I absolutely love driving on the highways, in the rains. And No! Not the kind of rains where you find yourself trapped inside the car with depleting levels of oxygen and that inane sense of helplessness & nausea. But the kind that just lightly drizzles moisture and covers just about everything all around with a layer of ‘shocking green’. The kind which makes the hills appear darkly grey and the grounds look as if covered in glass. So yes! This was the backdrop for yet another extended weekend for us.
As accomplished road-trippers, we started the day early to beat the city traffic and once on the highway it was a pleasant balmy cruise through picturesque stretches occasionally lined with the last few flaming orange blooms of ‘Gulmohar’.
Expecting nothing more than a quick visit to the much revered Trimbakeshwar temple (having made a solemn resolve to leave the ‘Wine-country experience for later), the ancient city of Nashik quite took me by surprise.
Personally, I felt that the main temple paled in comparison to the historical treasure that the place had to offer. The exploration of the ‘Panchvati’ temples was an exciting affair after having bargained a neat amount with a local auto-rickshaw who promised to careen us around and complete the requisite round of temple-gazing. But amidst the age-old temples and relics what caught my eye right from the start were the unmistakably splendid rooftops overlooking the holy waters of Godavari. It was a bit of a disappointment to learn that the temple I was gazing at like a love-struck teenager did not even feature in our day’s itinerary. So, just before we wrapped up our afternoon, I set out forth to find out what it was.
I cannot muster up much eloquence to describe a broken entrance, an empty inner shrine and a general sense of abandonment. But what I can never forget is the rich variety of intricate sculpture and carvings all over the walls. This temple stayed with me through the journey back and prompted frequent google searches and random fact-checking.
Surprisingly, this is the much talked about 18th-century ‘Naroshankar Temple’ and there it stands a silent metaphor of our current times.
If like me you are a goner for heritage destinations steeped with intricate tales of yore and colourful weaves of antiquity, then this is one of the many that will catch your eye already.
This charming 14th-century old Kesroli HillFort Palace reins a high order in my list of favourites. Even though the last time I stayed here dates quite a while ago, I eagerly recall all details of every quiet niche and corner of this resort as if it was just yesterday.
Claiming to date back over six centuries to the time of the Yadhuvanshi Rajputs, this fort has been reported to have withstood the tumultuous Mughal and Jat takeovers until the princely state of Alwar came into existence around the 18th century. Lucky us that Neemrana cluster of non-hotels took over the renovation and reopened its doors for a glimpse into the old Rajput culture, value and heritage to the discerning traveller.
Every room is a different experience with its own regal name and distinct character. Having had the pleasure of experiencing these first hand over my three visits I can personally vouch for this. The main dining room does not disappoint with their fare of local and comfort-continental cuisines. Apart from the burning embers of the evening bonfires, I especially remember the quiet afternoons. Those deafeningly silent afternoons on the low terraces where one could sit and read or enjoy a cup of tea and gaze at the shocking yellow mustard fields all around as they glowed in the foggy haze of the North Indian winter.
If you are somewhere in Delhi, Jaipur or Agra and in want of a quiet reprieve away from the bustle of everything else, this is one place where you should be. The ideal time to visit is, of course, the wintry season but I leave it up to your personal sense of adventure and preference of mood.
This cabin in the woods at Lantern Stay takes me back to an unforgettable weekend in the rains of June 2017.
It was one of those last minute rustled up affairs at the end of another insufferable work week. The main deciding factor was the non-optional inclusion of a highly energetic 5yr old in our midst and the need to have him safely contained and happily entertained during this short stay. So it was a no-brainer that a road trip to the hills of Wayanad was a safer bet as opposed to a scenic house-boat adventure through the lush plains. It was later revealed that the husband was already sold on the choice of our destination when he chanced upon a short video clip of the place soundly tuned to the familiar background of Alan Walker’s ‘Faded’.
Getting out of Bangalore city onto the highway perhaps took us more time than the actual journey itself. But once we were out, it was a pleasant drive filled with interesting conversations and repeated rounds of Jolly Rancher Lollypops. I remember a blur of sunflower fields through the highways; quiet stretches through the forest areas and wide slopes of tea gardens as we reached nearer to the destination by the fading lights of the day.
The management insisted on us ditching our ride at a marked parking area and offered their beaten land rovers for the off-road stretch just a few distance from the resort. But mavericks that we were; we took our Truck and trudged along the 5-6 km ride uphill, through hidden trails, over gushing waterfalls and steep inclines leading to this hidden resort. Surely not for the faint-hearted.
The resort itself was literally nestled inside a deep gorge with tall trees and steep dark hills all around. It rained intermittently through the weekend while a river ran noisily somewhere below taking the entire scene to a different level of surrealness.
Our cabins were spaced apart to offer just the right amount of privacy in the still and serene ambience all around. And with no network and TV we found ourselves literally off the grid and pleasantly refreshed. Homely meals with local cuisine was served in the main dining hall. What caught us by surprise was the ‘spa’ cabin which offered Ayurvedic massages along with a rustic contraption to top off the treatment and serve as a private sauna.
Even though it was slightly cold and generally wet all around we could not resist exploring the area and as usual, I got the entire package with a leech attack and a caterpillar incident.
Endless conversations, mugs of black instant coffee and lungs filled with fresh air.