Review: Himalaica, Bhowali
They should have called them Hook, Line, and Sinker. For, have no doubt, you will be falling for them. I refer to the reception turn-out at a recent home-stay experience in Bhowali, a short, mostly pretty drive away from Nainital, Bhimtal and Sattal. Flowery garlands, aromatic sprinkles, exotic drinks, refreshing wipes, gel-coiffed cheery staff, step aside. Nothing quite says ‘Welcome’ like a woof, a wag, and a…whoa…slurp! If you disagree, read no further, because this post is about the house where Raja, Lama, and Cyber live.
Himalaica sits enveloped in a verdurous cloak of landscaped grounds and deodar woodlands towards the end of a curvy daisy-lined stone path just off the main road at Shyamkhet village, an hour from Kathgodam, nearest railhead. Even as you alight to refreshing shades of emerald and bursts of lively efflorescence all around, it is hard to miss the excited presence of the canines as they bark and bound their way to you. At least Lama and Cyber do; Raja (the patriarch) plods slowly down to enact the customary sniff-circle-lick greeting before leading a willing you up the garden path.
The five-room property (including two in a shrub-engulfed cottage set to the back of it) is fronted by what is likely to become your favoured haunt, the conservatory. It comes equipped with flowering plants, chintzy furnishings, reading material, fantastic vistas and whatever seats are leftover once the dogs have picked out their spots. Freshly-brewed coffee in the cheerful sunrooms on both levels in the day graciously makes way for single malts beside a roaring fireplace in the camphor-suffused drawing room later in the day. Indeed, the entire house is a tasteful labour of love owners Shalini and Uttam Dave have nurtured for over a decade now.
Walls, shelves, mantles, tables, all covered in curios and memorabilia painstakingly gathered during their travels. Special mention must be made of Uttam’s weakness for Rudyard Kipling and other English poets, their works digitally seared across wooden plaques dotting pretty much every room. Far as private spaces go, cosy bedrooms with comfy armchairs and period furniture looking out at flowery window-sills beg many hours of languor. You do well to take your cue from any one of three eager residents who will helpfully show you how. Their frightened forms are equally likely to sneak into your bed middle of the night at first thunderclap. Don’t worry, they feel and smell nice.
The kitchen at Himalaica is lorded over by caretakers Madhavi and Basant, the latter a culinary magician who will provide you with plenty of flavourful reasons to return. Fluffy omelettes to kebab rolls, Kumaoni fare, hearty stews, fruit medleys and chewy brownies – he covers the whole gamut. Wholesome picnic hampers/daypacks wait at the ready should you choose to hit the great outdoors. A birdsong-replete hike through the jungles to a church in the wilderness if you have an entire day to spare is hugely recommended for scenery and solitude. Or you could simply tuck yourself into one of numerous lush corners on the premises. It’s your holiday, after all.
Disclaimer: While my boundless love for dogs places me smack midst of the prejudiced category, this review is completely unbiased.