A memory called Kosi Valley Retreat at Simkholi!
The summers of the North are murderous! You get roasted to the core, while you try to survive despite all the odds…every year, every summer; the cycle never changes! Let me tell you, living here in Delhi may have many other benefits, but the rather warm summers and extremely cold winters are not one of them!
So while the summer rages on, people like us look for rescue missions that can take us away for a moment of respite. Some head south, some head even north’er! The average Delhite has a few choices on his finger tips – the hill ‘stations’ of Nainital, Mussourie, Shimla or Manali. They turn those beautiful little sleepy towns, into one hell of a mela – they carelessly abuse the beauty around them, and gorge day long – either on food or on shopping! Of course, it helps the locals to make a quick buck!
However, there are some folks like us, who cant stand living in another reflection of my so called city – Delhi. Its just about enough trying to survive with million inhabitants who cant care less if you breathe or you die! Folks like us look for off beat locations that could just about revive the spirits of our lives for just a moment of life!
Fortunately google can still be helpful with a twist. All you need to do is put in the right words and presto – you have some quaint answers that the average city folk doesn’t bother to look for! My search brought me to a strange place, in a strange location – Kosi Valley Retreat in a place called Simkholi.
Never heard of the place before all my life! But hey, whats life without new words! Looking further, I decided to take the plunge – give it a shot to spend a few days in this unknown hinterland. The bookings flew like the breeze – in less than 24 hours Soumya confirmed our booking and told us we were all set to go! What she failed to do was, to tell us what to expect! A retreat ? A Hotel? A nightmare?
For those who love to drive – a bit of a tip! Driving out of Ranikhet you have a few options – option 1, drive via the lovely golf course of Ranikhet, via Kosi and finally onto the location. Option 2 – drive out of Ranikhet and take the left fork that immediately moves downhill. A most beautiful and invigorating drive! Option 3 – drive until Majhkali and drive straight into a narrow road going down hill (avoiding a right turn which is the main road to Kosi).
Guess which road we took?? the 3rd naturally! A bloody nightmare which took us through extremely narrow and broken road which we found out after 1 hour – it was under construction! Not another single vehicle in sight! As a driver I was furious – why was I driving on this road, and worse, why was I not warned about it. I had a bone to pick with the Manager of Kosi Valley Retreat the moment I reached!
On the plus side, the drive was serene – the mountains, the forests, the nightmare..all put together was a crazy experience! We drove for over 2 hours covering about 60 kms to finally reach our destination. I was pissed. Period.
Driving into our ‘no options hotel’ we arrived and were greeted by a young man probably in his early 30s. Shivraj offered us some drinks of revival that kept me quiet! His demeanor made me quickly forget my practiced lines that I was going to give him – for not directing us through that harrowing experience!
Kosi Valley Retreat as I will call it, was hard to decipher at first. I stayed with Shivraj while my family surveyed the property. I was afraid my rather stern and strict wife was going to throw a fit quite soon. Ironically I heard her shout out from somewhere – hey Jim..the room is great! Phew, what a sigh of relief i took! The last thing i needed from a drive like that, was to be reprimanded for my choice and decision! I had passed the first test!
Hungry as hell we chose a lunch that Shivraj recommended – and we ate like pigs!
As I regained my composure, I spent some time talking with Shivraj, what can we do in the middle of nowhere? Is this a retreat or what? He laughed – relax sir, you’ll love the next few days here I assure you! I looked at him with desperate eyes, and a look of mistrust.
What could he offer me here in the middle of nowhere? Now let me remind you, I’m a bloody city bloke now; though I’ve spend a few years growing up in the Uttrakhand hills studying at Sherwood College so living in nature was as old as my age. What would he
offer to make our stay interesting?
Tired, we took a nap – I was exhausted and needed to re-energize. The kids chose to watch a movie. Lazying in our rooms was fine that afternoon. Refreshed we met Shivraj in the evening and asked him for the next course of action.
Now for those who haven’t seen this retreat, its a quaint property nestled in the midst of a valley between the mountains and the river and vast lands of paddy fields. A stone walled 2 floor building with 4 bedrooms on the first floor, and a dining and reception on the ground. The rest of the property has a lovely garden area, about 8 tents, a toilet block for those adventurous to stay in the tents, and a small man made pond right in the centre.
On the right is the highway leading up to Kausani 18 kilometres away, and just on its right is the river Kosi – roaring and flowing ! Take a walk on the highway and about 100 metres away you find a small local store selling basic groceries, and doubling up as a mini kitchen serving some food and some lovely masala tea for Rs. 15 a cup! Now look left of the property, and you see small hills, a few hundred metres high – but the perfect spot to be in – between the hills and the valley, and the river! Picturesque you ask – use your imagination – and its ten times more beautiful! God truly created the world with all its beauty, and this is proof of it!
But I’m divulging from the topic – Shivraj offered the kids (and us two), the opportunity to experience catching fish! Now I’ve done some angling, but the rest of us had only seen fish in the market being sold, dead as doornail! Here was something that no one had ever experienced! Shivraj brought out a few local made fishing rods, some ‘atta’ as bait, and got to work. Each kid was handed a rod, while Shivraj showed how its done.
