It was as if, a spark of energising current ran down my spine on a Friday morning as I received a call from an unknown number, “Ma’am, main Mohan, The White Peaks, Gagar se bol raha hun. Aap kal aa rahe hai, na?” asked a friendly voice over the phone. After affirming my scheduled arrival to him, I seemed to melt out of happiness, brooding over finally achieving a well-deserved break in months!
As per plans, boarding the Kathgodam bound morning Shatabdi Express from New Delhi Railway station on the following Saturday, I reached the destined station in five and a half hours. It is about an hour and a half’s journey from Kathgodam to Gagar, covering roughly 40km, passing by Bhimtal, Pasauli, Airforce station Bhowali, and Shyamkhet. To reach The Whites Peaks cottage, you’d have to climb up a steep path adorned by flower gardens, and watchful pet dogs; and take a few turns through stunning oak forests to behold the breathtaking view that lies ahead of you, while a welcoming duo lead and help you with your bags. The host staff, ever-smiling Mohan and Pawan, look after the house while the owners are away, and greet guests with limitless warm smiles, hot beverages and amazing home cooked food.
The White Peaks, perched at the top of a hill, overlooking all other residences, is a welcoming, quaint, cozy home and an epitome of solitude in Gagar. This tiny village will remind you of those picturesque mountaintop destinations from movies. The place boasts of contemplative silence, only broken by occasional cars passing by, and a family of primates running over roofs to the trees in search of food. In fact, the place is so quiet I could initially hear my breathing!
The owners/designers of the home deserve commendable applause for its picture-perfect appearance. It has everything a home can and should have – starting from the marvelous furniture, to the crockery, the wall-hangings and original paintings, the stack of books, and lampshades, to the lovely positioning of the balcony. What makes the cottage close to a visitor’s heart is the warmth rendered by the hosts, the family photographs, and the appealing fireplace.
Mornings in the mountains are always refreshing, but at The White Peaks, mornings smell like mint and sunshine – an endless inexplicable feeling of solitude runs through the clouds. The feel is completed with numerous birds singing away their hearts, a faint jingle of a wind chime and some freshly brewed coffee. Every ounce of that fresh Himalayan air you breathe in will make you want to stay back at the cozy home in Gagar, a place still hidden from the routine brash tourist. The virgin unpolluted breeze will ensure that you come out with your best work. If you are a writer, artiste, composer, thinker, poet, or even if you are just seeking to take a break from your scheduled city life, this must be on your bucket list. The white Peaks is an abode meant to enhance a creative soul.
The place is stuffed with books. The owners of the home have a special attachment to thrillers, as it seemed evident with a large collection of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie mysteries. What could be better than reading an adrenaline-pumping thriller by the lamplight on a cool night in the pin-drop silence of the mountains?
In the morning, after breakfast, you may step out for a little trek in the forest. The rocky and steep trail to a couple of Shiva temples uphill is a path led by fluttering butterflies, kissed by large ferns, and accompanied by the buzz of some friendly bees. Breathe in a lung full of cool, green air and tread ahead joyfully yet carefully. You would not want to run out of breath until you had seen all possible and feasible-for-city-dwellers sights from the short trek. While the road is partly paved with concrete, some parts are mere trails left by regular pedestrians who bear the duty of clearing out overgrown grass from the route. Some areas are just bare, with raw limestone peeping out at you from the ground.
Little Pawan bravely guided me through the narrow trail up to the temples and further into the forest, while I continued giving out elated squeals sighting every turn that allowed a splendid look down to the meandering roads and thick forests. It is advisable to wear sports shoes to avoid fretting every time your foot slips a little over round pebbles. Come back hungry from your trek to some delicious home cooked food by Mohan.
I spent the next few hours post lunch on the balcony basking in the golden sunshine, and reading an Agatha Christie novel, accompanied by a Clams Casino song and coffee! What an irrefutable combination it had been. I could have been in a time warp, with the music playing in loops. As cooler evenings approach, dry twigs light up the fireplace, seated by which you may dig into your book or get lost in thoughtful meditation. With the passing hours post a hearty dinner, sleep is inevitable, so you tuck yourself in the soft sleep inducing bed. You might be a night-owl, but here, before you know it, your eyelids are shut tight (speaking from experience).
The following morning, I flung open the windows upon waking up, way earlier than usual, and gazed out at the morning cloud clad sun. Seizing the opportunity, a light and cool breeze entered the otherwise warm room and caught my open hair flinging them away from my face, and wiping away the sleep from my eyes the breeze breathed in some freshness into the boring tresses. I wish someone was there to capture the moment in a photograph.
My lust for the lush green forests, natural music, and flowers, brimmed over with joy and oodles of uncontrollably excited gallops about the garden lawn, as I broke into smiles every now and then, throughout my stay at the cottage.
My co-visitor and I engaged ourselves in photo-sessions and abrupt conversations about travel, food and our love for the mountains. Stationed onto an armchair admiring the hills ahead, I noticed a mammoth grey cloud approaching from our right gradually engulf the scenery. But sensing our unwelcoming looks, it flew upwards floating towards the sunny meadows to the left. The cloud must have had a long tail, for we witnessed no stars that night, and the next day it rained cats and dogs on our way back via Bhimtal. Leaving a place this appealing for Delhi is without a trace of doubt, unpleasant and sad. But we, creatures of habit, must head back to our scheduled lifestyle, hoping to come back soon, to get recharged, like a phone battery does, to be able to pull off a few more months happily.
Perfect for honeymoon couples, families or a small group of friends in search of some peace and quiet, The White Peaks can be that much-needed break you have been craving for. A loner’s paradise, this home will help you detox all the negativity from your mind, meditate for hours without any hindrances, or even workout in a natural backdrop. Ditch all the air-conditioned gyms, this could be your best workout experience ever.
This place, close to God, might just wipe away the patent snobbery many city dwellers carry at the tip of their noses, and give them an opportunity to savour the rudimentary pleasures of life. So just grab your bags and go!
Personally, I just fell in love with the mountains all over again, and couldn’t help but hum…
‘Cause you brought out the best of me/
A part of me I’d never seen/
You took my soul and wiped it clean/
Our love was made for movie screens…