For 18 years Mr. Prakash Dhami owned an electronics repair shop in the small Himalayan town of Chamba, located in Himachal Pradesh which is in Northern India. As times changed so too did his small electronics shop as business begin to fade away. As a father and a husband Mr. Dhami had to think of something else to support his family. Reflecting upon his childhood spent growing up in a small village Mr. Dhami recalled his love and passion for nature and ecology and especially his fond memories of trekking through the Himalayan Mountains. He thought how wonderful it would be to return to his roots and to share his passion with his family. It was a stage in his life that he would refer to as “going back to nature”.
In 1990 Mr. Dhami decided to leave the town of Chamba and move with his family into the foot hills of the mountains to start his homestay. He was the first homestay to be registered in Himachal Pradesh. He owned a plot of land and built a 2-room hut surrounded by fruit trees and vegetables that he had also planted. This small hut became the principle residence of his family of four as well as a mountain retreat for anyone else who wanted to come and experience the wonders of the Himalayas.
Unfortunately “going back to nature” had its limitations. Nearing the point of total poverty Mr. Dhami, a once-prosperous business man soon found himself struggling to exist. It was at this time that he decided to throw all his remaining energy into what he loved the most – the mountains of his youth. He began his own trekking company and started guiding treks into the snow-capped mountains of the Western Himalayas of India. As business slowly grew he trained his daughter, Tanu, to become the first and only female trekking guide in the region while his oldest son Nitin became a porter for those adventure trekkers that wanted a harder challenge. And this is where Mr. Dhami’s life began to take a turn for the better.
In 1992 he registered his trekking company, Mani Mahesh Travels with the Department of Tourism to cater to the various needs of travellers. Not content with his trekking company Mr. Dhami took his two room hut and greatly expanded it to create a beautiful, eco-friendly organic farm / home stay that now has sufficient accommodation, a spring water pool and the peacefulness of the mountains of the Western Himalaya that will capture you in a way you would not think possible in India. He has not only opened up his own home and family to visitors but he has also kept true to his heritage with how he built this home in the traditional mountain style using stone, clay and wood. The rooms are simple and clean and the views from the verandas are sublime. Guests can now soak them selves in the spring water pool after a muscle-soothing massage, laze in a hammock, relish the mouth watering home-cooked local dishes, or simply grab a good book from the growing library and enjoy the hours in the tranquil surroundings.
A few years ago ElderTreks made a small but not insignificant change to our Northern India program. We added a 3 night home stay at the Himalayan Orchard Hut – the site of Mr. Dhami’s original 2-room hut. Perched mid-way up a terraced slope at 4347 feet (1325m) above sea level and overlooking the Panj-La Valley, it offers a bird's eye view of the mighty Saal River in the valley below and is the perfect base to explore the Western Himalaya through the daily treks that are offered or to just relax and rejuvenate as Mr. Dhami originally intended.
If you want to experience true Himalayan village life then you must visit the Dhami family and learn how they live on the side of a mountain year round. You will be moved in many ways.
For more photos of the Himalayan Orchard Hut visit us on Pinterest - http://pinterest.com/eldertreks/northern-india/