Trekking through mountains, crossing streams and villages, enjoying a picnic, staying at village homes, not having the mobile signal for hours – these are definitely the highlights of my trip to Uttarakhand.
On this trip I ignore the hill stations and instead choose to stay at quaint village homes. I’m on my way to three villages in the Kumaon region – Thikalna, Ghanget and Chalnichhina village – in particular Itmenan Estate, where a 100-year-old Kumoni home has been restored to give city dwellers and authentic rustic experience.
The main idea is to walk from one village to the other and finally reach Itmenan Estate. One can also take the car, but I decide to take up this challenge and each day comes with its share of surprises, treks and a different home for me. Some of the treks are really long, but it is all worth it in the end.
Trekking time – 45 minutes
After a four-hour drive from Kathgodam railway station, the car stops in the middle of the road and from there a 45-minute trek through red rhododendron trees in full bloom takes me to Thikalna where a charming rustic Kumaoni home is warmly lit up with solar lamps. There are two rooms and a small lounge area at this home. This is the first time I stayed at a place without electricity – and absolutely love it. I step out of my room early in the morning to see the sunrise – only to be surrounded by Himalayan peaks including the snow-capped Nanda Devi and lush oak and pine trees. It’s simply gorgeous.
Trekking time – 6 hours
After a heavy breakfast I leave for my next destination – a small village home in Ghanget. The staff at Itmenan says that it’s a three-hour trek but for a person like me who’s hardly used to any activity it turns into a long six-hour tough walk – and I had not even covered half the distance.
On our way, we go to the Jageshwar Temple complex, which is home to more than 100 stone temples. We spend about half an hour there and then carry on the tough trek. It’s a delightful walk through tall pine and oak trees but the highlight is the massive picnic spread the staff lays out during lunch. And for a picnic lunch it’s quite lavish – I dig into carrot and orange salad, red cabbage salad, tortilla potatoes, rhododendron juice, hummus with homemade bread, delicious banana bread followed by a choice of Earl Gray, Darjeeling and Tulsi tea.
We walk for another two hours and then I give up. I just cannot walk further. The car comes and I reach Ghanget in just a few minutes, making me realise how close I was to my destination. The house is at a lower height (1850m) than Thikalna and is surrounded by terrace farms. It’s a lovely two-room house with a sit-out. I even spot a few birds the next day.
Trekking time – 7 hours
Destination: Itmenan Estate, Chalnichhina village
I make my way to my final destination and reach there in seven hours after crossing streams, going past tiny villages, going uphill and downhill a zillion times, walking at the edge of a cliff till I almost feel that I will fall down. Though I am tired the surroundings are breathtaking and make the trek worthwhile.
Itmenan Estate is a century-old traditional Kumaoni home with three rooms. The roof is made of pine logs and the home with local stones. This is a method called kori chinai where homes were made by stacking local stones without using any cementing material.
I spend a lazy day just reading my book, gorging on delicious Kumaoni food and enjoying the peace and quiet of the hills.