Soaking our feet in the Kosi river at Kausani and drenching in the monsoon rains of Himalayas filled our souls with contentment and peace, but it also left an indomitable spirit of exploring the Himalayas more. Continuing our spree of exploring the mountains of Uttarakhand, we left Kasauni and started travelling deeper into the mountains to our next destination …Chaukori.
The winding roads, the slopes lined with pine trees,the rust colored soil peeping out of the freshly bathed-in-rain green colored grass ,which almost has covered the ground, accompanied all along to Chaukori. We were esctatic to see numerous baby Pine trees growing under the shade of the Mother Pine tree, encircling it, which added a deeper green hue to the forest.
After passing Kanda, we concentrated on the signboards besides the road, so as not to miss our resort,Chestnut Grove, a lodge at a place named Vijaypur, located 5 kms. ahead of Chaukori.
Several bends after Kanda and a scenic drive on the lonely mountain road brought us to the gates of Chestnut Groove. With no human settlement nearby and hidden in the Pine forest, this is for sure “The faraway land ” from the fairytales.
There was a staff at the gate who helped us with our luggage and welcomed us warmly to the place.
The property has only three cottages. The cottages were on a terraced slope lined with pine trees.Keeping in sync with their mantra of eco-tourism ,cottages were made of bamboo and the inner walls were plastered with mud. There were two picture windows overlooking the pine forest. A big bronze bell was hung beside the room, we were instructed to ring the bell , to call staff members. My daughter was pretty excited at this innovative idea but just got one chance to do the job, as the staff members were always around.
We were overzealous to explore the place but it was past midday and our stomach was frantically crying out for food. On our insistence of having our lunch in the open air they placed a table and few chairs outside our room. The food was good but the ants found it too- good and in no time they were marching towards it. We were determined to win the war against the ants so we finished our food fast, leaving only little crumbs of food for them. But, it seemed they were happy with it and marched away victoriously with the crumbs…a win-win situation for all.
While having our lunch, we could see the clouds slowly gliding towards the Pine forest surrounding us. Eventually, the Pine forest stood draped in impenetrable white cloak of cloud and it started to drizzle. The musical sound of raindrops falling on the Pine trees, the cool breeze blowing over the forest, the trickling of the raindrops from the pine leaves on to the ground, the rain bathed mountains, engulfed all your senses and left a ever- lasting image of a rain soaked Chaukori in our mind.
The rain stopped after the clouds exhausted all its waterdrops. We prepared ourselves to venture out when suddenly a juvenile Hoopoe ,completely drenched in rain, clinging on the bark of a Pine caught our attention. It looked like a ball of colorful cotton.
My daughter and Lassy (our 11 years old dog) wanted to stay indoor and have some “Me” time, while the three of us, my Husband, Chocos(our 1+ years old dog) and me decided to go for a walk. We hopped down the terraced slope, firmly placing our feet on the layers of pine leaves which has carpeted the ground and slipped under our feet. As we breathe in the air, rich with aroma of pine , a feeling of tranquility descended on us. Breeze whispered in our ears and the cacophony of birds broke the silence of the place.The shrill call of the slate-headed parakeets dominated over all the other birds, they flew in flock making their way through the pine trees,encircling the forest only to get back and perch on their favorite tree. The blue whistle thrush, which had its nest on the roof of one of the cottages, was busy looking for food on the ground.
Smoke from the chulhas(stoves which uses wood or coal as fuel) of the villagers living across the valley , announced the end of the day.The villagers have lit up the chulhas to prepare their dinner.
We went back to our room to take the photography equipment to capture the sunset.As the Sun prepared to take leave for the day,the sky which was covered with grey clouds almost throughout the day, gradually became an infinite canvas with splash of unlimited colors on it….It perhaps contained more colors than the human eyes can perceive.The sun, near the horizon,played peek-a-boo. Sometimes, it hid behind the clouds and its scattered golden rays added more color to the sky and sometimes it was visible as an huge orangish red disc.
The valley unhurriedly threw itself in darkness. Then one by one the lights from the village homes, in the valley, came alive, it appeared like hundreds of stars twinkling in the sky. The silver light of the moon lit up the metal road. It was getting dark and the recent narration of a hotel staff about a woman who was taken away from nearby village three days back by a leopard ,was inspiration enough to move ourselves hurriedly towards the hotel.
As we entered the resort premises, we saw a chulha throwing out smoke and reddish- orange flickering flames swaying itself out of it. I went to the cook and asked him ..what was he cooking. He replied happily that he was cooking ” Pahadi Chicken ” on it and explained excitedly that cooking it on chulha will add smoky flavor to the dish. The scene took me and my hubby to our childhood days , when our moms used to cook on earthern stoves.Moms had to bear with the smoke coming out of the chulha, control the temperature manually by putting more woods into it or removing some woods from it, but the taste of the food was so heavenly. No doubt, the modern day gas stoves are so much easier to use but we have compromised with the taste.
We thought of walking inside the premises, but cockroaches in large numbers were flying over the place. Their ” Intrusion ” deterred us from exploring the place at night and we went back to our room.
We entered the room to find Chocos and my daughter were jumping around excitedly in a spree to hunt down the cockroaches and almost on the verge of being titled “The cockroach Hunters” , while Lassy was an onlooker enjoying the thrill.
After the cockroach hunt was over and we reclaimed our territory from them, we settled down to play a more peaceful game of ” Cross word “. In the meantime, Lassy and Chocos completed their dinner with the chicken stew prepared by the staff. It was 9p.m…and keeping in sync with the locals clock it was time for dinner. The people in the villages religiously follow “Early to Bed, early to Rise “.
The food was served, there was daal(pulse), mixed veg. ,roti , rice and chicken.The smoky aroma subtly blended with the chicken curry and imparted it a heavenly taste. The kheer( sweet dish made from rice and milk ) was perfect.
After having a short chitchat session, we went to bed.
A whistling sound, interrupted my sleep.I sat up on my bed and looked towards the window..it was dark outside, my watch confirmed it was 4.30 a.m. I sat still listening to the whistle carefully. Then it dawned on me that it was the Blue Whistling thrush,who lives on the roof of our nearby cottage. They can whistle just like humans and Whistling Thrush are the ones who breaks the darkness of night and welcomes the first ray of the sun.
In the morning we had our breakfast and filled our stomach to the fullest as that day we were to travel on the most unpredictable road of our journey, landslides during monsoon are quite common on this road. The road that leads to our next destination…Munsiyari.
As we were settling down in our car, we saw a Blue Magpie sitting on the roof of the kitchen. The staff said its a regular visitor and they feed him. What a wonderful parting gift …a Blue magpie sitting so close to me and enjoying its food,unworried about its proximity to Humans!!! What a beautiful sight of co-existence !!!!
How to reach:
- By Road:From Delhi 483 kms.
- Nearest airport: Pantnagar airport
- Nearest Railhead: Kathgodam
About Chestnut Groove:
Please click on the links to discover the other places on our search for five hidden gems of Uttarakhand, India :
Gem 2: Kausani, by the River Kosi
Gem 3: Chaukori, The land of tranquility
Gem 4: Munsiyari, viewing Trishul and Nandadevi
Gem 5: Binsar, in the forest