So much practical work goes on in the background of a Village Ways destination. There are buildings to build or renovate, tents to erect, mattresses to buy, menus to prepare. Above all, villagers need training in their new roles as hosts, learning new languages, and new skills – as cooks, porters, administrators, guides. Our Training Officer, Deepak Joshi, travelled from his base in the Himalayas to the jungles of Madhya Pradesh, and looked after everything, from tents to bird-spotting, as he explains:
My recent work with Village Ways on the new Satpura destination in Madhya Pradesh (MP) has been a totally new experience for me. In August 2015, I was very excited to travel to MP with Dinesh, Director of Village Ways. We reached Pipariya by train and met with our other Directors, Himanshu and Manisha. After that we went to Chopna village, meeting community members and forming a committee. Gemar, our coordinator in Hacra, Rajasthan, demonstrated how to put up the tents for our guests. The villagers were very excited, as it was first time in their lives they had seen a tent. One villager said “Now we have a running house!”
The Directors and Gemar returned home, giving me the responsibility of setting up the guest tents and facilities. I had never worked like this before: it was a big challenge in a new area but I also felt that I could do it. First, I learnt the Hindi dialect of the local people, which helped to create a friendly atmosphere so that they would trust me and our work. Everyone had doubts and questions about the project and our approach to community tourism. But, with patience and effort, the experience gave them confidence. We started working early in September. The people prayed to God: the very first thing asked was about the guests and when they would be coming!
Slowly, slowly the work was finished on the ground. I was also taking time to train and teach selected village people as guides. I prepared a list of birds and taught them how to identify species.
Soon the day came when we had our first guest. People were very happy: it was 2nd Nov 2015. I went to Pipariya to pick them up from the train. When I saw our guest - Ryan, I realized that he had visited Binsar earlier when I was a Guide there: we remembered each other. We both were very happy to meet again. As it was our first season in MP I worked as a guide with one of our local trainee guides. It was a great learning experience.
Our third guests, Peter and Melanie, visited on 23 November, which was Melanie’s birthday. We learnt about this in the morning and I worried about how to celebrate. The nearest shop was very far from Chopna. To make her feel special, I made banana cutlets, which they had not eaten before. And her birthday became more special when they saw gazelle and a tiger in Karmaghiri tiger reserve!
I am very happy that Village Ways has supported the Forest Department in MP as from each guest they receive revenue for the tiger reserve, and the income also supports local guides and gives local people a job. In all it was a great feeling to be a part of this new beginning of Village Ways in Madhya Pradesh.
Training Officer, Village Ways