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Uphill, where time stands still

With a whiff of adventure, the scent of sweet flowers, the call of hornbills, and a leisurely spread of plush Kumaoni hospitality, you can experience the forests at Paatlidun like never before, writes Lahari Basu.

 Lahari Basu |  2017-11-25 15:50:08.0

"Nice place, right?" asked Ganesh, as we looked down at the valley hoping to spot a big cat before sunrise. I don't remember if I actually answered him, but my brain squealed with joy, "Oh yes! It's probably the best place to be when you don't want the rest of the world to bother you."

A couple of days ago I had boarded a train from Old Delhi railway station to Ramnagar, for a comfortable and nature-friendly stay away from the city, at Paatlidun, a luxury resort hidden in the jungles of Jim Corbett National Park.
Getting off the night train at Ramnagar and setting out to Paatlidun in the assigned cab, I decided to check what had lit up the nightscape. It was a full moon night; the road and the leaves on tall trees shone as silver basking in the white moonlight, while little gurgling streams on the way sparkled brightly. And just after you thought that you'd been bedazzled by the beauty of the moon, you notice the countless stars twinkling away. It is sad, how people in the metro cities barely get to spot a star in the night sky, thanks to pollution and floodlights all over the horizon. Just the mere sight of this blissful natural phenomenon made my day. Feeling lucky to escape to Ramnagar, I couldn't help but hum, "Ye tara wo tara har tara/ dekho jise bhi lage pyaraa…" Forests do look hauntingly beautiful on a moonlit night.
Crawling uphill past a really challenging ride through a narrow path which Ganesh later called the 'Digestion road,' well, for the obvious reason, you reach Paatlidun. Greeted by a bunch of smiling faces, and a quickly served dinner, I paused to admire the massively attractive bed! Jumping onto the firm yet soft mattress I lay there staring at the ceiling thinking of how starry the night was.
Paatlidun literally stands for 'narrow valley', (patli 'narrow,' dun 'valley'). The resort had retained the original name of the geographical area now identified as Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. Located in a beautiful valley and boasting of a magnificent green cover, the resort has two sections: Kosi Bakhai which is towards the side of the river Kosi and Ramganga Bakhai which is closer to the banks of the river Ramganga.
The resort situated at Bhakrakot, and perfect for honeymoon couples, has 12 uber luxury cottages spread over a vast 13 acres of land. With their own farm area, a soft adventure spot, a lovely restaurant, a library cum bar, a beautiful lounge, a spa, a museum and millions of butterflies fluttering all over, Paatlidun is a peace seeker's haven. They have four luxury cottages at Kosi Bakhai and eight premium cottages at Ramganga Bakhai.
Each cottage has its own tulsi mandap at the entrance, a private plunge pool with enough room to loaf around in the sun, an amazing bathroom, a bed up on the terrace for you to lay back lazy and watch the stars in the night sky during summers, some delicious cookies to munch on while you admire the décor indoors, and of course the relaxing bed. A special feature added to both the cottages is an opportunity to observe the night sky. The luxury cottages have a skylight window while the premium cottages have an entire bed laid out on the terrace for you.
The following morning was unusual; unusual from my regular lazy mornings which I spend quietly with meagre enthusiasm. Paatlidun has a host of birds chirping to wake you up, with the breaking dawn. As golden sunbeams peeped through a tiny gap between the thick curtains, I couldn't help but jump out of bed grinning and rushing out to witness the scene outside. A riot of colours would greet you in the morning — various shades of green, little flying patches of bright colours from the birds and countless butterflies, the blue-green water in the plunge-pool and the vibrant lawn furniture.
