Right now, I’m sitting in the plane back to Germany. Finally time has come to return home after 19 months of travelling. The last four weeks I spent in the Himalayan Mountains of North India. I visited two different farms and had a great time. Let me share with you a time full of learning new skills, intensive discussions and healthy food.

Himalayan Farm Project

Helen and I just arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi coming from Bangkok. Helen is on her way to Dharamshala (Himachal Pradesh) to attend a Yoga Teacher Training and I’m heading to the Himalayan Farm Project near Kathgodam (Uttarakhand). It is early in the morning and we have the last breakfast together. She is waiting for her plane to departure and I’ll travel by train. Again we will separate for a month.

I walk her to the entry of the departure area for domestic flights. Securities are checking for tickets and so I cannot enter. I see her walking away to the check in counters and already miss her. From now on I’m on my own. Let’s see what happens 🙂

There is a shuttle bus going into the city center just in time. In the last row there is enough space for me and my huge backpack. The ride is short because of a nice guy in front of me. We start talking. Because I’m asking him how to get to the Old Delhi Train Station he decides to show me the way. He is a student and has plenty of time today. At the end he is not only showing me the way. No, he helps me get an Indian SIM card, exchange some Dollars and we have lunch together. Great guy!

I have to wait several hours at the train station. Fortunately, a hairdresser calls me to sit down at his shop and with him and his colleagues I spent a great time with chai, sweet grapes and a lot of talking. The occasion is crowned with a Ayurvedic face massage. Man, that’s an experience! I think he rubbed my face with 15 different lotions, oils and creams.

The train ride is quite smooth. After being awake since 24 hours I fall asleep early in my upper berth.

Before sunrise, the train arrives in Kathgodam. From here I take a bus to Da Goan. The farm is quite remote in the mountains, so I must walk for around 45 minutes up the steep hills. It is beautiful! Big boulders are beneath tall pine trees. A lot of pine is growing here. It has been introduced by the British Colonialists. It looks nice but it is not good for the forest. The ground is covered in pine needles only. You cannot see any other vegetation. Looks a bit like a desert.

Happy to be up at the farm I wonder why there’s nobody around. It appears like all the people are still sleeping. I sit down and enjoy the warm morning sun in my face and look around. The farm has a main community building. Volunteers are sleeping in another building with two rooms and a workshop beneath. Beside that there is a chicken coop with two chicken and a lot of terraces with little paddies. It looks a little overgrown but nice.

Finally a tall Indian guy with long hair and beard shows up. It’s Khartik, the manager of the farm. He is quite relaxed. Some minutes later Andreas a Swedish traveler joins us. It’s only the three of us here. Great, seems like a quiet time the next days.

I spend most of my time with farming. I setup my first hot compost pile, prepare beds, work in the nursery to raise seedlings, take care of the chicken and a lot more. With Andreas I fix holes in the chicken coop using just clay, water and cow manure.

Four US Americans are joining us three days later. A couple, Clint and Nataly, and two sisters, Erin and Collin. They’re all amazing. Erin stayed here nine months and can teach us a lot. Together with them we harvest and process Turmeric. With Clint and Nataly I make seed balls out of clay and plant and mulch several beds. One day we even harvest Cinnamon bark from all the Cinnamon trees on the farm.

The same night I witness my first big bush fire. At the beginning it is only a glimmer in the distance. A orange spot somewhere in the forest. With every hour it grows bigger and comes closer. It is now only a couple of hundred meter away. Karthik, Mohan, Andreas and I are going to fight it. Mohan has a rake and we others cut fresh branches with lots of leafs on them. Together we crawl through the steep valley and bring the fire down. Mohan is raking the burning stuff to the already burned side and we others kill the flames by hitting it with the brushes. It is hot and when the fire reaches a spot with higher dry grass huge flames rising into the sky. Finally we manage to stop all the fires. Exhausted but happy I sit in front of the community hut. Mohan is smoking a beedi (Indian cigarette) and I cannot resist and and join him after beeing more than a year smokefree.

Unfortunately, this was not the last fire. The next three days are determined by fires all around us. The last one come so close that it even enters the property. Everyone is asleep when I discover it and so I fight it on my own. I tried to get the others up but nobody takes it serious like me. This is the moment where I realize that I really care about what is happening around me and to myself.It is an intense moment. I can see clearly that I want to take care of the world around me including myself. I decide to stop smoking again.

Rachel an Indian girl that arrived some days after Erin and Collin left is talking about another farm near Almora. It sounds very interesting. A guy who worked for three years to convert his farm into an educational permaculture place. He educates the local people and gives them opportunities to market their produce so they don’t have to move to the cities anymore. This is quite compelling for me and I decide to go there for my remaining week.

Pankaj’s Farm

It’s a long day to get to there. There should be a bus going directly but due to misunderstandings I end up with three busses and a total travel time of around 10 hours. I meet Collin one of the sisters in Almora near the farm. It is a beautiful coincidence that she and her sister are at the farm right now, too.

We take a shared taxi to a small village. It is just beautiful! You can see how close Tibet now is. The valley is full of these rectangle houses with these high vertical windows that are so typical for Tibet. The people are incredible welcoming and smiling. I feel that it was a good decision to come here.

The farm is up a valley following the creek that feeds the flourishing wheat fields in the village. It is another hour to walk until we reach the farm. Again you see pines everywhere, but the creek and the rocks it washed out are stunning. The farm itself is like a green oasis in between all the pine forest. It is lush and full of deciduous trees and well maintained paddies. The houses are in really good shape and I even get my own hut with attached bathroom.

I get the chance to help Erin in Collin with transplanting some seedlings the same night. We cook alternating with what we have and harvest a substantial part directly from the farm.

Beside Erin and Collin a Nepalese family is living on the farm. They are employed by Pankaj to keep the plants and the facilities in good shape while he is not around. At the moment he has to organize a lot and wants to produce a documentary. He is working in the television business to get the funds to run the farm and all of his other projects. He won’t be around the whole time I’m here.

Beside the humans there are also one pregnant cow, five chicken, twelve goats and one dog. Especially the dog, Robert, draws my attention. He is a beautiful collie. Unfortunately nobody seems  to take proper care of him and so his behavior is a bit underbred. He bites and plays with you as soon as you come close. He is just to excited, what makes it hard to handle him. I try to calm him down and to spend time with him and over the next days he is getting better and our bond stronger. He is a great dog and if things were different I would ask if I can talk him with me. But without a place for him it’s not possible.

Andreas, the Swedish guy who also have been at the Himalayan Farm, joins us some days later. Together with him I help Puden, the Nepalese father, to build a dry stone wall that should once run around the whole farm. We are splitting stones with the sledgehammer, carrying big rocks through the rough terrain and one day even try to build part of the wall on our own.

All together the time at the farm is food for my soul. It is one of the hardest goodbyes for me so far. Beside the dog also the place and the people are important to me now. With tears in my eyes I start my way to New Delhi to meet Helen and to fly back to Germany. In the background I can here Robert howling.

Time has come to return home.