Sometimes all you need is TO BREAK AWAY…
That is exactly the state of mind I was in after being stuck for almost 7 months at home due to ‘The Virus that must not be spoken about’. While initially I was okay with the whole staying at home and getting enough of ‘me time’, but by Oct 2020, I had definitely reached my peak of frustration.
People all around had started taking staycations, I however was still unsure. All I needed was a nudge, and thankfully a catch-up over drinks with a friend, was just that. She mentioned that she was planning to head to the hills for few days, and since work from home allowed that flexibility, was just finalising which place to work out of.
That’s when my travel spirit started poking me. While I didn’t react immediately, and took a whole night to think over, however, early next morning I sent her the message: “Can I join pleaseee…I promise to be the best travel partner you have ever had…pretty please”.
And rest is history 😊
Travel research is the foreplay I crave for (as you already would know if you have ready any of my previous travel diaries). And so I got right on it.
While we had shortlisted Uttarakhand, we had to further shortlist the exact city and most importantly the home-stay/cottage where we would spend the few days of bliss. Considering the fact that we wanted to be safely away from the crowds, and specifically wanted to be as close to nature (both of us being trekkers wanted as much opportunity to trek around as possible), there was a lot of parameters to consider during the research. Me and my friend must have looked at all the options available online, and then miraculously found the ‘Perfect place’.
It was a chance hit on ‘The White Peaks’ website when I had almost given up hope and was leaning towards compromising one or two ‘must-haves’.
It was love at first sight. The website gave us a glance of what we could look forward to when we visited, had beautiful pictures of the well decorated home of ‘The Chatterjee’s’ and most importantly the reviews were amazing. There was nothing not to love about this cute little two bedroom house in Gagar, Uttarakhand and the best part was that it was available on the dates we were looking to travel on.
With all necessary arrangements made- Advance paid, directions taken and most importantly Covid Test done (the owner requested us to get it done so as to ensure the safety of the caretaker of the house and the locals, and of guests who would occupy the home after our stay), we were all ready and packed to hit the road.
We booked a taxi from MakeMyTrip in order to save us the tension of driving in the hills and had a very pleasant experience all together. The driver was there to pick us at the scheduled time of 7.30 am , and drove well within speed limits.
Delhi to Gagar is around 7 hours by road. Our driver took the route from Delhi< Rampur<Bilaspur<Rudrapur<Haldwani<Bhowali<Gagar, which was comfortable however we were later told that there was a shorter route by hitting Nainital and then coming to Bhowali.
We decided to keep our stops to the bare minimum (freaked out with the-virus-that-must-not-be-spoken-about) , and managed to thus make it to our destination by 3 PM.
Mohan our caretaker from White Peaks had been in touch with us and we had informed him that we would have lunch at the cottage itself. He was waiting for us along with Pawan (his assistant help 😊) and Kaali (the cutest pahaadi doggo ever). We had been well warned that the cottage was a bit of an uphill walk and hence we were prepared to huff-it and puff-it up. While a little steep, it wasn’t too bad. We were already super excited with the fresh, clean air and were planning our evening stroll, when we reached the cottage door and instantly fell in love with the view.
The view from the cottage courtyard was straight of the Himalayas and it was an uninterrupted one. Instantly a mood up lifter, and suddenly all the tiredness from the journey, VANISHED. And then we entered the cottage….. I have no words to describe this cute, cozy little den which was done up so aesthetically and with so much love. It was even better than the photos we saw on the website.
This duplex with its wooden flooring had the kitchen, living room, dining room and a bathroom in the lower ground floor, and two bedrooms with attached bathrooms on the floor above. There was even a fireplace in the living room, which was just what we wanted for the cold evenings here.
And the cherry on top of the cake was the amazing lunch that Mohan bhaiya served us. So tasty and so healthy…already drooling thinking about it.
Its only later after the trip was over; we realised, how setting the breakfast, lunch and dinner menu with Mohan bhaiya was the highlight of our trip. No matter how much we stuffed ourselves we were so ready to eat the next meal when it was time😊.
That could also be because we were trekking almost 15 kms daily there. But ok, let me not jump the gun here and stick to the flow.
