What would you call a place that holds on to the memories of your visit, so that when you return, you find them safe and waiting? Paintings by a French artist who visited two years ago still hung in his old room, and stones collected from the nearby river, hand-painted by children, lay strewn across the lobby and sitting rooms. You wouldn’t call a place like this a hotel, or a resort; you’ll call it a home away from home. Guess that’s why the French painter is coming back this year, for his fourth trip to this same ‘home’.
It was this beautifully done up place—infused life in the rooms and added a unique character to the place.
Dimple and Upendra Kamra, our hosts, curated the interiors on a shoestring budget, with dollops of love, care and much attention to detail. They used recycled bottles on all the lamps and across the walls, laid out carpets (from their ancestral farm) that are borderline antique in all the rooms, put to use their respective grandparents’ furniture in the cottages, procured antique fireplaces from offbeat destinations, and put up hand-painted wall plates and kettles (most were gifts from their friends).
In fact, each corner at this property Gone Fishing Cottages—nestled in a pristine part of the unspoiled Tirthan Valley, that became our home for four days last year. We reached late afternoon in early October, and settled into our cottage. After a meal of kadhi-chawal in the quaint dining room, we went looking around the resort, which has three cottages; two with two bedrooms each, and a big one with three bedrooms. They let out entire cottages, but you could opt for single rooms as well. Decorated in a bootstrapped manner, the most striking elements of the décor were the knick-knacks collected from travellers worldwide. The vividly painted walls tells a story. Some display travel memories, while some showcase emotions and memories of children growing up. Some celebrate a colour—for example, a striking yellow wall. Why? Because, in Dimple’s words “yellow is the colour of happiness, that of a warm summer day, of spring daffodils, of the giggle of a child, and of autumn leaves dancing in the breeze.”
In the evening we went for a walk with the people managing the resort. Gathering wood for the evening bonfire is sort of a ritual for them and they carried their own ‘kilta’ and collected fallen pine cones and dead wood. They emphasised the need to leave a trail cleaner than you find it. Most of the guests joined them for an evening walk, where they collected litter from the trails they walked on.
Although I did partake, for me the trail was therapeutic in more ways than one—it was a good workout, a mind soother, and turned out to be a birder’s (my hubby’s) delight as we spotted khaleej (pheasants) and peacocks, and a preoccupied porcupine scuttling along the road. And if you listened carefully, you could almost hear the wind whisper ancient, timeless secrets passing through the trees as crickets sung their tunes. A couple of dogs from the resort (yes, there were a few) came along for the walk. The property was the forever home for many rescued and abandoned animals, both four-legged and winged.
At Gone Fishing, they believe in connecting guests with local culture. After spending a cosy evening in front of a lovely bonfire in the backyard of our cottage, we had some more of the local cuisine for dinner—Pahari mutton and sidu, which turned out to be a revelation. A local wheat bread made with yeast, it is stuffed with mashed boiled green peas, roasted peanuts, walnuts, and paneer. It looks like a bao and we dipped it in melted ghee and a tangy, green chutney. Absolutely delish!
We started the next day by driving to the unbelievably beautiful heritage village, Sarchi—a 15-kilometre dirt road from Gushaini, just two kilometres away from the resort. The stone-walled, wood-panelled houses of Sarchi were a delight. This place was untouched by the cultivated world. The local deity of Sarchi is Jagdamba Rishi and you’ll find an ancient temple dedicated to him at the centre of the village. The intricate woodwork showcased an undulating body of a snake, which looked almost lifelike.
We spent the afternoon angling, a must-do sport if you have the patience for it. The Tirthan Valley is legendary fishing country, boasting of some of the richest trout rivers in this part of the world. Trout fishing permits were inexpensive and easily obtained, as were angling guides.
In the evening, we curled up on a bean bag with a book and a steaming cup of tea. There were hundreds of books at the resort; in fact, whichever room you might books. It is indeed a book lover’s paradise, and even if you don’t get to read one, just being around them makes you feel at home. As it was a clear night, my husband and son decided to star gaze (they have a telescope). To each his own...isn’t that what all good vacays are made of?
We stayed in the next day. Our agenda for the trip was to just relax. We spent our morning on the deck, basking in the sudden, beautiful burst of sunshine. We gazed at the flowers, at the deep green all around. Marvelling at the start of butterflies under the dreamy clouds peeking every now and then...what a lovely day it was. The night was even better, as we wound down with some fresh, deliciously steamed trout and a side of fresh vegetables.
The resort takes its responsibility towards the environment very seriously, and tries to keep this beautiful state as pollution-free as possible. Everyone at the resort was encouraged to get their own bottles to drink water. They don’t sell mineral water bottles nor will they let you buy them. The water, instead, is sourced from a clean, natural spring.
Himachal is known for its absolutely spectacular landscapes, deep gorges, verdant valleys, thundering rivers, mountain lakes, sloping meadows and (what I loved the most) the kathguni-style temples and magnificent monasteries steeped in time. If you listen closely, you might even hear the voices from the past telling you stories. So, when you visit Tirthan, you must spend some time exploring all these and more. You can also go hiking to the Himalayan National Park, or on myriad other picturesque trails both nearby and far. Visit Chaini Kothi and Serloskar Lake, although we chose not to. Maybe next time. We did take a bit of a detour and went to Jalori Pass on our drive back to Delhi. The few extra driving hours were totally worth it.
I couldn’t help but be reminded of a Hans Christian Andersen quote: “Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” And if there is one place where I will go to get my fill of these and a breather from the city, it is at Gone Fishing Cottages in the pristinely unspoiled Tirthan Valley. It’s a place away from the noise and worries of a daily life, and a space where you feel safe. I did.
Gone Fishing Cottages is located in the Deori village of Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh. The nearest airport is Bhuntar, 44 kilometres away (1 hr 40 mins). You can also take a Volvo bus from New Delhi to Aut (470 kms/11 hrs) and then head to Deori by cab (40 mins). The property has seven rooms, including two 2-bedroom cottages and one 3-bedroom cottage. Each cottage comes with a living room, kitchen and dining area. Rooms are from Rs 5,000 per night. +91-8988496587; firstname.lastname@example.org; gonefishingcottages.com