I happen to be one of those who needs a holiday to recuperate from a holiday !! After the super hectic UK trip, I needed a break to just unwind, do nothing, no work deadlines to meet, no exam worries, not juggling the many activities of kids, basically just wanting to curl up in a corner with a book and my family around me. I threatened the husband with dire consequences and convinced him to take 2 days off from work and coupled with the weekend, we had a 4 day long weekend, voila !!
The million dollar question was now selecting the destination. I wanted it to be somewhere nearby, within driving distance of 7-8 hours max from Delhi and away from the tourist traps. Coming from a road trip crazy family we have driven everywhere from Rishikesh to Dehradun to Kedarnath, Badrinath, Lansdowne and everything in between !!
Having stayed in stations with snow all around for years, had no interest in seeing snow clad mountains so after a lot of research ( basically googling the heck out of it), I came up with a small Kumaoni village of Ramgarh in Nainital district. Ramgarh, is located near Mukteshwar and is visited and known by a few people. This erstwhile British Army Cantonment was the perfect place for us away from the plethora of tourists and crowded mountain roads.
I wanted to stay in a cosy resort or boutique hotel with no disturbance from noisy weekenders as it usually happens in regular hotels. We chose the Neemrana Ramgarh Bungalows for our 4 day stay. The booking team of Neemrana is pretty rude and unwelcoming but I was aware of this fact and went ahead and booked it anyways.
The drive to the Ramgarh Bungalows covered little over 300 kms and took around 8 hours with plenty of breaks to have lunch, fresh sugarcane juice from the farms and fruits from the roadside sellers.
Except for the predictable traffic jam near Noida, the drive was a smooth journey with good roads. We took the Delhi – Moradabad – Rampur – Rudrapur – Haldwani – Kathgodam – Bhimtal – Ramgarh road as recommended by the Ramgarh Bungalows manager.
The air had a bit of smoke when we entered Kathgodam owing to the recent horrendous forest fires in Uttaranchal but it had apparently settled down by rains. The roads started to snake and wind up from Kathgodam and the familiar welcome feeling of being in mountains enveloped us of all. Mountains are like a second home to me having had so many mountain postings and 3 years in Delhi have made me miss the quaint and quiet mountain life.
We pulled into the driveway after seeing someone running down the slope of a bungalow waving at us. We had reached our destination. Neemrana Ramgarh Bungalows has number of bungalows made in 1800’s scattered around on a hill. The Old Bungalow (1830), The Writers’ Bungalow (1860), Ashok Vatika, Cliff House, Vista Villa and Rose Cottage. Each bungalow has few rooms with different views and tariff and you can make a decision by consulting the Neemrana sales team. The best views are from Ashok Vatika and we chose an east facing suite called BLUE in the same for our stay. In my opinion it is the best in the entire property and perfect for a family of four with 2 bedrooms.
The suite is done in typical South Indian architecture style with pillars, wooden frills on the roof, furniture and framed Raja Ravi Varma prints ! The glass windows give the perfect view of the sunrise and the high bed ensured we didn’t have to get out of the bed to enjoy the vistas.
The bungalow is on top of a hill and is surrounded by fruit orchards of plum, apricot, walnuts, pomegranates, apples and many more which we didn’t recognise ! There are swings all around hanging from the trees as well as terraces overlooking the valley with comfortable wrought iron furniture. Needless to say, we fell in love with the place instantly. The kids had a gala time climbing trees, spotting birds, chasing butterflies and going clickety click with the flowers and fruits all around.
Our room attendant Anand soon came with tea and a tray of freshly baked cookies which we devoured flopping down in comfortable chairs in the verandah while the kids monkeyed around. Not a single sound of horn or the city noises, it was what we needed to just be !
We spent the first day just lazing around, playing cards and keeping an eye on the kids who were trying to climb every single tree in the property 🙂 . Dinner was served in the dining room, loved the food and the attention paid by the staff who noticed that my daughter was finding the food a little spicy and immediately informed the kitchen to keep less spicy food separately for her.
Day 2 started with a lavish breakfast on terrace overlooking the valley. Rhododendron juice, jams and chutneys made from fruits grown in their own orchards were the highlight of the spread. The sunshine, the mountains all around and the friendly local staff was a very genuine experience which is usually missing in luxury resort chains.
After the heavy breakfast we pottered around till lunch exploring the Cliff House which was nearby. Lunch was served in Old Bungalow which is a 500 meter walk from Ashok Vatika and had Kumaoni local dishes made from locally sourced veggies and grains. Post lunch we decided to explore the village and went on a trek to the riverbed a few miles down the mountains.
The trek was a bright idea on my part and a reaffirmation of the well known fact about exactly how fit I am 😉 . I was huffing and puffing on the way back up but it was totally worth it. My husband and kids had a great laugh at my expense but it was all fun considering the good time we had !
We met friendly locals on the trek who stopped, smiled and chatted with the kids. Playing with goats, dogs and seeing a different way of life is an education which cannot be gleaned in any classroom and is a wonderful exposure for kids growing up in cities used to gadgets and an easy life !
After the 4 hour trek we came back to a very welcome cup of tea and freshly made pakodas 🙂 . Rest of the evening went in a daze of yum food, cold mountain air and lounging around aimlessly.
Day 3 we decided to explore the nearby places and asked for suggestions from the staff. I was very clear on not wanting to go to Nainital or Bhimtal as they are well known tourist hotspots and would be full of people. They suggested us to go to a quaint lake called Sattal which was in middle of a forest and not many people knew about it.
En-route we saw people in the sky para-gliding and the kids wanted to do it instantly. We saw a board with a few phone numbers and lo and behold, we had booked para-gliding jumps in 5 minutes ! After taking directions to Ghodakhal we drove up to the place of para-gliding. Having done it multiple times before I was not interested but the kids were raring to go. The kids being underweight could not do the jumps and we being true blue Indian jugaadu parents tied both of them in a single parachute and pushed them off the cliff 🙂 .
After the super fun para gliding, we drove down to Sattal which as they had described was bang in middle of a forest !
There were a few activities like zip lining, water zorbing, kayaking and was fortunately not teeming with tourists. It was clean, quiet and enjoyable.
After a full day of fun activities we went back to our bungalow to rest for the night. Neemrana properties do not have televisions in the rooms which worked fine for us as we wanted to get away from the constant screen time of i-pads, laptops, TV. They do have a TV in common area which we switched on to catch the telecast of The Shark Tank and went off to sleep midway through the episode 🙂 .
Next day came with the knowledge that we would be leaving this heaven in a few hours but at the same time we were fully recharged and ready to get back to work.
We packed our things by midday, said goodbye to the lovely staff and left with the promise to come back soon and this is one promise which is not meant to be broken !
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