OFFBEAT WEEKEND BREAK FROM DELHI: VILLAGE WALK TO KAFURA IN MUKTESHWAR .

A casual walk in the villages of Kafura, Peora, Nolikan and Sonapani in Mukteshwar treated me with more surprises than I had anticipated. Out of these, I spent most time in Kafura. As I left Leela Orchards Home Stay, Sona Pani in Mukteshwar, within minutes I arrived at a cemented path way leading to the village. Thick forests of pine trees dotted the either side of the path way. A pair of birds, which I was unable to identify, sat atop a tall tree, filling the otherwise calm looking jungle with their shrill calls. The pathways were flooded with dry cones and dry leaves of pine trees. People from plains take these back home for decoration and other such frivolities. People from the village use the dry pine cones and leaves for bonfires and fuel for cooking.

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Me amidst pine trees in Kafura village near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

DO YOU KNOW THE USES OF PINE TREE?

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Extraction of resin from a pine tree. In Kafura village near Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

A mysterious object on the fringes of the path-way caught my attention. It was an unpolished metallic cone, smooth from outside, coarse from inside. I picked it up, trying to understand its purpose. Nearby, I saw some cuts on a tree. “An assault by a black bear?” I asked myself. A bear has no sense of design. A bear can’t scratch a tree in faultless symmetry.  A bear won’t stick a cone under the cut, eh! Turned out, the cones were the collection bowls used to store the resin dripping from the cuts of the pine tree. The cone is not tied but inserted in the cuts, the resin binding it naturally to the tree. The resin thus collected is used in making adhesives like Fevikwik and paints. A cone typically fills up within 20-30 days. Sometimes acid is applied to the cuts to hasten the process. I picked up a discarded metallic cone from the ground as a souvenir. Perhaps, I will make it a pen holder or a tooth brush holder and remember my trip every-time I use it. I didn’t know that pine trees produced resin. Mostly the much romanticized pine trees are actually disliked by the locals.

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One of the traditional house in Kafura Village near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand
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Me lying on a bed of dry pine needles. On my way to Kafura near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar.

LYING DOWN ON A BED OF PINE NEEDLES AND SAYING HELLO TO GOATS!

Moving a little ahead, I came across a bed of dry pine needles. These are slippery and can cause a fall during trekking and hikes. I made a pit stop and decided to lie down on the bed, close my eyes and put my olfactory and hearing senses to work. Expecting it to be itchy, I was surprised to feel its soft, smooth texture under my back. A brief rest later, I was greeted by a herd of goats. I sat down on a rock. A credulous calf came running to me and buried his/her nose in my palms, looking for roti.  The adult goats grazed at grass dispassionately.  “Roti maang raha hai.”, (The calf is asking for roti) the lady shepherd told me in her indecipherable speech. It was hard to communicate with her due to her speech impairment. Though verbal communication was irrelevant! The lady handed me over some roti. The adult goats abandoned their pretense and rushed towards me, competing with the calf for that small piece of cooked wheat paradise. I have never tasted grass, but I am sure roti tastes better than grass. What did they say….The Roti…err….grass is always greener on the other side.

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Breaking a roti with goats with the lady shephard. On my way to village walk in Kafura. Near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

The pine forests gave way to a clearing. The cemented path-way disappeared. The large open field was utilized well by a gang of boys playing cricket. I turned left and discovered visually delighting paths. Big sized white stones were half buried in mud, making it perhaps, useful in the season of monsoon. Sometimes, the path was accompanied by walls of stones placed above each other. My most favourite part was when it took a U shape. The white peach flowers, the lone traditional house in the distance, the local women sitting and chatting made it all the more atmospheric.

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The U shaped path to Kafura Village. Near Peora and Leela Orchards, Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

CONNECTING WITH THE LOCALS OF KAFURA, MUKTESHWAR NEAR LEELA ORCHARDS, SONAPANI.

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Bonding with local kids in Kafura Village near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani, Mukteshwar

‘Jai Shree Gorakhnath Devta’, the board at a temple read. The brown exterior of the temple was complemented by a riot of pink peach flowers. The flowers were in abundance and added drama to the already picturesque views. I am told, people from all over the village come here during jagar. Dagariye come and sing in the night. They convey people’s problems to Gods. Every village has their own.  While I was immersed in silently admiring the yellow and pink flowers, rows of houses atop a mountain in the distance, the sounds and smells of the place, three shy village kids were staring curiously at me.  They would hide and seek, giggle when our eyes locked, unaware that the backdrop of the lovely village, their home, is making them all the more charming. A casual walk in the villages of Kafura left me with more memories than I had anticipated.

The view from my #SoulWindow is PICTURE POSTCARD PERFECT!

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The picturesque temple in Kafura Village. Near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.

FAQ:

  • How to Reach Kafura near Leela Orchards Sonapani Homestay, Uttarakhand?
  • Where to stay in Kafura, Mukteshwar near Leela Orchards Sonapani Homestay, Uttarakhand?
  • When to visit Kafura, Mukteshwar near Leela Orchards Sonapani Homestay, Uttarakhand?
  • Why is Sonapani called as Sonapani (meaning Gold Water)

Pls click here for answers to above questions:

LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOMESTAY, MUKTESHAWAR, UTTARAKHAND

Related Blogs:

WHY THIS BRAVE WOMAN LIVES ALONE IN A FOREST IN MUKTESHWAR, UTTARAKHAND?

Discover the former homes of Tagore and Mahadevi Verma near Aamari Resorts

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The entry point to Kafura Village. Near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.

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LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME-STAY, AT MUKTESHWAR: WEEKEND BREAK FROM DELHI IN BUDGET!

A VACATION AT LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME-STAY AT SONAPANI, MUKTESHWAR is a perfect weekend break from Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon. It is managed by the cheerful Manvendra Singh Barathokey and his mother. It was such a great last minute decision to stop at this lovely home-stay in Mukteshwar. On recommendation by a friend I stayed here for 2 days clubbed with a satisfying trip to Nainital and Ramgarh. It was drizzling when I reached. (I visited in 1st week of March.) The next day it was a pleasant sunny weather.

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The 4 rooms of Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshawar in Uttarakhand. You can view Almora and the snow capped mountains from here. If lucky then rainbow as well.

Unfortunately I have stayed in only few home stays despite having traveling to more than 150 destinations since 2008. My lovely experience at Leela Orchards Sonapani is pushing me into trying more home stays in future. This wonderful property overlooks Himalayan range. It was such a memorable evening sitting with the family, sipping tea and talking about many interesting topics as bonfire warmed us. I learnt so much after this interaction. He educated me about the interesting details of local lifestyle and the centuries old temples in the vicinity.

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The living room of my ground floor ‘suite’ at Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar (Uttarakhand)

ACTIVITIES AT LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME STAY, MUKTESHWAR:

The LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME STAY makes you lazy. The nice weather, breath taking views right from the balcony of the room and the cozy rooms make you want to just sit and laze around. On the other hand, there are so many interesting things to do near the property that you will end up extracting yourself from the cozy bed. I spent much of the time exploring the pretty villages Peora, Nolikan and Kafura. The path to these villages was gorgeous. It was easy up and down hike lined with pine trees and white, pink and red flowers of fruits. I went in the month of March and in every direction I set my eyes there was a riot of color since it’s the flowering season.  I also walked in the jungle area behind the home stay and met a brave spunky lady who lives all alone in the middle of the jungle.

