WORKING VACATIONS Are you ready to give up the comforts of the cozy hotel to sweat it out for nature during your vacation? Then here are the places to head to. KASHIF ALI
‘Getting away from the city’ is, prima facie, synonymous with the resistance put up against the urban milieu extracting more than its pound of flesh. If you are lucky enough, you get a couple of weeks off where one is expected to squeeze in about a year’s worth of fun and frolic. While it works for some, most people view the suspiciously sedentary two weeks of “fun” as a pointless exercise in grasping the “bigger picture”. However, for the more adventurous there exists an alternative; one that demands a little more than just sightseeing and pretty pictures. And it has a lot to do with ‘working for your living’ all through the extended holiday and in picturesque, sometimes challenging places. Interested? Read on…
Munsiari, Uttarakhand: This picturesque locale is home to Sarmoli and Jainti, neighbouring mountain villages, located in the western Himalaya, nestled above the Gori River basin. The Sarmoli-Jainti Nature-Based Tourism Programme is aimed at community integration, with a home stay arrangement with families of the village; activities like cattle management, sowing or planting crops, collecting fire wood and learning the livelihood crafts of the local community. Also on offer are nature walks, treks and bird watching.
Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu: The Forest Way, a trust working towards the reforestation in the area of the Arunachala Hill, has planted about 100 different species of indigenous trees in the past five years. The aim of the trust has been the ecological restoration of the hill, where forest fires, natural and manmade, have greatly hampered the natural regeneration of the forest. Significant features of the area include educational programmes for the village children, sensitising them to the fragile ecosystem they co-inhabit. Currently the centre is looking for volunteers to help them with a flora and fauna survey earmarked for the area.
Auroville, Pondicherry: Offering an exchange system where one can pay for their boarding and food by working the fields, is the Sadhana Forest project. Working towards a sustainable vegan community and reforesting a largely eroded 70 acres of forest land, the Sadhana Forest initiative advocates an eco-friendly approach to life; which includes tree planting, alternative construction, solar energy and water resource management.
Wayanad, Kerala: The Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary in the Western Ghats of Kerala is a forest garden project, which for the last 28 years has been actively engaged in “restoring the endangered species and habitats of a highly fragmented landscape”. A “Landscape and Life skills” course which runs for approximately four months introduces participants to, in their words, “an approach that is connected to the climate, landscape, ecosystems, plants, animals and people of the Western Ghats.”
All the places mentioned above have one thing in common — they all demand that little extra from you. Given the nature of their work, it is as much about giving back to the community as it is about taking from it. Another important factor to keep in mind is the time it takes to experience what these places have to offer, usually upwards of two months. So, if none of this deters you, stop thinking and get walking.
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