It is now somewhat of a ritual - an annual trip to Kumaon. While most of my previous journeys have taken me to Kumaon in the monsoon or summer months, this time I decided to go there in the peak of winter to enjoy a few days of freezing mountain air combined with cozy pahadi hospitality.
My adventure through the hills took me to Shyamkhet, a quaint village located near Bhowali where I spent my days at a charming homestay nestled amidst a dense forest.
ABOUT THE STAY
I arrived at the house in the afternoon after a quick and easy train journey from Delhi, followed by a 1.5 hour drive through roads that have become such familiar territory after all my trips through Kumaon. I love how I know and recognise all the roads in this part of the hills :) Makes me feel right at home.
Once I arrived at the house, I was greeted by the beautiful mascots of the house - Raja, Cyber and Lama. Raja is truly the king of the house and demands undivided attention and lots of biscuits and love :) The staff at the property welcomed me warmly and showed me to my room for the next three days - the outhouse cottage with my private room, small living room and sit-out.
The owners of the house Uttam and Shalini were travelling and could not host me personally. Even in their absence, each and every corner of the house was so well looked after that I could tell how much care and attention the owners give to their house.
The main house has three bedrooms, a living room, a TV room, a study area and a stunning glass observatory where I spent most of my days looking out at the mountains. The house offers a huge lawn to sit out, lots of walks around the property and a fire pit for cozy fires under the star-lit sky.
The house has 3 rooms in the main house and 2 rooms in the outhouse. Each rooms is simply decorated with a very charming and aesthetically pleasing feel. Wooden floors and ceilings, glass windows, subtle lighting and balconies offering lovely views of the surrounding mountains.
The outhouse has two attached rooms, a small living room, a bathroom, kitchenette and beautiful front porch. It opens up into a big sit-out where you can light a fire and enjoy the starry sky at night.
But the highlight of the house for me was definitely the stunning glass observatory. The room is beautifully constructed with wood and glass, is adorned with sweet bougainvillea plants and interesting curious collected by the owners from their travels all around the world. It really is the ideal place to sit back and enjoy all the mountain goodness around you - It's the kind of place that you never want to leave!
The house has three crew members - Prakash, Basant and Madhavi. While Prakash cooks up some delicious food for you, Basant and his wife Madhavi ensure you have everything that you need from ginger chai at any time of day, to making fires at night. They work hard to ensure that all is kept clean and tidy and that the gardens remain full of flowers and lush greenery for you!
The three dogs at the property are also a crucial part of the team - Raja, Cyber and Lama. From the moment you enter the house to the time you leave, they greet all the travellers with so much love and warmth and expect a biscuit each for being such good boys!
HOW I SPENT MY DAYS AT SHYAMKHET
While I spent most of my time reading and relaxing in the gorgeous glass observatory, I spent my mornings and evening walking around the surrounding mountain trails, bird watching and meeting locals.
On one of my walks around Shyamkhet, I stumbled upon a small shop called Sunlit Paths that sells products from Auroville and Pondicherry. There I met Kanika, a beautiful little girl who was helping her mother run the shop. Usually she's at school in the day, but it was holiday time in the mountains because of the cold, and this sweet little girl was spending her vacation helping her mom.
What I loved about my trip to Kumaon this time was the charming cafes I discovered. Over the last few years that I've been visiting this region, I felt that it was missing some nice cafes and hang out spaces, but that's not the case anymore. I found two, relatively new cafes, one on the Bhimtal-Bhowali road and other in Naukuchiatal. Both places are amazing and provide the perfect setting for a nice cup of coffee, fresh baked goods and beautiful views!