Small Things- Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

Sometimes it is the small things that hold attention, like a ladybug on flowers, those twinkles in someone’s eye or the rust marks on a nail!

A Ladybug on Hydrangea Flowers

A Ladybug on Hydrangea Flowers, Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

There were plenty such things at and around Te Aroha, Dhanachuli and I decided to do a photo feature on it. I start with the ladybug on Hydrangea flowers.

The Bath Accessories at the Long House, Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

The Bath Accessories at the Long House, Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

Next to catch my eye was the hanging arrangement of the bath accessories in the bathroom of the Long House (my room) which were hanging from the ceiling beautifully. I had to bring my camera to the bathroom as soon as I saw it!

Apples at Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

Apples at Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

Then there were apple and pear trees all around Te Aroha and I spent quite sometime clicking them. They also attracted a lot of birds but this time my bird shots did not turn out too well.

An Elephant Carving in Wood at Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

An Elephant Carving in Wood at Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

This elephant carving was part of the book each in my living room at the Long House and how pretty it looked! It had to be clicked.

Torch Lily, Dhanachuli Village, Uttarakhand

Torch Lily, Dhanachuli Village, Uttarakhand

I spotted this torch lily on the drive to Dhanachuli from Kathgodam Railway Station and I was looking for an opportunity to click them.  I got it when we did the Old Dhanachuli village walk. Not on the walk exactly but I requested the driver to stop the car so that I could click the flowers. Thankfully there was space to stop the car without blocking the traffic. Otherwise the mountain roads can be really tricky in that sense.

A Candle Stand at the Long House, Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

A Candle Stand at the Long House, Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

And finally this was one (of many) beautiful candle stand from my room. They lit all the candles at night and it was quite beautiful. Small things, they usually leave such big impressions! Don’t you agree?

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On my first day at Te Aroha, Sumant asked me if I would like to go for a walk to the old Dhanachuli Village the next morning. I was game for it, after all I had just come back after trekking in Nepal. We were also starting leisurely after the breakfast. For breakfast I had puri bhaji without any guilt because I knew I was going to walk. We took the car for a short distance and from the road head we started to walk towards the old Dhanachuli village.

An Old House at Dhanachuli Village, Uttarakhand

An Old House at Dhanachuli Village, Uttarakhand

The way goes downhill to the village. It is a decent path as far as kaccha routes go. I mean there were not too many loose stones that would start rolling as soon as you try to step on it. Anyway I find it difficult to go down as my knees hurt but this was half an hour walk (for me) and soon we were at the village temple. On the way we crossed this old house which the owners use as a godown and they were storing apples there. Sumant mentioned that the house is about 100 year old.

The Old Dhanachuli Village, Uttarakhand

The Old Dhanachuli Village, Uttarakhand

Sumant mentioned that the old village was abandoned when the road came up at Dhanachuli. There are two families who still maintain their residence at old Dhanachuli as that might be close to their fields. While getting down I did say to Sumant that some of his guests would find it difficult to climb up all the way back and he agreed. He said some take about two hours to climb back.

A Derlict House at Old Dhanachuli Village, Uttarakhand

A Derlict House at Old Dhanachuli Village, Uttarakhand

The houses have been vacant for such a long time that nature is trying to claim it back. A lot of them still have beautiful woodwork in various stages of decay. It was fascinating to talk about it to Sumant who knew a lot about the area.

Decoration on the Village Temple, Old Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

Decoration on the Village Temple, Old Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

There is a well maintained temple in the middle of what is left of the old village. Sumant mentioned that it is still functional and used for large prayer gatherings. We had a cup of tea there (carried from the hotel, there are no tea shops otherwise in the area, other than on the road head) and then we started climbing back which was uphill. While we were sipping tea Sumant remarked, “It took us just 30 minutes, maybe even less to reach here.” I was not paying much attention, my knees were still a bit sore from my Annapurna Circuit Trek.

Small Things

Small Things

We took a gentler path to walk up and this one was also good, not too many rolling stones trying to trick you. Anyway I am marginally better while going up, I only get tired. Whereas while coming down, I am usually in pain. So we walked back, I clicked this beautiful moth/butterfly and soon we were back to where the car was. The car was there but the driver was not. Sumant remarked that we just took 1.45 hours and the driver was not expecting us as it usually takes an hour more.  I was so happy to hear this. I am a slow trekker in reality. On this recent trek to Nepal there were fit young men who would reach usually 2 hours before me to any place. At least at some place I was faster than the average!

Soon the driver was located and we headed back to Te Aroha. If you get a chance, do go for this walk. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Te Aroha is tucked away in a snug corner at Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand. It was the former summerhouse of Asha and Sumant Batra. It gradually got converted into a 10 room hotel that is built with a lot of love and care. And you can see it in every corner of the place. While I would walk the pathways I would often stop to look at a curio and wonder, “How did I ever miss it the first time?” For example, this pretty bird was in a prominent place and yet there was so much to see, I missed it the first time.

A Bird on the Walkway, Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

A Bird on the Walkway, Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

I can actually fill this post with such cute things but I will do a photo feature of small things around Te Aroha separately. And if you are wondering why I went to Uttarakhand so soon after the floods you can read about it in detail here and here. The journey from Anand Vihar Railway Station to Kathgodam was routine, I had tea, ate breakfast and fell asleep in the train because I started at 4.15 am from Gurgaon to catch the train. I was received by the car and driver from the hotel and it was a smooth 2 hour drive to Te Aroha.

