As far as first impressions go, the Wayfarer Resort in Munsiyari in the Himalayan state of Uttrakhand (Uttranchal) flatters – but it does end up deceiving you a bit on the service front. What works for it is its setting: its perfect. The view of the Panchachuli peaks and surrounding mountain ranges leaves you with no option but to keep looking at them for hours on end as long as the cloud cover allows you to.
If you are willing to take a bit of the rough and inconvenient in your stride, this is the where you should stay when in Munsiyari, a place to mark as priority in your future planned itineraries. (Actually the next best option may not even be an option if you want at least a certain degree of comfort)
Here’s a review from my stay at Wayfarer in early June 2008:
- The Location: Like I said – tough to match. On elevated ground (about 90 hillside steps up, great for losing weight if you do these a few times a day) one kilometer from the town square on the Madkot Road, the mountains rise behind it while it faces the Panchachuli and other mountain peaks – it is one of the closest and clearest views you will get of these ranges. The only audible decibels here of birds and other jungle insects, the occasional blare of a horn from the sparse traffic road below, a rare election campaigner blasting out promises from a megaphone or of fellow guests.
- The Accommodation: Seven eco-friendly huts and three tents, all with attached bath.
- The Rooms: The huts have thatched roofs, clay plastered walls, cement floor and adequate lighting with CFL bulbs. Beds are the folding types with comfortable mattresses to keep your back straight after a day of hiking or driving around. A covered patio in the front allow you sit, chat, have tea and enjoy the view of the mountains. The tented accommodation has similar amenities. A wood or coal fired heater, with an exhaust leading out, has been provided for the extremely cold nights.
- The Baths: Very basic, with a WC, a small wash basin and bathing area. You get running cold water, but hot water (heated in wood fired heaters) is delivered on request in the morning hours in buckets. No showers here, only taps. Built as an extension of the rooms using tin sheets for walls and ceiling. The metal door can make a racket if not closed gently.
- Food: A kitchen with flexible hours: works only when there are guests, from early morning to late evening. The cook can put together dishes on demand, especially when there are fewer guests. Quality and taste can be inconsistent, but mostly below par although some fellow guests disagreed with me; call it good if you compare to options in these parts. Advance notice is suggested, as ingredients need to be arranged from the market most of the times; you may not always get your selection either as the markets around may not have everything you want unlike big city ones. For those on a meal plan, it is disappointing to see only limited dishes being offered which seem a bit of a let-down for the price charged (see point on pricing below).
- Electricity: Not very regular. And generators are put on only in the evening hours, and perform erratically when all rooms are full; higher capacity generators are required here. It can get quite dark and gloomy in the huts even during the day; you need to balance a torchlight as you find your way around the bathroom in the dark. If you need to charge your laptop, mobile or camera batteries, do so whenever you get power. You would not want to miss out on taking those snaps.
- Water: Did a disappearing act a couple of times, but was fixed within minutes. They have adequate storage, but we all need to go easy on use of water for environmental reasons especially in such locations where it is not easy arranging for water.
- Housekeeping: Sheets and towels are washed, but do not give a very comfortable and clean feel. An investment in a high capacity washer and dryer would be more reassuring for guests. And no one comes to you asking if you would like the rooms cleaned in the day; you have to specifically tell them to.
- Tariff: Rs. 850 for tents, Rs. 1200 for huts. Add Rs. 850 to include breakfast and dinner, and another Rs. 250 for lunch too – all for a couple, taxes included. There is an ala-carte menu too; it may make more sense to take a room-only rate as ala-carte prices work out lower for the same selection they provide on a meal plan. And you have the option to not eat if you don’t like the food.
The final word? Back of the envelope calculations suggest Wayfarer does not generate enough revenues from this property to manage it well; they would do well to raise the prices a bit and put it back in the running of the place. It is a fantastic property – a little extra effort would be a delight for travellers. But don’t let this discourage you: go to Munsiyari, and stay at Wayfarer. The trip is worth it.
Wayfarer Tours & Travels (P) Ltd.
New Delhi – 110022. India
Attn: Mr. Subroto Roy