A slice of heaven at The Goat Village, an introduction

“Look forward to having you with us in the lost land of the Himalayas. Let’s leave the itinerary unplanned and unmapped” said the email from the Green People of The Goat Village.

As if this wasn’t mouth-watering enough, they also said electricity was sporadic (and only available in the common areas), the internet almost non-existent, and we would have to walk the last few hundred meters. “There’s no road that reaches The Goat Village”

Yum, yum, yum!

Hard to reach roads and a prospect of a “digital detox holiday”! We knew this getaway to The Goat Village, deep in the Garhwal mountains of Uttarakhand, was going to be a special time.

It’s a long, and dare we say, arduous drive

The roads in the Himalayan mountains in Uttarakhand, India

It was a dark swollen sky when we reached Dehradun. The roads were already waterlogged. It looked like an ominous start to our sojourn in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand. By the time we got to Mussourie, the wipers of our Mahindra Maxx jeep were moving at full speed – which seemed hardly enough.

The route from Dehradun to The Goat Village in Dayara Bugyal, Raithal in Uttarakhand

Our anxious minds were a sharp contrast to the cool and composed driver, next to whom we were seated. The chatty atmosphere at the back of our jeep, which was filled with the locals of Garhwal, gave no signs of anything amiss. No one seemed interested in giving even a cursory glance to what we felt was havoc outside.

We smiled. This was a definite “Welcome to the Himalayas” sign. It was us – visitors, and them – the mountain people. What to us was something extraordinary was “just another day in life” for them. We were now in the land of the people who called these mountains, home. Our favourite kind of people, our favourite kind of home.

The winding roads in the Himalayas in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand

The dense forest gave way to sheer cliffs. Several mountains and valleys were crossed. Old school romantic songs played on the equally old school music system of our jeep. We were accosted by the colour green everywhere. Sometimes deep, sometimes bright, always fresh. Our hearts fluttered.

A change of jeeps happened at Uttarkashi. We were now driving next to the river Bhagirathi, more through villages than mountains. By the time we got into the final jeep for Raithal, where this centre of The Goat Village is located, everyone knew everyone else. We were introduced to a magic jeep here. One that’s filled to capacity. There’s no place to budge. Yet, when a hand is waved at it, space is “created”. It didn’t take us too long to break this magic code – the jeep had an open-air berth! Yup, the youngsters just moved on to the top to make space for the elderly of their village – or the “outsiders” – people like us!

Terraced farms and the winding roads that lead up to the village Raithal

The Goat Village in Raithal

If we say that the 5-hour long drive, as beautiful as it had been, wasn’t tiring, we would be lying. We were, in fact, exhausted by the time we opened the gates of The Goat Village. And – now that you know we don’t lie – what stood before our eyes took our breath away. We forgot we were tired. We wanted to run with joy. Jump with excitement. Shout with delight. It was the kind of beauty that fills your heart and then pours some more. It feels like floating in what can only be called a slice of heaven.

The meadows of Dayara Bugyal in the early morning light

It could be the wet muddy path covered with local stones. Or the greenery everywhere, now littered with colourful flowers. It could be the smell of the Himalayan monsoon. Or the sight of the dainty wooden cottages we would be staying in, at a distance. Maybe it was the warm smile of the old wrinkled Garhwali woman tending to her cow. Or Pradeep’s warm welcome – literally, with steamed towels and piping hot tea!

The Goat Village, Dayara Bugyal in Raithal

We knew it was partly being in the embrace of the Himalayas – they always cast their magic spell on us! Today they had their tops covered in clouds. Did that make them look even more beautiful?

It was probably all of it. We were travelling to the Himalayas after 4 long years. Obviously, we were excited. This was our first time in the Garhwal part of the Himalayas. There was excitement, anticipation and that now familiar feeling of not knowing what, how, where next. And then be where we were! I felt like a little girl waiting to be gifted a doll but receiving a whole dollhouse instead!

”Doing nothing” at The Goat Village

A big part of our “doing nothing” involved eating lots of fresh, organic, indigenous food. Agriculture is the focus of the Raithal centre of The Goat Village. Encourage the farmer to grow the indigenous mountain crop instead of shifting to the commercial crops and provide a marketplace for their produce. This not only preserves the “micro-culture” of the region but also makes the youth consider the option of staying back in the mountains instead of migrating to the cities. It’s a self-sustainable and eco-friendly model to generate local employment. And in the process, instil a sense of pride in the locals to continue living their traditional, and healthy, lifestyle.

Women from Raithal separating the husk of the recently harvested brown rice of the Himalayas

We got to play a role in doing all of this – by simply eating the scrumptious food that Pradeep doled out every day. Gobble some ragi (finger millet) pancakes with a sprinkling of amaranth seeds for breakfast. Or some aloo parathas made with potatoes grown right there in The Goat Village. Sprouted soybean and lentils for sides. We ate a range of new grains and pulses – barnyard millet, a special smaller but tastier variety of rajma (kidney beans), Himalayan brown rice. Even a local and better substitute to oats – called jhambora – topped with Himalayan honey! And when someone felt like having Maggi (noodles) for a change, Pradeep would promptly pluck out some parsley from his “kitchen garden” for added flavour.

