The Elegant British Bungalow At Peora
This was what took us there. While looking for homestays in the Himalaya for a week I was awestruck by the look of this Dak Bungalow and its ambience. Arrangements took no time. And in early June 2017 we were their for three days. The Bungalow comes just 12 km before Mukteswar. You walk down a twenty to twenty-five degree gradient path of about thirty feet to reach its gate. And as soon as you are inside, rest of the world seemingly cease to exist. In every mention that I came across before going there the Bungalow dated back to 1905. Though to me its style and ambience displayed a much older look. I came back and began to explore a little to find out the truth. And luck favoured me.
The Fascinating Background
The Bungalow has a great history. A well documented book reads: 'A number of magnificent buildings were constructed by the British in Kumaon. Ramsay has written in his report that there were only twenty-five bungalows in Kumaon. In 1873, the Public Works Department came into existence in Kumaon and since then a number of buildings had been constructed. Some Inspection Bungalows constructed by Sir Henry Ramsay were at Ranikhet in 1866, at Ramgarh in 1867, at Khairna in 1884 which was reconstructed in 1866, at Bhimtal in 1884, and at Peora at 1884.'*
A little more about Sir Henry Ramsay would add attraction to the history of the Bungalow : 'In 1856, Sir Henry Ramsay took over as the Commissioner of Kumaon. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, it was briefly seized by the rebels of Rohilkhand, soon martial law was declared in the region by Sir Henry Ramsay, and by 1858, the region was cleared of the rebels. Later, Ramsay connected Nainital with Kathgodam by road in 1882. In 1883-84, the railway track was laid between Bareilly and Kathgodam. The first train arrived at Haldwani from Lucknow on April 24, 1884. Later, the railway line was extended to Kathgodam.' **
* British Administration in Kumaon Himalayas (A Historical Study - 1815-1947), A.K. Mittal (Mittal Publications, Delhi, 1986), p. 137
** Vide webpage of the Motiram Baburam Post Graduate College, Haldwani, Nainital.
It's a small village 23 km from Almora and 12 km before Mukteswar with a height of 6600ft. The silent hamlet is crowded with pine, oak, sal, chestnut and kaphal trees besides abundant natural vegetation. During season one can have uninterrupted vistas of high snow capped Himalayas. Leaving the Bungalow we frequently walked either to Almora or Mukteswar, watched the local life, took a few halts and were charmed by the lush apricots, plums, peaches, and walnuts beside the road at an almost touching distance . And the local folks would love to talk with you and keep you in good company, if you may so prefer. One morning we went a kilometer down the road to Almora and witnessed the admiring activities of Aarohi, the NGO engaged here since August 1992 to provide help to the local hill people and improve their lives in so many rewarding ways.
The Dak Bungalow
There's no denying, the moment you enter the Bungalow, everything changes. No matter where you are - be in your room or in the verandah with its cane stools, easychairs and wooden benches aesthetically placed to entertain the guests, you instantly become more or less calm, thoughtful and inly-pleased. These pictures may prove the point.
One May Cook as Well
The double-bed room, as seen above, is between two large suites. All have arrangements to prepare tea and coffee, or even cook ones' own food. The host provides gas and oven, as seen in the left, and provisions for making tea and coffee. These usually come with your room-charges. For cooking food the guests have to procure materials from local shops. Otherwise the host usually provides breakfast and dinner for a reasonable charge. Since most of the guests prefer to visit nearby or distant places in the day time, they generally manage their lunches elsewhere. A local nearby dhaba also cooks good food if arranged beforehand.