The village I’m staying in is called Kanda. It sits at 1600 meters above sea level in the Himalayan mountain range in an Indian state of Uttarakhand – also known as, the middle of nowhere. It shares a border with Tibet to the north, and Nepal to the east. The people in this region are called Kumaoni, named after the Kumaon hills they occupy. The locals have proudly informed me that their ancestors (translations: fossils) have been found here dating back to prehistoric times. How they’ve managed to carbon-date fossils, when they’re still using bulls to plow fields and a pen knife to harvest, is a mystery to me.
Covering only a relatively small area, the region contains over thirty peaks over the elevation of 5500 m giving it its beautiful views. The most famous of them are Nanda Devi at 7816 m, and a range of five adjacent mountains over the elevation of 6300 m logically named Panchchuli 1 through 5. Sounds like an actuary named them, no? This region is also home of the elusive Bengal Tiger at the Jim Corbett National Park. I’m hoping to spot one on my way back to Haldwani. Plus, I’ll get to ride an elephant 🙂
In terms of transportation, Kanda is not an easily accessible as there is no direct public transportation. It took me two days to get here from Delhi even though they are only 500 km apart. Knowing well that over 20 million people ride the train each day, it didn’t occur to me that perhaps I should book in advance. So after many hours of waiting in line at the Delhi train station, I boarded a six hour train to a city called Haldwani. This is the nearest city to Kanda from Delhi, where I slept overnight to continue my journey the following day. It’s another seven hour car ride to Kanda. However, the fresh air and the gorgeous mountain views totally make up for the long journey. That is, if you manage to keep the contents of your stomach in during the journey.
Seeing first-hand how remote Kanda is, makes me appreciate the challenge that faces the locals. The lack of infrastructure is one of the reasons for high poverty rate in the area. The difficulty of getting to these places effectively cuts the farmers off from the markets they are selling their produce to. Apparently, farmers in rural India only get 10-20% of the retail price, as opposed to the 60-80% received by farmers in developed countries. The delta goes into the hands of “middle-men” and losses due to food spoilage. Despite ranking second in the world in farming output, India has one of the highest food losses due to poor infrastructure and improper storage. A proper infrastructure, with the help of government aid, is all that is needed to empower these farmers. Now if only I had a direct-line to the prime minister of India!