At around 2200 m, life is unlike any other village in India, where the locals run a marathon, yes a marathon, and some of the women are also hiking guides. Situated a few kilometers away from the beautiful tourist destination of Kumaon Himalayas, Munsiyari in Pithoragarh District of Uttarakhand, Sarmoli is a village with a difference. The present-day village is a result of prudent efforts of Malika Virdi, founder of Sarmoli Homestay, her husband, Theo and Van Panchayat, Ram who have come together to empower the locals, especially the women of Sarmoli who have formed a self-help group called Maati Sangathan. Malika’s efforts have also helped women fight against domestic violence and alcoholism; adopt higher education; and become economic and socially independent. Also, with the help (training by) of a travel blogger, Shivya Nath, Sarmoli became India’s first village to have an Instagram account. Indeed, we need such villages in India to set a benchmark for other rural settlements, and thus, we had to dedicate a blog to this unique village in the country. Here’s the highlights of Sarmoli’s major attractions for you.
A rural marathon is something that I have never heard about. Yes, I am aware of the snake boat races in Kerala and the rural Olympics in Punjab, and Ice Hockey tournaments in Leh but the idea of Marathon running by local people that too at a height of 8000 feet and on 20 km stretch, is something! So, if you’re looking for a unique experience to have in India, you must attend this event in Sarmoli that is to be held on 19 and 20 May 2018. This event is followed by another interesting Butterfly and Moths Festival (20-22 May 2018). From 23rd May, begins another exciting event of Bird Festival that will continue until May 26 and then on 27th May, you have the chance to enjoy Mesar Forest Fair. So, you see, the entire next week is full of entertaining festivals in Sarmoli, in case you have time, make sure you visit this unique village in Uttarakhand.
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There’s also a workshop with Himalayan Ark, called She Moves Mountains, which will be conducted from 13 to 20 May, 2018 in Sarmoli in which women from the cities can participate . The aim of this workshop is to create a dialogue and a mutual learning experience between working women in Sarmoli and those from the urban areas. The participants will be able to learn traditional handicrafts, farming and cooking skills. The urban women will also gain insights into the particular struggles of their counterparts in the hills and vice versa through sharing of personal stories, victories, failures, the realities of being working women and more. Apart from this, there will be plenty of time to relax, enjoy mountain views and to even trek.
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Many of you must be aware of the fact how Uttarakhand has been challenged by mass migration. The lack of job opportunities, the unpredictable weather condition, and boredom have contributed to the reasons why once lush village have turned into ghost destinations. Sarmoli might have faced the same fate if it hadn’t been for Malika Virdi who introduced the concept of homestay to local people. Today, there are around 25 homestays in Sarmoli that offer an authentic experience of locals’ lifestyle and peek inside their culture.
If you’re willing, you can ‘Give Back’ to the village/ homestay by helping them in their daily chores like planting a crop, collecting wood, cattle management or cooking traditional meals. Also, teaching a useful skill or two would be a great way to give back to this place. As a matter of fact, travel blogger, Shivya Nath trained natives to post pictures on Instagram, as a result, today, Sarmoli is the only rural village community in India to have a social media handle, and adding to it, one of the communities Instagram picture has been featured in Huffington Post. Similarly, if you have a skill that can benefit the village people, you must volunteer.
By now, you would have got convinced that Sarmoli is no ordinary village, and thus, if I tell you that in this remote village in Uttarakhand, you can enjoy international delicacies, you wouldn’t be surprised, isn’t it? Yes, with the help of discerning travellers who have been very thoughtful, the village people can now even cook international dishes like Pasta. Also, apart from trekking, bird watching and nature walks in Sarmoli, you have the chance to practice Yoga and Meditation as well. Soon there will be a Nature Interpretation Centre (NIC) in Sarmoli, where a museum shall display pictures and information of the area and its flora and fauna. A cafe and a conference room are also likely to be constructed in the centre, where the village people can hold meetings and watch educational films.
Finding a village like Sarmoli in India is a bit tough, and thus, you must include visiting it on your bucket list. But make sure you volunteer for something that can make this rural destination in Uttarakhand even more skilled. If you have more suggestion what can be done to make Sarmoli and other remote destinations in India self-dependent, do mention them in the comment below. In case you feel there is a calling from Sarmoli for you, contact us at +91-9212777223 or firstname.lastname@example.org to offer you the best advice and travel arrangements.