No, I am not an undercover promotional agent for Rishikesh, though this is my third post on the town in under a year. This time it was an invite from Latitude 30N Ganga, an activotel (activity + hotel) near Byasi, a dozen kilometers beyond Shivpuri. And I got an opportunity to travel with the Executive Editor of India Today Travel Plus magazine.
It was that time of the year when winter in Delhi departs without any warning. The six hour drive to Rishikesh was uninteresting to say the least, best to catch up on lost sleep. On arrival at Latitude, we were greeted with juice and a warm welcome by Sharmila and her team. Within minutes we were busy finalizing activities for the next couple of days. A nature walk, mountain biking, river rafting, rock climbing, rope activities and some more.
22 independent cottages spread over 25 acres on a hill slope provides city dwellers with the requisite warm up going up and down the place. Each cottage is at a different level and accessed by a flight of stone steps. The lobby next to the swimming pool is a cozy place to relax and watch TV, though I strongly dissuade you from doing this.
Post a light but protein rich lunch, Salil, their activity manager prepared us for a 3.5 km trek around the hills. We chose this from a couple of longer options. Kailash and Bianca, their trekking guides led us through a narrow leafy trail surrounded by tall trees and long grass. Both carry mountaineering degrees and are fairly knowledgeable about birds. Binoculars got passed around and soon we were busy sighting birds and identifying them by their chirps. Just as weariness was setting in, they surprised us with tea and snacks in the middle of the jungle. Salil had silently slipped away and along with a couple of helps, arranged a mini-picnic. We spotted lots of parakeets, wood peckers and the scarlet mini vet. A debate soon ensued about Bianca having spotted a new species of bird here, guess she’ll claim credit if this turns out to be true:). Rejuvenated, we marched ahead with gusto and emerged in the village of Byasi, from where we were picked up by their vehicle and safely deposited back at the resort.
Their rooms are very functional, a large part of it taken up by the bed. Spacious and separate bath and a WC allow for quick turn around in the morning if you are a family. Full length sliding doors open up to majestic views of the mountains and the gushing Ganges. A small coffee table on the sun deck adds to the charm. I was proudly informed my cottage had the best view in the resort, akin to a corner office. Evening tea and snacks were over a bonfire and gazing through their
in-house telescope. It is amazing how your face breaks into a big smile when you see the moon through a telescope, at least a ‘vow’ is guaranteed.
To say I was prepared for the adventure next day would be undermining the fun we had. After a quick breakfast of poha, boiled eggs and various juices, we drove up to Devprayag, which is the confluence of the playful Alaknanda and the slim Bhagirathi. The team offloaded bikes from the pick-up while I padded up with safety gear – a biker’s helmet, elbow pads and knee-caps. Salil briefed me on how to shift gears and to be on low gears uphill. We started with a gentle undulating stretch which helped me build confidence. Then came the treacherous task of cycling hard to move uphill, the road strewn with rocks and stones, the result of a landslide last monsoon. We encountered a bulldozer that was clearing the debris and threatened to block our path. Pushing uphill, I was soon huffing and puffing. It was only my willpower prodding me ahead while my calf muscles screamed mercy, wanting to give up and get tucked into the comfort of the car following us. But once the crest of determination was negotiated, there was no giving up. The fresh air, greenery in the mountains and the silver river below required no persuasion to warrant various ‘oh-we-should-stop-here-for-a-photo-shoot’ moments. Salil and his team had researched various roads before finalizing this one, low on traffic, combination of smooth tarmac & scratchy trails, muddy holes and rocky surface and of course with exhilerating slopes where we rode down at break-neck speeds with the wind in our faces. The route, just rugged enough to exercise your muscles but not too strenuous to deter you.
Three hours and various halts later we arrived at Byas Ghat, our putting point for rafting and kayaking. Again, time for some tea, coffee or cold drinks, whatever is your preference. Pankaj and I settled in a ducky, which is basically an inflatable kayak, while others chose to be on the raft. Holding a camera while paddling was out of question, nor could I risk it getting drenched. Barely had we moved a few meters forward, a huge splash of icy water hit me on the face, an indication of things to come. High hills flanked either side of the river forming a V shape as we paddled through calm and rough waters alternately. No adjective could adequately describe this excitement.
Lunch time was nearing and I could see the team members scour for suitable locations. Guess what, we were going to alight at a secluded stretch of white sand in the middle of nowhere for a private lunch. They chose an unspoiled serene beach. Huge tiffins were unloaded from the raft and in moments a complete meal was laid out in front of us – two jars of orange juice & apples, beet roots and sprouts, potato salad, boiled eggs, paranthas, chicken, sauces and achars; almost a restaurant menu in the shade of the mountains and beside an adventurous river. This was my best moment of the trip.
Their car waited for us at Kaudiyala, taking us back to the resort. I had had a full body exercise, my legs being stretched to the limits on the biking expedition, and my arms & shoulders getting flexed while kayaking. But I was totally unfazed and fit enough to play a football match, I was surprised at my own resilience. At the back of my mind, I was also aware that the Latitude team was carrying a first-aid box and safety was a priority for them. Around a bon-fire dinner Salil played a guitar while Jeetu sang old hindi movie songs. I had the best sleep of my life that night.
Next morning, I declined the invitation to go rock climbing, wanting to take it easy and just relax. Sharmila informed me that their rope activity setup was ready. These are a set of 8-10 activities twenty feet above ground level. With a harness belt around my waist, I climbed up one pole and clicked pictures of Jeetu practicing some activities.
Though I could have easily blended into the natural surroundings of my cottage, happily sipping endless cups of ginger tea, reading philosophy and essentially doing nothing, my time would have all been a waste, given that between kayaking and mountain biking, trekking and tackling rope courses, the resort was capable of keeping me occupied for several days. And that is exactly what Latitude wants you to do.
We set out for Delhi in the afternoon, having thoroughly enjoyed our time at the resort and amidst promises to return back soon.
- Property review – Latitude 30 N Ganga (bhavenjani.wordpress.com)