After a breathtaking drive from Munsyari I had arrived in Berinag set on the periphery of tea gardens. A smooth connection with shared sumos ensured that I reached The Misty Mountains, Jhaltola located deep into the mountains of Kumaon Himalaya.
There were abundant flowers of all colours growing everywhere, my nature loving eyes were in for a treat. I was told that our nearest neighbours were more than a kilometre away! The Misty Mountains is nestled amidst 1000 acres of untouched forests; and an unbelievably beautiful aroma of pine pervaded my nostrils at every step. I had known earlier that this was an offbeat place (in the real sense of the word) and far removed from commercial tourism.
One of the families staying there had a birthday celebration for their one year old baby. There was a cute motorcar shaped cake and much fanfare. It was a feast fit for kings. I was made to feel welcome like a family member. We went for a stroll through the forest in the evening, the rustling of dry leaves on the ground making sweet sounds. The rich collection of books in the library beckoned and I picked a Hemingway classic ‘True at first light’.
The entire valley was laid on a platter and the views kept getting better and grander. Layer after layer of mountains revealed themselves, the snow capped peaks were covered with clouds and would provide us with faint glimpses of heaven. We were at a comfortable altitude of 2000m and the weather was glorious. It was akin to becoming one with nature. I went crazy clicking pictures of flowers.
Read : Binsar through my eyes
There were six varieties of pickles hand made by the owners. I devoured the apple jam and fine marmalade. A small quantity of rhododendron wine is also made during the right season. The sun felt crisp in the cold mountain air as I put my feet up, happy with someone texting me to tell that a story of mine was published in the Hindustan Times Brunch Magazine. You can read that here : Into Unknown Ladakh, Turtuk. The lofty mountains were veiled in mist and the hammock invited me to laze around and enjoy the bliss of doing nothing.
Travellers from many parts of India are here, mostly from Delhi and amused at the slow pace of life. There is no structured pattern of doing things, and connecting with our own self is everybody’s mantra. They express surprise at my choice of career and also my general sense of nonchalance, at not having a plan for even the next day, taking life as it comes.
Evenings of bliss
The sounds of crickets and cicadas became a reality, one that had been confined to textbooks hitherto. The wind blowing in the night brought with it tales from places far away in the mountains. Sleep came easily and I woke up to a cacophony of sounds of the chirping of sparrows. There was a different pleasure in sipping tea made from leaves plucked from the tea gardens nearby; and the mountain views were pretty unbelievable.
I sit on the bare ground first among a carpet of flowers and then lie down blissfully, savouring the plentiful oxygen around. Butterflies floated carelessly touching me and making me delirious with happiness.
My cottage was like a quaint home with a living room attached, in a fairytale setting to say the least. The majestic mountains drove me mad gazing at them, and I had my first views of the revered Nanda Devi and Mt. Trishul. I put my hands in prayer and wish for a lifetime of adventures and happiness.
Next evening, clouds began to gather creating vivid hues in the mountains and made the green forests even more picturesque. It was a pitter patter of raindrops is at first and the clouds thundered ferociously. We sat sipping tea on the rustic wooden benches laid out perfectly in the garden, admiring the dark clouds and trying to click perfect pictures of the exquisite picture painted by nature itself.
A platter of Kumaoni dishes was set for lunch and was delicately cooked with mild spices. Satiated, we took a walk with a guide to Lamkeshkar temple, a steep hike of about 2 hours. My joy knew no bounds when I spotted a leopard in the dense jungle. The temple was on a ridge plentiful in grass and wild flowers grew in abundance. A solitary baba who lived there offered us tea and we readily agreed. Views from the top were brilliant in the warmth and a cool breeze blew for perfect mountain weather.
While wandering around we spotted a dholak (musical instrument) and enquired about a bonfire. We were pleasantly surprised when an impromptu Kumaoni folk performance was organised. We laughed at first, then were mesmerised with the singing and crazily danced with the staff for more than an hour. Since all of us were in the mood, a round of cognac was in the offing and Kishore Kumar songs were sung deep into the night.
As a solo traveller, it is a beautiful feeling when you make friends on your travels. I played table tennis and badminton with various people, after many years and was overjoyed. Numbers were exchanged and promises were made to meet up when I was in Delhi next. There was kheer one day and I gobbled up extra helpings with delight.
The moonlit peaks had chosen to make their appearance just in time on my last night. I slept like a baby; the breeze lulled me into a dreamy slumber. We savoured tea in the morning on the wooden benches whilst gazing at the mountains one last time.
I had mastered the art of ‘Dolce far niente’ here in the remote mountains of Jhaltola and it made me fall in love with myself and solitude again.
Good to Know : The Misty Mountains, Jhaltola is approximately 125 kms away from Almora and 500 kms from Delhi. The drive is picturesque with pine forests and scenic views en-route.
>The property is spread in a huge area and encourages outdoor activities (like adventure activities, trekking, games, music).
>There is an extensive book collection.
>A day trip to the incredible cave temple of Patal Bhuvaneshwar can be considered.
>It is a pet-friendly and a solo safe property.
>They practice responsible travel.
Note: I was hosted by Misty Mountains and that did not influence my review of the place.