One of the best trips I’ve ever done was a wonderfully light-touch trek through the Kumaon area of Uttarakhand in the Indian Himalayas. It was organised by an Indian company called Shakti Himalaya that’s a bit of a secret. You trek from one remote mountain-top village to another, and every night you stay in a modest little house that hasn’t been changed at all from the outside, just redecorated a little on the inside. Doing it like this means you feel like you’re really part of the village life and you get a proper mountain experience.
It takes a while to get there; eight hours on the 4am train from Delhi and then six hours in a car, but the journey is spectacularly beautiful. As you climb up into the mountains you get bathed in that incredible morning light that sweeps across India, and the train is an experience in itself with people jumping on and off it, and the sound of their footsteps clattering on the roof as they run up and down above your head.
We did a ten-day trek, me and my three kids, stopping off at five different villages. The views are incredible. The snow-capped peaks. The light. The feeling of scale. The way you walk from village to village and stumble across these overgrown temples in the middle of nowhere with monkeys swinging through the trees like something out of The Jungle Book.
But really a visit to India is all about the human experience, even up here, where it’s not vastly populated. Because of the way the noise travels in that vast empty quietness, the first thing you hear when you wake up is children, their laughter ricocheting across the mountains, the sound of the song that they sing to start the school day.
And the food is incredible. You wake up each morning in your house, which is lovely and warm with its log burner and its sheepskin on the bed, and you have your breakfast cooked for you. Everything is grown organically. It’s all really fresh and really good. Yoghurt with pomegranate. Eggs and vegetarian curries. All of it made by the local women, who are so elegant and colourful, so beautifully dressed, and who do everything, including all the farm work because their husbands are too busy smoking the local marijuana and pontificating.
I’m going back again next year.
Sheherazade travelled to Kumaon with Shakti Himalaya; shaktihimalaya.com. Shop her jewellery at loquetlondon.com