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Village walk in Kafura, Poera and Nolikan is possible near Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

If you choose you can cook your own food at “Heere ki khan” using firewood and chulha (Traditional mud oven). Nature walk, birdwatching is also recommended here. You don’t even need to go anywhere. Just keep your eyes peeled and you will see exotic birds right outside your room. I was amazed to see a flock of gorgeous White Crested Laughing Thrush. Himalayan Spangle, Wild cock, Grey Headed Canary Flycatcher, Blue Capped Redstart, Himalayan Bulbul, Green Backed Tit, Black headed Jay, Barn Swallow are some of the other birds I spotted.

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This was my favourite part of the rooms at Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar. I would sit and eat Maggi here, looking at the misty mountains. Or read a book.

One can also visit NGO Chirag and NGO Aarohi in Peora village. If you are fit, I would recommend an 8 kms long trek from Leela Orchards Sonapani to Mukteshwar temple. Visit to ancient Kapeelshwar Temple on river bed side is also a must. It is near a primary school. You can donate money and books to the school, if you wish. Within 40 kms of range, you can visit Jageshwar Temple, Chitai Temple, Sun Temple (In Almora), Kasar Devi Temple and Binsar.

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En route my walk to Kafura and Peora Village near Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

THE ROOMS AT LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME STAY, MUKTESHWAR:

The rooms are large and cozy. True to its genre, the rooms exude a home like warmth. I told them it is like staying at a relative’s house. The wood paneling was soothing to the eyes. There are a total of 4 rooms in the home stay. 2 rooms are on the first floor while 2 rooms are in the ground floor. I stayed in the ground floor. The moment I entered the room, I took a pause in the drawing room before rushing to see the bed room. The drawing room delights with its thoughtfully done up furniture placement. 3 large windows overlooked the verdant valley and the distant mountains of Almora and others. Cushioned seats lined the windows. I would fold my legs on the couch, pull a blanket, slurp on my Maggi Noodles and hot tea while enjoying the misty views from the comfort of my room. It sure felt like home, though in an exotic location. At other times, I would sit by the window and read one of the many travel magazines so thoughtfully kept by the owners on a writing table nearby.

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Manvendra Singh Barathokey and his mother at Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-stay, Mukteshwar. In far distance is their ancestral home. (Pic: Leela Orchards)

The attached bedroom is large. The bed is King Size and is cozy. It has large windows and wood paneling. The charging points are next to the table. There is no dearth of cupboards and almirahs in the drawing room as well as the bedroom. When I entered the door of the attached bathroom, I was dumbfounded for 2 minutes. It was so huge that I was comparing its size to my first flat in Mumbai (I stayed in Mumbai from 2008 to 2015). Manvendra told me the same, “Travelers from Mumbai often tell me my entire flat is the size of this washroom.”

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Views of Almora during my village walk/trek in Poera and Nolikan near Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

When I checked out the upper rooms, I found them equally good if a bit smaller. The drawing room disappeared. The size of room and washroom was a bit smaller. But it’s still great for 2-3 people. (Extra beds are available). The washroom has a back door about which Manvendra told me, “Guests love to open this door while brushing their teeth and shaving. It offers them views of the mountains.” The reduced indoor space is compensated with even more grander views of the valley below. There is ample space in the large terrace and I am sure it serves as a perfect private space for families and friends. I also took the stairs to the rooftop in the night. Almora city was all lit. The lights made the city look like a giant glittery fish. As if the construction on hills was done to make it look like a fish.

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Manvendra at Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

HOW DID SONA PANI GET ITS NAME? THE FAMILY HAS AN INTERESTING TALE TO TELL:

Leela Orchard Sonapani has an old natural spring in the middle of the property. The area is named Sona Pani (Literal meaning: Gold water) because of the perceived medicinal properties of the natural spring water. The folklore has it that during the British Raj era, some British army officers from a cantonment nearby tasted the water while crossing the ridge. Impressed with the quality of the water, during much of the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century, ponies and horses were employed to supply the water from this natural spring to the British officers of the nearest army garrison which was Almora.

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Captain Kushal Singh Barathokey. He gave Sona Pani its name. (Credit: Leela Orchards

Captain Kushal Singh Barathokey was one of those officers. He was a much feted soldier of the 3rd Queen Alexandria’s Gurkha rifles. Upon his retirement, the British asked him to select land of his choice. Of all the land Captain Barathokey chose this particular land and christened it ‘Sonapani Estate’. The subsequent generations took care of the land. Manvendra sure is a deserving inheritor of the land.

Manvendra’s grandmother, a housewife was a dynamic lady. There is an old family house near the Leela Orchards Sonapani home-stay. When this house was built, Sona Pani area was a dense forest frequented by fierce tigers. While the house was being built, she used to stand at the construction site, holding the rifle for the safety of workers. She used to say to workers, “If being a lady I can stand here with a rifle, what’s making you so scared to build a house here?” She used to come all the way from Almora to Sonapani on a horse for the construction of the house.

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Great Grandmother of Manvendra from Nepal. Leela Orchards Sona Pani, Mukteshwar (Pic credit: Leela Orchards)

The dining room of Leela Orchards Sonapani is decorated with the many hats collected from India and other countries. It is the part of the collection of Manvendra’s father. Manvendra’s father Late Shri Dipendra Singh Barathokey was a businessman. The Leela Orchards was his brainchild. He may not be around but his legacy lives through the property. Manvendra’s father was born around the same time the ancestral home opposite the home-stay was built. He later named the home-stay after the name of Manvendra’s grandmother.

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Delicious Steamed Rice, Bhat Ki Dal, Saag, Badi at Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand. I also ate maduwe ki roti with ghee and jaggery.

THE FOOD AT LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME STAY, MUKTESHWAR:

Me along-with Manvendra, his mother and his cute cat sat together next to a bonfire in the

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How about dining al fresco, next to an earthen oven. At Leela Orchards, Sonapani, Mukteshwar

night. We talked for hours, losing track of time. Manvendra is the go to person if you want to learn about the local culture. Despite his young age, he had answers to all my questions. We sat at the canopied open area just outside the kitchen and the dining hall. The family, staff and the pet cat stay in this part of the resort. The conversations were followed by a delicious home cooked dinner including hot maduwe ki roti, smeared with ghee (Clarified butter) and jaggery. On the next day, I demanded to eat more local meals. I was served delicious bhat ki dal, mixed green leaves saag, home-made pickles, fruit chutney (I over ate) and badi in a mildly spicy curry. It was a very satisfying meal which left me begging for more. There is a large kitchen garden near the home-stay where the family grows vegetables, fruits and more. You feel the difference in the food since it is all organic. It’s enriching experiences such as these which keep me motivated to travel. The warmth of the family has made this trip special.

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My room in Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.

RESPONSIBLE TOURISM AT LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME-STAY, MUKTESHWAR:

The home-stay promotes treks, long walks and communing with nature, none of which makes you guilty of adding carbon footprints. I was also delighted to see bottles of filtered water and not mineral water bottles which generate plastic. All the food that you eat is pesticide food and organic. Little initiatives like these go a long way in creating a better planet. I request that if you go there, please pack all the plastic which you generated and bring it back to the city and dispose. I myself collected all the chips and wafers packets which I brought along and stashed them in my bag. It is always good to clean your own mess.

