TRAVEL TO SONAUGI

EAT, PRAY, LOVE, IN THE SONAUGI HOMESTEAD

As springtime heralds the last of the pleasant days, a prelude to the summer season, it is like the nature encouraging each one of us that hey get out there and enjoy the summer season to the fullest. Being an avid traveler myself, I was keenly searching for a destination where my mind, body and soul could attain absolute solace and as a family we could enjoy the vacations comprehensively.

Traveling to be in tune with nature turned out to be a transformational phenomenon, more than just pleasure, excitement and euphoria. With all thanks to the powerful performance of Julia Roberts in the film adaptation of the book ‘Eat Pray Love’, one thing was clear that if on a vacation you are able to fulfill the three intrinsic and soulful ingredients of life i.e. eat pray love, then the vacation is a total success.

As I sat down at the window sill, gazing at the vastness of the nature, I couldn’t help but remember the time when I was restlessly searching online for a holistic destination. It was then that the user friendly Google search engine finally rested on what was going to be one of my most fulfilling vacations of 2014 and that was at ‘The Sonaugi Homestead’.

Ensconced in the beautiful valley of Himachal Pradesh and amidst the cedar forest, the homestead was situated in the picturesque green village Sonaugi, which in the Himachali language means ‘sona ugane wali zameen’. The breathtakingly beautiful pictures of the property and the details of the sightseeing that the place offered convinced me that this was the one. A cold call to the owners of the place and me and my family zeroed in our summer holiday destination.

Akin to its meaning, Sonaugi invoked peace and tranquility in the seeking hearts. 30 Kilometers’ short of Manali, Sonaugi is a small village ahead of Naggar.

The homestead has five rustic Himachali style wooden cottages which from the outside give the impression of being traditional, but were complete with the modern retro fittings inside. It was a home away from home. In sync with the aesthetics, the room was simply out of the ‘inside outside’ magazine. The manager welcomed us into our allotted room. Seasoned wooden stairs took us to our cottage, which was not only sun facing but also had a magnificent view of the valley. Over a much needed hot cuppa of ‘chai’, the manager shared with us about how this property came into being.

The wood and stone room had a cozy reading corner and a positively charged meditation corner as well. The website had mentioned that their clients had gone back and written about how beautiful their bathrooms were. Though, in heart of hearts I had shunned that review, but with utmost pleasure I now admit that, that was an impulsive thought in my head. A huge bathroom, with a glass shower enclosure and an antique dressing table was nothing less than opulence. 24 hour hot running water was a treat to the ears.

The room had maple wood double bed with a clean bedspread, linen and comfortable mattress, a sofa cum bed for an additional member, if travelling with you, a huge easy chair for reading, pure wool bhuj durries on the floor adorned with floor cushions for meditation, writing a personal diary or for just sitting there gazing outside through the most beautiful French windows. I was in love already.

Each cottage was equipped with a German bukhari, which had the capacity to keep the room warm for an entire day with just two logs of wood.

Separated by greens, the homestead had another building which was again very traditional called ‘Dhuna, the lounge’ and it was the dining room as well. The entrance of Dhuna had a sitting area where one could indulge in a game of carom or play cards or simply enjoy the gentle whispering of the winds over a hot cup of tea. With an unconventional setting, the lounge is a warm cozy place with a magnificent fireplace right in the centre, where if you listened closely, you would hear innumerable stories of the conversations that its visitors had, had. The dining area is perfect for not only the sumptuous meals that the home stay offered but also to just read from amongst the beautiful collection of books that the property has.

Sonaugi is so much in tune with nature that it compels the traveler to trek and get to know the place. As suggested by the manager, we planned every day thereafter for a trek around the villages neighboring Sonaugi, simply to be with the elements. One such was a six kilometer (one way), trek to village Jana, which is known to be the largest village of the state, with a population of almost 1400 people. An uphill trek to the Jana waterfalls situated in the village was a test of our physical and mental fortitude. The trek left us famished and tired, yet secretly fulfilling. On reaching, we treated ourselves to Maniram’s delectable Himachali cuisine. Back to the room, we got our aching body parts massaged by the available masseuses.

Another day and another mission, and that was to have a rendezvous with the homestead instead of venturing in the woods. I just changed my position along with the suns’ and read to my hearts’ content, while my husband and son chilled out on the hammock alternatively.

Sonaugi-Archandi, Sonaugi- Naggar are some of the other trek routes for the passionate travelers. 

 

YAK, YAK AND YAK

The busy city life where all members of a family are running against time and have to put in an effort to sit and talk could easily reconnect here at ‘The Sonaugi Homestead’ and you would wonder, why? The decision of the owners to not have a television set was a treat for the visitors there. I can speak for myself and my family when I say that so much energy which was otherwise drained or wasted in watching television, was perfectly utilized in reconnecting with each other. I realized that my mind had relaxed as it was now free from the consuming frenzy.

A LOT CAN HAPPEN OVER A CUP OF COFFEE

Every place has a personal style which eventually becomes their signature style. The homestead has a unique way of letting each visitor interact with others. And it used to happen over the bed tea, but only here it was happening in one of the lawns, everyday at 7 A.M. A time to discuss from the most trivial to the most personal and important issues under the sun over cups and cups of tea. Totally therapeutic!

FOOD FOR THE STOMACH OR FOOD FOR THE SOUL

From the traditional local cuisine to the most avant-garde English dishes, food at Sonaugi was lip smacking and mouth watering indeed. The day would begin with a king sized spread of breakfast that included, muesli, dalia, toasts, variety of eggs, paranthas, juice and fresh fruits. Lunch again was as grand as the breakfast and would have a variety of local dishes for the famished souls like us. As we tread from one meal to another, it’s important to mention that every meal had a personal and a warm touch which made each one of us feel special. The friendly demeanor of the staff and their warm disposition would be a compelling factor for our next visit.

At Sonaugi, time becomes an art, and you learn to live and enjoy the moment. Sonaugi not just changed my travel philosophy, but also helped me build a deeper relationship with the place, its people and its food. We all identify ourselves from our senses, and here at Sonaugi, my senses were thoroughly rejuvenated. We now head back to the real world, but only to savor the memories of a wonderful holiday.

 

Shruti