By now, I have realized about my unending love for the mountains and how I can keep revisiting them tirelessly. Is it then a coincidence that I was in Kanatal at a guest house named Pahadi House while my sojourn in Uttarakhand! I believe, no. This pahadan was supposed to be at Pahadi House at the right time! I had known about this place for almost half a year now, thanks to social media. I used to see the pictures and wish for a rustic experience of the colourful mud house but eventually be a little heartbroken as it was situated far away! Destiny played its card and I was selected as a Champ for Yuva Prerna Yatra (more about this in my upcoming blogposts) to travel across Uttarakhand. That was it and I decided to club it with a stay at Pahadi House and execute my project, Artist’s backpack. Post the seven-day yatra I ended up in Kanatal, Tehri district.
What followed was three days of color, bliss, solitude and nothingness!
The wilderness had begun when Ramesh Dada, the caretaker, escorted me to my room after a little uphill trek. The room was spacious and looked a bit sophisticated as well with the amenities provided in such a remote area. I comfortably settled in and felt at home at Pahadi house which has simple interiors, cozy beds and hot water facility!
I had all the time in the world and yet was clueless as to what should I do! I haven’t been so free ever within the boundaries of the city. I questioned myself, do I deserve this free-ness and nothing-ness. Constant self-talk of how I should be constantly doing something bothered me. And then I experienced freedom; the willingness, ability and possibility to do anything. It was a blank canvas in front of me as I decided to focus on nothing and do whatever comes to my mind. I painted by myself and with the children from the nearby school as part of my project. It was really a fulfilling experience to go to the local government schools, interact with the innocent and shy kids and to be able to connect with them through art. I socialized with the trees, flowers, fruits and the view on offer outside my room. I enjoyed talks with other guests which were of a different texture. Yes, that is what happens when you meet a botanist and a well-traveled marketing professional in the lap of nature.
I visited two nearby schools during my three day stay. The schools, situated in Chopdiyaal, were basic in nature with the blackboard and chalk set-up. The desks were broken at some places yet the little ones seemed oblivious about it and continued to enjoy themselves. They must be wondering what a city bred fella is doing at their school! What struck me most was their innocence and shyness as they were reluctant to even look up and talk to me. It was a fresh feel to see them giggling as well as expressing their discomfort through their eyes to each other. I will definitely remember Divyakshi, the youngest of the lot who was silent, scared and non-participative at the beginning of the two-hour class. By the end of the class, she was running helter-skelter and fighting joyously with her classmates. She was a child sitting on the edge of the fence requiring a little push to move ahead and then her confidence shone like the bright sun. I call her my butterfly! These tiny stars were excited to draw and paint, an activity that was a shift from their daily routine of studies.
Evenings at Pahadi House were different as I was all by myself; either being awed by the sunset outside my room or revelling the fluttering of the trees and chirping of the birds. It was a pleasant change from the constant clutter and busy-ness of the city to the silence and beauty of Kanatal. That is when it made sense to me that it is alright to do nothing and just be, to admire the beauty of nature and be present to the magic unfolding around you. I would definitely welcome more trips to this rural development initiative to experience absolute tranquillity and peace.
Expect home-style food at this homestay that is made up of mud, cow-dung and wood which lends it an ancient look and feel. Chef Rohit, with an experience of more than 5 years, served simple meals that consisted of roti (Indian bread), sabzi (vegetables), dal (lentils, pulses), rice, pickle, salad and sometimes desserts. I believe they knew my love for a thali and served food in brass vessels that added to the rustic and raw feel of my stay.
Why I loved my stay at Pahadi House, situated literally in the middle of nowhere?
I always wanted to experience a traditional homestay
Being in Chamba gave me a high!
It gave me nothing! Yes, being able to do nothing was a blessing in disguise
I could step out at night and enjoy the beautiful sky that looked like a bride with the multitude of stars and the soft moon
Heavenly food that is cooked with a lot of love and care. Please ask for the pickle!
I was surrounded by nature from every angle. Mountains on all sides, apple trees in the backyard and a perfect sunset point made me feel I was in a dreamland. What more could I ask for?
Painting amidst such scenery and to put my thoughts and visualizations on paper was a unique experience.
Negiji, Ramesh dada and Rohit were ever-helping with respect to connecting me with the local schools for Artist’s Backpack.
The data connectivity is perfect. I could choose to be connected and disconnected at my own will!
The ambiance of the place, the simplicity of the food and the helpfulness of the staff was an experience in itself.
What else to do while in Kanatal:
Adventure sports – There is ziplining in Thangdar, a village few kms ahead from Chaukhaal.
Camps – Alternatively, you can visit Thangdar and Kanatal camps
Trek to Surkanda Devi – 16kms from Chaukhaal, this temple of Surkanda Devi is atop a hill which is a trek of 1.5 kms. Take the local bus or jeep and get off at Kadukhaal stop to visit the temple. While I reached the top of the trek, I was mesmerized by the 180-degrees view of the Himalayan range with snow-clad mountain peaks.
Interact with the locals, especially the kids
NOTHING – Trust me this is a luxury! To be surrounded by natural elements of mountains, stars, moon, sky, wind; to stare into oblivion; to do nothing is a luxury that I enjoyed during my stay.
How to reach?
Pahadi House is located on the Chamba-Mussorie road in Chaukhaal, a hamlet. It is connected by local buses and jeeps from Chamba. Shared jeep from Chamba to Chaukhaal – Rs. 30/ 40 approx for a distance of 6 kms. These buses ply till early evening so ensure to be there by 3pm latest if you are going to Pahadi house or take a jeep that ply’s till 6/7 pm.
Note: The stay was sponsored by the Pahadi House Team. Check out more details here