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Late Shree Dipendra Singh Barathokey with his pet dogs at Leela Orchards, Sona Pani in Mukteshwar

BEST TIME TO VISIT LEELA ORCHARDS, SONA PANI, MUKTESHWAR:

March and April: I went in March and the entire area was a surreal landscape. It is the flowering season and I could see rows of red, pink, white, yellow flowers in whichever direction I set my eyes on.

Mid May to July: It is fruit season. Expect trees laden with peach, apricots, apples and much more.

July and August: Monsoon is a great time to explore the rich flora and fauna of the area. I was shown some monsoon pictures which made me think of planning a visit again in monsoon.
September to January: Best season to see clear views of the Himalayan range is from

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This old mansions is the ancestral property of the owners of Leela Orchards, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.

HOW TO REACH LEELA ORCHARDS HOME STAY, SONAPANI, MUKTESHWAR:

  • I reached Bhatelia via bus (Rs.35) from Malla Ramgarh Bazar area. I started at 11:30 a.m. and reached 12:15 p.m. Just a little ahead of Bhatelia is Mukteshwar main market. Plenty of shared cars were available at Bhatelia.
  • I booked a reserved taxi to the home-stay on the spot for Rs. 500. If you take right just ahead of Mukteshwar Market, a check post of IVRI campus (Vet College) appears. As you drive from Bhatelia, you will arrive Sitla after 9 kms. The home-stay is 5 kms from Sitla. The Leela Orchards, Sonapani is 30 minutes away from Bhatelia by cab.
  • Landmark: Ask for Satkhol Himalayan Ashram anyone. There is a main gate to the ashram. After entering the gate, If you take the road on right hand side, you will reach the home-stay after 2 kms. It is the last construction in this direction. You can drive upto the home-stay. The roads are great through most of the journey except the last 2 kms. Tip: Public transport is available from the road outside the Ashram. The frequency is low. On return, I waited for the 2 p.m. direct bus to Bhowali which took me 2 hrs. From Bhowali, I took shared cab to Nainital and then to New Delhi. Bhowali to Nainital is 20 minutes and costs Rs.20 in shared cab. Nainital to New Delhi via Govt bus starts at 9 p.m. from Nainital bus stand and reaches 6 a.m. at Anand Vihar, New Delhi.

Alternatively, book a reserved taxi from Nainital/Haldwani/Almora/Kathgodam/Ramgarh. The home-stay also arranges pre booked taxi on demand.

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Village walk to Kafura Village near Leela Orchards Home-Stay, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.

WHAT IS THE COST OF ROOM AT LEELA ORCHARDS HOME STAY, SONAPANI, MUKTESHWAR:

The pricing is reasonable and affordable since the tariff is inclusive of bed tea, breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, all taxes for 2 pax. This makes it ideal for couples, family, friends and corporate trips. If you go dutch with a friend it is an even more economical option since the cost is split into two. It can’t get more affordable than this.

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Grandmother of Manvendra, Leela Orchards Sonapani home-stay, Mukteshwar is named after her by Manvendra’s father (Pic: Leela Orchards)

PLAN A VACATION. DISCOVER THESE PLACES NEAR LEELA ORCHARDS, SONA PANI, MUKTESHAWAR:

MYGRATION STORIES- WHY IS THIS BRAVE LADY LIVING ALONE IN A FOREST IN MUKTESHWAR

LUXURY WEEKEND BREAK FROM DELHI IN RAMGARH NEAR NAINITAL

The view from my #SoulWindow is full of warmth!

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“Some people have the entire flat the size of this washroom in Mumbai.” The huge wash room of Leela Orchards Home-Stay, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

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The Himalayan Range as seen from Leela Orchards, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar (Credit: Leela Orchards)

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

AMARI RESORT AT RAMGARH NEAR NAINITAL IS THE PERFECT LUXURY BREAK FROM DELHI!

AAMARI RESORTS IN RAMGARH near Nainital is easily the best resort in the area. It is a perfect weekend break from Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon.  1 hour away from the touristy Nainital, Aamari resort at Ramgarh is a perfect abode away from the city life. When I planned a trip to Nainital, Ramgarh and Mukteshwar, I decided to make Aamari resort my base and explore the gems nearby.

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One of the 3 bed rooms at the Sky Villa in Aamari Resorts, Ramgarh

ACTIVITIES AT AAMARI RESORTS, RAMGARH:

I spent the last day just enjoying the property. There is so much you can do in the property. I walked around the property for some-time followed by a stroll on the road appreciating the fairy-tailish pink, white and red flowers which dominated the natural landscape. The rest of the day was spent at leisure in reading (No, I didn’t switch on the TV), enjoying the delicious food, siesta, indulging in sauna bath, the works!

On the first day, I booked a cab to Nainital and explored the usual and the offbeat places to see in Nainital, especially the houses where legendary Jim Corbett stayed. The second day was spent exploring the offbeat gem that Ramgarh is. I hiked near the hills of the resort to arrive at the ruins of a house where Nobel Laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore lived for some years and wrote part of his famous work Geetanjali. Just ahead of the Malla Ramgarh Bazaar, I walked at an adjacent pathway for some time and visited the house of noted Hindi writer Mahadevi Verma. There sure is something about hills and world famous writers! Aamari resort is blessed to be built on a hill where verses of Geetanjali still soulfully echo.

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My room (Room number 104) at Aamari Resort, Ramgarh

THE ROOMS AT AAMARI RESORTS, RAMGARH:

I stayed in room number 104. The moment I entered the room, I was awed by the sheer size of the room. The pool facing rooms at Aamari are huge and so is the King size bed. The mattress used in the bed is fluffy and comfortable. That, combined with a lovely weather ensured I get sound sleep during my 3 days stay in the resort. On one side of the bed was electric kettle and teabags, creamer etc placed atop a rack. On the other side is a writing table equipped with lights. The room comes with many lighting options to suit your mood.

There is a sofa, chair and central table at the sitting area next to a giant window which overlooks the pool, the property, glimpses of road and the valley along-with the mighty Himalayan ranges. This was my favourite part of the room. Just as you enter the room, there is a wardrobe with tall mirrors on the left hand side. A little ahead is the washroom. Again, the size and layout of the washroom is impressive. It also comes with different lighting option to suit the mood. (I preferred the dim lights). The wash basin area is large, leaving enough space for dressing up.  It was a pleasure to have a hot shower in the well stocked glass cubicle. The shower head was large and the water pressure was just right. The washroom was stocked with the usual suspects- soaps, shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer.

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The lovely sit out area outside my room at Aamari Resort. It is great secluded spot to soak in some winter sun or enjoy bonfire in night.

THE AAMARI RESORT, RAMGARH PROPERTY:

I arrived late night in the first week of March via a cab and slept in the comfortable bed post dinner. The next morning, I opened the huge window of my room and was delighted with the sight of snow capped Himalayan Ranges such as the mighty Trishul, Nanda Devi, Panchacholi and Nandakot. I chose to have the breakfast in my room by the window so that I could enjoy the stunning views with my meals. The room is equipped with mirrors at the entrance and at the writing table.

