15 November 2012

Bloggers' ConClay at Club Mahindra Kanatal



The view from our room in Club Mahindra - Kanatal

Many of you might have spotted my tweets on #ConClay and #kanatal last month, and I was asked by quite a few as to what that was about. Here's the story-

Early in October, when Club Mahindra approached me if I would like to be a part of the Bloggers' 'Unconference' at Kanatal, I had two simultaneous reactions instantly- 

  1. How wonderful!
  2. Need to Google Kanatal NOW
It was supposed to be a meet-up of travel bloggers mainly. I was wondering what would be my role as a food blogger in the whole scheme of things. But then what is travel without food. Some places like Italy are utterly inseparable from their glorious cuisine and some places like Japan become a point of survival for vegetarians. Food is indeed integral to travel. 

Do read my post "Top ten reasons why I love Kanatal" on the Club Mahindra blog - Clay, among other superb travel pieces.


Day 1 

I met Lakshmi at the chaotic Bangalore airport in the wee hours of Sunday morning. We were to meet the other bloggers at Delhi airport by mid morning and board a flight to Dehradun from there.  It was a fun flight, catching up with Lakshmi, whom I knew from earlier. We had an interesting co-passenger, Chris, originally from Australia but on his way to Kabul where he was working. We met with Deepak, Manish, Nisha, the other participants & Akshat and Arun Nair from Club Mahindra.

The flight to Dehradun was much delayed but the upside was that we all got talking and observing random interesting people (and their tattoos) at the airport, like this holy man with ruby studded gold wedges. What better way to get to know each other!


Well heeled, literally!
It was my first trip to the North of India, beyond Delhi and I was much excited thinking about what lay in store. After a short flight from Delhi to Dehradun, we had a 80 km drive to Kanatal via winding mountainous roads fabulously maintained by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).

Pretty Garhwali women

We stopped midway to sip some strong sweet ginger tea at a little tea shop overlooking a beautiful valley and two beautiful Garhwali women knitting woollens for the oncoming winter.

We reached the resort at Kanatal around 4.30 pm, having travelled 2000 km in exactly 12 hours from my home in Bangalore that morning and it felt like a whole new universe. I could sense that the skies were preparing for a spectacular sunset, which I later realised is a common occurrence in this part of the world.

Sigh-worthy Sunsets

At the resort, we met Mariellen, a travel blogger from Canada, totally in love with India, dividing her time between Toronto and Delhi, she had taken the road from Rishikesh to Kanatal and reached the resort well ahead of us.

We briefly checked into our cozy rooms that gave the feel of being in a log cabin in the hills, each one with a glorious view of the Garhwali mountains. Our agenda to visit the Surkunda Devi temple that evening was thwarted because of our late arrival into the resort and the fact that there was a 1.5 km climb to and from the temple in the darkness. 

The manager at the resort showed us around the beautiful property, including the spa. The hydrotherapy session was specially tempting but the spa was closed for the day. After refuelling on the delicious dinner spread that included a mixed-pulses dal called Dal Kabili, we decided to exercise our vocal cords at the Karaoke session. I realised while I may be a decent singer, I was quite hopeless in following the karaoke lyrics. Eating together and singing together is a great way of getting closer to people you have just met and we felt like a close knit group ready for the Conclay presentations which were to begin the following morning.

Day 2
I love to start my Monday mornings with a good cardio workout and this cold Kanatal morning was trying hard to keep me under the thick quilt in the comfortable bed. Nevertheless, I stuck to my resolve and got the staff to open the gym room early for me. This was the best view I have ever seen from a gym, which had glass walls all around to allow us to feast our eyes on the magnificence of the mountains while on the treadmill.
Even at breakfast time, I made sure I didn’t let go of the mountains. I took the sunny spot overlooking the tall deodars that covered the mountain ranges. The rest of the day was dedicated to the presentations by each of us participants. 

