I heaved a sigh of relief as my GPS showed 5 minutes to Brajesh’s location. I travelled a long way to get to Jibhi – around 150 kms from Fagu. It wasn’t the distance, but the road, riddled with bumps and potholes that made the journey seem endless. It’s almost impossible to turn weary of the picturesque scenery, but as we made that last turn and saw Brajesh, the head of Offbeat Footprints Ecostay, sitting on the barricade, I was quite happy to trade it in for some rest and relaxation.
We hopped onto the road and unloaded our baggage in a jiffy. But wait a sec… there was nothing here. We looked around quizzically and that’s when Brajesh pointed to a muddy path leading straight down into the valley. “Just a 500 meter trek downhill from here,” he said.
Yep, the end was nowhere in sight… and neither was the home-stay for the next half an hour.
After a tiring journey, the last thing anyone would want to do is to cart your bags down a curvy, rocky path. But that’s just what we did. Thankfully it wasn’t an uphill climb and was quite a painless walk. The sound of gushing water appeared louder with every step and then finally, we found ourselves on one side of a green bridge running across a stream. What we saw on the other side was a scene straight out of a story book.
The sight that lay in front of us was that of a bridge running across a gurgling stream, flowering shrubs, fruit trees, hills and a tiny mud hut. Doesn’t it sound like one of those drawing we did in nursery?
OFFBEAT FOOTPRINTS, JIBHI
Cut off from the rat-race, OffBeat Footprints is a place you can immerse yourself in the lush forests of Jibhi and savour the (sometimes overwhelming) sound of silence. This brand new property is barely a month old and offers guests an experience that is as close to living a countryside Himachali experience as one can get.
Modeled in the style of a Himachali home, the main lodge is made of mud and wood from top to bottom. It is a given that you will be spending most of your time outdoors, and so the three double bedrooms set one above the other, hold only a double bed each, and are extremely basic.
A steep wooden staircase leads you upstairs to where there is a common area, but most of the guests prefer to mingle in the dining space at the back of the property, where the cook, Duruji is always preparing tea or parathas with a smile while listening to guests’ chatter. Ask her nicely, and Mainaji, the helper brings in fresh, juicy plums and apricots for mid-day snacking. If you’ve lived in a village yourself, you’ll know that supermarket produce just doesn’t compare to the taste of a fruit straight off the tree and for someone who prefers chocolate over fruits, I enjoyed these immensely. Meals are homely and wholesome too – rice, curries, mixed sabzis and rotis.
For those who really want to rough it out, book your stay in one of their three tents, located just behind the hut. These spacious tents can comfortably accommodate 3 people. You won’t miss the absence of TV or internet because Brajesh always has something novel up his sleeve to keep guests delighted – be it a ‘Movie Under The Stars,’ where guests watch a movie projected on one of the huts mud walls, a bonfire night where you can play a musical instrument or have a sing-along, various treks in the forest or along the river, some fishing, and the best of all, a swim in a natural rock pool in the river, where the ice cold water wakes up your senses quicker than the strongest cup of coffee. For those who like checking out ‘unexplored’ sites, you will find that visiting the hidden waterfall close to the property a treat to see!
Brajesh has already put so much thought into this budding venture to ensure that guests can easily spend a few days here without boredom creeping in. And if that wasn’t enough, he has a few more plans in the works – a treasure hunt around the eco-stay, a designated space for campers who can pitch tents at the property, a natural pool with fish for a fish-pedicure, a selfie-point, a patch of lawn.. the list is seemingly endless. And at the rate at which the facilities are being implemented, it won’t be long before all his plans see the light of day.
LOCAL LIVING IN HIMACHAL PRADESH
Of all the places I’ve visited in Himachal Pradesh so far, I can safely say that this is the one where I got had the most authentic ‘local living’ experience. I did write about some of it in my last post on Jibhi, but when it comes to this particular stay, I got to interact with locals on a daily basis and as they opened up, they shared parts of their world with me.
I tried on these “phoolan” – shoes made from grass and wool, and had my first taste of Bhaturu – a thick fermented bread stuffed with walnuts, onions and mint that tastes amazing with tea. Did you know that Himachali homes have tiny doors to keep the cold out? I didn’t, and until I got used to scurrying around half-bent, I’d routinely bang my head on the every door. Tall people problems!
On my treks up and down from the main road, I bumped into one old shepherd or another, wearing their traditional outfit, complete with cap and waistcoat, herding a cow through the forest while singing a tune without a care in the world. So used to solitude are they that they didn’t even notice me walking a few feet behind them. Speaking of walks, they walk a lot and it isn’t surprising to see elderly folks be much more active than we city folks are, even in our 20’s. While nature provides almost everything they need to live a healthy, happy life, often, they need to carry heavy items like gas cylinders all the way up (or down) to their homes.
Life at Offbeat Footprints was definitely an enriching experience for me, so if you forsee a long weekend in the near future, give them a call and head on over.
YOU SHOULD ALSO KNOW
Here are some facts that you may find helpful:
- There is intermittent internet connectivity and cell phone network. You will find 3G at the back and front of the house, but there is no 4G available.
- It is not wheelchair friendly.
- Pets will loooove this place. Inform Brajesh in advance and take your dog along.
- There is only 2 washrooms on the property
You may contact OffBeat Footprints Ecostay on +91 9805194669
P.S. My stay at OffBeat Footprints was sponsored, however, views, as always, are my own.