On a cold winter morning, I woke up to the cries of ‘chai, chai’ with incessant knocking on my door. I was in the most blissful state of mind, having slept whilst looking at the stars and a faint outline of the milky way that was visible in the absence of light pollution. It was the only homestay located in the midst of terraced fields in a remote village we hadn’t even heard of, in an offbeat location!
I have always been a small town boy and feel comfortable in little villages, where everybody knows everybody and life goes forth at a relaxed, leisurely pace.
The deliciously brewed tea had been grown only a few miles away, bright sunshine warmed the bones and faraway sounds of little school children singing prayers felt like happy music to my ears. A small waterfall-fed stream rolled by the slope. My host had rustled up a quick breakfast and the fabulous aroma of fresh aloo paranthas with homemade pickle was reason to rouse me from my slumber (made from potatoes grown on the farm, no less!)
I wanted to stay in Billing but found out since there were no permanent structures that were allowed to be built there, we were most likely to freeze to death among the snows. Bir seemed like a lovely little village full of homestays at every turn; and then we kept walking on the road for a kilometre and a half, to lay our sights on a little structure located amidst green and had parked ourselves there. The village was called Gunehr, and was located in glorious Himachal countryside.
Gunehr lies at a perfect altitude of around 1500 metres and even the furiously cold Himachal winters were kept at bay as the sun warmed our room. It is in close vicinity of the world famous paragliding site of Billing and the landing site of Bir.
Lunch time meant meandering along cobbled pathways whilst chatting up with random village folk, getting invites to everyone’s homes and eating delicious home grown food. Siesta time was spent strolling around gorgeous greenery with slender paths and impromptu folk songs sung by ladies working in the farms. My eyes hurt after seeing the most stunning sunset colours bursting from among the green landscape.
Evening brought with it local alcohol and stories about ancient temples and how the present generation is losing its culture to technology. My host had gathered the freshest veggies, I couldn’t hide my glee and it was my turn to make tea for him. It was a pleasant surprise when he told me I could have a hot water bath – there was a solar geyser installed!!
A gentle wind rustled the leaves and put me in deep slumber; it wasn’t difficult at all with a content belly.
Full of energy, we put on our hiking boots and wandered to a nearby hillock with a temple and felt so happy that we continued on our merry way toward Billing. Traffic was absent on this road, sunlight sometimes made its way through the dense cover of pine trees, the woods smelled wonderfully fresh with dewdrops on them.
The sun went down for the last time for the year, Frank at 4 Tables Cafe was gracious to invite us and we were in luck when he declared that he was gonna fire the wood oven and make fresh pizzas with home made dough and real olive oil. There was another traveller couple for company and they had brought succulent smoked tofu with them, all the way from Auroville. An indigenous tandoor burning pine cones and wood kept us warm and conversations flowed, Bara Bhangal (the remotest village in the Himalayas) was only two days walk away, I learnt.
The sky had put on a show and I spotted a shooting star. I made a wish to be on the road forever, to keep falling for the goodness of strangers and be awed by the experiences of the unknown.
The name of this secret abode is Summer Homestay.
The best way to reach Gunehr is through the temple town of Baijnath in Himachal Pradesh which is connected to Delhi by HPTDC Government Volvo Buses.
Do you have a find that nobody knows about? Tell me about it.