A vista of mountains unravelled before us as the Anand-Vihar Shatabdi express chugged into the small station of Kathgodam at 11.50 AM.Kathgodam, the last stop in the foothills of the mountains serves as the gateway to the various hill stations dotting the outer Himalayan range.
When a trip to Delhi finalized, a frantic search ensued to search locations for a 2 day getaway in the lap of the mountains.Searching for a perfect vacation spot always posed a challenge as we loved tranquil laid-back places, far from the maddening crowds and liked to experience a place as compared to zooming from point A to B.
Websites of different home stays & resorts to see what they chose to speak about and what they didn’t, traveler reviews, weather – everything had to examined with a fine toothed comb along with casting furtive glances at our budget. And we wait till a place chooses us.
And it did.
The platform had emptied out quickly giving it a desultory look.The sun scorched us with the burning intensity of April as we waited for our cab which would take us to our destination.Soon we were on our way in a small Alto and as it snaked its way through the twisting roads, the breeze became cooler. We tasted delicious strawberries and mulberries sold in quaint leaf baskets which our driver, Mr Kailash, had thoughtfully bought for us.
Our destination was Gethia, a small place situated 26 Kms from Kathgodam, slightly ahead of Jeolikote on the Haldwani-Bhowali Road. Gethia is situated close enough to the bustling Nainital yet thankfully, not close enough to attract the typical tourist crowd of Nainital.
A turn in the road and we had reached our destination – Two Chimneys at Gethia. Two Chimneys is a boutique homestay overlooking the valley on both sides.It has 7 rooms , each done up tastefully in a unique style. We chose First Things, situated on the first floor with its door opening out to a verandah overlooking the garden and the back door leading to a small sun-kissed balcony sitting atop the valley below. The room also had a lovely loft with ample space for a double bed where you could lie looking at the sky peeping through the sky light and listening to the sounds of the Blue Whistling Thrush.
The place weaved its magic around us, as we explored various cozy sit outs overlooking the valley and stone steps which led to hidden treasures. There was a small library tucked away in a corner which had a nice collection including Tarun Tejpal’s books, who incidentally is also the owner of Two Chimneys.The house overlooks a patch of garden ornate with trees and flowers. Its a bird watchers paradise and we were enamored with the beautiful Red-Billed blue magpies.
We took a cobbled path and passed a small grave inscribed Baloo, the gaurdian of the house, 1999-2009. Baloo was indeed lucky to have such loving owners who still treasured it. The path led to a games room which had table tennis, Billiards and a TV set.Suddenly, came a loud barking and we were inspected in all thoroughness by the canine mistress of the house, Bijli. It was love at first sight for my son, who followed her with a love-lorn look everywhere after that.
Dinner was an elaborate affair in a long table laid out by the fireplace. The next day, we hired a cab to take us to Nainital which was a mere 3 kms away if you trekked but 19 kms by road. Nainital was crowded and bustling with tourists which we were told was just the tip of the iceberg which would land in May.
We did boating in the scenic Naini lake nestled in between lush hills. Naini lake is also the water source for entire Nainital and its cleanliness is maintained by not allowing any motor boats, swimming or fishing. The cable ropeway affords a panoramic view of the lake with its smattering of small boats and the surrounding hills rising majestically. As we reached the top, we could see the tips of the majestic Himalayan range swathed between thick whispers of clouds.
We pottered around the small Tibetan market adjoining the lake buying some candles and soaps. The Mall road winds along the lake connecting Mallital (northern side) to Tallital (southern side) and we walked back to Tallital where our cab waited.
Soon we returned to Gethia, to be greeted very warmly by Bijli and the smells of hot pakoras wafting from the kitchen.
As I sat on one of the wrought iron chairs in the garden, time and space were suspended in a lazy twig floating down and the sunlight playing hide and seek between the trees.