With things finally opening up in India, we planned a trip to Shakti Kumaon. The last two years spent in our apartments in the city during the pandemic left us craving the outdoors. My Father, Aditya and I set off from Delhi and drove down to Gethia Nainital, to avoid taking the train. We stayed overnight at Bara Bungalow and continued our journey the next day and began the Shakti Kumaon Village walks.
Shakti Himalaya was founded by my Father Jamshyd Sethna, 16 years ago comprising week long walking holidays to the most beautiful, remote reaches of the Indian Himalayas while providing deep comfort. What to expect; week long journeys with outstanding service and degree of comfort rarely found in the Himalaya. Kumaon was the first region that Shakti started with and soon after we set up Sikkim and Ladakh.
Day 1: Shakti Jwalabanj
We walked through fields of mustard and forests of pine surrounded by nothing but lush green rolling hills and occasionally spotting Nandadevi, poking her head out from behind the clouds. We wandered through villages on our journey and exchanged Namastes and smiles with everyone we encountered, we are even invited in for tea. Over here, time stands still. We take in the sites; local terrace farming, flour mills, water pumps, herds of sheep, mountain goats and cows grazing as we walk on. Over here, the women do the heavy lifting, carrying large piles of dried leaves on their heads. We arrive at our cosy, chic Village house in Jwalabanj just in time for tea and are immediately greeted by the sweetest 6th month old puppy, Lumboo.
Day 2: Shakti Jwalabanj to Shakti 360° Leti
We start the day early, with French press coffee and Shakti’s in house parmesan biscuits are brought to our rooms by our server Durga Ji. As I sip my coffee and look out of the balcony, Lumboo spots me from below and excitedly runs up the stairs for a cuddle. After a breakfast of fruit, granola, yoghurt and Aloo Puri, we set out on our drive to Shakti 360° Leti. We drive through various towns and villages. The topography changes from low altitude hills spotted with pine to a variety of oak, cedar, rhododendron as we climb higher to the remote northern reaches of Kumaon. As we meander through the bends and bridges, we are lucky enough to spot Nandadevi poking her head out from behind cotton candy clouds.
We watch life unfold in sleepy Kumaon from our windows. The mountain dogs are sturdier and bushier than their city contemporaries.
Once we arrive, it takes a few moments to take in the view and catch our breath . A tear trickles down my cheek as I suddenly feel dwarfed by the colossal and humbling mountains ahead of us.
A delicious lunch of Khow Suey is laid out under the shamiana, prepared by Shakti’s head chef Yeshi ji, former Buddhist monk and one of Shakti’s original employees.
The day is spent staring through the glass widow at the surreal views, cosying up in our pashmina blankets, sipping hot chai, chatting and reading. A piping hot shower and change of clothes later, we are on our way for a drink by the fire in the stone drawing room. We talk about everything and nothing as the single malt trickles down and warms our bellies. The clouds part and a full moon emerges in all her glory, shining bright. Dinner is served by candlelight and we are ravenous. A warm, cream of Broccoli ( from our vegetable garden) soup, followed by fresh trout from the river close by, a selection of roasted vegetables and breads and a sticky toffee pudding.
We scurry back to our rooms, guided by the full moon and are immediately enveloped by the warmth of the wood fire heater thoughtfully turned on by the head of service staff, Harish an hour earlier. The warmth and deep comfort of our bed, slowly lulls us into a deep slumber.
Day 3: Shakti 360° Leti
Harish knocks on the door 7 am carrying French press coffee and cookies to serve us in bed. He lights our fire and opens the blinds, revealing the glistening Hiramani mountain range. Each of the four guest pavilions offer spectacular views of the surrounding hills, valley and mountains. The cottages are made of a simple combination of stone built in the traditional local way, with floor to ceiling Burma teak encased, double glazed windows offering unobstructed views.
We gear up for our morning walk to the beautiful village of Capri. We walk with Bhopal and Harish who have both been with Shakti for 16 years and are from the region. We chatter along the way, as they point out various villages and exchange greetings. Harish and Bhopal knew everyone enroute. A three hour walk through a scenic valley with a short break for apple, beetroot and celery juice and granola bars laid out for us by Bhopal. We return famished and ready for lunch after a productive morning outdoors. Lunch is light and healthy, with a variety of fresh salads from Shakti’s vegetable garden and a crisp chicken pie,
The remainder of the day was spent resting, reading and taking in views. We couldn’t help but think how lucky we truly are.
Day 4: Shakti 360° Leti
It was a colder morning as it had been snowing in the glaciers overnight. I sipped on my coffee that Harish brought in, as he lit the fire in our room. Breakfast was delicious, I had fresh fruit, muesli and some Akuri.
We set off on our morning excursion, a short drive away to the village of Liti. We began walking uphill to the most spectacular view point, which gave us a panoramic view of the snow clad mountain peaks of Nandadevi and Pachachuli.
After a hot meal, we cozied up by the fire and read for a few hours as the weather turned and little droplets of hail fell from the sky. We spent the rest of the day lazing after our active morning.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in ones work and daily motions of city life. The beauty about holidays like this, is that it forces you to look inward, recharge your warn out batteries, live in the moment and renew your perspective.
Day 5 Shakti 360° Leti to Shakti Kana
As I zipped up my bag up, I felt a lump in my throat. The past few days in Kumaon had been invigorating and centring. Spending time with my family without the everyday distractions of city life was such a treat. We take these simple joys for granted. Maybe we all need to switch off our phones every so often and disconnect so that we are able to make meaningful connections.
We drove down to a village house in Kana to break our journey for the night before flying back to Delhi the next day. A traditional stone village house constructed by Shakti. We spent the evening by the fire, sipping on our ginger, lemon, honey teas and looking out into the scenic, lush greenery and cultivated fields.
I was already planning my next Shakti trip in my head. Shakti Ladakh opens in May and is on till October.
For more information visit the Shakti Website:
Shakti Kumaon – https://www.shaktihimalaya.com/kumaon.php
Shakti Ladakh – https://www.shaktihimalaya.com/ladakh.php
Shakti Sikkim – https://www.shaktihimalaya.com/sikkim.php
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