While the Dyer Expedition to Antarctica in HP Lovecraft's seminal work, At the Mountains of Madness, had to take a long circuitous route from Massachusetts to South America to the coldest continent, our journey to the Mary Budden Estate in Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary was far less longer and had a far far happier ending. If you go to Mary Budden Estate like us dear reader, you are assured that happy ending. But first lies, er, lays the way there. It is undoubtedly long.
From Delhi, as the crow flies and from where most holidays are begun, Mary Budden lies betwixt 10-12 hours away (depending on your bladder and other bodily functions). But first, a prologue, which we wished had shorter detours.
It takes the better part of a day to reach Mary Budden Estate (395 km from Delhi), and you have to find your better self on your way up there. The roads are bending, the altitudes punishing, but the final destination incredible.
Mary Budden Estate boasts a vast expanse, which is limited to six actual rooms, split between the main lodge and a gorgeously appointed annexe. The former boasts its own intimate dining space and living room, while the latter, located a tiny hike up, boasts the same, apart from a better view and larger social spaces.
What was that about taking the higher ground? Of course there's a library on the grounds, a rich one, with everything from a Baburnama to a Barbara Taylor Don’t Marry the Heiress.
But like any good Christie novel, there are grounds aplenty besides. While you may think that there lie but six luxuriously appointed rooms (each with their own fireplace, thank you very much) and common spaces therein, the property itself is spread over five acres, every twist and turn, every hollow and high bedecked with seating spaces, terrace gardens and other altitudinal differences to despair a Poirot and delight a plainsman (or woman).
Apart from the grounds (and heights), with their individualistic panorama of the scenery, and their personal spaces, there is plenty else to indulge in. The property's chef, who was sent to Cordon Bleu prior to the opening, offers a prix fixe menu that, nonetheless, features everything from Himalayan dumplings to Kumaoni cookery to haute cuisine. A la carte what?
Once again, ingredients are painstakingly locally sourced, and your meals may entail anything from a Nettle Soup to Bhaang ki Chutney (you are high enough) to mountain-side barbecues (remember all those seating places)? There are also a Ruskin Bond anthology-full of walks, ranging from nature treks to wanderings in the wood.
Yes, there are leopards, but they stay outside the boundary walls. And yes, that means you can bring your own four legged beast or belle, given that Mary Budden Estate is petfriendly. There are the hotel dogs to keep yours company and the 5:30 pm alarm bell on your phone to remind you that you are staying in the middle of a wild life reserve so keep your pets in your room after dark.
We have personally experienced every facsimile of food and fun provided by your gregarious hosts at Mary Budden, but in case you are hungry for more, there are always the walks down to villages (you will be driven back up in case you wanted and or were wondering) that bestride the river that snakes through your view atop the mountains down to the valleys below.
Want to pick and snack on wild oregano while guided by a friendly local villager? Want to have hot chocolate while surrounded by a nigh-360 degree view of the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas? Go to Binsar, and then come on up to Mary Budden Estate. Please tell them we sent you. You think you have been to the mountains.
And sure, as people who live in Delhi and other parts of North India, we have experienced many different kinds of things in different Himalaya s. A t Mary Budden Estate, you get every part of every mountain, from the sporadic snowfall outside to the frequent fireplaces inside.
Mary Budden was a missionary and educator back when the Raj was a’raging. She got one of the few properties atop the Binsar estate (now wildlife sanctuary), whence forth she had her children’s home and school. This was brought over by renaissance woman Serena Chopra as a bed and breakfast, before she decided to turn over the property to MRS Hospitality. While the property definitely is the same, the space and hospitality definitely isn’t.
COST: Starting from Rs 24,000 (inclusive of taxes)
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