Just outside the room is a lovely sit out area where I enjoyed reading a book in the swing fashioned out of cane. As darkness fell, I used to sit here having conversations around bonfires. The property is sprawling. Its 22 luxurious rooms are spread across multi level. Some rooms are garden facing while some are pool facing. There is a set of room near the car parking which is accessed by a car and thus is ideal for elderly who might find it difficult to walk up the stairs to reach other rooms.

The property is landscaped thoughtfully. Colorful Beer and Vodka bottles hang from a tree near the reception area. The poolside area comes with 2 large round cane chairs which can seat many people. There is a sit out area opposite the pool where I enjoyed Hot Chocolate during nights. The large banquet hall and the spacious indoor restaurant are ideal for large groups. You will notice the theme of a Cruise Ship throughout the property including the restaurant.

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The ship themed restaurant at Aamari Resort, Ramgarh

THE DAZZLING SKY VILLA AT AAMARI RESORT, RAMGARH:

The 3 bedroom Sky Villa near the sunset point took my breath away. It is a little away from the main property of Aamari Resorts. Sky Villa is a separate bungalow managed by the property. It overlooks the gorgeous valley below and is accessed by either vehicle or a long walk. It has 3 bedrooms on 2 stories, outdoor sit out areas, courtyards, indoor sit out areas with top to bottom glass walls and a well equipped kitchen. It is a great place to spend time with family or a group of friends. I was awestruck with the villa and its location. It is close to the sunset point from where I had an amazing view of the distant mountains and valley bathed in golden light. A small hike from here takes you to a viewpoint from where you can have a bird’s eye view of the famous lake in Bhimtal.

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Food is delicious at Aamari Resort, Ramgarh. My favourite was Paneer Kali Mirch

THE FOOD AT AAMARI RESORTS, RAMGARH:

During my 3 days stay at Aamari Resorts, I ordered a variety of food. Tamara Khaas Kofta (Pistachio and Khoya Stuffed Dumplings in rich Tomato gravy) and Paneer Kali Mirch were my absolute favourite. I also enjoyed the pasta in red sauce. On most days I had hearty breakfast of Aaaloo ka Paratha, Gobhi ka paratha and Poori-Bhaji, all of them done to perfection.

That said, the Paneer Butter Masala could have been better. The vegetables au gratin was good except the distracting sweet chunks of pineapple at times. You may want to tell them to skip the pineapple if you choose to order it. The quantity of the food is good and one entrée is sufficient for 2 people.

OTHER FACILITIES AAMARI RESORTS, RAMGARH:

There are myriad activities one can do at Aamari Resorts. There are many trekking trails which in house experts take you to. These are easy routes. They also offer outdoor picnic options. One can also indulge in soft adventure sports like rappelling, rock climbing, archery, spider nest, flying fox and valley crossing. These are monitored and organized by in house experts. For the less adventurous kinds, indoor games like carom, chess is available. You can also play basketball, badminton and football. Just above the reception is the facility for steam and sauna bath.  You can also check out the nearby adobe houses, Gagar Temple, Fossil remains on the hills etc.

RESPONSIBLE LUXURY AAMARI RESORTS, RAMGARH:

I love the luxury properties like Aamari resorts which accept my request to replace the bottled mineral water with filtered water. It’s my little way to say no to generation of plastic. I also make it a point to reuse the towels the next day. If all of us start doing it, it helps us save a lot of water. I am glad Aamari Resorts promote that habit. I was impressed to know that Aamari Resorts hire local talent whom they train and nurture from scratch. Collective travel to reduce transport, trekking and walking are some of the means by which they strive to cut the carbon footprint of travelers.

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The separate 3 bed room Sky Villa is stuff dreams are made up of. Can’t afford? Go with friends and family and split the cost. It’s worth it!

PLAN A VACATION. DISCOVER THESE PLACES NEAR AAMARIRESORTS, RAMGARH, UTTARAKHAND:

MYGRATION STORIES- WHY IS THIS BRAVE LADY LIVING ALONE IN A FOREST IN MUKTESHWAR

LEELA ORCHARDS HOMESTAY IN MUKTESHWAR: PERFECT CHOICE OF WEEKEND BREAK FROM DELHI IN BUDGET

HOW TO REACH AAMARI RESORTS, RAMGARH:

Just before the Malla Ramgarh Bazaar on the main Bhowali-Mukteshwar road, the Aamari Resorts is unmissable. Nestled in the Himalayan Heights Complex towards the right hand side of the road, it stands out thanks to its grandeur.  It is one hour away from Nainital. You can reach Nainital by bus. From Nainital, the taxi costs Rs.500 and takes 1 hour to reach. In case you reach in night, make sure you hire a reliable taxi. Chances are that after 7 or 8 p.m., on some stretches, you will be the only one driving on that road. Try to reach before sun set.  The cab driver charged me Rs.700 at 8 p.m. (Rs.200 from the usual Rs.500)

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The entrance to my room at Aamari Resorts, Ramgarh

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Offbeat Activities to do in Mussoorie with Mosaic Hotel

I HAVE AVOIDED GOING TO MUSSOORIE ever since I started traveling in 2010. I dreaded going there after hearing all the horror stories from fellow travelers. So, I was skeptical when I was invited to visit Mussoorie. I anyhow said yes after much contemplation. I always make sure to experience a destination myself rather than blindly believing in the hearsay. I planned the travel with parents. Unlike the new age ‘travel snobs’, they are fond of clichéd touristy places. However, I found many offbeat things to do in Mussoorie.

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My parents doing the ‘half’ nature walk!

As we left the stuffy plains of Dehradoon and entered the serpentine roads of Mussourie, many school teenagers raced past our car, as if Mussoorie is shutting down next day onwards. Girls, prim and proper; boys, rash and bursting with over confidence!  I am again skeptical if I made the right choice.

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Views you see in every direction!

That said, the mist laden mountains in the distance promised me a utopian world. The car stopped just at the start of the barrier of the famous Mall Road. The Eco wall at the Mosaic Hotel where I was staying, welcomed us. I was told it was soon turning into a selfie point with the passer byes, thanks to its striking green walls, punctuated with bright unusual flowers.

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Pics above : Mosaic’s attic suite; Charcoal, al fresco restaurant amidst mist

I was delighted to enter in my Attic suite. I always wanted to stay in an attic though never got the opportunity. The attic suite at Mosaic had 2 bedroom. The ground floor had a master bedroom with a huge washroom with a bathtub. The stairs from the lounge area of the ground floor led to an attached room on the attic. I was pleasantly surprised to see that attic came with a separate washroom too, which is not the norm.

Walk 1: VILLAGE WALK

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He owns this 100 year old traditional house!

We headed for Bhatoli village near the famous Kempty Falls. Bhutoli turned out to be a corn paradise! Tons of corn were scattered around carelessly, some arranged on wires painstakingly, giving a unique character to the village. One of my co traveler Poonam’s guess was that Bhutoli was named after Bhutta (corn). It was the best experience for me as we were taken to a 100 year old house built in traditional style.

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The kitchen inside the wooden house. Our hosts fed us fresh boiled corns.
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Exterior of the 100 year old traditional house

Earlier all houses were built in similar fashion but only this building survives now. A wooden structure, I climbed up the narrow stairs only to enter a gate so low, I had to bend to get inside. I was told this style was invented so that any miscreants (in those times British Officers) would not be able to run away in a jiffy in case a fracas happens. The sliding windows were so small that you could barely pass a hand through it. There was a rooftop window, much like their car versions these days, which worked as a natural ventilator/exhaust/chimney/light source. The rooms had a stair to the lower floors, used as a storage space. The couple lovingly cooked boiled corn for us in their charming kitchen as my eyes scanned the spartan interiors of their lovely house. You could count their belonging on fingers. Just the kind of lifestyle I like!

