Unhotel Sanctuary in the Hills– Silent Valley, Jilling
By Sharan Kaur
Have you ever imagined of owning a place in the Himalayas? Your little home, with comfortable recliners in the living room perched over a thick carpet lain across the floor.
With a spacious kitchen filled with the aroma of freshly baked cookies and an old, soul soothing music player. With a wooden deck outside the glass doors, where you’d sit and read a book till you see the light fading and watch the
sun set over the mountains, right where you are. And all this might sound like a dream to you, but I’ve visited a place nearly as good.
It was only a few weeks ago that my parents had (yet again) arrived at a conclusion that their lives were becoming too stressful and what with the Delhi summer approaching, a refreshing vacation was in order. Like always,
they spoke to a few people and on the recommendation of my mom’s friend Shilpi of “Unhotel”, we decided to travel to the sequestered Sanctuary in the Hills, a few miles away from Padampuri, a town near Bhimtal in Uttarakhand.
A standard drive averaging 8 hours, inclusive of one stop along the way, from the city of Gurgaon, this place was decided upon as “ideal”- neither obscenely expensive, nor very cold and an easy drive- and we, a family of four, set out on a bright Thursday morning at 5 am.
Now, the thing to keep in mind, as I was reminded several times by my mother, is that when you reach, you haven’t quite reached yet. You see, the estate is built on a higher terrain than wherever the road takes you. So, at the end of the road we were greeted by Dipu Bhaiya – one of the workers at the sanctuary – who made sure that our luggage was strapped safely onto Moti, the horse. Moti would carry it up the hill, while we took our backpacks and started the two-kilometer trek up towards the sanctuary. It’s a fun walk through the forest, a little on the steeper side but the woods will fascinate you enough to forget about any tiredness. The walk is quite refreshing, albeit a little less than the “Aam Panna” that our host greeted us with at the top, who later came to be known as Radhika aunty for my younger sister and me.
As we entered the main living room, we were greeted with refreshments. My parents asked for registration and check-in in details, but it came as a surprise to them when Radhika aunty informed them that such formalities
were to be done at the time of checking out. “When guests have just arrived and are tired,” she said, “they must be offered a glass of water, not a bunch of paper work to fill out.” This sentence usually brings a smile upon peoples’
faces, as I noticed amongst the guests who arrived over the course of the next few days. We had booked two “rooms”, one for my parents and the other for my sister and me to share.
They were cozy little huts overlooking the Silent Valley (in which Jilling was situated), with tasteful yet simple furniture and a clean bathroom; the one we stayed in even had a bathtub! Over the next few days, we went out for long jungle trail walks, quick but steep treks, fun-filled bird watching experiences and explored the lodge with its heated swimming pool and a Bhairo Devi temple nearby. Some mornings were well spent, sprawled lazing in the living room on the lush comfy sofas, mostly with warm baked cookies, an interesting book and a nice cup of Earl Grey. Evenings were cozy with bonfires in the company of other like-minded guests, with an occasional game of chess or Scrabble.
Kids of varied age groups were fascinated by the huge collection of DVDs and Music CDs. What a treasure trove it was! The few days that I spent there were superbly relaxing, quietly enriching and mindfully close to nature. I loved it, and will make sure I revisit, when I’m in need of an energizer. After holidaying in this home away from home at the “Santuary in the Hills”, I felt it’s alright, even if one doesn’t own her own cottage in the Himalayas; if one has opportunities like this to vacation under the stars high above in the mountains surrounded by the sweet scent of pine trees and colourful rhododendrons.