A Day tour to Mukteshwar and Himalayan Village, Sonapani || A Long Weekend at Te Aroha, Dhanachuli in Kumaun region of Uttrakhand (DAY-2)

This is second post from our recent journey to Kumaun region of Uttrakhand State in India. If you haven't checked the first one, please go through Day-1 fun, and then do return to this post to check the next journey to Mukteshwar & Sonapani. As of now, I am sharing this journey as we proceeded as many of the curious viewers/readers have already asked for so many details through messages on Facebook, Twitter, and Indiblogger. Let's proceed with Day-2 fun around the hills of Uttrakhand (Kumaun Region) ...

As shared earlier, Day-1 at Dhanachuli was cloudy, although we experienced some stunning colors of sunset around some of the hills towards Nainital region. During dinner on Day 1, Sumant told us about this intriguing little almost-abandoned village in the valley below to which we could trek down the next morning, if we wished. All of us were excited about the village, but Sumant insisted that only if we were carrying trekking shoes should we attempt this trek, as it promised to be treacherous. Some of us, including Vibha, my wife, were not carrying suitable footwear. Vibha was sourly disappointed, but she insisted that she can make it down to the village in her slippers. Sumant didn't look convinced. But it was an interesting thought to sleep with. On Day-2 however the Hotel staff felt that the trail would still be slippery because of the rains day before. So the trek was put off to Day-3. It was still doubtful weather we would actually be able to the trek because there were chances of rain. To know whether we actually made it to the village, watch out for my next post on Day-3.

The second day was very sunny and we had amazing views of snow-covered peaks, which were clearly visible from our windows. All of us met at the hill top for morning tea. We spent some time there and enjoyed morning sunshine around the Kumaun Hills.

During the morning-tea, Divya noticed a cat jumping around the hill and she wanted to meet it. And soon she was chasing the kitty around. Thankfully, Divya was able to meet the cat and spend some friendly moments with it :) ... 

Soon after, Mukta introduced us to the birds outside her room 'Master's Bedroom'. From a distance we noticed some of the colorful birds flying around the apple trees in Te Aroha Campus. Above are some of the shots I could click. I will be sharing more photographs of birds form Dhanachuli in a separate post...

After a good time at Morning tea, everyone dispersed and started exploring different parts of Te Aroha. Today, the plan was to visit Himalayan Village resort at Sonapani. So all of met for breakfast at around 10:00am, as we wanted to leave for Sonapani by 11:15am. The chef had made continental breakfast complete with sausages, hash browns, mashed potatoes, rolls, fruit salad and fresh pinapple/mix-fruit juice. After each meal, the chef used to visit our table to get feedback and ask about the preferences for the next meal. During our stay at Te Aroha, he served us Indian, Chinese & Continental...

At the restaurant, these jars caught my attention. There were some exotic homemade jams specially made for Te Aroha. These were without any preservative. Almost everything at Te Aroha is specially designed/manufactured exclusively for this property at Dhanachuli. Be it furniture, lights, kitchen ingredients, tea etc... In every suite there were different flavors of green tea which was manufactured by one of the premium tea brands of India -- Anandini Tea from Manjhee Valley.

It was time to start the journey towards Sonapani. We drove through Bhatelia & Mukteshwar. Before hitting Mukteshwar temple, we drove down through the forest area. This was a beautiful ride from Dhanachuli to Mukteshwar and then Sonapani.

All through this ride till Mukteshwar, these snow-capped hills were on our left, while the clouds tried their best to hide them from our view. The sky was bright blue when we left Te Aroha and clouds were coming up slowly. There was a steep climb from Bhatelia and the weather started changing. It was getting cold with chilling wind. We rolled down our windows for some time. The Mukteshwar forest was even more freezing, even as we started moving downhill... Roads around Mukteshwar are fulls of Budget Hotels, Resorts and camping sites. Although Mukteshwar looked the same after 5 years. This time, we couldn't visit Chauli ki Jaali.

Finally we reached Sonapani. We planned to park our cars around the village on the way and thought of walking till Himalayan Village. From the hills around Sonapani, Almora was clearly visible and we were amazed to see the size of Almora town. Almora is a municipal board, a cantonment town in the Almora district in the state of Uttarakhand, India. It was a beautiful walk through the village and dense pine forest. We watched some colorful birds on the way to Himalayan Village Resort. 

