Words: AISHWARYA MENON
Photographs: VIKRANT KHARAT
“Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze
Country roads, take me home…
To the place I belong”
When John Denver wrote this Grammy-winning song, little did he know that his words would resonate so strongly with a tiny hamlet deep in the woods of Uttarakhand!
At The Hermitage, Kanatal, you wake up to the sun seeping through the forests and through the large, French windows, to a cup of tea waiting on a spacious verandah, bordered with pretty flowers, and prettier plants… To the sound of birds chirping and monkeys gliding from one tree to another… To days where you have absolutely nothing to do except an easy hike to the nearby temple after fueling up with aloo-pyaaz parathas and a glass of chilled burhansh (rhododendron) juice.
Kanatal, a tiny village close to Mussoorie, is one of Uttarakhand’s best-kept secrets. Devoid of the crowds that plague Mussoorie and Dehradun, it’s the perfect choice for a break with family or friends, and The Hermitage, a boutique property cozied up in the Kaudia jungle, makes for a great base. The rooms are furnished with everything that one would require to sustain the chilly weather – a bed warmer, a heater, and 24×7 hot water, and, of course, the company of Suman Bhatia, the incredibly warm and affable owner of this property.
A drive through the jungles of Kaudia is straight out of a dream. Or rather a game of Road Rash you played as a kid. You might think an ever-changing landscape on your drive would be perfect, but try the Chamba-Mussoorie road for a constant scenic charm from start to finish. If you’re an early riser, set off on a two-hour-long jungle safari just before sunrise to spot foxes, wild boars, musk deer, carefree in the wild.
Post the safari, drive up to the foothills of Surkanda Devi Temple, and hike up from there. To get to the temple, you’ll need to dodge a dozen or so hungry monkeys, and climb what seems like a million steep steps carved into the hill, but the sprawling views of the Himalayan range make it all worth it. As the myth associated with this temple goes, the temple came to exist where the head of Sati (Goddess Parvati) fell after Shiva carried her on his shoulder from Kankhal, Haridwar, after she had set herself on fire, upon not being invited by her father, Daksha, for a sacrificial feast for all the deities.
If time permits, drive down to Tehri Lake. What is now Asia’s largest man-made lake was once an actual village settlement. Locals say, during the days when the water level is low, you can still see remains of the village.
While on the outside, Uttarakhand might appear like a heavily-infested-with-tourists kind of state, there still exist a few cards that it keeps guarded, close to its heart. And you must visit. But be warned; it’s quite likely that you may never want to leave.
To chill out and enjoy the trekking and adventure activities in Kanatal, travel this trip NOW; check out LPMI’s January 2019 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.