Corn galore at Bhatoli Village.

Walk 2 – CAMEL’S BACK LOOP POINT

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Camel’s Back point: Can you spot the sitting camel and its hump?

Post lunch, I booked full body massage and steam bath for my parents at the hotel, while I moved on to one of the 10 walks conducted by the property in Mussoorie. The Camel’s back loop walk started right from the hotel. A right turn just at the start of the barrier, took us to the Mussoorie few care to visit. The road here was devoid of tourists. Only locals strolled by tending to their chores. Few foreign tourists enjoyed the soul nourishing views of the valley from the many ‘Hawa Ghar’ (Wind House) which lined the roads. (See Picture)

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These Hawa Ghar are great for sitting and appreciating valley or ruminating over a sunset!

We passed a mosque, an ancient British building where British officers once indulged in skating. The skating rink is still there. We were delighted like kids when our cheerful guide Deepak pointed towards a rock which looked like a sitting camel, hump intact. We were lucky to spot it before mist swallowed the quirky attraction. After few minutes, we reached a graveyard, the stones of which were engulfed by foliage. British were buried here in pre independence era. After languorously admiring a setting sun behind colossal mountains, we called it a day! The walk ends at mall Road

Walk 3 – NATURE WALK 

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Tents en route!

On the second day, a short drive took us to ‘haathi paon’, thus named because of a rock which looks like Elephant’s legs. I am fond of nature walk, which is just easier version of trekking. The 2 hour trail took us to the forest area. I stopped dead in my tracks as I passed the pine trees wrapped in mysterious looking mist. Lying below it were Rhododendron trees, which must color the town red with their flowers every March. It was a smooth walk till the Wishing Well. It is said that when you turn the back towards the well and throw a coin, it must fall in water without hitting the inner walls of well. My parents and co travelers did try (Not me!), none of them succeeded though. Parents returned from here in car and we moved as steeper climbs lied ahead. We passed some tent in the forest and old style huts en route.

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Have you played cricket in a location as scenic as this?

My favourite was the residence of George Everest. It is a stark white building, in the middle of nowhere, now inhabited by ‘langurs’ (Monkey species) and lovers who love to write on historical buildings. I am sure the small sit out area facing the valley was also the favorite spot of the legendary surveyor and geographer. The location of the house is eerie and it is touted as a haunted house.

House of George Everest (Pic 1 – Sit out area, which opens to valley!)

There is no major building in sight. All one sees is mist, mountains and an observatory up in the hill. I peeped inside to see small charming rooms, each boasting of its personal fireplace. Old world! We had a bowl of Maggi and tea in the makeshift stall and moved on to explore more vistas. We also plucked some chestnut, the tree laden with fruits, to boil it at home and eat later.

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Chestnut

Walk 4 : NAG TIBBA AND LANDOUR

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Charming House of actor Victor Banerjee

The last walk started at Char Dukaan in Landour and ended at Lal Tibba from where one can see many snow peaks. The route passed many charming bunglows, cafes, houses of famous personalities like hotelier Sanjay Narang, writer Ruskin Bond and actor Victor Banerjee. The streets here are quieter and bereft of any tourists in sight. Though I am sure the place does see tourists in peak season.

Folks at Landour Bakehouse have whacky sense of humour (Pls click to read)

Mussoorie grew on me slowly and I wondered why I took so many years to come here. I believe if you go offbeat in Mussoorie, you will discover many of its gems lurking in corners you are not suspecting them to be. I went in August end and there were hardly any tourists in sight. Even the mall road was not as horrifyingly crowded. I wondered why August is called off season, since I experienced the mist, sunshine and rain all in one day.

EAT YOUR ENEMY:

Chef Dheeraj Singh at work. Sisnu leaves on the right (mise en scene for Nettle soup!)

My father touched a thorny leaf at the Lal Tibba. Suddenly, he had this strong urge to scratch at all the affected parts. A local helped him alleviate the suffering by applying a local leaf. It was ‘sisnu’ aka nettle/ Bichchu Ghaas (Scorpio Grass). Turned out that was exactly our lunch as we reached Mosaic Mussoorie. The Executive Sous Chef Dheeraj Singh gave us a live demo of how to make Nettle Soup. The leaves were burnt on stove to kill its thorn and thus the scratching sensations it produces. The ever smiling chef rustled up a flavoursome soup in no time. I have always wanted to eat it in Sikkim and Nepal where it is more popular. This was my first time and loved it. The ever smiling Chef hosts a TV show on Care World TV. Check his videos on You Tube. (Search his name)

Stay (Upscale):

Stay at the well appointed Mosaic Mussoorie. The rooms are luxurious, cozy and have cheerful interiors. Family can stay in the attic suite or attic rooms. One can choose depending upon the budget. The location of the hotel is perfect. It is just at the start of the barrier of Mall Road, which means you can park your car in a parking lot behind hotel and move it anytime easily. Check their contact details and tariff here.

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The scandalous Fried Ice Cream

Eat:

Mosaic Mussoorie has two restaurants. Random and Charcoal. The cuisine at random is varied. I particularly loved the scandalous fried ice cream (My first time), Veg Wonton Soup, Veg lasagna topped with micro greens, Nettle soup. The breakfast is sumptuous though you can avoid the lackluster stuffed parathas. I liked the breakfast buffet where you can make your own salad, combine breads with different variety of cheeses, pick up healthy vegetable shooters, fruits, flavoured water and juices. Charcoal is an open air restaurant where you can see your food being barbequed live. Dining here during a misty weather is unforgettable. When in Landour, eat at the Landour Bake house. Grab the valley facing seats (Their sense of humor is too good, see picture)

Shopping:

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My parents shopping for local outfits at Bhuttico. I support local weaves over big brands!

 Shop for high quality shawls at Bhuttico, a goverment enterprise. My mother merrily picked up some ‘sadri’ (waistcoat for me), Shirts (for dad) and Shawls. There are many Kashmiri shops which sell products from Kashmir. You can also pick ponchos.

For local handmade jams, jellies and cheese, head to A Prakash & Co in Landour (Phone – 632544)

Kempty falls:

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Oops!

Go if you really want to. I was curious thanks to its fame, so made a half an hour car journey from the Mall Road. I was part impressed, part disappointed. May be because I have seen enough waterfalls in Maharashtra and they fail to excite me now. So decide for yourself.

How to reach:

New Delhi to Dehradoon

Train number: 12017, Dehradoon Shatabdi (Comfortable air conditioned sitting car. Includes meals)

Dehradoon to Mussoorie cab/bus: Approx 1 hour (32 kms)

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A Local women at Wishing Well

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My parents drinking one of the sweetest water ever at Wishing Well

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Sursingdhar : A truly offbeat escape with Himalayan Eco Lodge near Delhi !

I am always running from pillar to post in my travel. Since this year, I am trying to train myself to slow down. My trip to Sursingdhar turned out to be slow travel thanks to my parents who prefer it that way.

