From Mcleodganj as we headed towards district Chamba, we knew that there were just 3 towns worth visiting there: Dalhousie, Khajjiar and the capital, Chamba. Out of them, Dalhousie and Khajjiar sounded interesting and worth a visit. However, we were not convinced about Chamba town. It is set at a lower altitude, which would mean HOT days and we’d already had enough of that at Mcleodganj. Moreover, apart from temples, there didn’t seem to be anything else of much significance there. So we were in a dilemma whether to visit it or not and were leaning towards not. But then we heard of Orchard Hut, a home-stay retreat, tucked in a village some few kilometers east of town. It had excellent reviews online and with visions of our fabulous stay at Raju’s Guesthouse in Gushaini, we figured that this would be a great place to unwind. We called them while in the cab to Khajjiar and luckily, they had a double-room available for 3 nights. So we immediately changed plans and asked the cabbie to head to Chamba instead!
Orchard Hut is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Prakash Dhami, an elderly Himachali couple belonging to Chamba town. They had bought this huge property on the mountain by the side of the river Ravi some 30 years ago but didn’t build the retreat until a few years ago. Today their kids (2 sons and a daughter) help run the place while Mr. Dhami takes care of all the bookings and payments, and Mrs. Dhami manages the kitchen. They are a warm, extremely friendly and chatty set of people; nobody was shy. In our 4 nights there (yep, we ended up extending our stay by a night!), we realized that this was our first true home-stay where we had the opportunity to interact freely with the family and experience a bit of life in Chamba.
We were told that the harder a place is to get to, the nicer it would be. And this seems to hold true for Orchard Hut. Mr. Dhami spoke to our cabbie and asked him to drop us off at a particular place, a few kilometers beyond Chamba town. When we got there, 2 porters received us and took hold of our backpacks. They then led us off the road to the riverbed, across the river over a log and stone bridge and then up the mountain on a steep-ish trail to the guesthouse. It took us about 30 minutes to get up there and the last 10 minutes really tired us out. But once we got up there, the warm welcome by Mrs. Dhami and her son, Nitin, made it completely worth the effort and we knew we were in for a special stay.
We were put up in a double-room on the 2nd floor of the guesthouse. The family lived on this floor as well. Our room was spacious and shared a balcony with the adjoining room. We didn’t have a bathroom attached to the room but there was one just down the hallway and we did not have to share it with anyone else. On the first floor was a large dining hall with a TV room on one side. The porch outside the dining hall was our favorite space; I loved curling up on a chair here reading and gazing at the fantastic scenery around. In front of the house was a grassy courtyard with lawn chairs and a swing chair to laze in. Just below the courtyard, in terraced areas were hammocks for more lazing!
Meals were included in the cost of stay. Mrs. Dhami cooked up some unique, traditional food using vegetables grown on their own property. Even the rotis were made out of wheat flour that was ground on-site; they were some of the best rotis I’ve had! The fare was mostly vegetarian but one night she made chicken curry for us as well. Dinners were always followed by a yummy dessert!
For 4 days, Madhu and I did nothing but laze, read and work on updating our website. We could have gone for treks up the mountain to Mr. Dhami’s hunting lodge where he would have provided us with overnight accommodation if we so wished. We could have trekked back down the mountain to the river or visited the temples of Chamba town as well. But we did none of that. We simply stayed indoors enjoying the house, Dhami family’s hospitality and the company of a very sweet Canadian couple who were on a longer stay; it was absolutely blissful!
Orchard Hut is a fantastic home-style retreat; a great place for weary travelers who want to unwind and put up their feet for a few days!