Jilling Calls : A Musicians’ Escape
With hill stations as music festival destinations fast catching on as a phenomenon, SoundTree finds out a quiet place in the Kumaon ranges, Jilling, perfect for musicians to escape to for creative inspiration
The name is a curious remnant of an old village name, given a colonial twist. Nestled in the hills near Padampuri, this getaway in Uttarakhand gets everyone from Jug Suraiya to Adil Manuel raving about its serenity and peace. For those who have been taken into the offing, this is a great way of letting go, getting away for a few days of introspection, family time, wanderlust, creative solace or other things that have been causing you pangs in the recent past. Statutory warning, it is not for you, if trekking is not your idea of a fun holiday. However, as Adil says, “You need to make an effort to get there. It’s great that they haven’t made a concrete road up to the estate, for then none of the tourists who come to Nainital come there, you get the right people to the right place. It takes you half an hour to forty five minutes to reach and the reward is you’re in Jilling – the cottages, the forest, the trees, the warmth of the family who owns it… ”
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Pine
The Jilling Estate covers one entire hill of the Kumaon ranges, and there is enough privacy as advertised on the website for backpackers, couples, and bird watchers alike in the rambling acres of chestnut, walnut, apricot and pine trees for you to relax and take a breather.
Spread over an inclined plane of hundreds of acres, Jilling has four cottages, all situated way apart from each other, with mountain trails connecting them. Pick whichever cottage before you go, they all offer varied experiences. For instance, the cottages at the lowest level open out to a countryside-charm backyard, complete with pine trees and a clear-out with log seats encircling a clearing for possible bonfires during chilly evenings. The third cottage at an upper level is the largest cottage of them all, and suitable for a party of five, with beautifully done up rooms, a very bohemian living room, a kitchenette, et al. The fourth is a one bedroom cottage, called The Eyrie, at the highest level, and more remote from the rest. It affords a view of the whole range in front of it. The owner of the estate, Steve Lall and his wife Parvathi reside in their own villa in the hills but they’re available for a cuppa tea and conversation to their guests which inevitably leads to an exchange of travel stories, stories from Steve’s air force pilot past, and conversations around plants with Parvathy, a farming expert.
A bird-watchers’ paradise, it is possible to spot over hundreds of varieties of bird species all over the estate. Exotic birds found in the Himalayas like the Verditor Flycatcher, the Turtle Necked Dove, various kinds of kingfishers may be spotted easily all around the estate. Barking deer might often be found roaming about the slopes covered in heather and grass, and there have been leopard sightings on the hills. Steve the owner of Jilling Estate told us, “Currently there are close to two dozen of leopards roaming around the area. But spotting a leopard is a matter of luck, as they’re generally shy creatures and roam about in their own time.”
The hills itself change character round the year depending upon the season. Spring-Summer is verdant from April till July, with grassy slopes bearing proud pine trees, apricot trees, peach trees and chestnut trees in bloom. (Just imagine writing a piece of music or some poetry or sketching while leaning against a peach tree in bloom. Definitely helps one understand what Wordsworth and Keats were effin’ talking about better.) Adil Manuel recollects “… crazy jam sessions there at the ridge where local musicians would come and join us with their dhols. Steve himself is a very knowledgeable person when it comes to Jazz. ”
And this is not all. The quaint bookshelves in the different rooms might end up finding you that childhood treasure book you had long forgotten about.
Several guided trek trails are available, walking to the topmost part of the mountain up to the ridge being one of the most popular. A trail through dense rhododendron forests, and fallen beds of rhododendron petals and leaves might be a tricky climb during the monsoons but otherwise is a mild climb for the most part. The ridge overlooks a cultivated valley about 2000-2500 ft below and has a breathtaking view of the neighbouring villages below and a portion of the Nanda Devi range on one side. Musician or not, Jilling is the perfect getaway for lovers of pine trees, mountain mist and some peace of mind. Then again, who isn’t?
How to get there: Take an overnight train or bus till Kathgodam from Delhi, and a taxi from there to Matial. Once you reach, helpful porters will be made available to guide you up the hills and carry the luggage for a token sum.
Adil’s Recommendation: While all seasons are brilliant, winter in Jilling as an ethereal experience.