Friday, May 30, 2014

Water, hikes and farming

As the overnight storm lulled down, day broke at 5 am and the himalayan bulbuls started off the calls for the morning as more and more birds joined the fun. Finally we had a first long power outage and here I woke up early and sit down to type my thoughts.

Last 3 days were interesting. Our house does not have a motor to pump rather as water is carried through a small 2 inch diameter pipe, the sheer pressure of it flowing down from uphill takes it all the way up to the storage tank. So 2 days back we ran out of water to realise that our inlet water is jammed. The owner of our house Mr.Naresh who is trained by Didiji as architect in mud housing came and started to set the supply straight. After tracking pipes it has been diagnosed to mud jam inside a pipe and it's corrected. The next day we had another jam and this time we had to cut the pipe only to find a plastic toffee wrapper jamming the narrow pipe. Talk about ill-affects of plastic and we had a demonstration!

The homestay provided to us by Ghoomakad has been a big breakthrough for us. Our hosts sulochanajis family are warm and helpful. They helped us find our house for rent . They supply us wheat and potatoes from their farm, eggs from their hens(our son loves them)and milk from their cattle. Wheat and potatoes are  locally grown with no chemicals added  we procured them locally, so effectively no carbon foot-print :). They love our gugloo (as they call our son) and supply him with a constant stock of chocolates and no wonder he loves them too.

I had to update you on water. The water in aqueducts is not safe for drinking since people wash clothes and carries the upstream mess, so people in our locality walk a little distance to another supply line where water from a natural lake up the hills is drawn for drinking purpose. They proudly claim that this water can be directly consumed and has been proved to be good after tests by "foreigners"". We consumed them and they are right! Our house though had an UV purifier so we use it, but I will try to go find the source of that natural lake uphill.

Yesterday I spoke to sulochanajis family on farming. They are cleaning their harvest now (wheat). I asked them if they would allow me to grow vegetables in their compound and they are happy to offer me their space and I am all set to grow our own veggies although it will be sometime before I could harvest them.  I learnt that they grow potatoes in November along with wheat, so I would end up planting some beans and few vegetables. By the way they principally agreed to let me work with them for an hour or two everyday when they sow paddy next fortnight as the monsoon becomes active here and how much I am looking forward to that experience.

Two days back, we were invited to Didiji's house for a small party. We visited her house and boy we are impressed is an understatement.

 Mayaji, her eldest daughter and her care taker now ensured we had a good time with pakoras, plum cake and icecream. She was happy to engage our son with her dog ginger and her cat. Our kid was happy petting them. They had a rescued broken winged parakeet at home which can speak few words and
can eat anything that Didiji offers him

We made new friends and walked further down to Sindbari to the nearest ATM. Wifey was happy to do a mini shopping and we walked all the way back 2 km uphill to our house and boy it's a test of your endurance. We managed to do it in an hour holding the kid as he was dozing off. My wife learnt what is it like doing a mountain hike :)

We decided to explore the places around together on foot everyday. So off we went yesterday for a 2 km trek uphill and we were rewarded with beautiful views.

The best part is our son stopping by whenever he sees the sheep or a goat and wishing to touch it and play. He derives pleasure out of throwing stones into the aqueducts and we let him do it, but he keeps us on toes as he walks to the edge of the road to discover the valley below... phew! Watching septuagenarian citizens walking up the hill on virtually no roads puts our fitness to shame and we resolved to work on it. So these walks/hikes are helping us spend quality time as well as improve our fitness for future treks in addition to doing my birding enroute by yours truly.

Closing this post with technological point. I played with wordpress website building the other day and i realised what a beauty they created to build a website and more importantly to manage the website with ease by anyone with a little technical help. I am looking forward to building some websites with wordpress in near future. Did I tell you how the himalayan vultures soared past our home from close quarters the other day! I cherished the experience and our excited son is ready with camera asking me to click more photos.

That's it for now and it's time for trying hands in growing veggies for self, off I go to our little farm.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A new beginning

Am I living a dream!? I asked myself. One week never been  felt so long. Not because it's boring or uninteresting, rather it's involving, it's interesting and suddenly life seems to be slow and full. The other day I woke up to see the mighty himalayas rather to be precise the Dauladhar ranges with snow caps right out of our bedroom window. All that we hear through out the day are the songs of a variety of birds, the ushering stream of water from the aqueducts.Barring the occasional vehicles that ply on these windy hill roads we live in a world so contrastingly different from what we have lived from years.

It's on 17th May that we set off from Bangalore to spend couple of months living out of a small town named Rakkar at the foothills of Dauladhar ranges, close to Dharmashala and Mcloeganj, the adobe of his holiness Dalai lama. The village lies at an altitude of 1300 mts above sea level and one needs to reach Sidhbari, some 5 kms from Dharmashala enroute Palampur and drive up 2 kms to reach this village.The village is home to gaddi community who are herders and tillers. The village has a small school, few shops and offers amazing close views of the snow-caped peaks from close quarters.We took a flight till Delhi, then an overnight train to Pathankot and a taxi to Rakkar.

First 4 days were spent warming up while living at a homestay and then we managed to find a place that we could call home for next 2 months. The people at Ghoomakad are instrumental in me making this move. Not only them, in fact, everyone we met here till now has been very warm, helpful and hospitable.

I return to typing this after a 5 minute break as I went finding the bird whose call I am unable to decipher till now. It stopped calling as I approached close and I return to the post :) That's how life here has been, do whatever you like and whenever you want. No deadlines, no pressures, no questions asked. Wish life is this simple.

Back to describing the village - The village sits next to a river that flows down the hills and supplies enough water for many villages en route besides many further down. One can see some traditional houses built in contemporary style with a blend of tradition (mud) all thanks to Didi ji who is instrumental (more on her in separate post). However concrete-isation is slowly catching up replacing traditional houses.Majority of people own cattle and grow wheat and vegetables traditionally organically making them self-sustainable to a greater extent in terms of food. Only cattle dung is used as fertilizer and fresh water from the glaciers and rain water from the mountains at higher elevation are used for drinking and cultivation supplied to every house hold using aquaducts, the lifelines for these villages.

One can see water from aqueducts and streams all over the village. Fresh and clean water and the pleasant sound of water gushing downstream is a constant company while walking around the village. Cheerful faces, chirping birds, amazing vistas are a norm here. The village has a school and two NGOs operate here. Nishtha and Jagori have been doing amazing work in the villages around too making the place even more interesting

One more break in typing this post as the mules arrived and we happily offered them our vegetable waste(peels etc) that they consumed off. Nishtha has been pioneering a waste management project where all the plastic from the nearby villages is segregated and handed over to the PWD who uses them to build roads. A model has been developed and tested in few villages and being rolled out to many villages. Plastic littering has been a problem in villages around here and from what I heard, it's a problem majorly created by people who lived in cities or shifted from cities who does more littering than the villagers. Having said that, I am impressed by the way the shop keepers maintain no plastic when you buy. I had been to Dharmashala last week as well as some shops around the village. No one uses plastic bags here and it's really delightful to notice that. Cloth bags are used widely. However more work need to be done on plastic awareness. 

Finally we have our home ready and we are set and looking forward to this journey I vow myself to keep posting regularly. Before I forget, I started my birding jaunts and it has been good 33 species till now and counting. As I complete this post, dark clouds have covered the mountain tops and the distant thunder announces the arriving rain.