I recently stayed at the White Peaks at Gagar, Uttarakhand. There is walk right next to the cottage that goes uphill. In the month of April the area was full of rhododendrons flowers at Gagar. Rhododendron is known as buransh ( बुरांश) in Hindi. I am no stranger to rhododendron flowers, I saw them many times while I trekked. But when I used to teach, trips in April were generally not on as the semester would be on. And the rhododendrons bloom in numbers in April!
The walk went steeply uphill for a while. I walk at a crawling pace but walk I will if I get to see a quaint mountain path! Before I started Mohan (the caretaker at the White Peaks) told me the trail goes up to a temple.
There were rhododendrons everywhere, on the road, on the trees, close to the road, as far away flash of red too. It felt as if I was in an enchanted forest.
Rhododendrons certainly didn’t have a monopoly on the route. The white flowers competed for attention as I walked.
I noticed these pretty purple flowers too, barely out of the ground, but the flavor of the month certainly were the rhododendrons with their compelling presence everywhere!
I have a few words to describe unhinged behavior, they are crazy, berserk and bonkers. They denote craziness with increasing intensity in my vocabulary. I certainly went bonkers on the walk. In fact I hardly walked. I would take a few steps and then stop dead in my tracks.
I would stop dead in the track because I only took the closeup and I forgot to click the whole tree! To click the whole tree I would need another lens. I would take the shoulder bag down, change the lens, put the bag back on the shoulder and then decide that I wanted a closeup after all!
The bag routine would be repeated again, for the change of lens. No wonder I reached nowhere that day. But who cares, when nowhere is this beautiful!
It was that kind of a walk where I got a glimpse of civilization far far away. I could see a road somewhere from my perch and I was happy to be away from it, at least for a few days.
While I was still mulling at the closeup or long shot question, the light was fading out a little. It was an overcast day, but the sun was struggling hard to have a say, even if it was towards the end of the day!
As the evening came sky became mellow and the smoke signals went up, it was time for winding up! I decided to walk just a little ahead.
On the walk I just met three people. The first person, was a local hurrying up to home tucked somewhere behind the mountains.
The other two people I met were sadhus. I greeted them and one of them asked what were I up to? I told him I was staying at the cottage and I just came out for a walk! I would be heading down soon.
I asked if this was the temple, to which they told me the main temple was still a kilometer away. I decided to go there in the morning.
Close to the temple was this giant rhododendron tree full of blooms. I decided that the small temple and the giant tree were reward enough for the day. I decided to head back with a promise to go to the main temple the next morning.
A Verditer Flycatcher was my final catch of the day’s walk. As it is wont with birds I had the wide angle on my camera when I spotted the it. I went into a frenzy to change the lens. This was one patient bird. It let me finish the job and posed for at least 5 shots before it decided enough was enough.
I now know that rhododendrons bloom in April! I hope I will walk a path again that would be full of blooms.
PS. You can see why I said I went bonkers, I can’t remember when I used 16 pictures in a single post!
I am a hill person, I must have been born in the plains by mistake in this life. I am always happy to travel to the hills, even though it often means an early morning start for catching the Shatabdi Express train. My visit to The White Peaks at Gagar, Uttarakhand was no different. I got up at 4.00 am to catch the 6.00 am Kathgodam Shatabdi Express train. The White Peaks is a cozy cottage! It takes its name from the view of the White Peaks but I only got a glimpse of it as most of the time the weather was overcast. You can check out the rates here.
My plan was to sleep in the train after breakfast. But I was so busy chatting with Neeru and Gurjas (bloggers on the same trip) and a fellow passenger that none of us slept a wink! Travel is such an addictive topic. Due to avomine, I slept off in the car drive from Kathgodam to Gagar though. I woke up quite close to Gagar and I immediately noticed the Rhododendron blooms. Gagar is a small town a few kilometers before Ramgarh in Uttarakhand. If you want a peaceful holiday, it is the exact spot where you should stop.
Mohan, the caretaker, the cook and the ever smiling chap, greeted us at the road. We walked a short distance to arrive at the White Peaks Homestay. The territorial dogs (safely tied in their homes) went mad at the sight of the strangers!
Mohan asked if we would like a cup of tea? Even though it was lunch time I said yes to tea. The weather was awesome, my room looked cozy. Mohan reminds me strongly of my guide Sohan Singh Bisht, also from Uttarakhand. You can hardly ever find people with such perfect manners!
The White Peaks is actually a cottage with two rooms at the first floor and a cozy living area on the ground floor. My room was tastefully done. It had a comfortable double bed, a large collection of books, including back issues of National Geographic. It got ample sunlight and it had a view of the hills. My room did not have an attached bathroom. The bathroom was just outside my room. The other room had an attached bathroom, so the other bathroom is actually private. It was not a problem for me at all. The bathroom had plenty of hot water, just what you need in the hills!
There is a balcony between the two rooms which is ideal to sit and have tea/coffee. I noticed an ironing board in the common area on the top floor.
We spent most of our time in the balcony or in the living area of the cottage. The living room has a collection of beautiful curios and it has a real fireplace! The dining area is adjacent to it. The table can seat 4 comfortably. We saw a TV there but we never bothered to open it.
However most of my time was spent with a cup of tea or coffee, whatever took my fancy, on the terrace with a view of the mountains!
Mohan cooks some amazing food. He would ask you what you would like to eat and try to make it too. I immensely enjoyed the home cooked food, it was a luxury for me. All his dishes, be it daal, bhindi, bharta, rice, paneer were excellent. He would serve us hot chapattis and I was certainly overeating!
He made non-vegetarian food for Neeru and Gurjas and I think they liked it. But the best as the chai on the terrace with a cool wind and a wind chime tinkling away!
There is a small road going up, right next to the cottage. I asked Mohan where it would lead, he said it would go up to a small temple. I went on an evening walk on that beautiful road. The path is flanked by trees, a lot of them Rhododendrons. And they were in bloom. It was a joy to be among them and soak in their magnificence. I did reach a temple but it was not the temple!
I am no longer a late night person. If I can have it my way, I like to be fast asleep by 11.00 pm. And yet on both the nights Neeru, Gurjas and I sat chatting late into night! It is a blessing to have such fellow bloggers on a trips! Both have a background in film making and I learned a lot by observing and talking to them!
The White Peaks is a beautiful cottage in the hills. Gagar is one hour away from Kathgodam, hence it is easy to access. And yet it is amazingly peaceful and relaxing place. It would work for you if you are looking for a homely place to stay, away from the big cities. I liked the area so much that I actually want to buy a house there.
PS. I was invited by the White Peaks Homestay on this trip.
I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quit my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!
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