This better be worth it. Yesterday, you boarded a 6:00 am train in Delhi. The Hoshiarpur-Delhi Express was better than you expected, but by no means luxurious. The almost-six-hour ride couldn’t end fast enough. At the Kathgodam Railway Station, you met your English-speaking guide for a three-and-a-half-hour car ride to the Almora region at the southern end of the Kumaon Hills. You started to relax amidst the gorgeous scenery and a stop for lunch. You were warmly welcomed and well fed during an overnight stay in the village of Jwalabanj. But another six-hour drive this morning again left you weary of your adventure
Your worries dissipate the moment you walk up to—yes, the final leg of the journey is on foot—Shakti 360° Leti. The stone-and-glass lodge is breathtaking. It sits 8,000 feet above sea level. The kitchen, the dining room, and the library fill the main building. You can see a terrace with a fire pit right outside. Four free-standing bedrooms are beyond them. Their power comes from solar energy. Their heat radiates from log burners. Soft fabrics, like cozy pashminas and fluffy duvets, also warm the rooms. While the perennially snow-capped Himalayas engulf the entire property.
Shakti 360° Leti is in Uttarakhand, along India’s border with Nepal and Tibet. This is not the chaotic India you encountered upon your arrival. The northern hill state was the land of Chand dynasty, and then the Gurkhas of Nepal, before the British East India Company gained control in the early 19th century. Little changed, though. The state is still unspoiled and rarely visited. Its land is mountainous and largely uninhabited. Small cities, including nearby Almora, are known for their old forts and even older temples. But it’s easy to miss them given the rocky peaks surrounding you.
You actually can’t take your eyes off those peaks. They dominate every direction in which you look. You try to remember your manners to say thank you when you’re handed a cup of hot tea. You try to pay attention when your guide mentions meditation and yoga classes, cooking sessions, and pre-dinner drinks. You try to think about food when Tibetan dumplings and Indian samosas are brought up. And you try to plan for upcoming hikes, from which you’ll have a perfect view of Nanda Devi, the second-highest mountain in India. You really just need some time to take everything in, though.
So, after you receive a quick explanation about how everything in your room works, you decide to just relax for a little while. You could go on a short walk, though you doubt the landscape offers anything less than a true hike. You could sink into your big bed and listen to the fire crackle beside you. But no. Instead you move outside to wooden chairs. You want to feel the warm sun and the crisp air. You want to listen to the wind and the sound of temple bells ringing in the distance. You want to watch for kasturi (musk deer). You want to get to know the Himalayas.
You aren’t outside for very long before your guide rushes over with pashminas. More will be brought out if they aren’t enough. A few minutes later, he returns with two glasses of Burgundy and points out a small band of Himalayan gorals, which look like a combination of a goat and an antelope, on a nearby ridge. Seeing you are at peace, he then silently slips away. The long journey was definitely worth it.