Offbeat Uttarakhand - for the love of Mountains, trails, people, rural stays
From flight, train, to Road trip in an open jeep...open mountain ranges ...to valleys so breathtakingly deep...
Staying in heritage home, cottages and tents under open skies star gazing nights to early morning sunrise
Eating farm grown organic food..to getting high on innumerous cups of tea
Exchange of travel stories over a bonnfire to crazy dancing, singing, laughing to your heart's desire...
Trekking the mountains... and lying in open meadows...its where the soul is fulfilled and the wisdom grows..
Being welcomed wholeheartedly by strangers and painfully departing with friends..
certain gaps that we create in daily mundane life, only travel can mend...
Travel fills your soul..I have experienced it so many times...and as I am growing daily in life the lessons and memories on travel are much precious and momentous.
I have always been a fan of wildrift.com since year 2006 when i discovered them for my first trip to Mukteshwar. Since then ,I have never looked at anyone else but WILDRIFT. While this writeup is not to promote them commercially, it's just to explain the difference between touring a place and traveling it.
While a tourist goes to Nainital, Maussorie and other popular places of Uttarakhand, which have been too much commercialized already and have lost the charm, Wildrift adentures is completely offbeat and out of the world.
A complete travel experience in itself, starting from offbeat destinations, unconventional accommodations, organic, pure and yet delicious food, living with locals, sharing stories on Bonnfire to dancing and singing the trip was a celebration in itself, and most importantly the behavior, these people live "ATITHI DEVO BHAVA" in true spirit.
I am so overwhelmed and out of words to explain my experience because something are just lived, felt and they touch your heart, narrating them in words won't do justice.
DAY 1: KATHGODAM TO DAAN KUDI
We reached Kathgodam from KGM shatabdi express - A good experience of India railways and hospitability begins here with frequent snacks and meals and very comfortable seats.
Pankaj who was wildrift contact was already waiting at the station from last one hour as our train was late. Though we were little irriated by the thought of reaching late as we had around 8 hours drive to planned site at Camp shaama, this delay actually proved a blessing in disguise . Why? because, we were advised to stay in Daan Qurhi for night stay so that we can drive safely next morning. I had visited Dann Qurhi already and I am a big fan of this place. It was lucky for my friends that they got an opportunity, to stay in this amazing accommodation:
The heritage village house was built in 1886 and for over a century, was the festive and cultural hub of the surrounding villages, great place for big family holidays, artistic retreats and quiet for intellectual musings. Located at one of the highest points (4780 feet) in the valley of the sun, the house stares at the valley below with fields and village homes. 17 kms away from Ranikhet at Goluchhina.
We met two wildrift associates who were true travelers in their spirits, Suraj and Kesar Da. While Suraj had started as a professional traveler in class 6th and was still in his 20's, Kesar da was a 54 year old young man, with lots of local knowledge to enrich you. The travel experiences of both these veterans left us amazed and inspired us for our future travels.
We had an unforgettable night stay and the excitement was beyond words. Bonnfire, travel stories exchanged over tea, dancing and singing under a sky full of stars, participating in our celebration. Real bliss for eyes, mind and soul, I couldn't be more grateful, it was perfect.
DAY2: CAMP SHAAMA
After a long journey of 6.5 hours and a 3 kms trek carrying our bags we arrived to this hidden piece of heaven as explorers. The feeling after you have actually arrived at such a magical place after lots of efforts is worth it , it fills you with a sense of achievement as if you earned it. Same happened to us when we reached Camp Shaama, it was kind of a table top island with 360 degree view wherever you see whatever you see casts a spell on you. Since most of my friends were traveling for the first time I could notice the spark in their eyes and that filled my heart with even more joy.
We forgot our pain of the journey and were excitedly wandering the place awestruck with the way, cottages has been constructed, small basic and yet strikingly splendid. The view of Nanda devi mountain ranges added to the toast.
The sunset and surise, were absolutely peaceful and serene
In the night during bonnfire again we had some story telling sessions, singing, leg pulling. As soon as, I looked towards the sky a calming silence mounted on me, the sight was spell bounding. I haven't seen this clear sky since years, the density of stars was noticeable. I was so impressed that, i got up at 3:30 in night just to see the sky and density has multiplied to many times with darkness.
DAY 3 Trek to Meadow
Next day after having the delicious local breakfast, we left for a small trek to meadows thru deep jungles. My friends were scared, exhausted and yet very content. I could see although it was a little tough for them , no one complained, there was so much to look around and admire.
We reached the meadow over looking Nandadevi ranges , a closer view of the same and it was an open ground. This site was so apt for shooting that we filmed "Tujh mein rab dikhta hai" , such good memories, such good times.
The lunch was prepared over the site and it added to the adventure, Rajma Chawal with amazing Raita. I can still feel the goodness and taste of the meal.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trek and came back to the camp, again welcomed with snacks and tea. The best part is tea lovers like us are completely satisfied, you ask for it and it's there what else could I wish for :).
DAY 4: Camp Shaama to Mukteshwar
After breakfast with a heavy heart we left for Mukteshwar camp, We were heavy hearted as camp Shaama experience has been overwhelming. People who has served us during our stay along with some locals whom we made friend came for our farewell last day.
Finally we left with some wonderful memories of the place
I have been to Muteshwar camp from wildrift ealier too so I had a fair idea no one is going to be disappointed till now our journey had been absolutely amazing and the expectations were already high.
I absolutely enjoyed the open jeep ride with my friend till Bageshwar. The weather was promising and the roads were stunning.
After a long journey of around 8 hours we reached Muteshwar, we were welcomed by silhouette lighten sky and city-lights. All our weariness was released with the beautiful site and the Cameras came out once again.
We were desperately waiting to reach the site finally when we arrived, we were allotted a tent each. Unlike our common camp tents these tents have two single beds with quilt along with table and carpet, so is more like a room and bathrooms as usual are clean, tidy and eco-friendly.
I met some old buddies who were there when I visited 10 years ago they recognised me and had the same warmth and friendliness. Since we were remote all these days we finally charged our batteries and connected to the virtual word. Night was unexpectedly cold and we enjoyed bonfire and left to sleep, as early morning next day was expected to be promising with golden sunlight glowing Nandadevi's snow gold.
DAY 5 - Mukteshwar
I left for the morning trek alone with Anita who was our host there and a very lively lady, we went to a hill top where the ranges could be seen all wide without obstruction, enjoyed the morning warmth of sunlight and clicked few shots.
When I came back my friends were already up and enjoyed the sun rise at the site, laying on the comfortable patio chairs. We had a heavy breakfast and left for treasure hunt in the village.
The treasure hunt began as soon as we hopped in the car because the village chosen was not even familiar with our driver, and that was the trick. however he successfully took us there, we were given chits and got divided in teams to find our destination home in village where our lunch was served.
We had great fun and enjoyed wandering around the village asking people and knowing interesting things, we were served delicious farm grown food right from the source has chit chat sessions.
Finally we until we left for Kathgodam for our journey back to Delhi.