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Delhi to Ramgarh: Sweet and fruitful

LiveMint logoLiveMint 17-08-2017 Manan Dhuldhoya

One really doesn’t need a season to set off to Kumaon. But as reasons go, few are more “delectable” than the opportunity to spend a weekend in a peach orchard during the month-long harvesting season that starts mid- August.

We did not have the slightest idea just how fruitful our road trip from Delhi to Ramgarh would be. And so it was on a full tank and empty stomachs that the three of us, accompanied by our sole canine caretaker, set off early one drizzly August morning. It was the perfect road trip coterie—one loves driving, another is a navigating whiz, and the third loves lounging in the back seat with her furry friend, nose persistently peeping out of the window.

The first fruits of our early morning effort were literally delivered to our window at the toll booths after Brijghat by men selling fresh, purple-black jamun sprinkled with tangy chaat masala, which combined with the tartness of the fruit to fully wake us up.

While countryside drives can be splendid for both mind and mileage, my most memorable ones have been those that take you through forests. This one took us through the Tanda forest that appears right after Pantnagar and peters out just before the concrete fingers of Haldwani take the land in their grip. The phone network gave up but we didn’t miss it. Both sides of the road were lined with stalls piled high with peaches, pears and plums, as well as bananas and papayas. Three bags of fruit heavier and nearly 300km away from home, we left the sprawl of Haldwani behind us, winding our way up towards Ramgarh, our home for the weekend.

Graphic by Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint

Ramgarh is the fruit bowl of Kumaon and we were spending the weekend at a home-stay in a peach orchard. A village home spruced up to deliver modern comfort while keeping the traditional structure intact, it was the perfect perch to savour the flavours of Ramgarh. We dumped our bags and trooped out to explore the orchard with Naveen, the resident caretaker-cum-cook. We walked into the neighbouring orchard and had barely worked up a sweat when the orchard owner hailed us for a chat. Over some peaches, of course.

He took us to his warehouse, where peaches were piled up to 10ft high and farm workers were sorting the fruit for dispatch to markets in Delhi and Mumbai. Every crate held 8kg of fruit; only the number of peaches inside changed, depending on size. And prices, of course.

The bigger the fruit, the more expensive it was. Guess how expensive it could get—Rs60 a kilo. Nearly a third of what I paid back home in Mumbai, something that had me shaking my head in disbelief as we walked back to our cottage that evening. We watched the sunset suffuse the sky with colours over pakodas and whisky.

A view of the mountains from Ramgarh. Photographs by Manan Dhuldhoya

The next day was spent walking the hills, and going on a drive during which we came across the Kilmora store, famous for its woollens, jams, preserves and more, in Sitla village.

As we left Ramgarh that Sunday, we were stopped by children from a local village selling pears and plums in plastic bags. I took two bags and asked how much I had to pay—they shook their heads shyly and said I could pay whatever I thought was fair. Even more than the luscious fruits we’d savoured all weekend, it was the innocence of this interaction that left the sweetest taste in our mouths.

Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros. The author tweets from @manandhuldhoya

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