When it comes to the mountains, it’s true when they say you don’t plan to see a place but instead, the place calls you there. Magical as it may sound, I can’t tell you how much this is true. I still remember the days when I would lazily scroll down my Instagram feed, ogling at the picture feeds of various food, travel and fitness Instagrammers. But, the images that always made me pause for more than a second were ones posted by Abhinav Chandal - talent beyond imagination. His storytelling captured with photographic genius is a dreamy combination and makes even your boring desk job come alive in that moment. It’s through Abhinav that I learnt of a little cottage nestled in the valleys of Himachal. The admiration, love and spirit that exuded from Abhinav’s Insta posts on Gone Fishing Cottages (GFC) was too good to be true - and I had to experience it first-hand. A plane ticket, a 3 night reservation at GFC, my passport and my adventure-laden spirit - all packed up and I was ready to explore.
Gone Fishing Cottages is nestled in Tirthan Valley, by the village Deori, along the Kalwari stream all included in the eco-zone of the Great Himalayan National Park. What was originally planned by the hosts to be a mountain getaway for family and friends soon opened up to the guests of the world a few years back. The cottage property is surrounded by beautiful orchards, pine and deodar forests, raging rapids and the valley’s foliage landscapes.
To get there (and the most recommended route):
From Delhi take an overnight bus to Aut (this is the place where the tunnel to Kulu Manali starts). It’s the drop off point for buses to drop off passengers who want to go to Tirthan. From Aut, cab it to Gone Fishing Cottages which takes approximately 1 hour.
Dimple and Upendra offer you a feeling of nostalgia that you just cannot put your finger on. I’m not sure if it’s their warm smiles, bright eyes, hearty laughter or the concerned tone of voice when they ask you ‘if the journey was ok and hope you didn’t have any issues finding GFC?', but yes, on my first connect, it seemed I knew them from eons. Over the many breakfast and dinner conversations I learnt that this sweet couple in their humble strive to give back to the communities and their love for the mountains, set up the cottages using only locally available materials and employed help from neighboring villages. The couple now runs a school, is involved in seasonal medical camp setups for primary health checks and even runs a nature-based skincare product line called Farmessentials.
What if I told you that you could enjoy some Fried Ice-cream (pictured below) or Shepard’s pie in the valleys of Himachal? Would you believe me? :) I wouldn’t but that’s until I started soaking up GFC’s menu. How could some of world-favorite yummies be offered right here at GFC in the middle of nowhere? If you ask Dimple, with a huge smile she’d say “that’s the blessing when we get people from all over to stay with us. They teach and leave us their favorite recipe to be offered on our menu.” From home-style dal-chawal-subzi (lentils-rice-savoury vegetable); pictured below) to continental bakes and pies, your tummy is all taken care of.
Breakfast if king they say, and at GFC you’re fed no less than any royal would have been. While you wait for breakfast a garam (hot) cup of chai is a befitting start to mountain mornings.
Everything (and I mean everything) you see is locally resourced and if it looks handmade then, it’s hand made :) Right from the quaint corners at the common areas, to the oddly shaped wooden furniture to even the way the electrical wiring has been lined up all across the cottages (Uppi’s work of art it is), keeps your eyes busy and it’s difficult not to be in awe with the interiors. Rooms are cozy and comfortable beyond anyone can expect in the mountain. My favorite room is the one that opens out into the sit-out area that overlooks the river where I could spend hours on the bean bag reading or writing, while the sounds of the rapids fill the background. In winters (which I’ve had the pleasure to experience at GFC on my second visit) you are even pampered with heated blankets! Getting out of bed is a monumental task as the beds are ultra-cozy on chilly winter mornings.
Here’s a bonus tip: Ask Dimple and Uppi for a tour of their cottage. It’s a home that’s lifted off an interior magazine. Tastefully done with artifacts, fabrics and harmony - you will fall in love with GFC, all over again! Ok, here’s another bonus tip - ask Uppi for a shot of his home brewed spiced rum :)
As much as the rooms and the cottage common areas are tempting to hang out in, I urge you to put on your walking shoes and take a stroll in the morning, post-lunch and dinner. The temperatures, colour of the skies, sounds of nature and landscapes have something to offer to the stroller at different points in the day. My favorite is the path taken just behind the cottage that lands up at the river with the red bridge. Sitting on the bridge with my legs dangling above the raging rapids is my Zen plan. As the sun begins to set and the skies turning from shades of dark orange to grey-blues is my favorite moment of my days at GFC.
Another, one of my trails is the path that takes its way above the cottage. The trail steadily gains altitude with long winding bends and lots of scenic resting spots. As you go higher, the view just gets better. Choose the time you set out like nearer to sunset or if you’re lucky catch the valley lit up under a full moon night.
There’s also the local village visit or a short trek to the waterfalls nearby however, I haven’t soaked in enough just at GFC to step out and explore further!
Final tip: Don't leave GFC without...
Browsing through the FarmEssentials product display and purchase their bestseller scrubs
Indulging in Fried Icecream, Shakar Roti*, Khow Suey and a traditional Dal-Chawal-Subzi*meal
Visiting the red bridge and spending some time by the river
Experiencing at least one meal at the outside patio area overlooking the mountains (pictured below)
Savouring afternoon chai with garam pakodas*
Spending an afternoon chatting with the hosts in their humble abode
Talking to the staff and get a glimpse of mountain life through their conversations
Chatting with other guests and make new friends!
*if you're a non-Indian reading this post, ask the hosts or the staff exactly these dishes as you read it ;)
Once you’ve left GFC, your soul is laden with memories, conversations, scenes and love that’s difficult to erase once back into city life.
For me, it’s what I call home now.
What’s behind the name Gone Fishing Cottage? That’s a secret and you’ll just have to visit the place and find out for yourself! Happy journey!