 

I am new in Delhi and was looking for a great weekend break with family, away from the chaotic megapolis. I asked many friends for suggestions. All of them suggested nice places near Delhi but with a warning that since it’s June, so expect a lot of ‘beer and tikka’ crowd in almost all the popular hill station destinations near Delhi.

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My mother watching the sublime sunrise from the balcony! In Silence!

I wanted a respite from the cruel Delhi heat and the crowds. Then suddenly, my mind raced back to a blog I read by Manjulika on Sursingdhar many moons ago. I remember, after reading her blog, I dreamt of going to that quaint little village, sitting in my tiny apartment in Mumbai. It was not an easy task from Mumbai but from Delhi it seemed cushy. An 8 hour comfortable drive on the smooth roads was what was promised to me.

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The lyrical sun rise from the balcony of Himalayan Eco Lodge

I zeroed in on Sursingdhar and it exceeded my expectation. As our cab neared the Himalayan Eco Lodge (at an elevation of 7000 plus feets), I was delighted to discover its remoteness. The resort is built right in the middle of a nondescript village. We had booked the first floor cottage facing the valley. This is the best you can get here.

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Parents at Himalayan Eco Lodge

It was a delight beyond words to watch the villagers pass by in slow motion, the many exotic birds filling the only pine tree opposite our balcony, the sun rising poetically from behind the hills. I have been told that on clearer days, one can see snow capped mountains, especially the Nanda Devi. We didn’t get to see that due to mist but we didn’t mind. Our loss was compensated with an unhindered look of a rare rainbow, lining the sky. An excited me woke up my parents to savor the miracles of nature.

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The rainbow we saw from our balcony in Himalayan Eco Lodge

The balcony was my favourite place. I would not want to leave the place and spend long hours, doing nothing but just staring romantically at the many species of exotic birds, mountains, villages, mountain dogs, tress laden with local fruits like ‘pahadi seb’ (Apple), chulu, peach etc. In complete silence I gazed at them.

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Snacks in the balcony!

My silence was punctuated only by chirps of a bird and the ‘thak thak’ sound by a woodpecker who could not stay at one spot for more than a second. Like an obsessed lover, I followed the movement of the woodpecker on the pine tree opposite the balcony. The gorgeous bird would play hide and seek with me as if enticing me to ‘Catch me if you can’. Soon the tree was full of many woodpeckers. Till this day, I had not seen so many at a time.

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My obsession was killed by a staff member who showed up with flask full of tea, pakoris (fritters) and cookies. It was a perfect snack to indulge in, since it started drizzling lightly. As we sipped the tea, cool breeze caressed our faces gently, bringing with them the scent of the pine trees that surrounded the resort.

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Snacks in the balcony!

 

Post the tea break, me and my parents decided to take a walk in the beautifully landscaped garden and the village beneath. I was told that the owner is a lover of plants and gardening, especially the many flowers.

Picture above : Flowers and chulu fruit

There is no way you can ignore the riot of colors dotting the Himalayan Eco Lodge at Sursingdhar. Red/ purple/ yellow/ pink/ white/ blue colored flowers almost blinded us with their unbridled beauty. Even our balcony was inundated with flowering plants. Did I forget to mention that pots filled with flowers hung above our head as we chatted over tea in the balcony.

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As we entered the village just outside the resort, we had our eyes peeled. Just interacting with the locals, observing the local lifestyle and mountain houses, plucking the fruits from the trees are some of the simpler joys of life we savored here. One of the villagers, a charming lady, invited us over to her house for tea. We unfortunately could not go as my mother is understandably not fit enough to climb the steep paths.

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Post a session of carrom at the lawn facing the valley, we huddled around the bonfire in the garden. We as a family, bonded over conversation laced with sweet nothings over the bonfire

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New Tehri Town as seen from our balcony

The meals served to us were simple yet delicious, healthy and light on tummy. We were delighted when we were served local village food from Uttarakhand after sampling familiar food for past few days. I am mentioning those with a rough recipe (Not tried at home yet)

 

  • Kali Daal Ka Chausa: (Pic 1) It was so delicious, I ended up having 3 bowls of this lentil based dish. Black Urad Daal is ground coarse and raw and then roasted with ghee (Clarified Indian Butter). Spices, tomato, onion, garlic and water are added to it gradually and simmered until done.
  • Palak ki Kapli: (Pic 2) It’s a spinach stew which is nothing but roughly chopped spinach cooked with onion, tomato and water.
  • Plum Chutney: (Pic 3) Plum fruits are available in abundance here. It’s a spicy sauce made with plums, sugar, spices and chillies.
  • Bathue ka paratha: (Pic 3) It’s a local saag (Green leafy vegetable) which is mixed with the dough alongwith spices and turned into delicious breads to be had with plum chutney and pickles etc.
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Our cozy room at Himalayan Eco Lodge!

The next day, the ever smiling manager Kuldeep at Himalayan Eco Lodge suggested me a 1 hour trek around the village. I lapped up at the opportunity. The trek is decent and a mix of pucca road and dirt tracks through the village. It’s an easy trek through pine and deodar forests.

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Me during the trek!

En route I saw local temples, got birds eye view of the village, exotic birds, even a scared fox, cute Himalayan kids waving at me and villagers going about their work. I also saw trees laden with local fruits like pahadi seb (apple), aadu, pomegranate, Malta etc. The weather was pleasant, what with breezy winds and a light drizzle punctuating the experience.

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Temple en route the trek!

Ever since I have been back from Everest Base Camp trek, I had been craving to do a 1 day trek! You would be wondering why one day. Because I wanted to test my fitness level! Post EBC, I had gained a lot of weight (From 75 kgs to 100 kgs) because I ate like mad after shifting to Delhi and my bodily movement was restricted to basics such as fetching a glass of water ‘all by myself’.

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Trek tracks!

During the trek, I realized that I was momentarily breathless in just an hour long trek. I used to jump on such trails earlier. I was embarrassed that the guide could hear my huffs and puffs…. But then I thought what the heck, its ok. He would think of me as ‘just another fat, spoilt brat from Delhi’. And I have no patience left to explain my ‘Fit to Fat’ story to one and all. Anyways, it was an alarming day for me. During the trek I promised myself to commit to a strict fitness regime as soon as possible and get back to my original shape and weight.

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Did the kid like me? He’s emoticoning so not sure!
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The temple at the end of the trek!

QUICK GET AWAYS:

  • Tehri dam : Once a bustling town, it is now submerged in water due to the dam project. One can see some of the remains of the town including a palace peeping from the water. Today it has become the hub for water sports. It is half an hour away.
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My father trying Jet Skiing at Tehri dam!
  • New Tehri Town/Chamba: Great for shopping for local jams, pickles, chutneys, Rhododendron and malta squash. It is 20 minutes away.
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Rhododendron and Malta squash!
  • Kanatal/Dhanaulti : A quick ride on smooth roads will take you there. However, the climate and weather and landscapes are quite similar to Sursingdhar. So you can skip this one if you want a peaceful vacation in silence.
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At Eco Park in Dhanaulti!
  • Mussoorie and Landour : Just ahead of Kanatal are these combo of popular and offbeat destinations.
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Maggi at Dhanaulti!
  • Haridwar and Rishikesh: Just 3 hours away, the twin spiritual towns are a great excursion, especially in winters.
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In Rishikesh, against ram Jhoola on their wedding anniversary!

