From the ground too, looking out from Pokhara to the Annapurna Range in Nepal or from Darjeeling to Kanchenjunga, it is the way the high mountains rise up above the clouds and loom over you that makes you stop and contemplate. Their jagged edges glisten in the sun as if they were delicately cut crystal and although the journey to them would be long and arduous, it is as if you could reach out your hand to touch them. So too is the view from the little visited state of Uttarakand in India, where the views of Nanda Devi accompany you on a walk through the pine, rhododendron and oak forests of the Kumoan valleys.
This is a remote part of the world, there are no airports to speak of and the railway line ends where the hills begin, so the quickest way of getting there involves an overnight train journey from Old Delhi station (an experience in its own right!) to Kathgodam. The train arrives early in the morning and from there it is a 3 hour drive on mountain roads that twist, turn, climb and drop with surprising regularity. A drivers road, not one for nervous passengers or those who suffer motion sickness, but one that has steep borders and beautiful scenery of ancient terraces and rural communities. The real prize, however, is the final destination of the day, the charming Kalmatia Sangam Hotel.
Blessed with stunning views, spacious and comfortable rooms and an environmental conscience that is ahead of its time, Kalmatia Sangam is one of those rare places that makes you smile on arrival, safe in the knowledge of being looked after well in an inhospitable part of the world. The warm welcome that is extended is only the beginning of the truly congenial service to be experienced and rightly sets the tone for your stay. Perched on a ridge, away from the town and the main road, the only noise to disrupt the tranquility is the occasional bark of a dog or peacock call drifting up from the valleys below. The air is crisp, clean and mountain fresh. As the terrain throughout this region is steep, the rooms are interspersed around the property with steps leading to and from the communal areas. This is a cold part of India and in the winter months the temperatures plummet in the evenings. Consequently the rooms are heated by their own wood burning stoves and the bedding is thick and luxurious. Although not identical in size and design, they are all roomy, tastefully decorated and have unique views of the mountains beyond.
From the property there are a number of trails that can be done at your own pace, either on their grounds or further a field, and it is recommended to have at least a couple of nights at the hotel to acclimatize to the altitude and thinness of the air before embarking on the Village Walk itself.
The day after arrival, take an easy walk to the Chittai Bell Temple, dedicated to the God of Justice, Golu Devta. The temple is hung with petitions or prayers of a particular problem and when these prayers are answered, or the problem is solved, the tradition is to bring a bell and hang it on the temple. Bells of all shapes and sizes adorn the temple and worshipers ring them for luck and justice. Unsurprisingly, you don’t have to stray far from the temple to find a thriving market of bell stalls! The walking path starts from the resort through Chir (pine) forests via Sintola with good views into the valley and the Himalya range beyond. After visiting the temple the walk back to the hotel is a steady climb and the beer that awaits is truly welcome! This is a pleasant day with a total walking time of approximately 4 ½ hours.
The following day starts with an hour and a half’s drive towards the high mountains and further into the remote valleys and foothills of the Kumoan region. From a small siding on the road, your journey on foot begins. Passing through picturesque villages dotted along terraced fields; mountain streams with cascading waterfalls; pine, cedar, oak and rhododendron forests (in flower from Feb – Apr) and, all the while, in the company of those glorious peaks. The walking is sometimes flat and easy, sometimes gently sloping and sometimes steep enough for your heart to pound and your face to glow. Altitudes vary between 1450m and 2250m. Your guide and porters will ensure that all you need travels with you and that your load is confined to what you may need on that day – your camera, an extra layer of clothing, water or perhaps some sun screen, allowing you to concentrate on your surroundings.
Walking on the old village trails you pass through several villages where the houses have wonderfully carved doors and windows and the old traditions and culture are still part of their daily routine lives. You pass villages where the castes are strictly segregated, walk through terraced fields then along traditional irrigation channels.
At the end of each days walk you are welcomed into village houses that have been renovated and modernized sufficiently to be considered comfortable places to stay. Clean and well thought out, the houses have private sitting areas, beds with good mattresses and thick, warm duvets, western style loos and showers too (although the water does need to be heated on the fire!). Your host will prepare your meal using local produce and recipes, often nipping out to pick vegetables or herbs to use from his own gardens. The fare is simple and delicious, spicy and plentiful and is served on table ware typical of the area. There is not much in the way of entertainment in the houses, no electricity means no televisions nor blaring music, rather the opportunity to chat to local villagers, your hosts or to one another, if not burying your nose in a good book!
The best is usually saved to last, and here there is no exception. Sokhya Tal is the name of the third and final house on the trail and at an altitude of 2200m, is the highest en route. It sits on a rocky ridge that faces the setting sun and commands impressive views out over the foothills. Close by is a small temple and a local school which encourages visits from guests of the lodge so that their children can benefit from a cultural interaction as interesting to them as it is to you. The exuberance of youth is trans cultural and the simple delight of a child experiencing something new will warm your heart long after the moment has passed.
Price On Application
We are tailor made specialists and firmly believe that the best way for you to get the most out of our expertise and your holiday, is to talk to one of our Destination Specialists. This itinerary is designed to give you an idea of some of the possibilities and the price is determined by your hotel selection, mode of transport, duration of your stay and the time of year you travel.
The air holidays on this website are ATOL protected, since we hold an Air Travel Organiser's Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is 5136. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advanced booking. For further information, visit the ATOL website at www.atol.org.uk.