The map showed it would take around 6 hours to cover the 300 km distance to reach Kotabagh from Delhi. It was a forgettable drive through dusty and lawless Uttar Pradesh, which made me reiterate in my mind that if Uttarakhand has to really progress – they must have a different road to themselves that bypasses their former state. The guavas on the stalls in Hapur were very inviting but the ubiquitous dust made me stay away. It was only when we crossed over into Uttarakhand, did I dare to open the windows and breathe freely. And it was well worth the drive when we passed through a gorgeous jungle to make it to the destination, V Resorts Kotabagh.
I’d been in constant touch with the V Resorts Kotabagh Property Manager, Hemant who had asked about my preferences for lunch. We passed through a few tiny hamlets as the car meandered on unknown village roads before reaching Kotabagh. I had never heard of this village, and that is what made it mysterious as well! The name Kotabagh sounded very charming, reminding me of gardens (bagh). And pretty it was, the entire valley spread in green fields and life went by in the slow lane. I could spot a few traditional Kumaoni houses with elaborate wooden carvings on the door and pretty window frames.
A glimpse of Kotabagh village in the slideshow.
Local & Freshly made Village Food
Many-a-time fancy resorts are guilty of trying to make food too complex; when in reality an easy solution might be to keep the food simple and make it fresh. I quickly threw my bags in the spacious cottage allotted to me and rushed to the dining area. A variety of vegetables and curries had been laid on the table and when the chef served hot fulkas (chappati), he mentioned only one thing – everything is fresh and locally grown. I relished the paalak gravy made from green spinach leaves that had probably been picked fresh in one of the many fields surrounding V Resorts Kotabagh.
The spices had a pronounced effect, and made the food so tasty! Especially the cumin seeds and other herbs that are grown in specific areas of Uttarakhand.
Kotabagh Village Walk
After finishing lunch, we had a little round of the property and settled on the elevated sitting area (machan) for evening chai. The magical colours of the setting sun prompted us to go on a random village walk. Cute mountain kids played on the road while women carried firewood to be used for cooking dinner. Tomatoes were being harvested in the fields and the wheat crop dazzled green in the stunning evening light. The sun turned into an orange ball of fire and created some magical moments before hiding behind a small hillock. Some villagers invited us for tea, while others were curious what exactly was a tourist doing in Kotabagh village!
In retrospect, this village walk went a long way in enabling me to get back on track. I’d been a bit under the weather having found no affinity with the horrid air in Delhi; and had ended up sneezing my way during the Orange Adventure & Music Festival in Arunachal Pradesh. The air in Kotabagh was nice and crisp, and even in the end of December – the weather wasn’t too cold. My lungs inhaled with full energy and I knew I was going to have a great time exploring Kotabagh village and around with V Resorts.
Bonfire and Barbecue
Night had fallen when we returned from our village walk. The location of the resort is a clear winner in the sense that it overlooks a dry riverbed on one side which is devoid of any civilisation. The open area had ample space for organising a bonfire; which was turned into a memorable experience with the addition of old hindi songs and barbecue. The chirping of insects in the mild breeze added to the effect and after an hour or two had passed, I realised I had no appetite for dinner and opted for just a dessert and tea. The chef’s special phirni had a delectable taste; just the perfect way to end the bonfire and I ambled to the warmth of my room.
When I put out the lights, the absence of light pollution meant I could see a clear night sky as the stars twinkled in their glory. I huddled in the blanket and waved the staff goodbye for the night.
Jungle Walk autumn colours – Crisp winter air, so fresh
The sun had illuminated Kotabagh but was nowhere to be seen. I was served my dose of morning masala tea at 7 in the bed. As I walked out of the room to plant myself on the cane chairs, the sun rose up in full glory. It was bright and shiny and provided much needed warmth as well. We were supposed to go for a short walk in the nearby jungle and little did I know that it would turn out to be among the highlights of the experience with V Resorts Kotabagh.
The full splendour of autumn colours was felt in the forest as yellow leaves lay scattered everywhere. The sound of crunching leaves beneath our feet felt like music to the ears. A couple of exotic looking colourful birds paid a brief visit. It felt like a movie setting until we reached the dry riverbed; after that I realised it was indeed a scene from a movie!! It was perfect.
Chai in the wilderness – rustic luxury
The chef and staff at V Resorts Kotabagh had put out a table in the wild, and with the unmissable backdrop of a single tree in the background it was a grand setting, to say the least. The warmth of the sun was a welcome addition as we savoured another masala chai in the crisp and fresh winter air. My lungs welcomed this burst of happiness after having suffered for a few days in Delhi and the dusty environs of the North-east in Arunachal Pradesh.
