By Neelima Vallangi
Through the glass windows, I was looking at the night lift its cloak of darkness as a blue dawn fought its way through. The sun crept up the mountains that surrounded me as the first rays slowly flooded the room, the chirping of birds grew louder and I could hear the faint gurgle of the river below. I was still in bed as the orange light blinded me; I adjusted my position to keep the rays away from my face. While I have always loved the idea of waking up to first light gently falling on my face, it is not something that I got to experience a lot. But here at Kosi Valley Retreat, I went to bed every night anticipating waking up to bright sunshine.
I’m not a morning person on most days, but whenever I’m in the hills, I become one. It is impossible not to, when your cue to wake up is not the mechanized sound of an alarm ringing but the delightful cacophony of numerous birds singing. Plus, it helps to be well rested, in the lap of nature where your internal body clock resets itself (BBC: Can a week under canvas reset our body clocks?). Here in this valley, outdoor enthusiasts who prefer a nature fix along with creature comforts can have it all.
My days largely comprised of hanging out with wild nature; Pine trees, Kosi River, Himalayas and its foothills, star-studded night skies, Red-Billed Blue Magpies, verdant green terraced fields and such were my constant companions. I spent a week here without encountering another tourist, which seemed to be a rather rare blessing these days.
On clear nights, sitting around a warm bonfire and listening to the screeching of thousand insects, I looked up into the heavens tracing the paths of numerous shooting stars. However, lazy mornings were spent in the balcony with a warm cup of tea in hand, watching the daring pigeons and hill mynas flutter close to the roof while the little birdies flew in frenzy in the farther trees. Afternoons and evenings were spent hiking in the pristine forest that surrounded the property and cycling in the pretty countryside of Someshwar Valley. But on some days when the serenity of the nature called to do “nothing”, I lazed under a pine tree watching the sunshine escape through its sparse canopy. In the age of sightseeing, it seems we forgot how lovely it is to sit under a tree.
But that doesn’t mean I spent my week in Kosi Valley largely doing nothing. My plan was to actually do nothing, and in fact the place is perfect to just laze around with a book or saunter aimlessly given the serene surroundings of hills, streams and forests. But both Kosi Valley and the team really caught me off-guard there, I had quite an active stay with long hikes and cycle rides on few days. However, the thing that I enjoyed most during my stay was the complete lack of a planned itinerary and how the valley let me in on its secrets, slowly, at its own pace, one day at a time.
Every morning, Shivraj(the manager) and I used to discuss what to do and made plans on the fly depending on my mood. Surprisingly, I found something to do every single day. One day, we made a date with the snowcapped peaks of the Kumaon Range. The next, we cruised along the gently winding roads on Mountain Bikes. On another, we just went hiking in the rain. There was no sightseeing, there was just experiencing the beauty of the valley, often ignored and overshadowed by the mountains that rise up from their sides. Fortunately, Kosi Valley Retreat offers you a rare chance to experience serenity in a valley that is off the beaten track.
Make it Happen
Kosi Valley Retreat is a stone bungalow set right by the Kosi River side in a valley between Almora and Kausani, offering 4 rooms on the top floor, with a dedicated balcony for each room which allows you a close look at the very active birdlife in the surrounding pine forest. The building constructed with stone and pebbles in typical mountain style is atmospheric, and the large glass windows and doors are a delightful touch because you can see the mountains and forest right from your bed.
If you’re into outdoor adventures, talk to the team beforehand and ask for a detailed list of things to do around before zeroing in on the number of days you will stay here. There are enough activities to keep you occupied for an entire week and more, so plan your days well in advance so you are not disappointed that you have to leave out certain treks or cycle rides due to lack of time.
A small team of friendly staff from nearby villages manages the retreat and they take care of you quite well. And, like me, if you hate the oily atrocity that is thrust upon us in the name of Indian food in most touristy places, you will love the simple and delicious Kumaoni food served here. The produce used for cooking is mostly organic, coming from the kitchen garden within the premises.
Kathgodam is the nearest railway station and Haldwani is the closest bus stop. You can get shared or full taxis to take you to Almora from Kathgodam, it takes about 4-5 hours to reach.
Note: My stay and activities at Kosi Valley were sponsored by Kosi Valley Retreat.
Neelima is a travel writer and a photographer. She has been travelling in India since 2008. She has travelled from the remote forests of Andaman and Chhattisgarh to the border areas of Nagaland and Kashmir. Her dream is to set her feet in all the states and Union territories of India by the time she turn’s 30.