Netscape founder Marc Andreessen says he has drained all the unpredictability out of as much of his life as possible because the unpredictable parts are unpredictable enough. How could the gal have foreseen what a memorable day she was going to have at Oberoi‘s lovely Wildflower Hall hotel, here in the Himalayas? Dress warmly, and take a hike with the leader of the nine-strong highly-trained expedition leaders, up through the cedar forest to a clearing. Chefs await, in greeting.
It is as if an outdoor suite has been prepared. I have a camp bed, and a bedside table with suitable books, including a guide to birds of India. I have a tent, with a double day-bed and pillows inside. In summer, apparently, this place is booked nearly every day, as couples and families savour the space, and bespoke food and drink. I trekked here via the Strawberry Trail, named because in season there are wild strawberries, and raspberries, along the way. Today I had merely learned, en route, how these cedars, indigenous to the Himalayas, change sex, and produce either all male, or all female, cones.
Butterfly-like seeds from a female cone are caught by a male cone, never from the same tree to avoid incest. I learned the areas of the Himalayas, too. In between I sneaked glances at the chefs, busy preparing lunch, with everything, except dessert, made here on the spot. First came beautifully-decorated bruschetta, then perfect Swiss rösti with two dipping sauces, one chicken, and one morel (somehow rösti seems so appropriate here in this alpine setting, I almost expect to hear cowbells at any moment).
And then comes dessert, a kitchen-made pa’an icecream, of betel leaves and rose petals. It was honestly one of the beautiful dessert tastes ever, but I had to laugh at the incongruity, eating icecream in near-zero temperatures. It was time to return to the warmth, in more ways than one, of my luxury hotel. We passed, coincidentally, the actual ice pit that Lord Kitchener had built, over a hundred years ago, to conserve winter ice for summer gins and tonics.