Jun 19, 2015

Posted by in Luxury travel, Travel Reviews | 1 Comment

When time stood still!

When time stood still!

On my trip to Uttarakhand early this year, all I wanted to do was to go back to my roots. I just wanted to revisit my hometown, meet a lot of people on the way and spend some time in the company of the mountains there.

Cut to that one cold, dewy morning of February. Its 5 o’clock on a foggy morning and tired from the night’s journey, I could barely open my eyes as I spotted a chai wala coming towards me with some kullad chai. “I’m home”, I smiled to myself.

“Kathgodam ai gyo”, the chai wala said to me in Pahadi. Yes, I was home. I could barely recognise my driver as I loaded my luggage in the car. I was too sleepy to register anything else for the next couple of hours that followed. The next time I opened my eyes, I was fresh after a deep slumber and could sort of see a house with the charm and authenticity of an old colonial home and yes, that’s difficult to miss even at 7 am in the morning.

Hello Himalaica, Uttam and Shalini Dave’s beautiful home; a pure example of what follows when your instincts and heart work together.

Himalaica is actually the vacation home of Uttam Dave and his wife, Shalini who live in Delhi themselves. And I can safely say that it was completely my privilege to have been hosted by them. One look at this place and it’s not surprising to believe that it has taken them thirteen years to build their home.

Himalaica

Himalaica

Built mostly by local craftsmen, the property recreates a colonial era feeling and it’s evident that Uttam has spent a lot of time researching patterns, colors, architecture and so on. What’s even more interesting is the choice of location, but then on my second day here I am told by Shyam Singh (who works with Uttam) that Uttam always spends a lot of time scouting for his locations before he decides to setup something there. His thought process is evident in this exclusive, stylish estate that is surrounded by forests.

Himalaica is set amidst deep forests.

Himalaica is set amidst deep forests.

 

It’s not easy to figure out from the outside that the property houses a villa, a huge living room with a fireplace (mandatory during winters as I realized), a dining room that can easily house over 10 people, three cozy bedrooms with wooden interiors, a lounge and a large kitchen where you can sit and chit chat with the caretakers, Madhavi and Basant.

Lounge with a view!

Lounge with a view.

Madhavi and Basant manage this entire property for Uttam. Basant is also the chef at Himalaica who makes the most authentic Pahadi food and gives his own spin to the typical north Indian dishes. While I gorged mostly on Pahadi food during my stay here, breakfast and dinner are elaborate affairs at Himalaica with a large variety to choose from. As I struggled with a bad cold and fever during my stay there, they made sure that I didn’t just eat my meals on time but also made sure I got hot soup each time alongwith my medicines in my bed.

Authentic Pahadi food for a Pahadi.

Authentic Pahadi food for a Pahadi.

Being confined to the bed in a place like Himalaica does have its perks. I couldn’t help but notice the wood detailing around the fireplace that adds charm and warmth. The vintage style furniture, the light colors of the furnishings lend the rooms a lot of character. And then again, there can never be a dull moment in this property. You can spend happy afternoons, just like I did on one of the days, looking at the variety of birds, counting butterflies, gazing at the greenery around that blends so perfectly with the blue skies. All this, ofcourse if you manage to squeeze some time out of playing with your three friends at the property, Raja, Lama and Cyber. I do like dogs but I’ve always had this fear that they might just jump at me and bite me or something. I don’t think I could ever imagine myself clicking selfies with them.

View from the villa bedroom.

View from the villa bedroom.

The central drawing room.

The central drawing room.

The fireplace.

The fireplace.

The beautiful garden outside.

The beautiful garden outside.

The small glasshouse in the backyard.

The small glasshouse in the backyard.

Uttam as I learn from Madhavi and Basant is extremely fond of dogs. Not just that, from what I was told by his colleague, he can pet any animal. I didn’t have any doubts when I saw these three munchkins sleeping with him the next morning.

If pets are Uttam’s first love, gardens must definitely be the second. Uttam works extremely hard at not just maintaining the gardens at his property but constantly tries to introduce new species from his travels around the world. Which is why, the property always has a new addition to it.

The property has gardens all around.

The property has gardens all around.

With so much care, love and nature around me, I recovered fast enough to go on a drive and a lunch that was arranged by Uttam and Shyam Singhji at a local Kumaon village, the next day. Uttam makes sure his guests do not become couch potatoes at his property. Believe me, the property with its cozy interiors and amazing views is most conducive for that. I did struggle a bit to get out, but the very thought of visiting the nearby Kumaon villages was tempting enough to leave the laptop aside and go on a two hour long  walk with Madhavi. And was this fun or what? It had been a while since someone had spoken to me in my own language, Pahadi and it felt just awesome.

Your very own bonfire in the backyard.

Your very own bonfire in the backyard.

One thing’s for sure. The place does give you many opportunities to just go crazy with your camera. And that’s exactly what happened the next day when I went shooting around some 100 year old villages. Afterall it’s not very often that you get to experience Himalayan village life first hand. I spent my last day with the local families, eating Pahadi food and just generally driving around those unspoilt little villages, meeting people who are always eager to welcome you into their homes.

The tea estates close to Himalaica.

The tea estates close to Himalaica.

Very simply put, Himalaica offers you a magical morning and the prefect sundowner. If you’re looking for a lot more than just a getaway, a place that is a lot more meaningful to the senses, a place that makes you just relax and reflect, then this is the place to be.

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  1. Hi
    Ashish here , i read ur website / blogs interesting yaar ,
    I can tell u some hidden places in Uttra khand , i am promoting FRH by the Uk goverment and , some flaura & fauna farmings there .

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