Having spent enough time tracking birds with my camera and soaking in the cool morning sun, I went straight to a refreshing breakfast and made friends with the staff. Coming back from my tour around the property and spending some quality time on the swings, I took another trip around the cottage and discovered three little brass birds who seemed to be engaged in a meaningful conversation. Letting them be I set out to catch a glimpse of sunset guided by naturalist Ganesh, after a quick lunch. We rode uphill to Harohit Maharaj temple via Kaathkinaav and Bhaunkhal for a perfect sunset, and luckily spotted an extremely rare sight – a Goral (mountain goat) had been grazing in the rocky parts on the wall of the mountain before it sensed human presence and disappeared. If lucky as us, you may as well come across a couple of Yellow-throated Marten, an otter-like animal which feeds on anything between fruits and little monkeys! Ornithologists and bird enthusiasts will be delighted to know about the presence of the Spot bellied eagle owl, Red-billed blue magpie, Black-headed jay, Plumbeous water redstart female, White-crested laughing thrush, and Blue whistling thrush, among many other beautiful birds in the area.
After spending the evening by a loving campfire with some lip-smacking drinks over quality conversation with Monali (naturalist) and Ritu (front office), and post a hearty dinner, I went off to bed prepared for an early rise. We had decided to visit the mountaintop again for sunrise and take a walk around to spot some more birds.
Riding under the starry blanket of a night could not be lovelier. We even got to see a few spotted deer and a magnificent antler sambar deer on the way. Nearing our destination, I experienced a magical feeling seeing the eastern sky lighten up dimly while the moon still ruled at large in the black night behind. Watching the moon and the Sun in the same sky often reminds me of those heart wrenching tragic love stories — no matter how beautiful they look together they are never destined to be together.
Trekking uphill to the Harohit Maharaj temple, I thought how lovely it would be to sit on the edge of a rock and play the flute all day long watching the sun rise and set; if only I knew how to play one. Time stood still as I watched the golden grass sway in rhythm with the mountain breeze. The addictive quietude ruling the mountaintop was broken by Ganesh when he asked, "Nice place, right?"
As the golden rays of the rising sun touched my skin, a divine feeling spread all over me and a sudden realisation dawned about how much one might miss out in life if they don't witness the sunrise.
Having witnessed a legendary moment, it felt like I had achieved one of my hundred life goals. Ganesh and I discussed life, the beauty of mountains, butterflies (yes, I'm obsessed with them), little pines, and planned our next outing to Kosi river in the evening while breakfasting at the scene.
Picnic by a river is never drab, and at Kosi, you can get to see many birds preying from the flowing water while you lay back with your hot cuppa and gaze at the ever flowing crystal clear water. A perfect sight for bird watching, one might also find wild jumbos having a gala time at the banks of Kosi. Many come to sport on the Golden mahaseer, a large fish, often found in the river.
There's more to Jim Corbett national park, other than the usual forest safari, one must be out on foot to sense the wonders of the forest, to witness a family of langurs playing, to watch elephants cross the river, to breathe in that unpolluted organic air which we city people have no privilege to, and to look out for a multitude of colours in the air… The winged creatures in the mountains not only display the splash of bright colours here and there but also amuse one with a free natural orchestra.
Here's what you could do if you aren't interested to move around much:
You may simply carry a book and read it by the pool, rocking away in a cute wooden chair;
Soak in the bathtub listening to your favourite songs;
Stare out at the multitude of stars at night;
Plonk on a swing between trees and enjoy the cool breeze, watching the day pass by;
Enjoy the delicious local food served with a smile;
Stroll around the property and try some masala chai and pakode from 'Chahpani' the tea stall out in the open;
Sit by a campfire listening to stories of tigers and ghosts while sipping on to your favourite cocktail;
Or simply snuggle up with your loved one in bed in the comfort of your own cottage.
With a whiff of adventure, the scent of sweet flowers, the call of hornbills, and a leisurely spread of plush Kumaoni hospitality, you can experience the forests at Paatlidun like never before. The experience truly is a slice of paradise. Here, birds and butterflies come to visit you and make you chase them like a happy child. Set out for a walk to observe some enchanting sights of the woodland guided by the resort's expert naturalists, tingling your senses further to carry home a bagful of memories.

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