Sunday, May 22, 2022
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In The Himalayan Foothills

Hyperlocal meals, lush avenues, and cosy homestays. Do the hills get any better?

In The Himalayan Foothills
Bhimtal on a sunny day Shutterstock

I could hear the slow vibrations gradually filling the room. Although it was cosy enough inside, I still fidgeted and wrapped a warm blanket around. The murmurs and shushing sounds outside now subsided and I tried to focus as instructed by my healer, Adnan. It was only a matter of a few minutes that the sound vibrations picked up and the whole room was reverberating. And for the next forty-five minutes I was transported to an utopian world. And I’d like to believe something changed in me after my first ever sound healing experience. 

Inside the sound healing room
Inside the sound healing room Tarun Bhatia

Well before the pandemic surged again and the fear of the new variant gripped us, I spent a few days, engulfed by the crisp mountain air, in Bhimtal. And I was in for many one-of-a-kind experiences on this trip, trust team Airbnb to find the most exciting, unusual ones. 

The journey that began on a quiet Wednesday morning turned into quite an adventurous one as night fell — think road trip playlists, detours on serpentine hilly roads, and a hearty, scrumptious meal at the end of it all. Calling it an early first night at my cosy Airbnb (more about it later), I was excited for what was in store the next day onwards. 

My day began with a bird watching experience in the lush landscape of Sattal. Neerdiv, our over enthusiastic guide and an avid bird watcher and photographer, ensured that we saw every bird variety possible that morning — 16 to be precise, including the rare mountain hawk eagle, rufous chinned laughing thrush, the fire capped tit, the green tailed sunbird, and the blue whistling thrush. Sattal is well known amidst the birding circle for its numerous bird varieties, including both the native ones and foreign visitors. We ended the walk by the side of a quaint lake, well concealed and nestled amidst a dense, wild growth. 

The fire capped tit
The fire capped tit Neerdiv Bankoti

We spent the afternoon at Bab’s Cafe at Naveen’s Glen and satiated our taste buds to a variety of delicacies. While some may find the narrow path leading up to this chic cafe in the woods daunting, it all becomes worth it the moment you catch a whiff of the woodfired pizzas. Other things that one should not miss out on the menu include the garden salad, roasted chicken as well as the bruschetta. The evening was a quiet affair with dinner and bonfire at the Wild Kumaon overlooking the mountains and a warm, comforting home cooked meal. 

The bruschetta at Bab's Cafe
The bruschetta at Bab's Cafe Simrran Gill

I woke up earlier than expected the next morning, leaving me with ample time to explore the property I was at. My homestay — The Verandah — was located at a slight distance from the conundrum of the town and was a perfect getaway from the city grind that I had been trying to take a break from. Taken care of by Krishna ji and his army, the house has five rooms, all overlooking the majestic mountains in front and out of which two can be used as separate units. And Krishna ji will leave no stone unturned to make sure your stay is more than comfortable. And if you’re wondering, yes I did treat myself to a serving (or more) of maggi with a cup of piping hot adrak chai one morning. Peppered with a variety of plants and layered with a familiar, homely comfort, the property is as rustic and charming as it gets. 

The reading corner in my room
The reading corner in my room Simrran Gill

Another highlight of the trip was cherishing and quite literally engaging all my senses in a hearty Kumaoni thali. Exemplifying the local and seasonal produce, it included the staple dishes of the Kumaon region, prepared with love and warmth (literally and figuratively). As the sun descended beneath the clouds and the air got chillier, we made our way back to our dens for a late siesta. 

Spotted at the curb near the Bhimtal lake
Spotted at the curb near the Bhimtal lake Simrran Gill

My days in Bhimtal consisted of early mornings, bone chilling winds, offbeat experiences, gorging on local and seasonal produce and sauntering through the hills and imprinting the scenic vistas in my head to be able to navigate around the next time. After all, I had already mentally planned my next trip here.  

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