In a jiffy Shivraj pulled out his first fish – whoa! The kids couldn’t believe it! They were hooked ‘line and sinker’ to this new sport! The next two hours, until sun down, was spent fishing for the elusive fish that never turned up. We had hoped for a pompret fish to turn up so the fish eaters could have a feast. Luck was not on our side. But the effort was not wasted. The kids were determined!
Shivraj quietly discussed with me the dinner options and we decided chicken was the way to go. I also asked him to find some beer; sadly my brand of a lager wasn’t available. Vinod took over from Shivraj helping the kids fish, while Shivraj and I discussed what we could do the next day. A trek in the area – 2 kilometers through rough terrain was the first suggestion that Shivraj had for me.
A trek? Could we do that? and would it be a walk that we would enjoy? The next option was to go to the river Kosi and try our hand at some real fishing! hmm…Shivraj was throwing the bait, and I was biting!
My younger kid had brought her guitar so we gather around while she sang and few snappy numbers while she played her guitar. The evening was fun!
Dinner being done and well eaten by us hungry folks, it was time to hit the sack.
5:30 am next morning Shivraj got us tea to wake us up. This was perfect! In an hour our troop was ready, in some way, standing at the reception. Shivraj, was ready. The trek was ahead of us. The next 2 hours was nothing short of exhilarating. The lonesome trek through the wild forest, the gurgling streams, the rock faced walls that Shivraj made us climb was nothing short of a nerve racking experience for all of us novices.
Fortunately my experience as a child in the hills helped immensely and Shivraj refused to help me across rough terrain! After an hour of a crazy trek and 1 kilometre of walking, Shivraj offered us tea from his backpack! Wow….! After a short break on a small green patch and a few of us being attacked by leeches, we moved on..crossed another small brook, to finally begin our ascend of the last hill! Reaching the top was like achieving a dream – we could look down and see the beautiful valley, and our retreat way down below.
8.30 am – we are back. hungry as hell again! We have a super hearty meal, my nephew quickly gobbles up 4 boiled eggs! Yep..we had done something all of us have never done before in our lives! Experienced the beauty, the challenge and the adventure of nature.
11 am – lazying after breakfast followed by showers, we’re ready for the next expectation – fishing in the river Kosi! The kids were excited and so were we. Vinod was deputed to take care of us. So we headed off and reached the river. Vinod found us the perfect spot and we settled down 4 fishing rods, and 5 of us.
The fish nibbled and took our baits for the next 2 hours, but didn’t hook up with us! Sad, we returned dejected from not catching a fish; but excited – we had experienced real fishing in a real river! Shivraj joined us there, and helped us through the river crossing. Another first experience! yeup.. you guessed it right – 1 pm and we were hungry and tired!
Lunch and a nice nap was all we needed before Shivraj suggested – another round of fishing in the pond? why not! We were game..and we were addicted to this newly discovered sport! All gunho, we gathered and waited patiently for fish to bite! My nephew drew in 3 fishes in 2 hours! He was totally exhilarated having achieved this!
Dinner was vegetarian. Did I mentioned – it was Tuesday, no meat products available in the neighbourhood, and Shivraj brings in fresh food everyday! No worries – We would manage just fine. No problem! It has begun to rain, so we sat indoors this evening ; Shivraj had managed to find my lager, my younger daughter had managed to learn a new number on the guitar! Perfect evening with the sound of rain, the sound of the acoustic guitar and the sound of some lovely voices singing! What more could one ask for! The evening done, we hit the sack for the last time at Kosi Valley Retreat.
Next morning it was time to leave and after a hearty breakfast, we bid farewell to this obscenely beautiful and invigorating place. This time Shivraj directed us on the right path – through Someshwar onto Ranikhet. We drove through beautiful valley lands, surrounded by paddy field in the mountain valleys!
My last thoughts before I close.
1. I wont want city folks to come here and destroy this beautiful retreat if they dont know how to respect it! Kosi Valley Retreat keep it this way and keep it pristine!
2. The team of Shivraj, Vinod and Pankaj (did i not mention that he is the cook?) is just perfect. The food was home cooked and oh so delicious! Pankaj even belted out some local cuisine which we just loved! He is a great cook!
3. Kosi Valley Retreat – I’ll be back. Even though it takes me almost 12 hours of driving its worth the drive! I’m going to be back to unwind, enjoy the company of Shivraj, Vinod and enjoy the tasty meals of Pankaj; and our kids are going to love trekking and fishing again!
The valleys, the mountains, the rivers, the land,
bless us in more ways that one!
Experience the beauty of nature; feel it with your hands,
This retreat will surely make you feel some.
Take this journey if your heart desires,
but promise to leave home your fancy attires!
Cross your path with nature, and you will forget
the pains of daily living, and all its tests.
Kudos Kosi Valley Retreat– you literally rock in the midst of this beautiful valley!