Our Himalayan experience at Shakti 360° Leti at Kumaon, Uttarakhand

People always ask where we’ve been to in India. We would rattle off: “Goa, Darjeeling, Delhi, and Uttarakhand!” with a stronger emphasis on Uttrakhand. “Uttrakhand?” people asked. “Near the Himalays.” we would say.

“Wow”.

Yup. Indeed.

Last year, when PJ told me we were going to a luxurious Himalayas resort for our wedding anniversary, and that it required firstly, a 2 hrs flight to Delhi from Bombay, followed by an overnight train (7 hrs) to Kathgodam and finally a 7 hrs car ride to reach Shakti 360° Leti, all I could focus on was the super tedious journey. In fact, I got so car sick within the first 2 hours of the ride, I told PJ that maybe we should abandon the idea and just stay at the simple guest house at the Almora district where Shakti has an office. Mark, our private guide (how luxurious right!) who picked us up from the train and travelled with us for the rest of the journey, assured me that “it’s worth it”.

It’d better be…

And it was.

One of the four private guest pavilions (we were the only guests then, and hence got the pavilion with the best view!)

Inside the cabin. There was ZERO electricity. We only had a (real) fireplace and 3 solar powered lamps. That’s it. No TV, no way to charge your phones. But with such views, you really don’t need to ask for more.

Day/Night 1 at 360 Leti

It was almost dusk when we reached Leti. After a quick shower (there’s hot water powered by solar power), we had drinks & some light snacks with Mark and our hostess – Elly (whom, I think, is incredibly brave to live up there in the mountains with 11 men and a dog, cut off from most forms of civilisation; and also has a really cool job as a textile designer). As it was the first day of Diwali, the staff celebrated the festival by lighting sparklers and fireworks. Great fun. Dinner was fantastic with a copious amount of good food and we were so stuffed, it was really not fun. But it was good.

Day 2 at 360 Leti

“Crawl out of bed, draw the blinds, then crawl back under the covers to enjoy the view. And of course you’ll need to take a picture of the view with your feet!” said Elly the night before.

We “followed instructions” and were rewarded with the Dangthal peak warmed pink with the sunrise

At a pre-agreed time, our dedicated server appeared at our pavilion with cups of hot tea, coffee and biscuits. A little pre-breakfast treat.

Freshly made cookies were served every morning. The cheese cookies were phenomenal!

Breakfast was served outdoors, with a spread of fresh fruits, fresh juice, curd/yogurt, museli, eggs and toast in a breathtaking setting:

The only slight downside was flies, eager to share your delicious treats; but to counter that, we realised you’ll just need to wake up earlier for breakfast to avoid them. :P

Slightly worn out from the previous day’s traveling, we told Mark that we intended to take a short walk and take cooking lessons from Yeshi (the chief house cook) in the afternoon. Mark told us that we can go on a 3 hours trek after lunch and that it’s an easy walk.

I’ve come to realise “easy” means different things to different people.

For one, I had interpreted “easy” as flat roads where I can walk with my pretty flats.

When Mark saw my flats, he looked genuinely concerned and that’s when the alarm bells started ringing. Elly loaned me a pair of slightly oversized shoes and thick socks and I was deemed ready to go.

Good thing for the shoes, because we went uphill and downhill on narrow, rocky paths. There were times when I was paralysed and insisted PJ to walk in front of me so as to hold my hand. I could see that it really wasn’t too difficult a trek, but I think my shitty fitness level combined with the oversized shoes made it rather challenging.

No regrets on going for the “workout” though, because the walk brought us through the village and to a beautiful vantage point.

For making it to the vantage point, we were “rewarded” with little treats of rocher chocolates, nuts and chilled rhododendron juice. How thoughtful of Leti. :)

On the way back, I told PJ that the only thing lacking at Leti was a masseur. “Imagine a hot foot soak or massage after this trek,” I told him. So, imagine our pleasant surprise when we returned to our rooms to find 2 tubs of piping hot water scented with petals for our (mine, rather) battered feet.  It’s really the little touches that matters.

Day 3 at 360 Leti

Deterred from the previous walk, I decided not to undertake the 6-8 hrs trek recommended by Mark. That would have brought us to unparalleled views, I’m sure, but I wasn’t confident. PJ sweetly stayed behind with me, on the account that it was our wedding anniversary trip and that we should spend time together. And so we lazed around, read, meditated (well, PJ meditated whilst I did yoga), admired the architecture, photographed the beautiful place to death, and picked up momo lessons from Yeshi in the evening.

I really don’t think there’s a joke here; and we’re laughing because Yeshi is just such a jolly, happy soul

Momo is a type of dumpling native to NepalTibet, the bordering regions of Bhutan, and the Himalayan states of India. It is similar to the Chinese jiaozi.

That night at dinner, the staff surprised us with a homemade chocolate cake with the words “Happy 1st wedding anniverary. Love 360 Leti”. Turned out PJ had requested for something special. How sweet!

Leaving 360 Leti

I was really reluctant to leave the place, partly because of the tiring journey, but mainly because it was such a tranquil, happy and peaceful spot. Our stay was made very comfortable by everyone at 360 Leti and I would definitely recommend a stay there – regardless of how remote it is, and how basic it can appear (no TV, no internet, not even a hair dryer). If you think about the terrain and the location it operates in, it is a luxury stay because of the comfortable beds, warmed by hot water bottles and a fireplace, the modern yet traditional pavilions, the endless flow of tasty food; that you don’t have to lift a finger here because everything is planned for you.

This place is blessed with good soil, good climate and wonderfully warm people. It doesn’t get better than this.

Shakti 360° Leti has a great story of how it came into existence and you can read more about it here: http://www.archdaily.com/63334/leti-360-studio-mumbai/

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