Silent Valley – V Resorts’ Queen Meadows, Ranikhet
With just about no one around at V Resorts’ Queen Meadows, Ranikhet, it is easier to meet your relaxed self
Are you the sort who likes to get away? Really, really get away? Where the loudest and possibly only noises you are likely to hear are the trill of the mynah or the shrill butterflies flitting about. Or the occasional loudly rustling breeze as it tries to dislodge pine cones. If your auditory range suddenly seems considerably enhanced, that’s because there is nothing else for as far as the sound travels.
Queen Meadows is built on a hilltop in village Badhan, about five kilometres from Ranikhet. So literally is it cut off that guests have to trek up the last 600 metres — no wheeled transport goes up to the resort. Yes, there’s the badly needed rhododendron juice halfway during the climb, as I huff my indulgent city-fattened self up. Given that there are no signages leading to the hotel, anywhere, an escort car like the one that met me at Ganiadeoli a few kilometres away, is the norm. It stops at a bend by a hillside, and, but for the couple of staff, usually red-sari clad women, who carry luggage up the hill, there is no trace of anything to say that this is the point where the hotel begins! And, no, the 10-acre resort cannot be seen from the road below.
But then, that’s how this resort was envisaged by owner Sanjay Sarin, a former contractor with a strong pull to these mountains. He wanted to build a resort that “gives back to the hills”. There is literally no carbon footprint to speak of here. Almost everything I see is locally sourced, from the stone and clay for the villa walls to the aforementioned juice or the delicious food that comes my way periodically. For the nitpicker, there are of course mineral water bottles or glasses for French windows or spices that come from beyond the hill, but for the most part, one can live in unison with nature to a degree not easily achieved anywhere.
It has taken affable Sarin the better part of seven years to open the resort. Discover the stories as you chat with him over tea, or something stronger.
For starters, all structures have been hand cut, from the villa walls to umpteen steps leading up and down and everywhere (well, the hilltop isn’t flat, so no two structures are really at the same level). Yes, you have to trek up and down and all over as all the wood used has been sourced from the abandoned barracks at Ranikhet. In a region that is increasingly suffering from deforestation, the natural flow of water is maintained. His determination to not compromise even on the smallest detail has meant your footprint during your stay at Queen Meadows is quite literally invisible.
The green imprint in this shrine to eco-tourism goes deeper. At first glance, the unkempt-looking lawns might surprise, but Sarin is clear that the focus here is on growing food. The scarce water is judiciously used, and seasonal crops are mainly vegetables such as onions, peas and tomatoes. Fruit trees such apples, almond, pomegranate, and citrus varieties have been planted, while the local kafal, or bayberry, are plentiful already in the premises. A lime bush fruited so extensively in season that struts had to be put in place to support it, Sarin points out like a proud parent. Yes, it truly is tree to table here.
Take a relook at the eight 750-square-feet villas and seven 450-square-feet luxury tents, all of which function in the same sustainable manner. The villa walls are made of stone cladding with a clay wash of kharia and dhaan (rice) with the local auspicious aipan, or patterns, in red geru powder. The wooden ceilings are supported by metal rafters, though thatched roofs are visible too.