TENTING IN THE HILLY HEAVEN

A quaint, little hamlet in Uttarakhand, Kanatal grants every wandering traveller an invaluable gift – the gift of inner peace and silence

The mountains are calling and I must go.
– John Muir, Scottish-American naturalist

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While leading a boisterous, flashy life as an urbanite, you’re constantly connected. It’s become a rare thing to break away from technology and keep sometime solely for yourself, to let your thoughts take you wherever they wish to. While you may perceive this as a ‘waste of time’, it’s a way of life for people living in the mountains. The layered hills of Kanatal – a picture-perfect hill station near Dehradun, perched at an altitude of over 8,500 feet – urge you to tune out of the mental baggage, tune into nature and reconnect with your disoriented self. Yet unharmed by commercialisation, Kanatal is surrounded by dense pine, cedar, oak and rododendron forests and offers a splendid view of mammoth snow-capped Himalayas.  Ornamented by beautiful wild flowers; it looks like a landscape straight out of Keats’ poetry.

Living amid nature

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It makes you have hours of undisturbed conversation with nature and wonder how something as simple as sitting on a bench overlooking valleys of huge mist-covered mountains, can impart so much solitude.

Kanatal explored on foot

While a laid-back bibliophile can curl up in a hammock to read a book and, at intervals, stare at the never-ending vista, an adventure seeker has a lot to explore.

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Dare to go for a guided moonlight jungle trail that traverses the forest; watching the blue-white moon faintly gleaming over snow-capped mountains on a silent breezy night is completely ethereal. You’ll not only overcome your fears but come back with a feeling of scaling a summit. In a way, it’s a sort of a personal victory. You can never have a single moment of boredom here. Climb the artificial rock, mountain bike on the meandering terrain or rappel down a mountain. Get to know the sky a little more by planning a session of star gazing or simply enjoy a barbecue night with loved ones, spiced up with some soulful music, a lot of laughter and meaningful conversations.

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One thing you certainly shouldn’t miss is the day trek around the scenic Jwarna region; it is dotted with little villages at every few metres and gives you a real, unfiltered taste of rural life. The two-three hour trek has enough to keep you both engaged and mesmerised at the same time.

Walking past these clusters of cosy pastoral homes set amid organised patches of green pea, cabbage, turnip, potato, mustard and coriander plantations is like a breath of fresh air for a city dweller. Pluck some sweet organic green peas and munch on way or keep snapping as the vivid scenery gives you enough opportunities for artistic photography. Except a few steep paths, the trek is quite smooth throughout making it apt for most individuals with a decent fitness level.

Extraordinary in the ordinary

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Kanatal is certainly not an extraordinary destination; it’s a simple place that leaves an extraordinary impact on you. Whether it’s having a gratifying conversation with a pahadi (a person who hails from the hilly region of Himachal and Uttarakhand) who is eager to feed you home-cooked Garhwali food or witnessing the saffron sunset sky while laying back and sipping a steamy cup of hot tea, every moment in Kanatal contributes to a restful soul. The pure mountain air refreshes your senses and the ever-smiling warm locals reaffirm your faith in the simple way of life and your tryst with nature.

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A hidden gem in every sense of the word, Kanatal sees fruit orchards and colourful blooming flowers during monsoon and springtime while winter, on some days, leaves the place covered in pristine white snow, making it look like a cotton canyon. To sum it up, it’s a haven that will make you want time to come to a standstill and never want to return to the chaos of the city.

FACT SHEET

GETTING THERE:

The nearest airport is Jolly Grant in Dehradun and the nearest railway stations are Dehradun and Rishikesh . You can either take the road via Mussoorie or the choose the Chamba-Rishikesh route. The taxi costs around Rs 2,000 to 2,800 for a one-way drop. Kanatal is at a distance of 300 km from Delhi, 77 km from Dehradun, 80 km from Rishikesh and 100 km from Haridwar.

STAY & FOOD:
I put up at Whispering Pines Himalayan Retreat (in Jwarna area) – a peaceful tent retreat nestled in the midst of the mountains.

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The spectacular view of the snow-clad Himalayas from Kanatal

It offers a spectacular view of the snow-covered Himalayan ranges, warm hospitality and delicious local food. The staff also provides you with camping equipment on request, for a close-to-nature experience.

Home-cooked food made by a local

PLACES TO GO AROUND:
Mussoorie, Dhanaulti, Chamba, Surkhanda Devi Temple, Tehri Dam and Kaudia and Devdarshini forests.

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