After stuffing ourselves, I decided to take a short nap in the uber comfy bed, so as to be fresh before we left for our evening walk. The nap did me good, and so did the refreshing Ginger Lemon Honey tea served along with cookies (see, I told you we never got done with the eating 😊).
By 5.30 PM we were heading out with no destination in mind. Just felt like walking where the wind took us. Ofcourse Kaali decided to accompany us, and so we decided to follow her instead of the wind 😉.
One can find more homestays and camping sites around the cottage area, but the best part is that each has its own privacy, without intruding the ‘space’ of the other. Also seemed like both Mohan and Kaali are super popular in the whole town. Whenever we needed directions, all we had to say was “Mohan House” and we would be instantly directed. In some cases, we didn’t even have to say anything. As soon as they would see Kaali with us, they would understand and simply point in the direction.
It was a pleasant 1 hour of walking around before we head back. Since it gets dark really early in the hills, we didn’t want to take a chance of walking in the dark.
The evenings are the best part in The White Peaks. You ask why? Well, if there is wine, roasted peanuts, jazz music, great company and a super cozy lit fireplace, what else do you want. While the vibes were ‘romantic’, me and my gal friend decided to make the best of it and got on to the next best thing to romance- ‘A Gossip session’.
It was such a fun evening overall, and the yum Indian-Chinese meal prepared by Mohan was a cherry on top of the cake.
Called it a day by 10 PM, as I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open, and fell asleep instantly. Zzzzzzzz…..
Next morning, I woke up surprisingly early for my standards – by 6.30 am. It was so bright and sunny outside, that my room was literally taunting me for being indoors. I decided to give myself half an hour more, before I got dressed for some serious trekking that we had planned for today.
Mohan had suggested that we go further up the hill we were on, and right at the top we could go visit a small yet famous temple called the ‘Jhandi-daar’ temple. The trek would take us anywhere between 45 mins to an hour, one way. That would be perfect, as we could then be back in time for a scrumptious breakfast prepared for us (menu had been decided the previous day remember 😊).
We were on our way by 7.30 am, with only a bottle of water and our high spirits. The weather was perfect and the air as clean as it could be. This was a different world all together and I was so thankful to be here at this moment. A sincere moment of gratitude.
The temple trek took us just around 45 mins and we were glad that we made it in good time. Once on top of the hill, the view is mesmerising. One can see the beautiful Himalayan peaks, the valley and the tiny dots of houses, and of course the clear blue sky.
The temple has a priest who looks after it and he seemed to be a jolly fellow. Offered us a cup of tea and sat with us for a while, talking about the various kinds of people who come by the temple and his contributions in making their journey a spiritual one.
After around half an hour, we decided to head back so that we could be in time for breakfast made by Mohan bhaiya 😊.
The journey back was smooth and we discussed everything right from political ideology, to religion to relationships in that 35 minutes. Definitely one of the best treks I had in a long time.
We reached back in time for some hot cheese omelettes with some poha. After the workout, food tastes even better than it usually does. Even today when I think back to that beautiful view and the wonderful clean cool breeze with a strong dash of sunlight, I smile and let out a long sigh of nostalgia.
Today on schedule was a trip to a nearby town where I had to meet a close friend who also happened to be vacationing in Uttarakhand. We had decided to meet closer to where she was staying, at a café run by her friend.
I had booked a cab for my travel via a local vendor(you will have to book one from Bhowali as there are no cab services in Gagar) and was on my way right after a nice hot bath(mind you, in the hills it has to be a quick one as water is scarce and not wasting water is the least we can do for the nature). While as per GPS the place was an hour away, however, we managed to take the wrong turn in between and added another 30 mins to the journey. Finally by 2 pm I finally reached Eleven Lounge Café which is in Gangori, Manrasa. If you happen to cross by that area, do visit. Not only is it situated very well, with the open seating facing the mountains and a lake, but the food is really delish too.
I had a great time chatting with my friend and talking about fun times together and of course enjoying the lunch followed by a hot cuppa coffee 😊.
Since it gets dark really soon in the hills, I was conscious of ensuring I leave the café well in time to make it back before it gets too late. Especially since there are literally no street lights, and the curves can be steep, its better to be back when you can still see the road (even though I was not driving).
