There are hotels and there are resorts some offer you luxury, some offer you facilities and then there is this little homestay, tucked away in one quaint little place at the cusp of the Great Himalayan National Park. For a long time I have wondered about going to a home-stay and getting an experience of one of such places. Then came this suggestion from Jay when I was planning the trip to Himachal, to go to this little Guest House in Tirthan Valley. The first few searches and reviews on trip advisor actually sold the place to me immediately. I was warned to book early in Raju Guest House as it is always over booked, so in February I booked a two night stay. Around 8 hour drive away from Chandigarh, via Aut and very near to the little town of Banjar is this wonderful abode that is called as Raju Bharti’s Guest House. Actually its a paradise tucked away! :)
Let me just say that each and every facet of the place was just way way too wonderful, the food, the stay, the place everything was so so so good that we extended our stay and only left when he requested us that he is having a few too many guests coming in and there was no way he could spare us a room that we left, with a promise to be there next year no matter what and for a longer stay this time.
Managed by Raju Bharti, his wife Lataji who cooks the most awesome meals you could imagine, Raju’s two son’s Karan, the handsome guy who also is quite an expert in identifying birds and the shy, soft spoken Varun, with a cousin and a few local help. They have their own cattle, goats, apple orchard, cherry trees, apricot trees, almond trees and what not. They also have the most amazingly calm 4 dogs that were actually darlings and a guy like me who is petrified of dogs also was at the end almost okay with it sitting next to me or putting its feet on my lap!! :)
The whole atmosphere of the place is just full of peace, fullness and calm, stacked with hundreds of books, and lots of lovely places to sit and read. A wonderfully decorated fire room if it rains, a Gazebo to light a fire on slightly lesser cold nights, an open camp fire place, a dining room that is full of unlimited supplies of jam’s of 4 flavours, 6-7 pickles, unlimited Rhododendron syrup or Peach Syrup or Apple Cider to drink all day long whilst you are busy reading or fishing or gazing the Himalaya’s or photographing birds that just don’t leave the Cherry tree alone. I must confess, I myself in about 3 and half days had actually eaten almost 500 cherries most of them plucked straight from the tree!!! :) :)
I guess I am just so so so sold on the place and the warm hospitable people there that I cannot stop going gaga over the whole experience and the time spent there.
I guess the atmosphere of the whole place just rubs on to everyone, the moment we entered the dining room, I had a very friendly English guy say hello and well that was the end of it, in 3 days we became friends for life. All the guests would sit together for lunch, breakfast or dinner, sharing and suggesting each other to try a new pickle, chutney or fern they all discovered.
The first day and a half it rained and all of us were indoors either in the dining room where the kids would paint or play back gammon, someone would read, they also had a chess board to play, which we ignored, when it got colder we would be round the fire playing a german card game infamously called “Shithole” or discussing each others travel experiences or stories abou how we discovered Raju.
The cottages are so tastefully done, you actually cannot comprehend how a guy in this remote place could actually have planned and set all this up so wonderfully. The fact that when we left the place we had a feeling that we are leaving home and did not want to go tells you a thing or two. The best part was almost all the guests actually came to wave us good bye when we were going. It was almost like in 3 days people had become a family of sorts in this remote place.
Sometimes, I guess strangers become the best of friends. It was thanks to Jamie and Gemma’s encouragement that I actually borrowed Karan’s bullet and went to Jalori pass(10350ft), where we actually trekked up to the highest point which I am sure was atleast another 500+ feet higher to get a 360 degree view of snow peaks, on the return we also were blessed with my life’s first snow flake experience!!! :) :) :) We had one of the best times on holiday with two complete strangers whom I just didn’t want to say good bye.
The evening dinners were a long drawn affair, which another guest Anami, a Canadian, born & brought up in India would actually have us all eating out of her hands. Conversations with her were priceless as she would speak about her life’s experiences in such an animated way that we would be in splits! She was going to stay at Raju for a little over some 20 days and if I remember correctly it was her 3rd or 4th visit to the place!
Yes, one day we did have a discussion about Modi too around the fire, where two oxford educated Indian’s wanted to get an insight into a Gujarati’s views on Modi! :P
Another french Trekker, Pierre came in to tell us about his experiences of trekking in the Great Himalayan National Park. There was another Doctor couple from Andhra who were quite friendly and much to my envy were going to spend another 15 days in Himachal, staying exclusively in home stay’s.
We had another couple from Mumbai, who were again coming there for the third time. Like I said, the place is addictive. Raju’s hospitality spoils you, the place envelopes you, the calm there wants you to get lost.
For the record, the charge at Raju is 1400-1700 per person(depending on veg and non veg meals), where they lend you a cottage with two single and one double room, inclusive of all meals that is morning tea followed by breakfast, lunch evening tea, soup around the fire and dinner with desert. Unlimited supply of fresh juices they have and as many fruits as you can pluck and eat! :D :D Tell me what more can you ask for!??? Yea, they also give you a kitchen if you want to cook something for yourself or for your kid!! :) :) They offer you wifi too if you want to take, though I advise you should not miss a moment here!!!
The experience is actually beyond words for me, perhaps these few pictures will tell you what a wonderful place Raju Guest House is :
Situated on the other side of the river, you park your car on this side and take this joy ride to Raju, actually the moment he throws down the trolley the unreal experience begins!
Situated in the Tirthan Valley, mornings after a night of rain can be something like this…
That was the view outside our room in the morning! Well I was just speechless!
That was our abode for three days, the upper wing in my opinion is the best place to rent!
Benches or chairs or hammock’s take your pick!
On a sunny day you want to be outdoors, yet some souls sit and sip plum and rhododendron syrups and discuss birds! :)
The sit out outside our room which was another place to sit and chit chat or watch birds or again a lovely place to read!
Looks unreal doesn’t it!?
Unwind, relax, forget, doze off!
A bounty! That is a sight on all table’s at Raju! :D
The books adorn the dining hall in hundred’s! They lie in all rooms as well! It actually is a book lover’s paradise!
Testimonial’s from other visitor’s tells me I am not the first who fell in love with the place!
Rocks from the Tirthan river painted by visitors. Raju will lend you his brush and colours to keep you busy on rainy day’s! :)
The dining room where I spent quite a bit of time actually! :mrgreen:
When its too wet, windy and too cold, this is the room where we would all cosy up next to the fire.
On clear night’s we would sit by the fire with soup bowls in our hands sipping and sharing experiences! :)
When there is nothing to do you can get down to plucking the reddest of red Cherries!
Appa! :D :D :D :mrgreen:
and last but not the least, the guy who envisioned and built this place, Raju himself, don’t forget to get him by the fire to share some of his stories! You will not regret, trust me! :)
There still are hundred’s of photo’s that will keep coming here and on my photo blog, there will be a full post on just the birds that I spotted at the Guest house which is lined up! :) :)
Frankly, I am in love with this place and promise to return here as soon as possible! <3