The summers of the Indian subcontinent are something that may force you into planning great escapes, even crazy ones like travelling 19 hours one-way to spend just two days in the mountains. To cut the premise short, I was getting roasted during an unusually hot spell in Pune when a chance to visit Uttarakhand, to a place called Junoon in the Hills arrived. I had never visited this Himalayan state before so…
Definitely an offer I won’t refuse!
The flight schedules to New Delhi had been thrown off gear due to some very moody weather and my flight was delayed by more than 3 hours. The already overworked Pune airport was bursting at seams and people were just squatting on the floor as the tiny airport hardly does justice to the city. This was just the beginning of a very long journey for me, and I was able to hold on only by the happy thoughts of the mountains and a liberal dose of Red Bull.
In The Hills!
Life started getting beautiful once we reached Kathgodam, the last railway station en route the foothills of the Himalayas. The driver was waiting at the railway station and soon we were on road to the mountains.
Peak summer had its impact in the mountains as well, rivulets were running dry and the slopes seemed parched as we started. Things turned greener (and cooler) as we gained height; we passed Bhimtal and Bhowali before descending to a small town on the side of a mountain stream called Garam Pani. We crossed a small bridge and started ascending towards our destination, a village named Darmani about 10km away. The road was narrow but in good condition and traffic was so sparse that not more than a couple of vehicles ceossed us till we reached the village. Having been travelling continuously for hours in varying degrees of crowds, I was not complaining about the relative absence of human presence.
Junoon in The Hills
Perched prettily on the slope of a mountain, Junoon in the Hills is a labour of love as our hostess so aptly put during our conversations. Every nook and corner of this place speak of the painstaking effort and love that has gone into making it. An oasis of green and calm, this beautiful boutique resort is more of a personal residence, with just the right combination of comfort and luxury that makes it a perfect reclusive getaway.
Junoon in the Hills welcomes visitors with open arms, there is no concept of reception desks or bell boys, rather it is the smiling faces of the simple folks that live and work here that welcomes you on arrival and instantly puts you at ease. The residences are divided into two sections, the main building houses four of those with a kitchen and dining space and a living area which looks straight from the days of the British Raj and opens to a patio giving a beautiful view of the garden and the hills beyond. The other section is a couple of spacious independent cottages that we called home for those two days. The staff is friendly and courteous in a very unobtrusive way. They ask for your opinion on what should be cooked for the next meal and serve delicious vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. There is greenery everywhere and most windows open to the garden.
Talking of the garden, it is an indulgence that needs special mention. An extremely beautiful sight, created with lots of care, and an immense delight to wander around, the beautiful gardens of this place will be the first to draw your attention. There are beds of flowers of all varieties imaginable, a meditating Buddha at one corner, a small fish pond and we even had a weeping willow just in front of our room. A lot of our time was spent in the garden, taking photographs or simply basking in its beauty. By the time we were done, I had this belief that these were the most beautiful private gardens I have seen in a long time… that is until we visited the home and garden of our hosts in Bhowali, stuff that urban dreams are made of!
Back Of The Beyond
दिल ढूँढता है फिर वही फ़ुर्सत के रात दिन
बैठे रहें तसव्वुर-ए-जानाँ किये हुए
I was on a trip without a set agenda or a lot of things to do, the aim being just to be in the hills and enjoy the solitude they offer. As it turned out, this was the perfect place to be for that purpose.
The first realisation came on the evening of our arrival, I was sitting at the swing in the garden, looking at the valley below us as the dusk fell and scattered house lights came up here and there. There was no wind and the air was silent and I just sat there doing nothing, not even checking the mobile phone, till it got chilly and had to move inside. Those couple of hours of nothingness were very therapeutic in nature.
One of our favourite spots in the garden. This swing gave incredible views of the valley beneath and the Himalayan ranges for miles ahead. We were told that one can even see the snow clad peaks when the sky is clearer after the monsoons.
If doing nothing is not your mojo, you can be a little more adventurous and visit many places like Ranikhet and Nainital which are nearby and can also launch expeditions deeper into the Himalayas.
We had no plans to visit any of the ‘tourist attractions’ and spent some time going for walks in the nearby areas when we were not just lazing around. There is a small meadow with pine trees at just a little distance from our stay. In the morning, we walked till there while the sun was yet to come up properly and took some photographs. The evening walk was a little longer and we went all the way to the neighbouring village, getting a closer look at life in the countryside. The houses in the valley looked like matchboxes; the setting sun and the overall beauty of this place made for a lovely evening.
More than a month has passed since I came back from this beautiful place. After a stressful week at work, I miss those two days we spent there, the calmness of it all and an assurance that beyond the cubicles, the world is a different place. I would like to thank the folks at Aamod Resorts who made this trip possible, and a special note of gratitude to the wonderful team (on the right) at Junoon in the Hills who bowled us over with their impeccable hospitality and simplicity. Hope we meet again…