In The Sal Woods

Sometimes, life throws too much at you and you decide to take your own wrong turn, leading to a lot of mistakes and impulsive expenses but at the end of that road, the river you jump in and the forest you live in will be worth it.

I was continuously working from the last 6 months, non-stop like a machine, without a break. It was last Sunday of the end of the financial year 2021, everybody I knew were on a vacation already whereas I was on my way back from Mumbai, upset from a cancelled meeting and a negative, costly, RT-PCR report in hand. 

I was tired but not wanting to go home to another file, I drove aimlessly on roads knowing that curfew is about to set in.

It was sheer impulse to buy the cheapest available flight ticket despite knowing that all decent resorts/homestay etc are full.

Please do not consider an unplanned trip. It is adventure, sure.

In these 3 days, I lived in a forest cabin, wrote to Ruskin Bond and jumped off a cliff into the ever-flowing Ganga.

But, overthinking stops more than budget do as it should. We are human beings with a family and an adventure can be expensive. Decide an economic limit of your journey.

I got 2 options: Goa or Dehradun. Travel Agents gave me more than 35 options of hotels in Goa, both in budget and luxury category but it just wasn’t what I was looking for, peace and serenity.

After living in a village during lockdown, I could not go where we never go when randomly planning with friends, ‘Goa?, No thank you’.

I wanted a clean break, not just a beach and a beer. I wanted raw nature. It’s like the delight we feel when we get to walk in a farm, find a raw tomato, pluck it and taste it like the most delicious fruit ever.

So I became a travel agent myself, surfed for quaint cottages, woods, cabins on google and finally found, The Sal Woods- Forest Retreat and Spa.

Tip from experience: If you have shortlisted options like me, find them on Instagram to get direct contact details, call & insist to talk to the person who runs the place (example: marketing head).

Tip from experience: Every sales person will try to boast of the full sale of their product or service but in the hospitality sector, the marketing person will listen. This will ensure you a best service for your money from the moment you arrive at the booked property.

The most expensive place in the world can be explored on “zero-budget” if we have our own car. It gives us the monopoly to make our own decisions. That’s what I thought.

I was day-dreaming in air, green hills and clean rivers… I had done my homework, asked the customer care to verify my prepaid booking for a self-driven Scorpio, checked and re-checked but while landing, somewhere, I was still apprehensive.

It had been 7 hours and I was yet to receive the contact number of the owner of the car, after paying INR 14,500/- including “deposit”.

I had touched the Dehra land with my own feet. I was out of Jolly Grant airport, but that’s it.

“Sorry Mam, the car had suffered an accident.” – Delhi Customer Care of My Choize as I walked an angry path near the empty covid test makeshift tent.

“Sorry Mam, we have received no such booking.” – Dehradun rental agency as I simultaneously tried for a taxi at airport with an intoxicated booking staff (बुरा ना मानो, होली हैं!)

The roads of Dehradun are ruled by local taxi unions.

“कहाँ से आया हैं?”.. “दिल्ली का हैं तू?”.. “साइड में कर”.. “साइड में कर!”

At the entry gate of the airport, watchdogs discriminate between who can or who cannot earn a living. I got a taxi from the parking area after multiple requests at 33.33% surcharge.

Often, local business and shopkeepers forward WhatsApp’s, organize protests to stop the world crawling in. I am part of many such discussions by relatives. And I know the cartels they are silently a part of.

Ola, Uber & Jugnoo thrive in Ahmedabad because fair price is a right of the customer. I didn’t touch down from Europe. I came from the next state, within my own country, भईया जी!

The Mumbai Kaali-Peeli taxi’s are punctual and actually go by the meter, not for show, only for sale!

The valley is silent, the trees are Deodar. Happy, coloured clothes and tipsy young faces just sitting on the sides or romancing on the bike, the Activa bachelors were not so lucky…

There are beautiful hidden curves, going up but there was a traffic jam. Strange, I thought. Perhaps, just saying good bye to guests, teasing them by not letting them go, holding out a rope as a barrier.

Turns out, I was a guest too, toll tax collection, informal and unstable on his own feet. The driver just laughed and so I had to pay.

Entering the Sal Woods resort needs a final touch down on a steep road, it needs an able driver and not many will agree. So, I took my suitcase and walked down in a slow hip-hop motion, bending my knees to prevent from rolling down like Po (Kung-Fu Panda).

As I walked, tired but breathing in the fresh air, I thought I was entering a dream. I love forests and the hidden wooden cabins in them. Scattered amongst the sound of birds and total silence, with multiple filters of sun rays hitting each other where they could find space between the tall trunks of Sal, making so many colours..

But I had forgotten that I my trip wasn’t planned like a formal event, considering all that is foreseeable. There was a loud holi party on and the staff was merrily dancing away in gulaal and water. But Mr. Rakesh Kadam, the marketing head of the resort came personally and ensured service while I went for a light trek, leaving my belongings in the cottage.

My day ended with ginger tea and fresh snacks arranged by him when I did not like the lunch served, seeing the sunset from my balcony and playing with the friendly cat who slunk in between the legs of my chair and sat watching with me, as the path lamps lit one by one.

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  1. Thanks you for your realistic comments about The Sal Wood Resort. And our hospitality.

  2. Kshitiz kadam

    Loved it .
    Proud of my father ❤️
    Hero 😊