Sohaila Kapur finds a Mongolian-style resort in the Canadian wilderness run by an Indian woman
Sheena Singh is a multi-talented entrepreneur; one who has turned her spirit of adventure and penchant for spiritualism into a profitable business. Singh decided to set up a rural retreat roughly 100 km north of Toronto with nomadic tents here, called Yurts in Turkic, for city-stressed people to unwind in.
Yurts, also known as gers (the root for the Hindi word ghar) in Mongolian, are basically tented houses used by nomads.
Driving up the dirt road that leads to the cottage, everything is in late August bloom. From the marigolds cascading across the front porch to the ubiquitous Canadian deciduous trees in the distance, life in all its vivacity leaps out at you. Behind the cottage, where the vine-trellised gondola and herb gardens meet the forest lining, sit six yurts of different sizes and themes, celebrating Canada’s diversity. The first is a 17 feet wide yurt in country cottage style, sporting a log cabin décor inside. The second is a 22 feet wide Mongolian-themed yurt with a traditional nomadic feel, bathed in a deep orange interior adorned with Buddhist motifs. Also under construction are yurts in Japanese Zen, South-western and Indian themes. A sixth yurt, called the Om Yome will serve as the ecumenical meditation yurt where massages and private counselling sessions will be held.
Outside each yurt are a camp-fire pit, bench seating, picnic table and cast-iron BBQ. Wheelbarrows are provided to guests to collecting wood from the shed, and kindling, firewood, tealights/candles and lighters are offered at no additional cost. The decks contain a solar-powered shower and compost-pit toilet.
I slept in the Mongolian yurt, where, through the domed roof, I could watch the bright stars embellishing the clear Northern Ontario sky.
The Yurt Retreat is powered by solar, wind and water energy, and was once just a 55-acre piece of wilderness. Singh says her inspiration was a doomsday book called Phoenix Rising, which predicts that natural disasters will leave survivors bereft of earth’s natural resources. She wanted to prove that a minimalistic lifestyle can be both comfortable and sustainable.
Singh’s Indian roots reflect in the resort’s cooking utensils, the plastic mugs and buckets, the compost toilets and earth fridges. Even the solar showers resemble our rustic mashaks that are still sometimes seen on construction sites. What it won’t share with rural India though is the state of the environment, which will be kept scrupulously clean. “Otherwise the animals in the jungle can come foraging. Yes, we have deer, bears, coyotes, ferrets, rabbits and beavers on the estate,” she declares, as we hear the howl of a coyote nearby.
"This is where I will retire,” Singh declares. “But I need to share it with others. It’s the group energy that matters. This is what this whole thing is about.”
Stays are priced at $150 per yurt, per night. (Two-four persons can stay in one yurt.) Check out details at Yurt Retreat