Getting Lost in the Jungle – V Resorts Tagline
Akin to the V Resorts tagline ‘Get Lost’ that I had spotted on their signboard, it was an epic experience to get lost in the jungle. Along with the resort manager and the staff, we were supposed to go for a long hike in the jungle and end up at the enigmatic Sitabani Temple deep inside the forest. After a hearty breakfast of paranthas and aloo ke gutke, we set out at 0930 for the temple. It was a memorable walk in the old forest of Corbett; with the winter dew and filtering sunlight providing excellent company.
We reached the Moteshwar Mahadev temple at 11; the Sadhu was performing a pooja and welcomed us. He asked us if we wanted some chai; we told him we’d try the chai on our way back and enquired the way to Sitabani Temple. It was supposed to be only a 15-20 minute walk away but we were definitely not prepared for what lay ahead! We had to wade through knee-deep water in the numerous streams and rivulets and were actually ‘lost’ at one point of time! The water was freezing cold and the confusion in the path meant we were trying to wrack our brains to try and retrace our tracks.
It was a thrilling experience to get lost in the jungle and be more aware to the footmarks of the animals, the bird calls, swaying green leaves of the forest, animal droppings near the waterholes and pay so much attention to our surroundings. After an hour or so, we were finally at the Sitabani temple meaning we were successful in finding our way in the jungle!
The Sitabani temple is steeped in history and folklore. The locals claim that this is the same place where Sita was in the jungle for 12 years during the vanvaas (exile) as mentioned in the epic Ramayana. The Sitabani Temple is dedicated to Lord Rama’s wife Sita with the statue depicting Sita with her sons Luv & Kush. The temple is situated in the midst of lots of greenery and also has a natural water source nearby. It is a recommended visit if you are in the vicinity.
Traditional Kumaoni Lunch at a village home in Kotabagh
Gahat ki dall, Bhatt ka dubka, paalak ka kaapa, locally grown rice, and madua roti (finger millet) with home made ghee were the offerings at a local’s home. The traditional Kumaoni Lunch experience was designed by the staff at V Resorts Kotabagh and was executed perfectly. The food had been cooked to perfection and was really tasty. We went to a local’s home and were served the lunch on green leaves freshly plucked from the farms.
Along with the tasty lunch, it was nice to discuss Uttarakhand, Kumaon and the local food with the very knowledgeable Mr. Pandey ji in whose home we were relishing the food. Even water was served in bronze glasses (traditional way across India). Dessert was quickly whipped up and consisted of tasty halwa made from the local flour. I couldn’t help but marvel at the indigenous dishes and the wisdom of the old mountain folk.
Corbett Museum at Kaladhungi
I had been to Corbett earlier and the Jim Corbett museum at Kaladhungi had been eluding me on previous visits. On this visit though, I made sure of going to this iconic Museum this time! Jim Corbett’s old home has been converted into a museum. The buildings are located in lush greenery and the house is an old colonial structure where Jim Corbett used to live. The exhibits include photographs of Jim Corbett and life stories of the great hunter and conservationist. Entry is 10 Rupees for Indians.
Inside the Corbett Museum compound is also a shop selling memorabilia from Corbett National Park with tee-shirts, knick-knacks, souvenirs and Kumaoni foodstuffs. I’d definitely recommend a visit for everyone who is interested in knowing about the history of Jim Corbett and Corbett National Park.
Sunset and valley views in Kotabagh
The machan sit-out at V Resorts Kotabagh is a fabulous place to enjoy the sunset and evening colours of the valley. In the morning hours, bird watchers are likely to have a good time spotting a few colourful birds that are perched on the amla tree. One of the days, we had driven past Kotabagh village and taken the long winding road to try and reach a locally popular temple perched on a hilltop. It was a stunning location that boasted of shining green fields in the valley below!
Mud pit breakfast
Although the manager had originally decided that I must experience a mud-pit dinner, the cold wave across North India in December made us reconsider the idea. It was deemed more suitable to either try it during the evening snack or for morning breakfast. The mud-pit is a nice setting of creating an improvised sofa set by mud and it is set in the ground. The middle part is like a conventional table so the mud-pit is a comfortable place to dine for a group of 4 persons.
For added effect, spotless white linen is put across the table and sitting space in the mud-pit making it look regal. Four temporary posts have also been erected for the purpose of lighting them up for evening dinners. I’m certain the setting looks even more stunning under the night skies.
The swing, badminton, cycling, carrom
Since the V Resorts Kotabagh is located in a secluded location, the night skies were very clear and I almost wished the geminid meteor shower would have happened when I was there! It was a nice time when I sat on the comfortable swing and let the breeze bring tales from far and wide.
Apart from the numerous jungle walks, family folks also have the option of other outdoor and indoor games at V Resorts Kotabagh. One can play badminton in the ample open space or try their hand at carrom. For cycling enthusiasts, the resort also has cycles for the use of guests.
Slideshow of interesting local trivia in the cottages at V Resorts Kotabagh.
Check other posts from Uttarakhand :