You can drink all the lemonade in the world, eat all the ice cream there is and lay in a swimming pool all day, but nothing can beat the summer heat the way a vacation to a hill station can. No amount of cucumber and strawberries can detox you as much as a whiff of fresh, pollution-free pahaadi hawaa.
Last weekend, the mountains were calling and I couldn't say no. I got my summer break an hour away from Nainital and for the two days I was there, I left the sweat and the city behind me. I packed my bag and road tripped to Family In The Hills, a luxury campsite 36 kilometres ahead of Nainital in a small town called Nathua Khan. Families, food, fun and freedom this travel experience had everything.
The beautifully-tailored tents with all modern amenities provide a clear view of the expansive forest and grassland followed by the spectacular Himalayan range, Nanda Devi and the Trisha Hills. There are nine such tents, each with an attached bathroom with 24x7 water facility. All the tents are set in a line so that no one's view is blocked.
I've stayed in tents before but never like this. The decor gives a feel of the jungle ruggedness and yet the comfort of a country home. In fact, all the cottages have been built to allow breeze throughout the day. Plus, the camp majorly uses solar energy to be more environment-friendly.
There are no fans or AC in the tents. The days were still hot with the temperature around 26 degrees. But the evenings would get much cooler making up for all that heat.
French fries, bread pizza, garama-garam pakode or the hill station favourite Maggi, the staff is sweet enough to provide for all your munchies. Every tent has two chairs and a table stationed outside so you can have your food whilst you enjoy the view.
The place has a huge dining area or a rooftop cafe, where are all the guests come together for breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet. Every meal offers a new menu, cooked by the local chefs who have expertise in Indian and local cuisine. I especially loved the kala aate ka halwa prepared by the hotel manager's mother for all of us. It was black in colour and tasted like sweet little drops of heaven.
Eating with a huge group, listening to everyone's stories and bonding over food was the best kind of communication.
You could just laze around in a hammock or indulge in recreational activities like basketball, badminton, and cricket. The playzone also has indoor arrangements for table tennis, billiards and even X-Box among other board games. The walls are covered with cool framed posters adding to my fill of the view. But that's not it.
A vacation without trekking is like driving without tires. The hotel manager took us on a short trek that had more than just lush green grasslands to offer. The trek goes through their very own fruit orchards where they grow plums, peaches, apples and apricots. Every turn had a sweet reward for all the sweat the trek brought upon me. I've never been on a more fragrant trek in my life before! Oh, I almost forgot.
Lalu, the owner's dog, would sleep outside my tent as if my own and was super friendly and playful. Did I mention this place is pet-friendly? No more looking for a foster home for your pet, bring them along with you. All this is what makes your experience at Family In The Hills, family-like.
Remember the poem we grew up reciting over and over again?
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference."
Family In The Hills is banked on one such road that Robert Frost talked about. My journey led me to this calm and composed wilderness where there were no car horns but birds chirping, no heat but bonfires at night and no pollution but stars in the sky.
If you're looking to unwind this summer, solo or with your squad, follow the link for more details and check them out here.