Offbeat Footprints Ecostay – An Experience of Living in a Himachali House

By Rutuja Bhagwat - October 11, 2018

I remember, as I laid my body on the bed, I had tears in my eyes. I was grateful that I was alive after a scary journey through the Jalori Pass to the Offbeat Footprints Ecostay. It was raining since the past three days and the roads were wet and the scene ahead, foggy. Jalori Pass is famous for its risky yet beautiful road. Honestly, we concentrated more on the road than what laid in the valley next to us. However, I remember seeing a type of flora I had never seen in my life before. The journey towards Offbeat Footprints is something I would never forget...


Whenever I visit a new locale, I always wonder how the locals live there. I wish to know their way of living, what lies in their homes and on their plates, what includes in their syllabus, what kind of clothes they wear, and in general, everything about their lifestyle. I have been to Himachal Pradesh four times and never had an opportunity to enter a Himachali home in its rawest form. I always saw these homes from afar, as I passed another beautiful panorama and always wondered how they lived on such steep mountains or amidst dense forests. I always wished to take a look in those houses. 

Finally, my dream came true in the form of Offbeat Footprints Ecostay. This property gave me an exact idea of how an authentic Himachali house looks from inside. Yes, one of those located amidst tall trees and dense forests. One of those where you don't see a house nearby and is the only abode, the only shelter amongst an impenetrable jungle. I stayed at Offbeat Footprints for two nights and it was a new experience. I have been inside a typical village house in Konkan, Maharashtra before, but this was the very first time I was understanding how a Himachali house looks from inside.

The three days at Offbeat Footprints were away from other souls, main roads, and from the chaos...but were very close to nature. It was a truly offbeat experience.

GETTING THERE

We left from Rampur Bushahr for Jibhi and it took us about five hours. We took the Sainj-Ani-Banjar route and our journey was divided into three prominent routes. The first part was rocky with hundreds of potholes in a metre's drive. We just hoped it did not continue till the end. Next part had smoother road but it was narrow and one side of it had rocks (and landslides, if we got too unlucky) and the other, a deep valley, where one slip could be fatal. The third and last part, the famous Jalori Pass had steep uphill and downhill (as much as 45 degrees steep). We reached a point between Jibhi and Banjar where Mr Brajesh's Royal Enfield was parked. He came to receive us. 
Once you reach this spot, you have a short trek to reach the property. When you’re sans any luggage and when the weather is favourable, it takes about 15 minutes to reach the property, however, while coming back, it takes some more time. We had about 80 litres of luggage on us, so we took about 20 minutes for the descend and more than half-hour while coming back. The trail goes through the forest and is outlined by shrubs. 

When you're on the main road you would wonder why there is no signboard directing you to Offbeat Footprints. That is because Mr Brajesh wants only those in love with nature to visit it. He wants people to visit it through reference because he knows that these people have seen the pictures and then have accepted to stay here. He wants to keep the property exclusive, thus not wanting to overpopulate it. I thought it was a wonderful idea. 


AUTHENTIC HIMACHALI EXPERIENCE

Offbeat Footprints is the closest to experiencing Himachali living. Whether it is the house made up of wood, stones, and mud or the simplistic lifestyle, one can truly understand what it feels like to live in Himachal Pradesh, especially in a typical Himachali house. You won’t come across any additional garnishing; it’s plain, it’s raw, and it feels homely.

The property is made up of elements found in nature. It is built using stones primarily with slabs of wood to provide additional support and then is sealed using mud. There is one bedroom downstairs–on the ground floor–and two bedrooms upstairs, i.e., on the second floor. The common area where people love to chill is the kitchen, which has an additional bed and an opening without a door. One wall of this area consists of bamboo sticks lined up horizontally. So you see, the common area is more or less like living in the open. This area had surprised me, especially when Mr Brajesh, the owner of Offbeat Footprints, narrated his stories. He lives in this house all by himself on some days and I was taken aback. The common area is almost open, without a proper window or a door; but I was glad to listen he stayed in his room, with the room's door locked. 


For a single person, the common area could be jaunting, however, when you have people around, the place appears warm and cosy. Though the opening means the cool winds get inside and you sit there with all the shawls wrapping you, it surely feels cosy there. You can sit, play cards, order Mr Brajesh or the local cook to make food for you (how about some siddus or pakoda?) or if you're like me, then you can work. You can see the guests coming and going and it indeed is a jolly place to be. I was sitting on this very bed for two full days as I worked on my laptop. 

What I liked about Offbeat Footprints is the rawness and the simplicity. The bedrooms have a bed, a couple of dim lights, and a few stools made out of bamboo. Even if you look around the rest of the property, you won't notice any decor that enhances countryside vibes; the way the furniture is laid is enough to portray that. 



