Nestled snugly in a thick grove of green chestnut trees, The Chestnut Grove Himalayan Lodge is truly a traveler’s delight. Located strategically between Bageshwar and Chaukori in the sleepy hamlet of Vijaypur, in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, Chestnut Grove receives a motley footfall during season and even during off-season. Most use this as a night halt enroute to Munshiyari and then decide to stay on for another day and also stop over on their way back. For us however, it was a 6 night stand and an experience which we are not ready to forget too soon.
Managed by Linger and owned by Mr. Vivek Pandey of Grand Himalayan Adventures, Chestnut Grove is made comfortable by the loving smiles and careful attention of its cook, carer and Manager. The three individuals made sure that we not only had a holiday but rather created a memory that would last us a lifetime. Moreover, Mr. Pandey is a fantastic adventure tour planner. He mapped out the perfect itinerary for us which made it a totally unforgettable experience for us.
Finally the cherry on the cake was a visit by the senior Mr. Pandey , Vivek’s father, who made us feel as if we had come back home after having wandered away for too long. His stories of the nocturnal visits by a leopard who used to prowl on the neighbouring hills chilled our spines no doubt but at the same time thrilled our hearts to the core. We waited to hear at least one knock but was sadly disappointed.
The kitchen at the lodge served simple yet delicious home style food. Savouring their eclectic cuisine in their sun drenched dining hall in the company of twittering Tits and a bookcase replete with an excellent collection is definitely a refreshing change. The food no matter how simple was always served piping hot which made it all the more delectable.
Our cottage where we lodged was done up with decor which matched the surroundings we were in. It was a snug little place of stay which we adored absolutely. The most interesting was the bell which hung in front of the cottage and which served as the ‘intercom’. Whenever, we required anything, we would go and ring it. Raju, the carer would holler down from above “Yes Saar”. “Tea please Raju” ” Abhi laaya” ( getting it soon ) would come the cheerful reply reverberating with such enthusiasm that generated a lovely feeling of being welcomed from the heart.
The enthusiasm was equally strong when we got to see the first glimpse of the majestic Himalayan peaks after two days of incessant rain. I was sitting with a book, not too keen on climbing all the way up to view the peaks, however, Raju was insistent.”Maam come. Beautiful sight”. His eagerness caught on to me and I happily trudged up to get mesmerised. I later realised that retaining this level of enthusiasm for things that are probably mundane for you and infecting others with it is probably the best attribute in achieving successful tourism. Kudos to Raju and his team for weaving it in so effortlessly in their everyday practice of entertaining guests.
Ramesh the manager of the lodge, a young enthusiastic person took us on bird watching tours. On each of our walks, he amazed us with his knowledge of the area and its avian population. He was a natural with identifying birds and later shyly confided in us that he had downloaded an app on Birds of Uttarakhand and was becoming quite passionate about this wonderful hobby. We encouraged him enthusiastically and found him literally beaming.
Our room opened onto terraced steps thickly carpeted with dried pine needles. The whole area was embraced by tall lustrous pine and chestnut trees. A group of parakeets who had made the nearby chestnut trees their home made a mad rush from one tree to another creating a green canopy before our eyes as we sat sipping our morning and evening teas. The whistling thrush was our early morning alarm as it whistled gustily in full enjoyment of the early morning freshness.
The day we left Chestnut Grove our feet were heavy as we trudged up the cobbled steps. There was a yearning to linger a bit more on the rain drenched forest path that led towards the village below, sit for a while longer before the smouldering flames of last night’s bonfire and more importantly ring the bell for one last time just to hear its tinkle and carry it in our hearts. It would be our definite pit stop for the next few sojourns to the Kumaon . However, the next time you visit Chestnut Grove, do ring the bell beneath the chestnuts to feel its chime reverberate in your heart forever.
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