“Why are you going to Ramgarh?” enquires my driver. We are in the middle of a nine-hour drive from Delhi. I tell him I’m on holiday, and need a break from the chaotic city life. He looks confused. It is off-season and tourists are a rare sight at this time.
My room at the hilltop V Resorts Ramgarh has views of the tree-clad mountains looming over the houses and the many resorts that dot the lower region of Ramgarh (Talla). The six-year-old property in the upper region of Ramgarh, locally known as Malla, feels like an extravagant homestay. The main cottage has three rooms, a dining and living area, a porch and a balcony, and a kitchen one level below the ground. My room is simple with wooden floors, blinds on the windows and dim lighting. There’s a cosy reading nook and no TV—a stay here is all about the views of the valley.
A typical Kumaoni meal served at the stay includes locally grown rice and black soya bean gravy. Photo by: Joana Lobo
The fourth room is the Writers’ Cottage, about 100 metres away. The name is inspired by the stories of two writers who were famous in this region, Mahadevi Verma and Rabindranath Tagore. It is believed that Verma got the idea of writing Lachma here in Ramgarh; and that Tagore wrote parts of his epic Gitanjali at mountain retreats in Ramgarh and Almora. The setting is ideal for a writer on the move or for those looking for a retreat. The view is inspiring, the spotty Internet connectivity ensures minimal digital distractions, and the absence of noise can be conducive to creative thinking.
The silence, to someone accustomed to city noise, is deafening. I feel it wrap around me, as if to keep me warm from the evening chill. During my stay, I realise that people here cherish the quiet. They don’t waste words.
I find myself at a loss for words to describe the vista in front of me, especially at dusk. In front of me is a refined version of nature drawings children do in school—the sun setting over the mountains and adding a filter to the surrounding that no photo app can replicate, streams running past tiled homes, and grazing animals dotting the landscape. Is this what inspired the great writers who came to this region?
The next morning, I set off on a literary trail and my first stop is Tagore Point, now home to a decrepit cottage that once was Tagore’s home. My guide is Indra Bahadur, originally from Nepal, and a man of few words. During the trek to Tagore Point, we only spot bare apple trees since fruit-picking season is over but we pass small hutments, terraced slopes of potato and pea farms, and little clumps of deodhar trees. However, our three-hour journey doesn’t end as expected. The path to the cottage is overgrown and repeated whacking with sticks doesn’t help. “The place is dangerous,” Bahadur tells me. Though they make a rare appearance, bears and leopards reside in the denser woods. The last time Bahadur got a group here was five years ago. “No one but trekkers come here,” he says.
Each room at the stay opens up to expansive views of tree-covered hills and Himalayan peaks in the distance. Photo courtesy: V Resorts
He notices my frustration and tells me the hill we are resting on is called Gitanjali. He doesn’t know the reason but I accept his attempt to make me feel better. My second stop, the Mahadevi Verma library, a ten-minute walk from the resort, is also shut; the caretaker has gone home for a wedding. “Barely anyone comes here,” says Bahadur. “Who has the time to go visit a library, everyone is busy with their lives.”
Disappointed, I turn to the library in the resort. There are about 50 books, including trashy romance novels and classics. I seek out the various reading nooks in the resort, devouring the words on page with the same intensity I reserve for food.
As with any cold region, I often find myself hungry. Pankaj, the chef who doubles up as a driver and guide, doesn’t disappoint. His chicken and fish curries are light and wholesome, the omelettes are fluffy and the dal is flavourful. I ask for a Kumaoni meal and he serves me bhatt ki churkaani, black soya bean gravy spiced with local herbs; aloo ke gutke, a snack similar to jeera; and steaming fat-grained local rice. Whenever I am thirsty, there are endless glasses of the refreshing buransh, the blood red juice of the rhododendron flower.
About an hour away, Bhimtal offers adventure sports including paragliding. Photo courtesy: V Resorts
After meals, I walk around the property. The manager Nitesh accompanies me, and we talk about tourism and how Uttarakhand attaining statehood has changed the region. As night falls we hear crickets, buses honking in Talla and the beginning of a Ramleela performance.
My walks aside, sightseeing at Ramgarh is incidental. When not resting, I visit the nearby Ghorakhal Tea Factory and the Golu Devta Temple where devotees hang brass bells in prayer. On my last morning, the property arranges for me to go paragliding. I get a bird’s-eye view of Himalayan peaks shrouded in clouds, Bhimtal glimmering in the distance, and cows and horses grazing on the open pastures and tree-covered slopes. If I wasn’t fighting gravity in a tight harness, I could wax poetic about the view. The thing with Ramgarh is that there’s beauty and inspiration. You just have to know where to look.
ESSENTIALS V Resorts Ramgarh is located in Malla (Upper) Ramgarh. It is about 80 km/3 hr from the nearest airport, Pantnagar, and 332 km/9 hr from Delhi by road (www.vresorts.in; doubles cottage room Rs2,860, Writers’ Cottage Rs3,560).
is a freelance writer and journalist. A silent feminist (they do exist!), food snob, and Potterhead, she prefers canine company to that of humans. She actively seeks out cheap eating haunts, and weird and wondrous places, when travelling.
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