LOCAL FOOD

Mr Brajesh, depending on the number of guests, summons a local to help him with the food and manage the rest of the property. We were lucky to have a large company and so we could see the mudhouse (and the tents) work in full swing. A few guests ordered Maggi whereas a few ordered bhajjiya. However, the best food we tasted was the Himachali Siddus. It was dripping with ghee and the walnut stuffing was way beyond scrumptious. I was so full after having one of it that I almost denied dinner but then had it afterwards at 11:00 pm the same night. 

Offbeat Footprints specialises in traditional Himachali cuisine and homemade North Indian food. We tasted Rajma, poha cooked in north Indian style, and capsicum sabzi, which tasted delicious with soft, fluffy rotis. The more I ate here, the more I wanted to taste different dishes. 

ACRES OF NATURE AROUND

What can be better than having acres of greenery around? And with acres of greenery, I mean, having so many trees around you that you spot no other house or no other soul. The periphery is overloaded with nature. And the best part is the river that flows right in front of the property. Since it was raining for the past three days, the river was gushing. It seemed like an endless flow! The little farm Brajesh is growing outside have sunflowers, cabbage, and a lot of other vegetables waiting to be consumed. 

In addition to the three bedrooms in the mudhouse, there is a campsite right in the back. There are three tents with a capacity of five each. The view from the campsite is commendable; you see the mudhouse and the river which hides behind trees and bushes. 


THINGS TO DO AROUND OFFBEAT FOOTPRINTS

Exploring trails – Offbeat Footprints is located in between a thick blanket of trees, which means, there are a lot of offbeat, unexplored trails around the property. You can either ask Brajesh to take you around or simply explore yourself. You shall require about 2 hours to explore a region. I suggest you do it after breakfast so that you reach the property on time for lunch. 

Serolsar lake – Serolsar lake is a trek that starts from Jalori Pass. From the top, you need to walk for about 5 km (say about 1 hour) to reach this beautiful lake. It also has a temple on its left which is dedicated to buddhi naagin. The route is picturesque and is majorly plain. There's about a kilometre long downhill patch. You would even come across a few dhabas on the top of Jalori Pass but nothing on the way. So ensure to pack your bags with sufficient food and water. In the temple, try halwa and poori
Do you know? It is believed that Draupadi had thrown a few rice seeds near this lake (which can be seen today near a rock) during her exile with Pandavas? You can ask locals to help you find these rice seeds.

Jalori pass – Jalori pass is both a heaven and a challenge for bikers. With its steep 45 degrees uphill and downhill roads and a beautiful panorama, as though, travelling with you, Jalori pass is a mystical paradise. In monsoon, the roads are covered with mist and a fresh aroma is released. From Jalori pass, you can trek to Serolsar lake and Raghavpur Garh fort.

Chehni Kothi – Chehni Kothi is an offbeat place in Banjar and not many people have discovered it. You need to do a small trek from the Shringa Rishi Temple in order to reach it. The trek is about 5-6 km from Jibhi. The views of the valley below and the centuries-old Kothi are scenic. There are a few coffee shops nearby where you can enjoy snacks with tea or coffee. 

Tirthan Valley – Another beautiful valley with its crystal clear river is located about 14 km from Bini. One can simply visit a coffee shop near the river or go trekking up the Chhoie waterfall or the Great Himalayan National Park. Even taking a walk through the village is going to be fun here.


ACTIVITES OFFERED AT OFFBEAT FOOTPRINTS

- Day hikes and riverside walk
- Splashing water in the natural pool
- Bonfire & sharing mountain stories
- Trout fish angling – catching and releasing trout fish
- Bird watching
- Jungle camping
- Visiting orchard – learning the local fruits, herbs, and their benefits
- Star gazing
- Living like a local – tasting local food, culture, and tradition

FUTURE PLANS FOR OFFBEAT FOOTPRINTS

Mr Brajesh plans of expanding his farm where all of the produce would be plucked right from it. He also plans of adding a stall, where he would sell local produce like green tea infused with rhododendron flowers (you don't want to miss this!), mushroom pickle, etc. He also plans to expand his property by building a cottage in the periphery. So the number of rooms increases and you have three options to choose from. 


HOW TO REACH

Take a Volvo bus from Delhi/Chandigarh and get down at Aut. From Aut, either take a local bus or hire a taxi for Jibhi. 

BOOK A STAY

Facebook: www.facebook.com/OFFEcoStay
Email: offbeat.footprints@gmail.com
Phone: +919805194669

Use coupon code "RUTUJA" to avail 20% off on your booking at Offbeat Footprints Ecostay


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