After a breathtaking drive from Munsyari I had arrived in Berinag set on the periphery of tea gardens. A smooth passage ensured that I reached the remote location of Jhaltola deep in the mountains of Kumaon Himalaya.
There were abundant flowers of all colours growing everywhere, my wandering eyes were in for a treat. Our nearest neighbours were more than a kilometre away. I later came to know that the resort is nestled amidst 1000 acres of absolutely untouched mixed forests, an unbelievably beautiful aroma of pine pervading my nostrils at every step. I was informed 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 on a platter and the views kept getting better and grand. 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 the comfortable altitude of 2000m and the weather gloriously brilliant. 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 the finest marmalade ever. A small quantity of rhododendron wine is made by the owners. The sun felt crisp in the cold mountain air as I put my feet up, happy with someone texting me to tell that I was published in the Hindustan Times Brunch Magazine. You can read that here : Turtuk, a land of fantasies. The lofty mountains were veiled in mist and the hammock invited me to laze around more.
Travellers from across India are here, mostly from the cities 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.
The sounds of crickets and cicadas became a reality, one that had been confined to textbooks hitherto. The wind blowing in the night tells 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 the tea gardens nearby with scarcely believable views.
I sit on the bare ground first among a carpet of flowers and then lie down blissfully, savouring the nature. 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.
The next evening, clouds began to gather and the hues in the mountains incredible, making 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.
We were enthralled at lunch with a platter of Kumaoni dishes cooked delicately with mild spices. Deep in the mountains we walked with a guide to Lamkeshkar temple, a steep climb of 2 hours. My joy knew no bounds when I spotted a leopard. 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 them 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 sang deep into the night.
As a solo traveller, its a beautiful feeling when you make friends while on your travels. I played table tennis and badminton with various people, after 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 numerous helpings with delight.
The moonlit peaks had chosen to make their appearance just in time on my last night. We savoured tea in the morning on the benches gazing at the mountains for 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 again.
Good to Know : Misty Mountains is approximately 125 kms away from Almora and 500 kms from Delhi. The drive is picturesque among pine forests and scenic views en-route.
>The property is huge and encourages outdoor activities (like adventure activities, trekking, games, music).
>There is a brilliant 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.