By 7 pm I was back at The White Peaks and my friend was also just back from her trek around the area. By now, it was getting really cold and so when Mohan put the fireplace on, we decided that the sofa opposite the fireplace is where we will be parked for the whole night before we called it a night.
Kaali the cutie doggo, also joined us on the couch and we put some nice music and opened a bottle of wine(yes another bottle..duhh). After a sumptuous continental dinner and some fruit custard for dessert, we decided to head back to our own rooms for some ‘own time’ before we went into a deep slumber. Ohh I slept soooo well. And by 7 am was up fresh and bright.
For today, we had decided to go trekking up the Tagore point which was a good 2 hours away. We packed breakfast and started by 8 am. Instructions given by Mohan bhaiya was, to keep going straight down the road and then we would just know when it was time to turn and head up the mountain. Trust me, that’s not what happened.
We took almost 2 wrong turns, which led us to some really beautiful places, before we finally were on the right track.
One wrong turn ended with us entering someone home- a private property, however it had such an amazing yet spooky charm to it that we managed to stay for a bit and take few great pics for memories.
We even made a friend while on our way to Tagore Point. Another fellow trekker who was staying in a nearby cottage joined us for a part of the journey and told us some really interesting places to see around if time permitted. That’s the best part about hills- You meet so many new people and all having the same passion i.e. Nature, fresh air and long walks.
That day we walked more than 25000 steps and by the time we were back home i.e. after almost 4.5 hours, we were super hungry. Mohan had been alerted already by us over call, and so as soon as we were back and had freshened up, the lunch was served. Slurppp..I cannot begin to explain our excitement of that delicious food. We ate and ate like we hadn’t eaten for days. It was the perfect meal after a perfect day out.
That evening we took it comparatively easy and just headed nearby to this highly recommended forest called the Kuleti forest, to see the sunset. It was just 2 kms from Whitepeaks, and since we were there by 4 PM, we had enough time to just sit there and talk and take in the wonderful sight before the sunset.
On our way to the open area for seeing the perfect sunset, we had happened to cross a huge mansion and were very intrigued about the residents. Just our luck, that when we were heading back after seeing the sunset, we found an older gentleman walking back and while we were crossing he stopped and greeted us very warmly. We got talking and lo and behold, he was the owner of that mansion. Both he and his wife had lived there for almost 20 years and he was kind enough to invite us for tea. If it hadn’t been getting dark, and if we weren’t scared shit of getting attacked by a leopard, we would have definitely accepted his invitation. But alas, we had to politely decline.
Since it was a nice chilly post sunset vibe, as soon as we were back home(yes we call The Whitepeaks home now 😉), we asked for maggi and chai. The perfect combination for the perfect weather.
Some light music, seated out under the clear starry sky and a bonfire to keep us warm. We survived an hour in the cold before we decided to head inside and just chill out with some board games and home made sangria.
Tonight was our last night in what had come to become a home we never wanted to say goodbye to, and hence we made the best of the last night with lots of snacks, music and games around the comfy fireplace(but ofcourse), before having our ‘last supper’.
Next morning, I had decided not to plan any early morning treks and instead got out after breakfast for a quick visit to Maheshkhan forest. That was also uite a walk up and back from White Peaks, however worth the visit for sure. It was honestly a little spooky if you are walking instead of driving(like we did), however definitely worth going as that’s your best chance of spotting some wildlife in their natural habitat. In fact, for all you adventure and wildlife freaks, Maheshkhan also has a comfortable government resort inside where you can book in advance and stay.
Our cab was expected to come and pick us around 1 PM, and I had this book to finish before I left, and dedicated 3 hours to it while sitting out in the nice hot sun, and I have absolutely no regrets.
Post a yum last meal of Aaloo Puri, we said our sad goodbyes to Mohan, Pawan and Kaali and were seated in the cab waiting for us.
But oh, guess what. We were not heading home yet. With the hills being so nice and easy, we had extended our trip by 3 days and were instead heading to Mukteshwar, another famous town of Uttarakhand and were going to get some more laze time in the serene hills.
Keep reading to know where and how we spent our time in Mukteshwar.