TGV Hideout Urgam Valley is a community initiative to connect travellers with local people. The project offers outsiders a unique opportunity for a cultural exchange in a region renowned for its spiritual significance, trekking, and sublime natural beauty. Guests will be immersed in a community removed from infrastructure, pollution, and haste of urban India, but connected to their families and traditions.
The region epitomises tranquility. The car horns synonymous with Indian street life are long forgotten; softly chirping birds set a gentle pace for the mind while the distant calling of villagers and the clanging of cattle bells reassure one that life still moves.
The responsibilities of feeding and housing guests will be shared across the community. Hosts and facilities will vary according to the schedule decided by the guest and principle hosts, Mr. Rajendra Rawat and Mr. Laxman Negi. There are also opportunities to camp if the guest is a keen trekker.
Mr. Rajendra is a warm, softly spoken man. His youth and generosity is felt through the care he takes over your wellbeing. Some days and nights' sleep will be spent in Rajendra's family home with his wife and parents. The building is a cement construction beautifully disguised beneath floral shades of pink and green. Nevertheless, this vibrancy cannot hold any attention because of the sublime view of the mountains.
Rajendra is also in the process of preparing the family farmhouse for future guests. The farmhouse is built in the traditional style of stone slabs covered by earth. It is a low-ceiling building that one must stoop to enter, but it offers a rare chance to stay in the style of house that has been in Urgam Valley for generations.
Other nights may be spent with host families also involved in the exchange, or places that normally function as guest houses. These rooms are also basically furnished and usually have private bathrooms. There are also opportunities to camp overnight if the guest is interested in trekking.
Helang is the entry point into the valley from the Rishikesh-Badrinath Road, from which shared taxis grumble and pass through the small villages of Salang, Layari Thaika, Barginda (Urgam), Devgram, and Cira before reaching Basa. Apart from the infrequent journeys made by these jeeps, the Valley is protected from the increasing congestion, noise, and light pollution in the more built up areas of the Garhwal and Chamoli regions, such as Joshimath.
Mr. Laxman Negi is a social worker and local activist whose primary interest is his community. He is a deeply passionate guide, light on his feet, sociable, and never without a smile. It is Laxman who will lead guests on treks and introduce to the people of the village.
One trek is a pleasant, but somewhat steep, ascent to Mulla Kark, a beautiful open field with a glorious surrounding view of the Garhwal Himalayas. Here guests will probably find a Sadhu Baba strolling or working in his hut.
Those interested in religious sites will of course appreciate visiting Kelpeshwar. The ancient temple of Dhyan Badri will also fascinate. It is a simple structure that is nestled in the village, neighboured by the primary school and now surrounded by houses.
Guests may also take the opportunity to join the local intermediate college for a few days, sharing their travelling experiences with students and learning about agriculture, horticulture, and herbal medicines.
Our culture had embraced “Atithi Devo Bhavah” in real terms when friends, families and sometimes perfect strangers used to visit our homes, enjoy non pretentious hospitality and give something heartfelt in some form or the other, as per one’s capacity - as a token of goodwill gesture. The culture is on the brink of extinction so are we as compassionate humans. With ‘Pay What You Like’, we are making a small but honest attempt to revive this practice in our village tourism destinations. You don’t ask us what you need to pay - you be our guest – Evaluate the degree of contentment you have achieved with the regional meals and then Pay What You Like; in the drop box with your name and feedback, in an envelope provided to you at the time of departure.
Helang is the entry point into the valley from the Rishikesh-Badrinath Road, from which shared taxis grumble and pass through the small villages of Salang, Layari Thaika, Barginda (Urgam), Devgram, and Cira before reaching the last village Basa.
Helang is 288 KMs from Dehradun and can take up to 12 hours if one is driving. If you plan to take the public transport, then you can take your fisrt night halt in Srinagar, and then start early morning the next day to Helang. There are public taxis and buses both from Dehradun to Srinagar and from Srinagar to Helang.
From Helang, the first village stay is in Salna, at a distance of 6 KMs and our hosts will be happy to guide you on the timings of shared taxis.
From Salna, second village stay is in Devgram, which is further 5 kms ahead and there are public taxis operating on the routes, and have specific timings.
Devgram to Bansa Village is further 2 kms ahead and is a hike. Tented accommodation can be arranged at this spot and at most of the spots further ahead of Bansa.
1)Clothing: April to Dec: Cottons with light woollens; Dec to March: Heavy woollens. If you want to enjoy the snowfall, we suggest you to pack a windcheater and snow boots.
2) As you may need to hike a bit, we suggest you to pack light.
3) Carry your own towels, soaps and other toiletries.
4) Please carry a handy flashlight/torch with extra batteries as there is no power back-up.
5) You’ll be amidst wilderness while hiking or exploring around. Do carry insect-repellent ointments, oils or creams to stay protected from seasonal bugs.
5) Trekking shoes, water bottles.
5) Handy flashlight(s).
We look forward to having you with us in the lost lands of the Himalayas. Please write to email@example.com for any reservation related queries or call +91 8476033336.
We are operating without electricity and we don't serve gourmet meals. We live and promote the philosophy of 'smart minimalism' and we are an 'absolute no', if you are seeking conventional hospitality.
We coexist with nature and these areas are prone to wild mammals, insects and snakes so one needs to be careful and one is responsible for one’s own safety.
Content contributed by Hugh and Kate, volunteers from the United Kingdom. The pair graduated from University in 2017 and they have since travelled and worked in different European countries, including the UK, Switzerland, Austria, and Greece. Whilst exploring India they have continued to pursue their passions of social work and writing. They joined Green People in May 2019 and toured the new Hideouts, researching and writing about these experiences while also offering the hosts a practical experience of what hosting will entail. Both are freelance writers and volunteers and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Pictures contributed by Shabdeep Bhamrah, a Dehradun based Architect, specialising in designing modern and contemporary spaces through a vernacular & sustainable outlook, and in working on ideologies which help develop a connection between the buildings and green spaces. When not designing, he's probably playing his guitar. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.