The Mountains Echoed: Mary Budden Estate

Language only echos the truth of nature’s breathing and yet it is in these moments of the unvoiced and unwritten aspirations that we truly are ourselves. We strive hard to put our emotions down in words, only to render them useless at times, because something’s are only to be felt and not to be said.

I trekked up the mountains everyday since I got to Mary Budden Estate in Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, Uttarakhand. Those who know me would be surprised to see me being enthusiastic about a strenuous activity like this, and yet here I am.

What you see in the above picture behind me is the Nanda Devi peak surrounded by its courtier peaks, as the cliche of her being the queen goes. There’s something commanding in the beauty of the Nanda Devi peak – royal and feminine. She towers above Nanda ghunti, Trishul, Nanda Kot and others. I viewed the spread of this range in awe from zero point in Binsar and felt insignificant. All my so-called problems seemed to have vanished with each step I took towards the Binsar peak…and here I was standing, liberated for those few moments. The mountains leave you humbled.

The food at the estate

On returning to the estate we were welcomed for the Himalayan Brunch. For a place that’s nestled in the thick mountain forrest of Binsar Valley, Mary Budden Estate pays tribute to the local flavours of the Himalayan region while keeping up with the modern presentation. Not once though would you see the flavours being compromised. What you taste is a familiar comfort served with a swish. These dishes are a part of the Himalayan brunch where you see the confluence of Kumaon, Garhwal, Nepal and Bhutan coming together seamlessly on your platters.

I’ve been told that Mr. Karan Singh and Chef Ram have spent a long time researching and putting together an experience that you can only expect from the MRS Group. Mr. Singh and Chef Ram make that team where one thinks and the other is able to translate that thought into plate – like art.

The meals at Mary Budden Estate can be classified as follows – for breakfast you can expect a standard meal of granola with yoghurt, home-baked cakes, prunes, dates, eggs to order, poha, paratha and the likes. Not an extravagant hotel buffet, but a nourishing meal suiting the terrain. For lunch there are usually local flavours and thaalis which are executed to perfection by the team of chefs and for dinner you can expect a continental fare with a touch of local ingredients.

Apart from this standard routine, you can pre-book certain food experiences like the wildcat brunch, the Himalayan brunch, Serena’a garden lunch, the eventide coven and the Milky Way dinner.

The wildcat brunch which is usually held at the leopard point of the estate had to be shifted in to the Lodge’s private dining area for us as it snowed the day we had planned for it. The mood is set with the eclectic cushions and shawls in leopard prints and a throw of colours, while the live grills are fired and hot pots inspired from Japan are served. This meal on a snowy day was all the comfort that we could’ve asked for!

A gathering around a bonfire at dusk where the local balladeers sing the epic set in song, of myths and legends, in gratitude and in praise of the mountains and the forests, the eventide coven is where you get to soak in the flavours of the terrain.

Then there is Serena’s garden lunch which is the epitome of relaxed conversations fuelled by comforting food. We were served delicious pahadi pulao with mirchi ka salan, raita and pickles for this meal on our second last day at the estate.

The mountains have spoken

I trekked up the mountains again one of the days to head for lunch to Dalar (a little hamlet in Binsar) and was discussing with a local that how lovely it felt to be disconnected. There were no endless Maggi stalls here that serve you the instant delight in the name of pahadi food, no plastic thrown around, no pollution of any sort in sight. So while the abuse of the mountains is still on to set-up power plants and the frequent forest fires ravage the beauty of these places, it was heartening to see locals here stepping up and saying NO – no to them taking their home away bit by bit.

It was only once I reached Dalar and switched on my phone for a few minutes did I get to know about the avalanche floods in Uttarakhand that had broken out a few moments ago. In fact, it was the concerning messages that flooded me on Instagram which became my first source of information.

When you abuse nature, know that it will fight back. As they say, the mountains will give you back what you give to them – so well the mountains echoed. Good or bad, you decide.


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