If your idea of a vacation is to do nothing, this Uttarakhand homestay is the perfect getaway
A 340 km road-trip from Delhi on the Haldwani-Bhimtal-Ramgarh-Nathuakhan route leads you to the sleepy little village of Hartola, far from all the tourists, and traffic. The closest airport is at Pantnagar, about 100 km away, while the closest railway station is Kathgodam, which is exactly 70 kms from the homestay. Surrounded by fruit trees wherever your eyes can go, it’s the perfect place where you would just want to relax and lose yourself in the pages of a book, with birds singing in the background.
This is precisely what prompted former journalists Deepa and Dhruv Baruah to build their second home in the midst of this fruit country of this Kumaon village in 2016. Besides their disenchantment with the city life, what prompted them to go for an early retirement was their pet-daughter, Katie, an English Cocker Spaniel, on whom they had named their cottage. They wanted to give their pooch a place to run without the care in the world, chase the butterflies and roll on the warm grass and drench in the rains – something that was impossible in their apartment in the city.
While Deepa who is still a school books publishing professional in Noida, Dhruv has given up active journalism and moved to Hartola to give a head start to their journey from the city to the mountains. Like most city dwellers we had very hectic lives. We have been working for so long and sometimes you’re so exhausted that you just want to leave everything behind and just relax. Plus it pains to see Katie to be bound to the apartment; she is absolutely a different soul when she is in the mountains – lively, and playful. So we decided to prepone our plans.
In 2017, I decided to move to Hartola along with Katie and Deepa would join us once her commitments in her company are done with.
However we were also apprehensive about how life would be in the mountains away from the pleasures of the city which we are so used too. But incidentally, last year’s lockdown came as a blessing for us. We were working from home (WFH) so our beta version of our journey started in August 2020.
We stayed through the winter and it wasn’t bad at all. Immediately we understood that the baggage we have been carrying all our lives was so inconsequential. This made our resolve even stronger to come here forthwith.
Katie’s Abode, Hartola is a five bedroom cottage in the midst of Hartola’s orchard trees that bear apple, plum, peach, apricot, pear and walnut. On one side, it offers breath-taking views of the South Gola range, and just across the sights of never-ending forests.
The homestay which opened for guests in September last year is perfect for big families and couples alike. The lower level has two bedrooms – Ratti and Ashwagandha along with a sitting area. This level is currently not open for guests. The mid-level comprises the sitting and dining areas, a sit-out, the kitchen, the reading corner, and two rooms – Kilmora and Buransh. The top level is the family room – Padam which can easily accommodate a family.
Each room is colour coordinated and every piece of furniture are like pieces of a puzzle in their right place. The personal touch of the hosts is so evident, soothing, and nothing over the top – it was simple opulence in its entirety.
Throughout the common areas of the cottage there are shelves full of books that the hosts collected over the years. Deepa herself is a veracious reader. The living room fireplace and the recliner in front of it is the best place to be to curl up with a book before the fire in the winters. Secondly, the sit-out adjacent to the dining area is the best spot in the property to bask in the golden warm sunlight, watch the snow-capped mountains, and watch the sun set behind the mountains.
The splendid location and the exquisite interiors of the cottage are not just what is appreciable about Katie’s Abode. The food on the table meanwhile is something that lingers much after you are back home. Simple yet delectable, one can make out that lot of effort has been put into preparing each and every single dish, every single meal.
Local recipes from various herbs, vegetables and pulses indigenous to the mountains are handpicked from the backyard or from his personal farm by the experienced caretaker cum cook and prepared for guests.
Based on season and availability the homestay’s kitchen brings to the table some little-known traditional Kumaoni dishes including aloo ke gutke, bicchu saag (stinging nettle grass) and lingadu saag (wild asparagus), bhatt ki churkani, baingan ka bharta, bhang chutney, arbi ke patte ki sabji (taro/colocasia leaves), pahadi raita, etc.
And if you want to build up an appetite for this local fare a pre-meal walk can do wonders. Apart from bird-watching, Hartola being a low-traffic area is a walker’s paradise. You can take leisurely walks around the village, or trek the mountains or walk along the edge of the forest reserve towards Rup Singh Dhura. Along the way, you will be treated to the sights of wild flowers of all shapes and hues and to the sounds of myriads of birds and the shy langurs.
Having said that Katie’s Abode, Hartola in itself a world in itself where you can spend time reading, enjoy board games, curl up by the fireplace or just gaze at the stars from the sit-out.
But should you want to explore beyond Hartola, there’s plenty of things to do as well. You can go for sightseeing to Mukteshwar, Naintal, Bhimtal and Almora. There are couple of ancient temples you can visit and based on the time of the year a couple of waterfalls in a 45-minute drive radius from the homestay.
The area around Hartola, as is the entire Kumaon region, home to more than hundreds of avifauna species including several species of pheasants, woodpeckers, partridges, redstart, flycatcher, barbets, warblers, finch, tit, magpie, kingfishers, raptors, common green magpie, etc.
Ornithophiles over the years have had a busy time clicking pictures of the most colourful avian species residing in the area and of those who come to feast of the fruits during the fruit picking season.
If you have a good camera, you can easily capture these birds perched on the branches of the trees surrounding the homestay from the sit-out itself.
In a nutshell, one can safely say that Katie’s Abode, Hartola in Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region is all about relaxation – basically go there, do nothing!!
To book your stay in this beautiful homestay give us a call or whatsapp us at: 9999509850, 9990065426.