Today on the Nomad Files our guest is someone who I have gotten to know as a blogger quite well in various discussion forums. Stéphanie Langlet is a French travel blogger at Amatu Artea and has a wild passion for India and its people so it comes as no surprise that after her recent trip that is what we’ll be talking about. Well I can’t wait to hear Stéphanie’s story so let’s get into it.
When I was a teenager, some of my friends bought an Interrail pass to travel around Europe. I absolutely wanted to do the same (and I even needed to buy Interrail as my father worked for the french railway company), it was a dream. But my parents were too afraid, so I was dreaming through the adventures of my friends. In 2007, after my first solo trip in Asia (Java and Bali), I decided to dedicate my whole holidays to travel because I couldn’t live without Asia anymore !
Do you have a particular song/video/poem/quote that particularly inspires you to travel?
Bollywood songs and movies. Even at home, a Bollywood makes me feel in India.
Can you let us in on a secret? What is one discovery you have made through your travels that really felt like ‘the road less travelled’?
Central India, especially Bastar district in Chhattisgarh state.
Is Bastar known for anything in particular?
At that time, people only talked about weekly haats (tribal markets). Thanks to travellers like me and the amazing job of the tourism board of the state, Bastar is now famous for the world’s longuest festival, Bastar Dussehra. It’s a 75 days long tribal festival. The 10 last days are really incredible, with ceremonies, mediums in transe, tribal dances and songs. The tribals wear their most beautiful attires, like bison horn Marias and their sacred hat, Muria men wearing flowers…
What did you do there and why do I want to visit?
Each time there, I celebrate Bastar Dussehra and my birthday with the tribes and my friends!
I also pay a visit to the indian Niagara falls, Chitrakoot. It’s totally wild, and at its best during monsoon.
I go to Danteshwari temple in Dantewada, as it’s a very sacred place for local people.
I can’t resist visiting the tribal markets in different villages.
And I discover more of the wildlife in general: waterfalls, Kanger Valley National Park, prehistorical caves.
Wow those falls are huge! What was it about Bastar the first drew you in?
I’ve been there when there was almost no information in the guidebooks or the internet. I only knew there were some tribal markets in the villages, and that Adivasis (tribal people) ate alive red ants. It seemed like the end of Earth and I absolutely wanted to see by myself.
You sound like a true pioneer! Tell me about the food they eat. How different was it to your usual diet?
Of course I tried red ants, both alive and in a chutney. Only Tribals eat it and it’s excellent for health. Each time I ate it alive, the taste was different because of the eggs.
I drank tribal natural alcohol like Landha (from rice), salfi (from salfi tree). I didn’ try mahua as it’s too strong (from mahua flowers).
Tribals also have a lot of natural medecine, massage oil, mahua oil for hair and skin. All is natural and very efficient.
What was the culture like? Did you have much interaction with the locals?
FASCINATING ! I spent my whole time with local people. They always give me so much that I always feel as if I receive too much love. When I was there last time, they took me everywhere as they wanted me to feel still more their culture and better understand. They know how much I love them and promote their culture, so they really do everything for me. This time, I also used my popularity to spread some messages about the respect due to the tribes, their origin, etc. I miss them so much.
What advice do you have for someone wishing to visit Bastar? How can they get the most out of their visit?
Contact me: I will give you some local contacts who will help you to deeply experience this area. It’s possible to go by yourself as I always did, but this is the persons who taught me the more about Bastar.
Listen to the advice of the locals. If they tell you not to go somewhere: don’t go. It’s true everywhere in the world, but especially in Bastar that is Naxals affected. But don’t listen to scared people who have never been there and think it’s dangerous. Naxals don’t care about tourists if they don’t do stupid things.
And the more important one: show your respect for Adivasis. Don’t laugh at them, don’t use their sacred bison horn hats. Don’t judge them because they drink too much alcohol (they can’t access safe water and everything from nature is sacred for them. That’s why they hardly understand that alcohol can be bad for health).
Sounds absolutely fascinating – not your usual vacation in the sun! Changing lanes a little now, think of your favourite big city. Can you share with us a tip about this city that you would never find in a travel guide book?
……….. I don’t like big cities, ha ha!
But I will recommend you a second offbeat tribal festival and culture in central India I discovered recently: Dandari festival in Adilabad district (Telangana State). I searched for informations for more than one year. A few weeks before my second trip to Bastar, Richa Gupta from the blog Travels and Stories found a local reporter. I lived in his house for 10 days, like his own family member, and he introduced me to this awesome festival. We have been to remote villages with other reporters. Only villagers were there. And we enjoyed the celebrations with them, sometimes for the whole night. I was certainly the first foreigners there and again Tribals accepted me as one of them and gave me so much love.
The festival is also called Gussadi, from the name of the dances and troop of dancers. The villagers collect peacock feathers and make an incredible big hat for each Gussadi. During the 10 days of the festival, the dancers perform different old rituals and dances (harvest, tiger, bear dances). They don’t wash themselves but put some natural products on their whole body to be closer to Nature.
Can you recommend any of your favourite travel blogs? (up to 3)
Last question, where do you live on the internet and social media for us to all come visit?
Http://www.amatu-artea.com for the tribes and minorities and http://www.travelsfrance.com for Basque country and Landes. I am also on Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest and twice on Facebook at facebook.com/AmatuArtea/ and facebook.com/VacancesLandes.
Thanks for joining us Stéphanie, such a rich journey of culture you’ve taken us through and I for one found it fascinating. Everyone else, be sure to sure to go say hi to Stéphanie on the links listed above.
If you would like to be a part of the Nomad Files, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll get started.
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