New paths in Kumaon

Dumping my backpack I squeeze through a tiny wooden door into a small square room. Once my eyes adjust to its gloomy interior I see relief carvings either side. At the rear squats a statue of Vishnu.

My hair brushes against a ceiling streaked with smoke from smouldering joss sticks. My hands touch stone carvings more than 1000 years old. A timeless peace pervades the little temple set amid a patchwork of rice fields in far north India. It’s been a place of worship since the 8th Century.

Visiting venerable Vishnu, the Preserver, is one of my most fascinating, treasured memories from a four-day walk in the Himalayan foothills of Kumaon, a scenic region of fertile valleys, steep mist-shrouded ridges and remote villages seldom seen by westerners. But this is surely about to change.

New tourism ventures are now opening up Kumaon, including the village trek leading to that ancient tiny temple in the countryside. The walk begins at Kalmatia Sangam, a small retreat-style hotel perched on a hillside near the bustling hill town of Almora. When the cloud banks lift, Kalmatia enjoys a breathtaking Himalayan panorama that includes the twin peaks of Nanda Devi, India’s highest mountain. Kalmatia’s owners, German Dieter Reeb and his Indian wife Geeta, have been instrumental in developing village visits for guests. Contact me for complete article

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