From our final house in the lower valleys of the Kumaon Hills (read about our walk here), Julian and I were heading closer to the snow line of the Himalayas and, as you can imagine, getting to such a location wasn't going to be easy. A six hour bone shaker of a drive on eternally winding pot holed roads almost got us there, but not quite. When the road ran out we had to complete the last hour on foot, our bags (shamefully) carried by tiny Indian ladies in bright saris and flip flops.
At the top however, our spirits soared and the journey was erased from our memory when we found Himalayan heaven - set on a plateau, in rural isolation, our lodge came with the most breath-taking 360 views over tiny villages and verdant terraces (that seemed to hug the hillsides a little too precariously), down to the raging Ramganga river and then across to the snow-capped Himalaya.
Despite the out of the way location, there was no roughing it to be had. Our simple but stylishly furnished stone and glass cottage (there were just 4) was positioned to maximise the views and came with solar powered hot water (always piping hot) and lighting (lamps are delivered fully charged up for the night ahead), wood burning stove (lit for us every evening), the softest locally made pashminas to snuggle up in and huge beds which really were like jumping into a big bag of marshmallows.
Days were spent trekking to local villages - the down was genteel but the up certainly set our hearts pumping.
We passed ladies working in the fields - in fact the ladies seem to do all the work whilst the men sat around chatting and drinking tea!
Everyone was so friendly and welcoming from the lady who wanted to show us how she made chapattis.
To the children who would chase after us waving frantically and welcoming us with a "Goodbye" as they hadn't learnt "Hello" in school yet!
These girls went all coy and quiet when we asked to take their picture and then got ever so excited to see themselves on screen.
One morning we attempted the hardest trek of all, which promised we’d be up close and personal with the mighty Himalaya. The 7:00am start was bad enough - this was supposed to be a holiday - but then we had to negotiate a 1,100m ascent through knee high snow!
It was all worth it. What appeared at the top made our hearts skip a beat, as we were rewarded with the most perfect panoramic Himalayan view including Nanda Devi, India's second highest peak.
Breakfast was then served.
On the way down, the view changed to one that looked straight out of a Japanese postcard as gnarled trees were silhouetted against the misted undulating valleys below.
After our trek we were welcomed back with a well needed cold beer, a hot salted water foot-bath and that view - it was amazing how things just appeared without us asking, as though our minds were being read!
With absolutely no light pollution, every evening we sat in awe of the most amazing canopy of stars - capturing this picture made Julian one very happy person!
We’d gather round the fire pit with our fellows guests and guides for pre-dinner G&Ts, to chat about what we’d got up to that day.
Then in the soft glow of candlelight, we dined on the most delicious food cooked up by the ever happy ex-Tibetan monk turned chef, who gave me an impromptu cooking lesson in the fine art of momo making!
Getting there wasn't easy - the best things in life never are - and you have to be prepared to unplug from your everyday life (there's no mobile or internet connection) but believe me, it's so worth it for such a once in a lifetime experience in a remote and beautiful place; one where you’ll leave feeling incredibly privileged and humbled as well as totally chilled out - a truly wonderful place to ponder life.
If you’d like to hear more about walking in Kumaon or have always fancied India but have just been a bit daunted, then please do get in touch - it’s a country that has so many contrasts and wonderful experiences for everyone, including families.
[Pictures: Julian and me]