Raju’s Cottage, Goshaini

Almost a quarter of a century ago, a gaggle of excitable schoolgirls planned their last school trek together. It would take them from Shimla to Kullu across the Bashleo Pass at 3270 metres. The steep 13-kms climb to the top would begin at Sarahan and end another gentle 12-kms descent later at Bathad in the Tirthan Valley. The route would navigate through a thick forest, without providing any encounters with the bears the region was so famed for, they hoped.

In practice, they would take too long to get to the top; they would lose part of their group to speed, they would lose their way, their first-aid kit and their cool. They would, finally, begin their descent in pitch dark and one of the girls (read yours truly) would even lose her step and go skidding, face down, towards the roaring Tirthan River, till the accompanying teacher would risk life and limb to yank her back. They would decide it was too dangerous to go further. They would spend the night in the open, keeping vigil to avoid the unpalatable event of turning into bear food. They would decide not to return to the valley in a great hurry!

One of those schoolgirls, though, recently revisited the Tirthan Valley for an out and out leisure trip; the sole purpose of which was to get away from urban chaos for a brief rejuvenating period. It didn’t take long to decide on a visit to Goshaini, more explicitly, to Raju Bharti’s creeper-engulfed Cottage across the Tirthan River. Mind you that picture on the net is not doctored; what you see is what you get. Including the canine presence. Waiting my turn to be pull(ey)ed across the river on a flying fox, any misgivings I may have had about being there, vanished rapidly downstream with the current. It appeared to be the perfect setting for simply sitting around and reading, going for the occasional walk, and hopefully being fed wonderful food.

I was proved right on each count. Raju and his wife Lata have in their own fashion underscored the much-mouthed Spanish adage: mi casa es su casa. They run a guest house that is clean, comfortable, and relatively inexpensive given that trout is part of dinner, each day. Guests have a total run of the place including the kitchen, every surface of which is covered with a multitude of bottles and jars containing home-made, preservative-free juices, jellies and pickles, all for the taking, as you please. The refrigerator is forever stocked with munchies and guests can line up their beers and wines to cool, if required. No matter what time of day you enter the kitchen, you will find the table covered with casseroles of wholesome food prepared by Lata herself.

They evidently understand that the crisp air keeps People On Holiday constantly hungry. Yet, the most endearing note from that visit was when Raju recollected the school that nearly lost a gaggle of excitable schoolgirls, almost a quarter of a century ago.

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