Some take inspiration from their loved ones, some measure inspiration through stardom and for some inspiration lies in the surroundings. For me a small village mounted at the top of a mountain recently became an inspiration to explore further. This small village that I am talking of is very close to the ‘Indian Switzerland’ – Khajjiar in Himachal Pradesh. At a trek of about 2 km ahead of Khajjiar, is Mystic Village, a community village carved out by NotOnMap which turned out to be the most inspiring destination I have come across in a very long time. It left me spell-bound and wanting for more. The name in itself has so much mystery that I was naturally drawn to unravel the experience.
The bitter-sweet journey
I wouldn’t say that Mystic Village is a destination, I’d rather say it’s a bitter-sweet journey. We started around noon from Chamba to reach Khajjiar. Being born in Chamba, I had had the opportunity to savor picnics in the lush green meadows of Khajjiar all throughout my childhood but little did I know that I’d return to this place after a gap of 8 long years to be revealed to the most beautiful and adventurous getaway near Chamba and Khajjiar – Mystic Village. I kept questioning how such a beautiful village could be unknown to me all this while. I soon realized that it wasn’t that it was kept hidden, but that it had been sprung to life by NotOnMap quite recently. The place Mystic Village was put on map for the world to witness as the first community village set up by NotOnMap, giving a means to earn to the villagers while staying connected to the roots.
The journey to Khajjiar from Chamba only took one and half hour by car. I’m sure there are shared cabs and local buses which are budget options to travel in. Unlike a lot of tourists who flock around Khajjiar and Dalhousie, we didn’t waste a single second to do touristy things in and around Khajjiar and straight away went to our destination- Mystic Village. The trail to Mystic Village deserves a highlight as our ‘super easy’ trek had turned into a ‘challenging task’ due to the hail-storm that had hit the area the previous week. Even though we chose a bright and sunny day for our short getaway to Mystic Village, the condition of the trail had become a challenge for us.
Though I am not much of a trekker or a mountaineer, having climbed Triund top and Amarnath, I knew 2 km hike would be easy. But as funny as it may sound, I was shitting in my pants in some parts of the trail. Trust me, its an easy one but with the trees that had fallen on the track being uprooted due to rain and snow, the obstructions caused some trouble. We had to detour at some points, climb up and then come down, cross over the trees, jump a few gaps, get under the trees to cross, walk on the snow for a tiny patch, slowly tread to cross the slippery areas and so on and so forth. To me, the helping hand given by a caretaker named Anoop, who had come down to Khajjiar to receive us and help us through the trail, was surely a blessing in disguise. Not just helping us cross-over the obstructions, he also turned out to be a great conversationalist distracting me from the little fear that I had in my heart.
The enchanting beauty of NotOnMap’s Mystic village
Nestled at a height of 2100 metres at the top of the mountain, we reached Mystic Village after an hour or so trekking for around 2 kms from Khajjiar towards village Bhaloli. The warmth of the locals upon entering seemed much more welcoming than the bright shining sun. The locals had gleaming eyes and faces full of smiles. We were greeted by the caretakers of the village with a cup of hot tea and what’s better than a picture of ‘garam chai ki piyali’ against the backdrop of the colourful landscape.
Words will fall short to describe the beauty of Mystic village. The ever changing colour palette of the sky, the mustard fields, the panoramic view of the Pir-Panjal ranges, the rustic feel of the village, the aroma of food being cooked on mud stoves, the sight of cows mooing and eating fodder, the fields being plucked and ploughed, the chitter chatter of the village ladies soaking sun at their roofs, meaningful conversations with the oldies about life in the village, all add up to the mysticism of this pristine village. Since, we had reached around 3-4 pm only, I hadn’t realized how my day had gone by talking to the villagers, soaking in the view, slurping Maggie by the mystical view, clicking pictures, documenting the village, strolling around the mountain-top and breathing the super fresh air which is rare to find in cities.
The homestay- Live Like Local
The Mystic Village property is an ancestral one and has been restructured to suit today’s modernity without disturbing the aesthetics of the Himachali culture and village, all with the help of the NotOnMap team. It’s fascinating how the daily needs of travelers are kept well in mind while commercializing the property in the most minimalistic way staying true to the roots. The rooms are quite comfortable and have been designed in the simplest of ways using the local resources available like wooden artifacts, frames, décor made up of slate, jute curtains, mud pots & artifacts and mud pastings on the wall. More than its visual appeal, this NotOnMap homestay shouts out for the sentimental value as it has given alternative employment to some in their homeland. If you wish to explore this property and live like the locals, click here to book your stay.
The experience that left me wanting for more!
The perfect time to enjoy the evening cup of hot tea is just around the sunset between 6-6:30 pm and you’d miss out on something great if you don’t sit out and slurp the tea in peace. Its magical how the sky turns orange within a span of minutes, the sun slowly drops behind the peaks and all of it can be witness closely as though it is painted on a canvas. Get your phones or cameras ready for some crazy time-lapse covering the exquisite sunset.
Our night was no less charming, it ended with a sky that looked like a starry bed and my long sought-after dream of star gazing came true that night. The dinner was simple home-cooked food made with the available resources and it was finger-licking good. Who doesn’t enjoy a simple Daal, Chawal, Roti and Matar Paneer. The night was pretty chilly and I was tucked up in four layers, fully packed with a woolen cap and gloves. To sleep cozily, the caretakers were kind enough to provide us as many blankets as we asked. My friend Deepthi was lost under 5 layers of blankets. I wasn’t far behind either, I had three! We had booked the dormitory which had six single beds which served the whole purpose of our budget friendly travel.
The morning was greeted by the brightest sun that had turned everything around yellow and surreal. I had forgotten my tooth-brush back in Chamba, so I requested for ‘Daatun’, a local timber wood to chew and brush my teeth with. It was the first time I was using it and it’s safe to say that it wasn’t so bad. Needless to mention nothing can beat the charm of eating breakfast being sun-kissed with a view that is hard to miss. Those aloo paranthas may not have been as yummy as my grandmas, but the view, the feel and the ambience was to kill for. Much to my surprise, our return trek took only half an hour, probably because we knew what was coming our way!
It was hard to bid farewell to the beauty that enchanted me but the tons of pictures we clicked would serve my eyes till the next time I return to Mystic Village. Needless to say, it’s a great option for a quick getaway from Dalhousie, Chamba or Khajjiar and if you’re exploring these areas, Mystic Village is a destination you must not forget to mark on your itinerary.