Every time, I am close to nature and wilderness, I discover a more disciplined, peaceful, and healthier version of myself. I rejoice in that side of me and thus, I love returning to the greener territories. Thus, Jim Corbett National Park happens to be a favorite pick. I love going for safaris, birding, and nature walks. And if I have to choose to holiday, the gorgeous and one-of-its-kind Aahana resort, nearby of the Ramnagar Railway Station. Aahana—The Corbett Wilderness happens to be my first choice. It feels like a second home to me because despite going there several times, it never feels enough. This is the place where I discovered my love for birding. I fell in love with the monsoons here. This is also where I attended the Titli Tyar, Butterfly festival in October 2021. Thus, it is always a pleasure to relive and make new memories. The services are exemplary, the staff is extremely well-mannered and the rooms are huge. But what I appreciate the most about this place is that the owners believe in constant innovation, and always offer their guests something new. Keeping with the tradition, this time I did a day trip to Kotabagh and experienced special Kumaoni lunch during my stay. These are some of the things that they often do in addition to the jungle safari.
Where is Kotabagh?
One among the 9 blocks of the Nainital district, this one is also blessed with an abundance of nature, fertile land, and more. It has hills and jungles on either side. Kotabagh is located in the foothills of Nainital and is bound by the northeast periphery of Jim Corbett forests, thus it thrives in the company of its popular and picturesque surroundings. The weather and fertile soil have given way to several organic farms and fruit orchards. Some of the most natural spices grow on the hills around this place. Kotabagh is a hidden treasure of the Uttarakhand. Since it is close to Pangot, it is also a location worthy of exciting birding opportunities. But the best part about Kotabagh is that it sits like a vibrant, charming, and tranquil hamlet waiting to be discovered. Despite being only 32 kilometers from the popular city of Ramnagar, this one is happily tucked away, far from the maddening crowd.
Kotabagh is also part of the Powalgarh Conservation Reserve for its beautiful rich forests. It is not only popular for agriculture but birding too. The entire landscape is surrounded by ranges of mountains, dense Sal, riverine forest, grasslands, rocky riverbeds, and exotic flora and fauna. We city dwellers are always on a lookout for such places where we can wake up to symphony of birds and relax all day in the peaceful ambiance of quaint villages. If you are bored of Nainital and Corbett, Kotabagh can be your new destination for weekend getaway.
Day-trip to Kotabagh from Ramnagar
After having a hearty breakfast at Aahana resort, we pushed off for a day picnic to Kotabagh. I was excited because I was going to explore a new place and who doesn’t like road trips outside cities. The drive to Kotabagh was lovely and it turned out all the more scenic in the last 10 kilometers. Whenever you are heading out of Ramnagar market, don’t forget to see Ramnagar dam. We were also met by a lot of people and celebrations on the road because it was the day of Mahashivratri. The locals were enjoying their day at mini fairs and temples in the vicinity. Once we crossed the city outskirts, there were only fields and trees on both sides. I was happy to see the roads in great condition, which made the and the ride to Kotabagh all the more fun.
A couple of activities were planned for the day. The main highlight of visiting Kotabagh was to spend a day in the idyllic hamlet, be close to nature and just enjoy. And while doing so, we also had a small itinerary to accomplish. First, we visited an ancestral home, then we were supposed to go on a small hike around the Baur river bed, and last but not least we had a luncheon planned out on a farm where we’re going to do some spice tasting of Survaana products. This is a new brand, born in Kotabagh, who are dedicated to preserving the Himalayan heritage and ancient practices of farming and cultivation. They are trying to provide sustainable, organic, and pure spices and kitchen essentials.
As the day passed, we got a hang of the place. Kotabagh is a simple, picturesque hamlet where one can walk around, click pictures, visit a farm, or simply indulge in the local vibes. One can also visit the neighboring hillocks where farmers grow spices. Survaana procures its spices locally and then works on the processing and packaging with the help of the Kumaoni ladies. Along with Survaana, we alsolearnedt about an agri brand. They are one of India’s largest aquaponics farms as well as the first of its kind in Uttarakhand, Red Otter Farms. It was fun to explore a salad farm and learn about the controlled environment of the aquaponics facility, which I had never done before. Aquaponic farms use fish, water, and no soil and this technique of farming removes the use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides.
Hike to the Baur Riverbed and Lunch at the Farm
The folks from Aahana resort and Survaana, both guided us with a walk to the river bed. We drove for around 10-15 minutes on an entirely unexplored path and then the vehicle came to a halt, right next to the spot from where we were supposed to ascend towards a secluded spot, found by the locals. This was not exactly an hike but an adventurous walk in the pathless woods. In the middle of the trail I also realised I was not appropriately dressed for this activity. I should have worn jeans or track pants. (Whenever you are out for fun activities, avoid wearing a dress, even a casual one. This is a note for myself and everyone for the future. ) However, I did manage to do well. Its just that I had to watch my dress to avoid floundering in any of the tricky areas. Overall, it turned out to be great fun. After around 20 minutes of walk, we reached the point where we could hear the soft music of water flowing surrounded by dense foliage all around. There was no human soul to be seen except us. We sat there. Some of us dipped our feet in the cold waters. And some of us enjoyed being in the moment. After chit-chatting for a while, we collected all the packets that we had consumed. We left the place clean, just the way we had found it.
After the descent, we drove to the aquaponics farms and picked some salads for our lunch. Our stomachs were growling because it was already 4 p.m. The lunch was arranged in one corner of the farm, with greenhouses and fields all around. It was a very rustic and unique experience in itself. An exotic range of their products were displayed on the table which was meant for our tasting. We tried all the condiments and added some to the freshly picked salads and the salads from this farm around as well. And then there was lunch, some that was packed for us from Aahana and a few things were prepared locally. We ate for a while, enjoyed the fresh air, indulged in the green vibes and talked around food. We did not stop until we were all full and by the time, we wrapped up, the sun had already started to spread its orange hues in the sky.
Soon after, we picked our things and sat on the gypsy to head back home. We wanted to be back to Aahana by 7:30 because the nights were still nippy and we were not carrying our coats. Overall, it turned out to be a very different day. I will always think of Kotabagh as a place where I met entrepreneurs, ate food on a farm and did some bit of hiking in a dress. If you are are explorist, nature lover, writer, yoga and meditation enthusiast, agri-entrepreneur, Kotabagh is your kind of place.
All about the KUMAONI THALI at Aahana Resort
During my recent trip to Aahana Resort, I also got to expereince the Kumaoni thali. This elaborate meal was the icing on the cake. And the best part was when the chef explained everything in detail.
Before serving the thali, he gave us nimbu sana. This is a very local thing made of lemons, curd and spices and I totally loved it. Now, coming back to the thali, let the picture do the talking. ( The Kumaoni (Himalayan) rice, ragi roti, Bhatt ki dal, aloo ke gutke, urad dal vada, kumaoni jholi, Vadi ki sabzi, gur, ghee, bhang ki chutney, salads) As part of desserts, we had beetroot laddoo, and bal mithai.
It goes unsaid that food has always been the highlight of Aahana resort. They do a lot of organic gardening and procure most of their vegetables and spices, locally. I love their breakfast and dinner spreads.
On this trip, I was accompanied by my friends from the blogging world and I must say it was a great trip in great company. Together, we had a lovely time.
Do share about your visit to Aahana or Kotabagh, if you have already been to these places. If not, you can always plan a day or two there.