Feature

Trekking through the Himalayas

G Magazine

Traditional living is truly low impact, as this walking holiday reveals

Himalayan peaks

Breathe in the fresh air and soak in the uninterrupted views of the Indian Himalayan peaks.

Credit: Beth Hall

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I'm woken by a gentle knock on my cottage door, signalling the arrival of a steaming pot of 'bed tea', and it is precisely at this delicious moment that I fall in love with India.

Bed tea: two small words, two perfect companions.

I sit up and savour the sweet, milky brew of masala chai and watch the sun rise over the jagged ridge of snow-capped Himalayan peaks, visible from the cosy comforts of my bed.

Oh yes, I could get used to this.

A walking holiday in the Himalayan foothills sounded as if it could involve intense physical preparation and backpack full of Gore-tex gear, but I am pleasantly surprised to find that here in the Kumaon region of northern India, walking is regarded as a simple fact of life rather than an extreme sport, and there's not a whiff of macho mountaineering on the fresh mountain air.

Treading lightly

While tourist hordes head to Nepal to tackle the Annapurna Circuit, those looking for a less strenuous walking holiday, rich in culture and surrounded by stupendous views of the Himalayas, will welcome the arrival of Village Ways - a ground-breaking new responsible tourism project in the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, situated in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, just south of the Tibetan border.

The Village Ways project not only provides the perfect bed tea, but is revitalising local villages and leaving the lightest possible footprint in the pristine mountain environment.

Five small villages within the Binsar Sanctuary are currently involved in the initiative, which aims to generate enough money to allow the villagers to stay in their mountain homes and maintain a traditional way of life, rather than having to seek employment in Delhi's choking streets.

Village Ways works by bringing a sustainable number of tourists into this unspoilt pocket of the world - a maximum of six guests can stay in a village at any one time - ensuring a minimal impact on the local way of life.

The villagers continue their peaceful rural existence, the way they always have, while guests get to experience village life and walk through a landscape poised on the cusp of heaven and earth.

Satisfaction

There are several walks to choose from, each with a different focus and difficulty level, and all begin at Khali Estate, high within the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary.

It's at Khali that the bed tea comes served with those majestic mountain views. It's here, too, that I meet Santos, one of the Village Ways guides.

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