During this Trek, I saw leaves with spores for the first time. I had read about these long time back but never saw. This photograph doesn't do the justice to the beauty they add to these green leaves. It seems, spores are seasonal and this was the time when these can be found on the back side of leaves in Himalayan Ranges of Kumaun, Uttrakhand.

After a walk of 10 minutes we hit a region full of flowers. Almost the whole hill was covered with colorful flowers. This was a hint that we are about to reach Himalayan Village. Himalayan Village resort is located on top of a ridge, overlooking Almora and  having magnificent 175-degree view of the himalayas. Himalayan Village Sonapani is situated at a height 1800 meters, and is a part of nainital district of uttarakhand. Deepa, the owner, met us at the entry gate of Himalayan Village Sonapani. 
Above photograph shows the first view of Himalayan Village after walking 100 meters from the main gates. I was very curious to check this place, as I had heard a lot from different people. In fact, I planned to visit Himalayan Village many times in past. Last year, when I was there at Firdaus, we were planning to visit Sonapani to witness the performance by Vipul Rikhi. During that time, Himalayan Village was hosting a music festival. 

Ashish and Deepa built this dream place 10 years back, when this place was completely isolated and the only way to reach this place was either on a mule or on foot. Now there is a small road near the property, which was not functional when we went there.

Ashish & Deepa left their corporate life and moved to this place long back. And now their kids are also staying with them. Ofcourse, all of us were wondering about the way they are educating their kids. In fact, we talked about that with Deepa and she was pretty cool about the fact that kids enjoy staying here and go to a local school nearby. That day, the kids were planning to visit their grandparents in Haldwani and the little one was very excited about the fact that he will be able to watch Television there. There is no television connection at Himalayan Village Resort and that's the beauty of this place. While all of us were sitting in the common area, the little boy used to come after every five minutes to inquire his mom that when would they start for haldwani.

While sitting at Himalayan Village, we talked about various things including the state of women in Kumaun, Caste system, Tourism after Uttrakhand floods etc. And I was surprised about the fact that many of these properties in Kumaun had major loss this year due to incomplete information about the calamities in Uttarakhand. Even when Kumaun was not impacted, tourists avoided this part of Uttarakhand. In fact, many of the properties in Kumaun had to fire their staff because of lack of business and they couldn't afford the whole team.

This place is tucked away in the hills around village of Satoli, a little beyond Ramgarh and Nathuakhan. And each room is built to keep the village charm alive. It was great to see old styled rooms at Himalayan Village Sonapani. The most interesting part was round switches in black color, which took me to my Nani's place in Himachal. On asking, I  got to know that vendors at Chandni Chowk still make these switches on order. In each room, there was a long latch to ensure that kids also have access to open or close these, if needed. Many things had obviously been very well thought through while building this beautiful place in Himalayas. For hot water, solar panels were installed. It was a real delight to talk to Deepa and most inspirtional part was about the way she is involved in uplifting local eco-system by providing various skill bases occupations to girls/ladies around the village. I think, Mukta has very well talked about it HERE...

On our second day in Kumaun, Himalayan Vilage Sonapani was hosting our lunch with some of the delicious Kumauni food like - Bhat Ki daal, Chutkaani Pahaadi raita with Pisa kachaa sarson Palak ka kaapa in besan, Aloo gutka, Beduva roti stuffed with dal, Maas Ki daal, urad, bhaang ki chat, Aadu chatni...

After enjoying our Lunch at Himalayan Village Sonapani, it was time to move back towards Dhanachuli. We started at around 3:30 pm from Sonapani and took a tea break at Mukteshwar. It was fun to have a realxing break in perfect weather around Kumauni hills surrounded  by clouds and mild mist. On reaching Dhanachuli we got to know that it rained during the day and Hotel staff need to check village trek before they take us there in the morning...

We slept hoping that it wouldn't rain during the night because if it did, then we would miss our last chance of exploring the interesting Dhanachuli Village during this trip. To know whether we did make it to the village, watch out for our next post on this trip...

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