Do read Mariellen Ward's write up summarising the essence of each of our talks on her blog 

Day 3
The presentations done, our final day in Kanatal was all about sightseeing and some touristy fun. After yet another delicious breakfast, we headed out to Tehri Dam, which is the highest earth and rockfill dam in the Asian region. It is an architectural marvel and one couldn't help but gape in awe at its beauty from the point where we stopped to take many a shot.

Tehri Dam

That afternoon, post lunch, I was introduced to Chef Gurbir who is responsible for setting up many of the Club Mahindra resort kitchens, staff and menus. We chatted about local Garhwali cuisine and he even taught me to make a local specialty called Aloo ki Techwani, made using fresh mountain potatoes. The making of this dish should be out soon and I'll be happy to share it with you. 
Chef Gurbir teaching me a Garhwali specialty dish

Later, our gang left for Dhanaulti, as the eco park was listed as a tourist spot. Sadly, apart from the towering Deodars, there was nothing much of note here. We quickly made tracks to Mussoorie. After 2 days of utter peace and quiet at Kanatal, the hustle bustle of Mussoorie was quite welcome. Just as soon as we got out at the car park, the chilly breeze made me buy a monkey-cap for myself, at a bargain price of a 100 bucks :)

At the Mussoorie Sweet shop - Fresh Gulab Jamoon - SLURP


The mall road was dotted with shops selling woolens, trinkets, little eateries, sweetmeat shops and a country liquor shop. 

The Espresso Counter at Chick Chocolate, Mussoorie


We rounded up our Mussoorie trip in a quirky cafe called Chick Chocolate, which is known for their coffee, hot chocolate, handmade chocolates and potato wedges, among other things. 

Day 4
After drinking in the last beautiful sunrise of the mountains, we had to pack up and leave early morning, to get the flight out from Dehradun airport to Delhi and there onwards to our respective cities.

In all, it was a beautiful time spent in pristine surroundings, enjoying the warm hospitality of Club Mahindra, the company of some of the most wonderful people. 

L-R: Manish Kumar, Akshat Kant, Deepak Amembal, Nandita Iyer, Mariellen Ward, Nisha Jha, Arun Nair, Lakshmi Sharath


A brief introduction to all the participants:

Deepak Amembal has been blogging since 2007, and you can visit his blog about the magic of travel in India at Magic Travels.

Lakshmi Sharath quit her corporate job in the media to travel around the world and to write stories. Her travel blog of an Indian Backpacker  on the web since 2005, covers her journeys around India, and the world. 

Manish Kumar is one of the earliest Hindi bloggers. He describes himself as a technocrat by profession and travel and music enthusiast by heart, has been blogging since 2006. His Hindi travel blog is called Musafir Hoon Yaaron.

Mariellen Ward is author of Breathedreamgo, the India-inspired, meaningful adventure travel blog. She came to India for 6 months in 2005 for the first time, and since then she's been back here many times. 

Nisha Jha has been blogging since 2009. Her blog Le Monde - A Poetic Travail, is about sweet & sour memories of journeys around the globe. She is one of the few Indian women who travels solo around the world. 

Arun Nair joined our group as the social media representative of Club Mahindra. His blog Indianeye.org is on social media, digital and travel (occasionally). He has been writing since 2007 and he is considered an authority in the digital, social media domain.




7 comments:

Lakshmi said...

Lovely..brought back memories..:)

ThisDumbManiac said...

"The whole wide world an endless universe, yet we keep looking through the eye glass in reverse."

Like I always told you, go out and explore. Atri and I will sort ourselves out. Very happy you took the initiative to take time off to travel and meet new people.

Good. When's the next adventure now? ;)

S

Manish Kumar said...

Nice account with eye catching pics. It was wonderful to know each participant in such a congenial atmosphere in this un -conference. Hope to publish first part of my memoirs tomorrow on my blog.

evolvingtastes said...

Lovely! Sounds like you had a great time.

Manya Singh said...

Uttrakhand is certainly the place to get fallen in love
with. It is just because of fine-looking hills and nature’s beauty.

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