For starters, all structures have been hand cut, from the villa walls to umpteen steps leading up and down and everywhere (well, the hilltop isn’t flat, so no two structures are really at the same level). Yes, you have to trek up and down and all over as all the wood used has been sourced from the abandoned barracks at Ranikhet. In a region that is increasingly suffering from deforestation, the natural flow of water is maintained. His determination to not compromise even on the smallest detail has meant your footprint during your stay at Queens Meadows is quite literally invisible.
The green imprint in this shrine to ecotourism goes deeper. At first glance, the unkempt-looking lawns might surprise, but Sarin is clear that the focus here is on growing food. The scarce water is judiciously used, and seasonal crops are mainly vegetables such as onions, peas and tomatoes. Fruit trees such apples, almond, pomegranate, and citrus varieties have been planted, while the local kafal, or bayberry, are plentiful already in the premises. A lime bush fruited so extensively in season that struts had to be put in place to support it, Sarin points out like a proud parent. Yes, it truly is tree to table here.
Take a relook at the eight 750-square-feet villas and seven 450-square-feet luxury tents, all of which function in the same sustainable manner. The villa walls are made of stone cladding with a clay wash of kharia and dhaan (rice) with the local auspicious aipan, or patterns, in red geru powder. The wooden ceilings are supported by metal rafters, though thatched roofs are visible too. Hydroelectricity is the chief source of power, though the resort is looking at composting for gas in the future. But for a TV, every amenity that a hotel of this price range is expected to have is present. Including organic toiletries, sourced from a local NGO.
The food is primarily Indian, though I did see a fair sprinkling of ‘conti’ stuff—from oats and fried eggs to hash brown and bacon at breakfast. A Kumaoni meal is a treat I missed, though others vouched for it as the culinary highlight of their stay.
For those who have the time, do step out for a day by the river, a tributary of the Kosi (not to be confused with the sorrow of Bihar). Or simply sit back and let the Sarins take care of you, over a bonfire as you look over the twinkling lights of Ranikhet in the hills in front. Or enjoy a cosy candlelit dinner in one of the many nooks. One could, of course, go trekking, rappelling, rock climbing or play golf at a course nearby. There is a clubhouse and souvenir shop within the resort. A bookshelf is well stocked with past copies of Outlook Traveller! Every room comes with a hammock, ideal for a balmy evening. My recommendation is a spot of reflexive time alone in the pagoda-like gazebo on stilts, incidentally the highest point in the resort. Or just take in the unmatched vistas over chai-pakodi. For the eco-conscious who want a luxurious holiday in this part of the world, look no further.
Getting to Queens Meadows, especially if you are considering driving up from say Delhi, can be arduous, taking around nine hours, if all goes your way. Perhaps you could instead take the train to Kathgodam, and then a cab from there. But once you get there, the warm hospitality of the Sarins and their 22-strong staff means it becomes your home away from home.
Village Badhan, Chiliyanaula, Ranikhet, Uttarakhand 263645
8 villas, 7 luxury tents
₹15,000 for a double occupancy villa, all-inclusive. Not just breakfast, lunch and dinner, but also all the coffee or soft drinks you can glug! Or barbecue snacks, or local fruits, or anything else you might fancy...