The White Peaks | Perfect Summer Home
A boutique Himalayan pet-friendly home stay, with best Kumaoni home-style food, warm hospitality and serene surroundings.
Breezy weather, blooms of spring, sounds of chirping birds, paths lined up with trees of Rhododendron flowers and a sky full of stars – visiting Aparupa and Abhijeet’s summer home, The White Peaks, gave me a peek into the beauty of living in the hills of Kumaon.
The morning: When the journey started
While packing, I had felt an unprecedented thrill and slept scarcely with excitement. Early morning at 6AM, I caught the Shatabadi from New Delhi Railway Station and reached Kathgodam station by 11:30 AM. There on, a taxi took Gurjas, Mridula (from Travel Tales from India) and me to our destination – The White Peaks.
The home-stay: Quaint little cottage
It took us an hour and half to reach Gagar, a little village, starkly different from the bustling towns we had left behind. Mohan, the caretaker, greeted us with a heartening smile and led us up a moderately steep path, flanked by a handful of tiny houses on one side. The climb was steep, but short and in about 5 minutes we found ourselves in the home stay, surrounded by fields and forests.
I could hear the wind and the birds. I could see a variety of flowers in every nook and cranny. Trees of Rhododendrons, the beautiful local flower, lined every path. I was told, the juice of this flower is very refreshing and has many health benefits.
Once inside, I glanced in admiration at the sophisticated interiors, wooden floorings, handpicked artifacts, fireplace and most notably, the huge variety of books. Standing in the courtyard, I gazed at the perfect view of the Himalayan Peaks and knew very well, that I wouldn’t really be leaving the cottage much, during my stay there.
The Food: Simple, home-like and soulful
As I eat out very often, I was definitely looking forward to the local ‘home-cooked’ treats on offer at The White Peaks.
Day – 1
Lunch: Bhindi (Lady Finger), Moong-Masur Daal, Rice, Chapati, Mint Chutney and freshly cut salad were served for Lunch. After having my first bite, I was amazed at its uncanny similarity to the food cooked by my Mom. Everything on the table tasted as if my mom had packed it for me to carry along. It was so delicious that I almost forgot the count of chapatis I ate.
Dinner: Chicken with Onion Masala, Daal, Aloo-Gobhi, Rice, Chapati and Salad.
The Chicken was prepared with a modest amount of jeera, ginger-garlic paste, salt, pepper, garam masala and finely chopped onion. The preparation made me realize how sometimes, simplicity can make things extraordinary. This meal was again, comfort all the way!
Day – 2
Breakfast: Aloo-Puri and Mint Chutney.
If there is one breakfast dish from Northern India, that’s truly celebratory, it’s Aloo-Puri! The aroma of the Aloo Sabzi was alluring enough and I couldn’t stop gorging on the thick tangy gravy. The Puris prepared from Wheat flour dough, had a hint of Ajwain and Kasuri Methi and were delicious enough to be simply eaten on their own. The Mint Chutney was refreshing, as it comprised of fresh mint from the gardens and homemade curd. How I wish, that instead of sitting in the dining area, I could sit in the open courtyard overlooking the mountains and relish those piping hot puris! Might sound trivial, but can you ever imagine experiencing something like that in a metropolitan city? I bet not.
Lunch: Kumaoni Daal, Shahi Paneer, Chapati, Rice and Salad.
The Kumaoni Daal was prepared with Rajma and Urad Daal in a masala comprising of onion, tomato, ginger-garlic, turmeric, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cloves and tej patta all cooked in Mustard Oil. Mohan had added some garam masala and cooked the tadka to perfection. The Daal tasted heavenly and I had countless servings of it. The Shahi Paneer had tomato, onions, raisins, cashews, salt and pepper cooked together. Once the mixture cooled off, it was ground to perfection and cooked again to the consistency of gravy. Even though, it had been cooked without cream, it could give any good eatery in Delhi, a run for its money!
Dinner: Kali Malka Daal, Baingan Bharta, Chicken in Tomato gravy, Chapati, Rice and Salad. While everything tasted delicious (as usual), the Chicken preparation was the star of the meal. The thick gravy prepared with tomato-onion and chili, was mildly spiced up with garam masala, dhaniya powder and chicken masala. This was my most favourite dish of all the meals. Though every meal had been phenomenal, I did miss my fill of dessert. A simple Kheer or Sewai could serve as the perfect icing on the cake.
Breakfast: Aloo parantha with Curd and Butter.
I love Aloo Paranthas unabashedly! So, when Mohan prepared soft delicious paranthas, stuffed with boiled potatoes, mashed and seasoned with salt, pepper, chopped coriander leaves and green chilies, I topped them with butter and it made my heart beam with joy.
Even though, Mohan always served Indian dishes, he made sure nothing was too spicy or overcooked. He used spices and flavourings in moderate quantities that allowed the taste of lentils, vegetables or meat to shine through. His food was simple and unpretentious, but his love and care, made it taste extraordinary.
The afternoon: Time to come back
With a reluctantly heavy heart, I, along with Gurjas and Mridula, left The White Peaks to catch our train for Delhi. And, just like that my remarkable do-nothing holiday was over.
Things I learnt: Concluding words
My brief walk in the forest, made me see so many things peculiar to this terrain and enjoy the silence around me. I could hear the sound of trees caressing each other, the wind blowing on face and birds trying to talk to each other. I realized that nature talks back to you if you embrace it.
I’ve always felt that people living in the hills are the sweetest, warmest innocent souls. And having experienced Mohan’s warm hospitality, I feel reassured.
Meeting Mridula was another major highlight of the trip. She is a fun companion and affably shares anecdotes and experiences from her various travels around the world. Also, she was kind enough to patiently wait, while we photographed the food.
Personally, for me, this was a much-needed break. Many of us live in chaotic environs and very often, don’t realize the significance of silence and how it can change the way one looks at things.
If I ever want to pamper myself, I guess I won’t look further. I would be happy to sit idly, besides the fireplace with a book in my hand, all by myself. The White Peaks is the perfect little summer home we all want, to escape to.
NOTE: I was invited to The White Peaks, located in Gagar village near Bhimtal, to experience local cuisine served in the simple home-like milieu, of one of the finest home stays in Uttarakhand. Visit them for a taste of simple life in the mountains and a do-nothing holiday!
In a nutshell:
Location: Mukta Niwas, Gagar Village, District – Nainital (Uttarakhand). Nearest Railway Station – Kathgodam (One and a half hour drive from the station to the home stay), Nearest Airport – Pantnagar.
Atmosphere: It’s a beautifully done-up cottage with two bedrooms, dining and living rooms along with a courtyard and a balcony. It is also celebrated for being one of the best Pet-Friendly home stays in India.
Service: Mohan, the caretaker, is a sincere, hard working, sweet chap. He is always available at the home stay to look after you and your needs.
Food: Delicious home-style food, prepared fresh for each meal. Mohan always asks your preferences before cooking a meal. You can also get special dishes prepared on request. Non-Veg is only served for Dinner.
Must Haves: Chicken curry, Aloo-Puri, Kumaoni Daal (Rajma-Urad), Homemade Mint chutney, Masala Chai and Mohan’s special coffee.