WHEN TO GO

March, April, May: Busy months.

June and July : The occupancy is lower than other times.

December, January and Mid feb : Expect light snowfall.

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Himalayan Eco Lodge, Sursingdhar!

PRICE:

It’s a great deal for Rs. 5600 on double occupancy including buffet style breakfast, lunch and dinner. Why it is a steal deal is because your meals are sorted and most of the activities are centered around the resort. You don’t really need to go anywhere.

Best rooms: Ask for room number 2,3,4 which face the snow capped mountains. You can see Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath and Nanda Devi from here!

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Me during the aarti at Har Ki Paudi, Haridwar!

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CYCLING IN JIM CORBETT NATIONAL PARK AND SECRET NIGHTLIFE OF RAMNAGAR. IT EXISTS!

On the second day of our stay at Corbett Iris Resort and Spa, when the hosts offered me and my blogger friIMG_2978 - Copyends to indulge in a cycle tour of the jungle, we lapped up at the idea without second thoughts. The jungle patch chosen was near Kyari village in the Pavalgarh conservative zone (51 sq km). Uttarakhand government declared it a tourism village in 2012.I had never cycled inside a jungle on rough terrains, so it was exciting for me. In no time, we all showed up at the cycle pick up point and headed towards the dense forest, not very far away from our resort in the buffer zone. Passing the huge termite forts and a pathway carpeted in dry foliage, we pedaled silently, soaking in the subtle sounds and smells of the jungle. We started together but were separated owing to individual fitness level and capacity to drag ourselves on the uneven terrains of the jungle. There was a time I was all alone in the jungle.

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My friends were not visible and this was the time I started hallucinating. I imagined a tiger staring at me from the trees, a leopard greedily eyeing the extra fat I have accumulated on my body, from a branch above me. Better still, a mad elephant charging at me. Luckily or unluckily, I did not see any mammal, just a variety of birds here and there. Just to give you a perspective, there are 41 tigers in this zone and scores of elephants.  This place is also a birder’s paradise and also attracts a lot of migratory birds in winters.

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Another blogger Parnashree (who skipped cycling) soon arrived in jungle with a staff member and asked us to follow them to reach the sunset point. Just in the nick of time. I pedaled in hurry, as if the tiger, leopard and the elephant had collaborated and were chasing me together. Once I was out of the jungle, I pedaled along the canal. It gave me a perspective of how long the canal from the British era was. We had used a part of this canal for body surfing in the morning.

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I was speechless, when my huffing and puffing culminated at the sunset point. Not due to the sunset but because of the location. The sunset was ordinary but the sceneries were not. We were at the edge of a dry river, the bed of which was strewn with white boulders, big and small. The wide river was lined with dense forest at the other end and is known for wildlife activity. I was told that the river swells in the monsoon months and is beyond recognition.

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We all went silent for some time, just soaking in the views, appreciating the stillness of the air, suspending the concept of time, money and urban life momentarily. The sky turned darker as we communed with nature. We decided to walk the cycle from here to the hotel. We, obviously, looked at it as an opportunity to slow down.

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THE SECRET NIGHTLIFE OF RAMNAGAR NO ONE TALKS ABOUT

The cycle tour was followed by a lovely Kumauni themed dinner at the resort. But what we didn’t anticipate was that our host will offer to show us the nightlife of Ramnagar….. Nightlife near Corbett? Ramnagar….what?

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As we passed the dark jungle post midnight, catching a glimpse of a sambar (Deer species) couple and a stray fox, we crossed the Kosi river. After adjusting our eyes to pitch darkness for past few minutes, we were almost blinded by the shiny signboards, lively markets of Ramnagar…. at 2 a.m.

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The first thing which crossed my mind was, “Is this place in running with North Goa or Las Vegas?” Certainly not! While the former have a lively nightlife because they are entertainment hubs, the nightlife of Ramnagar is more need based. It is a destination to catch bus to other places in Uttarakhand and nearby states. Fruits, sweets, cigarettes, medicines, clothes, beverages, meals, grocery et al! You name it, they have got it! It was amusing to just stroll on the road, observing the madness that this place is. I bet you may struggle to find a place like this even in metro cities like Mumbai and Delhi.

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On returning, we stopped at a site. It was separated by the jungle with a very wide river. The full moon illuminated the white boulders which inundated the river bed as a night jar lent a mysterious aura to the place with its haunting calls. We finally reached the resort at 3 a.m. after I battled sleep throughout the return journey. We are supposed to wake up at 5 a.m. for our jeep safari. I called it a day/night/whatever and entered my room as a peacock gave frantic calls in the distance. Yes, at 3 a.m.

Related blogs : 

Bodysurfing in Corbett

Corbett Iris Spa and Resort : Jungle beyond Tigers

Ladder Climbing in Corbett

Ziplining in Corbett

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Note: I was hosted by Corbett Wild Iris Resort and Spa.  The resort conducts many such adventure sports within the forest. Check their website for more info or ask me in commenst below. I was accompanied by travel blogger/journalists Mrs. Alka Kaushik, Mr. Dipanshu Goyal, Ms. Parnashree Devi, Ms. Swati Jain, Ms Suhana Sajwan

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CORBETT IRIS SPA AND RESORT : THEY SHOW CORBETT BEYOND TIGERS!

It’s not very often that one stays in a resort which is based on the foundation of deep respect towards environment and local lifestyle. Corbett Iris is one such resort right in the centre of the Pavalgarh zone of Jim Corbett National Park. Building a resort in a jungle comes with myriad responsibilities and I found Corbett Iris to live up to my expectations of a resort sensitive to its immediate environment.

Pic above : Way to our cottage, Spa and Pool (Pic by : Parnashree Devi)

Not only do hosts understand their fragile surroundings deeply, they also exhibit a proactive attitude towards conservation of not only wildlife but also local culture/heritage and lifestyle. In fact, the resort is great for discovering the cultural and heritage value of the area. Most come here in search of wildlife, but this resort instead promotes a deeper understanding of the history and social fabric of the place. Throw in some adventure sports (See links below) and one gets to see the other side of Corbett which I found more engaging and enjoyable than stressing myself with spotting a Tiger.

Pic above : My luxurious room at the resort and the live bar in garden

A walk in the Village area:

I found my host and staff to be well versed with the local lifestyle. The resort was a stone’s throw away from both jungle and the Kyari village. My tour guide educated us about how the local plants support the life in the village. Some of the plants shown to us held great medicinal value. Teak (aka mahaneem), sagaun, saal (used in making train berths earlier) lined the pathways.

Pic above : Me dozing under the historical semul tree, the semul tree , and Jim Corbett’s house turned into museum.

So did semul tree. The largest semul tree in the area is at the British era guest house. It was under this tree that Jim Corbett killed his last tiger famously called Bachelor of Pavalgarh. Jim stopped shooting tigers when he learnt that this particular tiger was not a man eater (I later rested under the tree on the last day). Not far from here is Choti Haldwani ( Kaladungi museum) . Jim Corbett stayed here. The village was established by him only and there are many families, of his time still residing in the village. That’s a trail where guests take a walk.

