realised how these wooden entrances are a common sight in the Uttarakhand region. A series of a few steps which lead to the upper floor is known as Kholi.
These little houses of mud are no doubt beautiful to look at but then they also need regular maintenance. Women of the house regularly apply mud and cow dung paste onto the floors and walls of the house. The procedure fills the newly formed cracks and acts as a natural disinfectant.
On weekly afternoons, Mr Raeesh Ahmed Qureshi comes to sell ladies’ cosmetics and bangles. He’s been coming to this village for 30 years now. Ladies from different houses gather at a specific house to buy stuff.
I saw them buying small-sized bangles because large-sized ones bang against each other and break while doing daily chores. A little pain for that beautification!
Two days before, the family’s younger son got married. Some relatives had come and stayed back. I was being bombarded with marriage proposals time and again, a conversation which is common in such areas. We all took it in a laughing spirit though.
Aarushi and Manisha all day long kept eating something or the other. They played around. They loved applying henna. I too applied some onto their hands. I was no longer a stranger or a guest since they kept calling me out,” bua-bua”. (Aunt-Aunt)
A little terrace area was used to enjoy lazy afternoons and bathe in the sun apart from drying food items.
These little munchkins kept me company all along. From running after me while going towards cowsheds to trying to temper with my devices, these girls were a little too naughty. Their brother, Shubham, was exactly the opposite.
The 65-yr old homestay was started a year back. A family of 10 members, Ranaji and the others will treat you as their own. I tried my best to be a part of their daily lives, attempting to do whatever was involved in their routines.
The brave household women climb these slate roofs to dry washed and wet clothes. It’s a scene of absolute amazement for a city lad like me. Both men and woman of the house were involved in daily chores together.
Usually, the summer afternoons are spent in farms. But the winters ones are just lazy and don’t require anyone to be on the farms. People soak all the sunlight that they can by sitting in balconies and rooftops, which are also used to dry rice and grains. If not this, then they pick up vegetables from the kitchen garden.
There is a certain routine in village life. The routine is liveable because it’s a good and clean quality of life. Clean environment and peaceful surroundings play a major role in this. Most of them aren’t exposed to the outside world, hence they expect the least materialism from life.
The smallest kid of the house used to get a village-style massage. With a wheat ball and sunflower oil, the ball is rubbed in circular movements for better blood circulation and removes external dirt as well.
Undoubtedly meal time used to be my favourite time of the day. Wholesome vegetables cooked on wood and mud stoves wasn’t a regular thing for me. I had to savour the moment and I did untill I used to explode with food served with love and care.
Jyeti (a utensil with boiling water) was continuously being used to boil water and keep the interiors warm as well.
My Garhwali gastronomical vocabulary learnt something new when I was served Bhangjeera Chutney with roti for the breakfast. The chutney tasted tangy and had earthy flavours to it. I got to know that bhangjeera (beefsteak plant) is a crop that is specifically grown in this region.
There is always so much to talk about with the village women. Their traditional attire of ‘Lauwa’ was fascinating to look at. It looked an incomplete saree with silver jewellery (Hansuli) completing the overall look.
I realised when you choose to live in homestays like this one, each hour you end up doing something different. I started with helping the ladies in applying mud layers to the walls and finished the day watching them doing Kirtan at the local temple.
Picking oranges and discovering the village alleys kept my curiosity quotient high.
These villages, located on the mountain, are so well arranged with houses and other community facilities. I saw the Rana family’s cowshed and also a community clothe washing space.
The village temple was located at a higher ground which I visited on day two.
The last light of the day was a bliss look at. I contemplated my last few hours with the family and was reminded of how quickly we all bonded.
Day two in Hudu Village was quite eventful as well.
The family made a promise of a ritual to their God long back for something they wished for. And since their wish was granted, they kept their promise of completing the ritual at the village temple.
The ritual also involved the sacrifice of a goat. Later that day, the meals were cooked in the temple premises and distributed among villagers as Prasad.
These rituals and activities keep happening from time to time, making sure the community stays bonded and wishes for each other’s wellness.
- Hike up to the village temple
- Get involved in daily activities with the villagers and your host
- Go to the jungle with the ladies to collect dry leaves
- Walk up to a nearby stream for fishing
- Get lost in Bird watching
- Learn about Organic Farming
- Attempt Chopta -Tunganath Trek and go up to Chandrashila peak
Read about my trek to Chopta-Tunganath-Chandrashila-Deoria Tal here
Distance from Hudu village: 56 km
- Go to Deoria Tal
Distance from Hudu village: 6 km
- Madhyamaheshwar Trek
Distance from Hudu village: 27 km
Endless laughter, failed attempts to understand Garhwali language, even bigger failed attempts to speak it and countless instances of real connections; my time got over with this family just like that.
“Bye Bua!” Aarushi and family wished me luck for the journey ahead.
And I was preparing myself to move to my next destination of Uttarakhand i.e., Joshimath.