Exhausted by the malls and pubs of the city and looking for a quiet and comfortable getaway? Well, how about getting away from your own protective cocoon and seeing and experiencing India differently…more responsibly?
Don’t settle for comfort getaways this summer. Gear up to clean mountains and beaches, do some tie-dying, make bangles or have a tete-a-tete with crocs. Yes, you can do all this for an exciting and meaningful summer right in India.
1. When in Purushwadi… do as the locals do
22o km from Mumbai, the scenic village of Purushwadi is renowned for its rice cultivators and skilled animal herders. Spend 5 days here in an all-weather tent and enjoy the hospitality of the locals as you learn. Walk around the village to identify the unique flora of the area, join the villagers in the fields and listen to the story of rice, witness the usage of natural resources in constructing a tower and build a scarecrow and miniature raft with locally sourced materials. When all this information gets too much for you, take the chance to develop a hobby or look for entertainment – go on a village scavenger hunt, jump into some adventure sporting or take a lesson in photography. The best part – the Grassroutes Camp in Purushwadi is a Family Camp, so you don’t have any excuses to stay back home.
Dates: 27th May- 31st May 2013
Cost: Rs. 10000 – Rs. 15000 per head
2. Climb n’ Clean
Were you looking to go mountain hiking to escape the heat? Combine your trek with some garbage-picking and conserve the environment as you go on this Mountain Cleaners trail. Whether you are in Dharamasala for a short visit or a long stay, volunteer at Mountain Cleaners for any of their three weekly cleanups. Get your daily dose of exercise and mountain air on a four-hour hike from McLeod Ganj – the Triund Cleanup, clean your way to the gods at Guna Devi Temple or pick up rubbish on the road to Kareri Village and Lake. And if you’re still thirsting for more, take part in some recycling and composting or interact with children on waste segregation. A month at Dharamasala with Mountain Cleaners is definitely cleansing!
Dates: Every week!
3. Of cooking, throwing pots and rafting
A heady mix of the culture of two countries – Delhi, Agra and Jaipur in India and Kathmandu, Chitwan and Pokhara in Nepal makes for a perfect 3-week vacation. These trips are full of local insight: tour Delhi the ‘green’ way, using only the metro and the CNG autorickshaws that are popular amongst the locals, meet the puppeteers of Jaipur, attend tie-and-dye workshop by local artists in Nawalgarh and make some bangles to carry home as a souvenir – who needs shops! In Nepal, indulge in a seven-course traditional dinner, learn to cook the local food or throw a pot, spend some days rafting and paragliding and hike through the forests. And what better way to end your trip than paying a visit to an orphanage or school?
Cost: On request
4. Clean the beaches before you hit the beaches
Chennai’s coastline is sadly littered with plastic bags, metal cans and tins, newspapers, posters… Volunteers from across the city (and country) get together every year to take part in a 15km cleanup of Chennai’s coastline, from Marina to Injambakkam. From individual contributors to organisations, NGOs and schools who participate as groups, these dedicated souls are as old as 5 to 95 – age no bar. Starting before the heat can hit at 6am, volunteers spend 3 hours on the beach, making it free of all garbage. The coastline can always use an extra hand, so join the Chennai Coastal Cleanup 2013 on June 16th.
Date: 16 June 2013
5. Mountains, Motorbikes and Monks – Black-Swan India Voyages
16km from Coorg, Kotagiri is not just the land of tea-gardens but also the home-grounds of some of India’s oldest tribes, those of the pastoral gods of the valley. Sample the hospitality of the Kurumba tribe while you learn their art and way of living.
Or else experience the simple food, the simple people and the exquisite beauty of nature in the mountains of Ladakh, where you can choose a trek through the valleys, or go for a more elaborate cultural experience in the monasteries.
If you still need more choice, gear up for a 3-day hike, starting from the peaks of the Western Ghats and finishing on the sands of river Sharavathy. The hikers are expected to be completely self-sufficient – no asking your mom to cook dinner: you’ll need to survive on the contents of your backpack, or better yet, cook your own dinner.
But if you feel like encompassing a lot more in a lot less time, then embark on a journey of northern India – from the hustle of Delhi, the colonial links of Dalhousie and Dharamsala’s spiritual aura to the hills of Palampur to the havelis of Garlis, north India is a sensory delight for travellers from across the country.
Cost: Ranging from Rs. 5800 to Rs. 48000 per head
6. Tea Party with the Crocs
At the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology (MCBT), join the crocodiles for feeding sessions everyday, and also attend fun talks on weekends. If you’re an intrepid explorer aged 10-14 – who said school couldn’t be fun? I bet you’ve never tried zoo school, where you have the chance to be zookeeper for a day or two, and even spend a night with the reptiles! But if you’re a serious researcher or reptile enthusiast, then sign up for some field survey techniques and reptile biology on the Tails to Trails program. MCBT has something for everyone this summer.
Phone: 044- 27472447
7. Celebrate the “rice” of planting
You cannot get more local than the Bajrabarahi Rice Planting Festival. Located in the southern outskirts of the Nepal valley, Bajrabarahi makes a celebration of the planting of rice. Play in the mud, splash around with water, and do try to get some work done, won’t you? Of course, you won’t be allowed to leave without tasting the newari feast of beaten rice with curd. If you’re spending some time in Nepal, be sure to drop in here.
Dates: 28-30 June 2013
Cost: Rs. 1500 per head
8. Around Ladakh with students
Around Ladakh with Students (ALS) is for interested and motivated youth who want to have authentic interactions with Ladakhis, and are excited about development and environmental issues. ALS can book you a homestay where you can help with the apricot harvest. Otherwise, stay on the SECMOL (Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh) solar-powered campus and take the chance to volunteer at one of their numerous camps, teaching English, ice-skating, or simply spending time with the warm-hearted Ladakhi youth. Visit local organisations to participate in sustainable development, wildlife conservation and even women’s empowerment projects. If you’re looking for something more activity-oriented, simply trek around the mountainside, spending the night in comfortable and friendly homestays. Experience Ladakh as a traveller, not a tourist.
9. Ladli for Learning
Make a hundred friends, make a difference. Ladli is a school for abused, destitute and orphaned children. Located in Jaipur, Ladli welcomes volunteers who want to teach English and Arts and Crafts, lead the young children in exercise and play, or simply spend some time with these beautiful girls. Arts and Crafts is of special import in Jaipur, which is known for its unique handicrafts. Jaipur is a city full of heritage and culture, and what better way to experience it than to spend time with some of its most loving inhabitants.
10. Rural Bicycle Tour
Cycle through the back-roads of Orissa, stopping by at the mud hut-villages and basking in the warm smiles of the locals. Feast on a rural picnic lunch, and meet the masters of painting at the Raghurajpur village. Encourage the dying art form of “patachitra” painting, which is unique to Raghurajpur, and give a boost to the artists by promoting their work. The Grassroutes Bicycle Tour in Orissa will leave you with fresh air and fresher perspectives.