Pancakes made with ragi (finger millet) and amaranth seeds

Some days, we would all cook together. While Pradeep taught us to make the Uttarakhand style momos, we taught him to make the typical Mumbai street food – wada pav! All had with a spicy chutney made with fresh-from-the-orchards apples!

Interesting leaf on the way to Dayara Bugyal, a high altitude meadow in Uttarakhand

A breakfast for kings would be followed by a walk in the forest. Sometimes through a thick curtain of clouds, sometimes in bright sunshine. Chasing butterflies, admiring the mushrooms, listening to the birds sing or the cowbells tinkle. No other sounds to break the harmony. No one else to disturb our solitude. Just us and nature – one on one! Our “being in the moment”.

Sandeepa and Chetan on the trek to Dayara Bugyal, a high altitude meadow in Uttarakhand

Post lunch would be time to catch up on some reading. Or a quick nap outside on the hammock. Only to be disturbed by a rainbow making an appearance. Sometimes participate in some farming (it was the time to sow green peas). Or pluck some walnuts and devour their sweet milky flavour – yeah that’s right! With walnuts this fresh and tender, we could actually taste the walnut milk with every bite.

Relaxing in a Lawson hammock at The Goat Village, Raithal surrounded by the Himalayas

The beautiful wooden cottages soaked in the morning sun at The Goat Village in Raithal en route Dayara Bugyal

A rainbow greets us at The Goat Village, Raithal surrounded by the Himalayas

It was a life well lived and “doing nothing” done right!

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Top tips for visiting The Goat Village

    Getting there

  • The Goat Village is located in the Garhwal mountains. You need to first get to Uttarkashi via Dehradun (like we did) or Rishikesh. Public transport in shared jeeps is available. The state transport bus also runs once a day. Visit the green people website for all the details.
  • If you think you’ll be unable to walk the last mile, let the people of The Goat Village know. They can make arrangements for a horse accordingly.
  • When to travel to The Goat Village

  • Be prepared for all kinds of weather – these are the Himalayas, after all. We went in the monsoon when the weather was pleasant. A light sweater in the night was enough. Rain jackets are a must. It can rain anytime.
  • The Goat Village is operational in winter as well, when the place is covered in snow. While they can arrange for thick warm blankets, they don’t have the facility of heaters in the room. Carry enough layers and warm wear if travelling in winter.
  • You can visit The Goat Village all year round.
  • What to expect?

  • Be realistic in your expectations. Remember, you are in the deep Himalayas.
  • The cottages are built to make you feel comfortable. They are warm and the bathrooms have running water.
  • But be prepared to rough it out. Something as natural as a fallen tree branch can disrupt the water supply. Don’t let being exposed to the raw elements of nature spoil your holiday.
  • Explore the local delicacies that the chefs at The Goat Village prepare with great love. You can even get some raw material back, just let them know.
  • ATMs are available, but they might not work. Keep cash handy.
  • A few mobile phone networks work at The Goat Village. While the intention is to “digitally detox”, maybe you need to inform someone of your whereabouts. Tell the staff at The Goat Village, they’ll be happy to help you about.
  • What to do at The Goat Village?

  • Nothing!, farming, reading, talking. Go for walks in the village or in the forest. Talk to the locals – they are a chatty lot!
  • You can explore the villages further ahead – like Barso, even Harshil, or go all the way to Gangotri (we will write about this soon!).
  • A trek to the high altitude meadow of Dayara Bugyal can easily be arranged (coming soon!).
  • Have you enjoyed a digital detox holiday? Did you enjoy it? Would you like to go on one? Let us know in the Comments!

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Sandeepa and Chetan. Married. Indians. Exploring Travel as Lifestyle. Featured by National Geographic, Yahoo. We hope that through our travel stories we inspire others to make their dream into a reality.

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16 thoughts on “A slice of heaven at The Goat Village, an introduction

  1. Rajiv Verma

    Fantstic stuff!
    Digital detox is what we need, every once in a while.

    The Goat Village seems just the kind of place I would love to spend few days, doing nothing and learning from nature.

    The fact that Dayara Bugyal is nearby is fantastic, it’s beautiful.

    Cheers,
    Rajiv

  2. quirkywanderer

    Can anyone ask for a better digital detox than this? This is just so perfect on all counts. Organic food, simple living, the Himalayas for company, long nature walks and perfect hosts! 🙂 Prefer a holiday like this over any luxury! 🙂 Rural tourism at its best 🙂 Thank you for sharing this guys, the pictures are stunning and I can imagine how flavoursome the parsley Maggi would be:)

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Yup! This was probably our best rural tourism experience so far – perfect in every way! The simplicity was the luxury there 🙂 I think you will fall in love with The Goat Village too!

  3. corneliaweberphotography

    Sandeep and Chetan, this is absolutely a slice of heaven, at least I felt like it viewing all your most beautiful images. I haven’t seen such an incredible post for a long time. I feel like drawn to go back to India for another visit. Thank you for sharing your happiness. Blessings to you.

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Thank you so much for making our day! Read this first thing in the morning and can’t wipe the smile off our faces – reading your comment as well as thinking back of the time we were at The Goat Village. On your next visit to India, do make time for a visit to one of The Goat Villages!