NOT JUST ANOTHER TRAIL
Words & photographs: JEREMIAH CHRISTANAND RAO
GREAT FROM New Delhi, Dehradun
GREAT FOR A luxurious romantic escape
As you gain altitude and get closer to the clouds that rest lazily on the mountaintops, your first instinct is to roll your windows down and soak in the warm sunshine as the cool breeze nips your nose. That feeling never gets old in Uttarakhand.
While many would argue that Mussoorie isn’t what is used to be, there are still some unspoilt places that let you enjoy the peace and tranquillity. One of them is the newly-opened JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa, tucked away in the Himalayas far from the bustling Mall Road and Library Bazaar. It’s one of those few places that not only offers you a luxurious retreat, but also lets you explore the hills with the Walnut Trail, a collection of uniquely-designed activities that can be customised as per your preferences.
Even if early mornings aren’t your usual cup of tea, this little trek to a stream will definitely make it worth your while. After a short, 10-minute downward trail, your sleepy eyes widen at the sight of a lavish breakfast set up in the middle of a flowing river. If the menu, comprising local cuisine, doesn’t wake you up, the gushing water around your breakfast table definitely will.
After breakfast, get chauffeured to your next destination on a Royal Enfield, as you take in breathtaking views of the Jaunpur mountain range. You arrive at Brentwood Sanctuary, where you put your walnut-plucking skills to the test. Walnut-plucking is a lot harder than it sounds; walnut trees can grow pretty tall with branches so slender it’ll make you think twice before stepping on them.
Take a break from all that activity and head to Bhatoli Village to experience a slice of rural life. This scenic village is dotted with bursts of sunshine yellow – the locals have a novel way of storing corn cobs. Bunches of corn are hung upside- down from every nook of their homes like decorative bunting. Stop by at Jaipal Singh’s 100-year-old abode, where his family will treat you to makai ki roti with chutney, and their famous walnut kheer for dessert.
Meet the other residents of this area at the Jabarkhet Wildlife Reserve. The hill might look quite intimidating, but the eight trails – designed with various difficulty levels – allow younger kids, or even the slightly unfit, to enjoy the pretty walk up to the top. The sanctuary is home to over 100 varieties of birds and 300 species of plants. The hidden cameras here have also captured barking deer, wild boar, Himalayan black bears, and, of course, the leopards that inhabit the hills. Crisscrossed with strings of Tibetan prayer flags fluttering in the breeze, the stunning view from the top sure makes it worth the climb. To the south, you can see the Doon Valley, protected by the Shivaliks, while, to the north, lie the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan range. With an aim to conserve and restore the ecological balance of the forest, the sanctuary works to educate not only visitors, but also the locals about the importance of preserving the forests. Return to the hotel for a relaxing walnut pedicure at the beautifully-designed Cedar Spa by L’Occitane, followed by a dinner under the stars.
As Mussoorie’s most famous local Ruskin Bond once said, “It’s always the same with the mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape.”