When we think about « mountain » in India, Himalaya first come to mind. But Incredible India has more than one asset… In the south, at the border between Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka states, there are Nilgiris, a part of Western Ghats.
These mountains with 2600m summit also have scenic landscapes. With a tropical climte, area is full of biodiversity. Fauna and flora are huge and this is very normal to find exceptional national parks.
Nilgiris are also a perfect alternative to burning temperatures of South India. It is probably not a pure hazard if british, last invadors of India, took refuge over there and developed tea culture. “Developed”, the word is most probably not exact… They completely destroyed the area with tea plantations… Well, today, landscapes are still gorgeous as tea plantations are usually pretty photogenic… but unfortunately, we can only deplore lost of thousands hectares of virgin forests with tons of biodiversity.
Nilgiris, pearl of South India
In few words, Nilgiris is often linked to Ooty (the main town) and Mudumalai national park; the main point of local tourism. However we decided to go to Gudalur, a city in the lower part of Nilgiris where a solidarity tourism project is going to start. Mostly unknown from international tourists, this region is beautiful, the population is very warm and there are a lot of things to discover.
Tea plantations as asset
Thanks to Albert from Solidestinations, we had chance to visit some tea plantations. The one where we stayed (in a homestay 🙂 ) is specific. Today, the estate is abandoned. After british left, a indian family/company took over. But this company made bankrupt. But til today, the employees did not get paid totally. After more than 20 years (what a shame!), the case is still in the court and nothing happens. No new acquisition, no estate used, nothing. The employees still live in the houses of the state but it just adds them more distance to reach the other estates around.
Talk about Responsible tourism to communities
For us, this experience was deep as it really showed us how tourism can be a key element for economic development. As we visited some communities and explained them why we do believe in responsible and sustainable tourisme, we saw some sparkling eyes. People are very curious of what is going on overseas. They feel ready for tourism but they don’t want to lose their culture. They don’t want mass tourism. They just would love to share their culture, discover something else and conserve their environment.
As the concept of Homestay was one of the topic, it is was very interesting to see that one of the main concern was the food. “Is it ok if we cook our daily food? Is it ok if we use some spices?”. We answered yes! People visiting homestays widely want to try local food, local taste. Please, do not change nothing. Your food is just delicious!
We also saw this homestay oportunity a way to give more power to women. In a rural context where women often live under submission, tourism can be a possibility to show a different culture and a different position of women in the society. 🙂
What a great experience! We hope the project will start soon and will fulfill all the promises and help people to develop responsibly and sustainably.