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Business News/ News / Business Of Life/  Weekend vacations: In the lap of mountains


Isquinted irritably in an effort to adjust my eyes to the bright gleam of sunlight. Wasn’t it only 6am? Having parted the curtains the previous night to invite the moonlight in, I should have expected this morning nudge. And then, even through the grogginess, it dawned on me that the bright sunshine meant I would be able to catch stunning views of the Himalayas.

I leapt out of bed, pressed my nose to the glass window and greeted the majestic Trishul Massif in the scenic town of Mukteshwar in Kumaon, Uttarakhand. The sky was a crisp blue, the snowy peaks clearly visible.

Located at a comfortable driving distance from New Delhi (343km), Mukteshwar is a popular weekend getaway. Its Chauli Ki Jaali cliff, the historic Shiva temple called Mukteshwar Dham and the PWD bungalow (Jim Corbett was a regular guest here) are popular tourist spots. In fact, the place is packed with tourists during the peak season from April-July.

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Sitla is known for its exceptionally beautiful, 180-degree sweeping vistas of the Himalayas. I chose the Sitla Estate, a 150-year-old house turned into a home-stay, as my escape for the weekend. Through the day, I soaked in the sun, lost in a book, occasionally looking up to admire the peaks from the confines of a comfortable seat under the open skies.

On the first day of my short vacation, I was reluctant to leave my cosy perch or forgo the regular refills of hot tea. I sifted through the well-stacked library but eventually went back to reading Ved Mehta’s Portrait Of India. I thought I should have walked around the orchards a little. “In an hour, maybe," I told myself, and went back to the book.

Around noon the next day, I did decide on a leisurely walk. I fastened my shoelaces, grabbed a light jacket and scanned the trails around the estate. There are different grades of short hikes that one can explore, but I settled for a no-fuss one which took me through vegetable farms and fruit orchards. As an amateur birding enthusiast, I decided to follow up on the estate owner’s suggestion, grab a pair of binoculars and try my luck at birdwatching. I didn’t meet with much success, but amid the brown of the earth, the fresh green of nature and the generous azure of the sky, my eyes were glued to the symmetry of rows of apple trees, the yellow zucchini and a flourish of snow peas.

I was hungry by the time I returned, ready to gobble down a healthy lunch of farm-fresh greens, succulent chicken, local ingredients like nettle plants, and pulses.

After the meal, my aimless sauntering took me towards the village market, to one of the Kilmora outlets run by the non-profit Kumaon Grameen Udyog (KGU). The KGU trains and encourages local communities to make and sell products like mufflers, caps, shawls, jackets, food items like jams, dried herbs and spices, and miscellaneous products like solar lights and stuffed toys. I met a few local women; they were knitting colourful hot-water bag covers.

On the way back, I followed a trail flanked by towering deodars that filtered the sun’s evening rays in brilliant geometric patterns. Surrounded by silence, I took the winding path that followed the curvaceous edge of the hill.

I had been strolling for around 2 hours. And quite suddenly, I felt a nip in the air; the sun had started setting behind the mountains—a reminder to pick up speed. Yet, I lingered, and then, just as I thought I should head back, I saw the full moon rising, with the mighty peaks—Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and Trishul—on one side, the moon casting its silver light over the terraced terrain of Sitla. I stood mesmerized.

And I knew I would go to bed with the curtains parted, yet again.

Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros.

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Updated: 18 Mar 2016, 01:43 AM IST
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