My Bedroom at The Long House, Te Aroha

The Bedroom that was Mine for a Few Days, The Long House, Te Arhoa, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

Now I have to take Avomine (medicine for motion sickness) on the mountain roads but even through my Avomine filled haze I liked my room on the first sight! It was beautifully done and was quite inviting after an eight hour journey. The bathroom was an absolute delight and I had a living room too, all to myself. There was a piano in the living room but having no musical talents whatsoever I did not inquire about it further. I later got to know that the four poster beds in the hotel are about 100 year old!

Apples at Dhanachuli Village, Uttarakhand

Apples at Dhanachuli Village, Uttarakhand

Once I got out of my room, which I did reluctantly,  it was time for lunch. The food at Te Aroha is wholesome and done with a lot of care. During my stay I had both Indian and continental and liked it all. There tomato shorba on a cold night was an absolute delight. I saw a mom requesting Maggi for son, who would not eat anything else, as well.

In my conversations with Sumant I got to know about the proposed expansion plans. He plans to add a museum of his collections along with a tea house to the hotel. He has an exotic collection of things, curios, advertisements, bollywood posters and a Vijay Super scooter as well!  I have never seen so much reading material at any hotel. Now traveling alone, I never venture without my book but at Te Aroha I would have been fine. There was so much to read that I would need months to finish even those books that I liked.

 Books at Te Aroha

Books at Te Aroha

Te Aroha is primarily a romantic getaway. Almost everywhere there are pair stories on the walls. There are some rooms that are given only to couples. I saw three rooms, the Long House, where I stayed, the attic room and the master bed room. I would say I had the best bathroom but I liked the attic room a lot because well it was in the attic! The master bedroom has a private garden as well.

Passageway in the Main Lobby, Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

Passageway in the Main Lobby at Dusk, Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

When I asked Sumant if the hotel was done by a professional interior designer, he confirmed what I suspected. He was the brain behind the concepts and had professional help. It shows, in the poems in my room, the small treasures all around, the books, the music and in the whole atmosphere. It is top class but not all color coordinated and brushed to distraction. Te Aroha has a cozy feeling to it, as if you were a guest in someone’s home, rather than at an well done but impersonal hotel.

Views around Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

Views around Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

Tucked away within the lap of nature Te Aroha has big decks to sit and get lost in nature, in a book or your significant other if you wish. You are bound to come back relaxed but probably with a hangover like me, the high altitude hangover, which gets worse in the plains.

PS. I was invited to the hotel and I am so happy that I was!

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I was in Nepal when I first got to know about the Kedarnath (and related areas) tragedy. I was trekking in the Annapurna Circuit region and phone connectivity was not good at all. So the one day when I could call home from Nepal I heard of the cloud burst. At that point the damage figures were still being quoted low.

Once I came back I just refused to watch the visuals related to the tragedy, I do not feel brave enough. I only saw some passing images on TV and was shocked to see some Hemkund Sahib visuals as I trekked there last year myself.

Then came the news of mass cancellations of holidays in Uttarakhand and I had a personal dilemma. I was invited by Te Aroha at Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand quite a few months before and I had given the date of 28th June to 1 July. Now this was much before even my trek in Nepal and there was no sign of any tragedy in the region.

When I was in Nepal and I didn’t know much I too, with a heavy heart, thought I would have to cancel the trip. But once I came back and started reading I came across an appeal (and for love or search I can’t find it again) which said that tourism in the unaffected areas is taking a severe beating and it would be detrimental to the economy of an already devastated area. That was my starting point.

Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

And they Call it a Bathroom! The Long House, Te Aroha, Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

As I said in a previous post I then did a Google Earth search for Dhanachuli and Kedarnath and the difference in the visual was quite reassuring. Then came the task of convincing the family. Surprisingly it was not too difficult. Folks were not too happy about my trip but they did let me go.

Uttarakhand is vast and not every area is affect. I visited Dhanachuli after taking the Shatabdi from Anand Vihar Railway Station to Kathgodam. It is entirely operational without a hitch and there is no rescue work going in this area which my visit may hamper. In fact the hotels want tourism because these are the months when they earn. And these areas are safe with the normal hassles of mountain rains. On the way I crossed Bhimtal and it was also entirely connected and normal. My cell phone worked and roads were there as they are in the rains.

Dusk at Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

Dusk at Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand

Even Te Aroha has seen cancellations but some tourists have started trickling in. When I was there there were other guests. One family with a small toddler too. I had a great stay and some rains. Hardly any big mountain view (but this seems to be the theme of my summer travel this year, after all I came almost empty handed from Annapurna region in Nepal) but very nice weather and a fabulous time in all. The posts will follow but I thought the ground condition needs to be clarified once more. Also I will get back to my Nepal chronicles once I am done with this small but fabulous visit to Dhanachuli, Uttarakhand.

So while doing the two hour journey from Kathgodam to Dhanachuli the road was clear, a little weary for the mountain rains but perfectly road worthy. So if have travel plans to the unaffected areas of Uttarakhand think again before cancelling them. The industry needs your business. Do check the weather before you go, take all precautions but do not cancel your trip just like that. I will repeat I am talking about the unaffected areas in Uttarakhand.

If you have any questions about my trip do drop in a comment or an email. I will try my best to answer.

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