Pic of village walk above : Stop for samosa, Mr Vinod educating us about local flora, fauna and lifestyle and haathikaan

Coming back to the village, most interesting plant was haathikaan (literal meaning:

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Litchi, not jackfruit, eh!

elephant ear) whose huge leaves looked like colocassia (Arbi) leaves. Its paste is used to heal the wounds of cattle when it survives a tiger or leopard attack. The tree of Rohini aka sindoori has cooling effects (Thandi taseer, as they say it) Women put it at hair parting as a substitute of vermillion (sindoor) while men apply it on forehead as tilak. It is said that elephants eat its berries to maintain mental balance during mating season. The jackfruit tree, rich with fruits, was also commonplace in the area and so was litchi. I had seen a litchi tree for the first time and mistook the raw fruit as jackfruit. I embarrassed myself when I asked, “Is it a miniature version of jackfruit?”

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There are 300 homes and 1000 people residing in Kyari village. They have lived here for generations and man animal conflicts are bound to happen. Most of the land in this part is used for agricultural purpose. The elephants often destroy the crop and hence a fence was built with mild electric shocks passing through it. However, the very intelligent elephants soon discovered the part of fence which has earthing and is therefore devoid of any electric shock. I could see the signs of the elephants destroying this part of the fencing.

Pic above : Village walk and Kumauni lunch. What’s not to love?

Besides the jumbos, the forest is also home to 40 tigers, 25 leopards, 90 species of butterflies and 365 species of birds. We crossed the now dry Khichdi river to explore more.  Other plants we saw were Timli (flowers used in Hindu prayers and its fruit eaten), Gutel (It fruits in June and July and its powder helps in gas problems), Kuri. Kuri is a dense hedge and thus a preferred nesting site for bulbul which also eats its berries called laltana. It is also relished by monkeys. We saw small peach fruits. We were told as one goes higher in altitude, the fruits are bigger and juicier, thanks to conducive temperature and climate.

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We went to see forest not the tiger!

Not far from here is Sitaban. A temple exists here as it’s said that Goddess Sita was swallowed by land at this very spot. She also prayed here and her sons Love and Kush were born here. We were once again face to face, not with elephants but with their activities. A herd had just passed by. As we entered the dense jungles near Sitaban, we came across mercilessly trampled and crushed branches and leaves. We stopped in our tracks fearing a sudden hello from the jumbo in the narrow pathway we were negotiating.

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The spectacular sun rise in the forest!

THE FOOD AT CORBETT IRIS WON MY HEART!!

Corbett Iris is great to sample local food from Uttarakhand. The authenticity and great taste is of course a result of employing local talents. The food is simple but so delicious, I ended up suspending my dieting plan and bite off more than I could chew. The lavish breakfast (Idli, poha, jalebi, dosa, pancakes) leaves you spoilt for choice. Each dish tasted great except for the pao bhaji served like a vada pao/ burger. The muradabadi daal, a local delicacy stole the breakfast show. It’s nothing but thick moong dal (a lentil) topped with spices and coarsely chopped dry red chillies. Most of us had 2 or 3 helpings.

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The lunch was equally exciting. They sure know how to make ordinary food taste great. My favourite was Aaloo Gutka (Potatoes, fried crisp with local spices), kadhi (Silk smooth), Biryani (tastes like home), Kumauni Raita (Mustard seed powder churned with yoghurt and spices) and a very spicy red chutney.

Pic above : Roti making session (Of course I didn’t even try, only posed!)

The Kumauni themed dinner had us stuck to the food counters. We all ganged up near the

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Maduwe ki roti, warm and yummy!

roti (Indian breads) section where some of our friends tried their hand at making round rotis. Not wanting to lose my face in a game I was sure I would perform badly in, I chose not to try my hand. I instead focused my energy on the maduwe ki roti which the staff offered me. Fresh from the oven, laced liberally with desi ghee (Indian clarified butter) and jaggery, it melted in my mouth. It set the tone for more unusual hors d’oeuvres on the way such as the unique Mushroom cappuccino soup, mug wrapped in a leaf. It is a soup with mushroom bits and the texture of a cappuccino) The many chats and chaats (Street food) kept us engaged before the main course showed up. The main course, again Kumauni comprised Bhat ki Chulkani aka Bhat ki Daal , Jhingora rice and kheer (rice and milk desert) thoughtfully served in a bowl lined with a leaf. The Kumauni theme dinner and set up is organized every Saturday.

 

Pic above : Mushroom cappuccino soup, hearty breakfast and muradabadi daal. I overate!

The time we had at Corbett Iris spa and resort was memorable. Set in the middle of jungle one can swim in the pool here, indulge in spa and body massages, do adventure activities, eat local Kumauni cuisine, follow Ramayana and Jim Corbett trail, take a village walk and safari, enjoy musical nights and of course stay in luxurious room. All this for astonishingly low prices for a luxury property like this!

Here are some of the very impressive steps Corbett Iris Spa and Resort has taken to promote responsible tourism, eco tourism via their CSR:

  1. In the vicinity (Powalgarh Conservation Division) Iris is the first one to install STP. It’s heartening to know that they are reusing the water for the gardening.
  2. When the land was bought, it had many fruit trees including-Mango, Aamla (gooseberry) , Jack Fruit and Fig. The cottages and other public areas, including the pathways were designed in such a way that none of these trees were cut down. Almost all of the trees, retained produce fruits. All this fruit is used in the resort itself in different dishes. Instead of chopping off the trees, they were made a part of the landscape. The best example of this was when I entered spa. A mango tree was right there in the middle of the spa and added to the aesthetics of its interiors. They incorporated it in the building during construction. The many mango trees lend a delectable character to the resort especially when I visited in April. It’s the time when mango trees are loaded with tiny fruits.
  3. Iris management has encouraged local villagers for employment. The best part is they pick raw manpower, train them and retain them as their employees. To our amusement we discovered that almost all of the staff (F&B production and service/housekeeping/Front Office) can sing and dance. Their versatility was evident on the wonderful Kumauni dinner night when we were treated with melodious folk music and dance of Uttarakhand. 4)    They have encouraged local villagers to construct houses, which they have taken on rent and IRIS employees are staying there.
  4. In spite of Iris management sourcing the milk ( as it is required in bulk for guests) from market, they have engaged a villager who is supplying them milk for the staff cafeteria.
  5. Recently on the earth day they have planted trees in prompt places ( school and community hall in village). All the villagers joined hands with them and they have initiated cleaning of the village.
  6. On every Thursday and Saturday, there is a local bazaar (vegetables and other eatables) which is mainly organised by villagers. Iris management initiated purchase of vegetables from them instead of running to Ramnagar, the nearest town.
  7. During the village walk, we were taken to a tea shop in core village area for a stop over. It was heart warming to learn that the main purpose of serving tea during our evening walk is to promote the humble shop, owned by a villager.
  8. Iris management has firmly thought of starting a NGO, the purpose is just to ensure the upliftment of village Kyari and ensure ‘Clean Kyari Green Kyari’

For booking, tariffs and address please click on this link

Related blogs : 

Ziplining in Corbett

Body Surfing in Corbett

Ladder Climbing in Corbett

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The forest!

Note: I was hosted by Corbett Wild Iris Resort and Spa.  The resort conducts many such adventure sports within the forest. Check their website for more info or ask me in commenst below. I was accompanied by travel blogger/journalists Mrs. Alka Kaushik, Mr. Dipanshu Goyal, Ms. Parnashree Devi, Ms. Swati Jain, Ms Suhana Sajwan

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