A stay amidst tea gardens

We waited impatiently, peering at the igloo shaped natural oven fired by wood. Just a few minutes away, the chef had placed a pizza base inside the oven and told us that it would take barely a few minutes for the pizza to be ready. And it did. With a homemade spade-like structure, the chef raked the oven and took the pizza out. It looked inviting, as the chef queried for any extra seasoning on the top of cheese melting down the sides. I readily sprinkled some oregano and chilly flakes on the crust. This was my pizza which I had made myself, selecting the toppings and cheese.

The oven in the garden at the Lodge at Wah was ready to take in another pizza base to be baked. This was unique, to select your toppings and then place them on the cheese on the base to be put into the oven. ‘Make your own pizza’ literally was the idea and savour it in the sun while gazing at the snow covered peaks visible from the Kangra valley in Himachal.

The name, the Lodge at Wah had given me a different impression before I had landed at the resort. Spread on almost two acres of green patch of land manicured by different shrubs and bushes was the garden on which was located the Lodge at Wah. It was a lodge in the usual sense of the term. This was described as a homestay with eight rooms of different sizes and décor. Why ‘at Wah’ was the second question that came to my mind. This was answered by Surya, the young owner of the property . Wah is a tea estate spread out over 500 acres in the Kangra valley . The home-stay is owned by the tea estate and, therefore, it is called ‘the Lodge at Wah.’ I would rather call it a resort as it suits the definition.

There are eight cottages of slated roof supported by ‘deodar’ wood. Each cottage has different view and construction with huge glass windows looking on to the garden outside. The floor is wooden and also glazed by mud is some cottages. To keep the inner space warm, all season air-conditioners are installed in each of the cottages. Once the temperature is set to 25 degrees, the room remains warm and one can still enjoy the snow capped peaks at a distance.

The bathroom attached to each cottage has slate flooring and a glass enclosure shower area.

To retain the concept of Nature, the cottages do not have a television and a telephone, still everything is close at hand.

The eating area is placed in the main cottage which also houses the kitchen and a recreation area which has a television, some books and games. But who will sit in the enclosed area when Nature has spread out beauty all over, outside in the open.

A walk in the tea gardens where womenfolk carrying a bamboo basket on the head pluck the tea leaves is an activity which you find nowhere else. Kangra tea is a lesser known variety as compared to the much sought after Darjeeling or Assam teas, but the taste comes close to the two varieties.  

Food at the Lodge at Wah is also distinctively different than what one could order at a regular hotel.

Order your lunch in the morning and you can expect the traditional Kangra recipes, all home grown, by noon. There is a kitchen garden at the back of the main cottage which supplies several salads and vegetables to the kitchen. From onion to lettuce to tomatoes everything is grown in the kitchen garden, all fresh and organic.

The kitchen serves a ‘Kangra thali’ which has six different recipes of the region along with boiled rice and Indian bread. There is a wood-fired oven in one corner of the garden which is used for making pizzas and other breads. This could be one activity which one could indulge in – making his own pizza. 

Cookies and breads are home-baked too. There comes the white butter churned ‘at home’.

Not to forget that after every meal, one could order one of the several varieties of the Wah tea estate’s tea.

Teas of different varieties plucked from the tea estate and treated differently to give a distinct taste. Starting from black tea to Masala tea to Chamomile tea and green tea — all for the tea connoisseur.

Interesting was the visit to the Wah tea factory where plucked tea leaves are processed to give them the right colour and taste. I never knew that there was so much of science behind preparing the right kind of tea. Tea leaves are churned first and then 68% moisture is taken out of the leaves in large compartments where huge blowers blow in hot air from under a massive mesh. Then big machines that crush the leaves and then once again moisture is blow dried before the separation process is started in large different sized meshes. Before being packed in white woven sacks, segregation is done once again as per the quality of the tea.

It is an interesting process for tea lovers to watch.

Next day at the Lodge, I would call it resort again, was spent enjoying the sun in the chilly cold morning.

I stared at the wooden structure of the cottages which were bought from the old court in the region. Special was the witness box which was bought several decades ago and now served as the balcony of one of the cottages. The wooden doors dated back to 1905, heritage in a sense. The structure looked like a combination of the old and the new.

I would have loved to stay for a couple of days more at the Lodge, but was forced to return back to noisy Delhi. Two days stay in the valley had made me more sensitive to noises of vehicles and people whereas in the valley it seemed like pin drop silence broken off and on by a bird chirping.

The Lodge at Wah inspired me to say the resort is “wah, wah.”