The trip to Mukteshwar was born out of our strong desire to go somewhere. Anywhere. We started with a plan for Dharamshala, moved to Rafting in Rishikesh, and, at last, zeroed in on Mukteshwar. Main reasons for choosing Mukteshwar were:
1) Relative nearness to Delhi (10 hrs drive in a Qualis)
2) The fact that none of the group members had been there
3) It sounded peaceful
So after basic planning (booking hotel rooms and a cab), we started on Friday Night at 11:00 PM. The road from Delhi to Kathgodam is pretty bad so it definitely wasn’t a smooth ride. The journey till Kathgodam was uneventful and many of us (esp. the ones in the middle seat) spent it catching up on their sleeps. As for the front rider and the unfortunate fellows sitting at the back, they spent their time trying to keep others awake.
The drive from Kathgodam to Mukteshwar is very scenic with breathtaking views of Bhimtaal and lush green valleys. The end of spring and a sunny morning also meant vividly colored trees and the sweet fragrance of flowers blooming in the morning. In spite of having hardly slept during the night, we were wide awake during this drive. Except some people in the middle seat who were sound asleep all through.
We had booked our rooms in Krishna Orchard Resort which is about 5km from the 0 milestone of Mukteshwar. I would like to specifically mention here that the resort is reasonable, location is good, rooms are comfortable with excellent views, and the staff is extremely helpful. I will gladly recommend this resort to anyone who goes there with family or friends.
We reached the resort, had our breakfast, got ready real quick, and headed to our first adventure, a trek in a jungle. This is a 1.5 km long trail into the deodar jungles and locals recommend that you should take a guide with you. But, brave as we were, we ignored the suggestions and headed out on our own. The trail started with a muddy track and quickly transformed into a moss covered ‘pagdandi’ amongst the tall deodar trees. I am sure we went much farther than 1.5 kms and the trail became increasingly dangerous with each step. Though most of the young members of the group were excited about going further or taking alternate paths through the jungle, sensible (a.k.a. not-so-young) members ushered them back. The entire trek took about 3 hours to and fro and the only sound during the entire duration was a chorus of unidentified birds and the winds amongst the trees. You cannot believe what a racket these can create!!
Our next stop was Mukteshwar Temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. We expected a crowded, monkey-infested place but instead found a very quiet, little temple set aside at a great height looking down upon the deep ravines and valley and, surprisingly, no monkeys. The place was so tranquil that half of us drifted out alone and used the opportunity to reflect upon our lives. Rest of us were wondering how to ask them to make it quick without sounding rude.
After that, we set out for a little walk towards “Chauli Jali” which is the most spectacular place in Mukteshwar. Grey rocks jut out of moss covered green hills into nothingness. While sitting here, you feel that you are on the terrace of the world. Though I do not like people engraving their names on such places, the name of one Christian couple caught my attention. The date that was engraved beneath their names was 1969. I don’t know why, but it really touched my heart.
Anyways, the main reason for us to visit “Chauli Jali” was to view the sunset. But we were in for a surprise when we found that we had the opportunity to do Mountain Climbing and Rappelling. Brave ones amongst us (which means everyone else except me) opted for mountain climbing. The total height to be scaled was about 30 ft and there was only one narrow rocky ledge between you and the bottomless ravine.
Next we tried rappelling. This is where the cowards (me) stepped in too. With my fear of heights, it was a huge deed for me. Everyone else did it quite easily. The height from where we had to go down was 40 ft and again only a narrow ledge between us and the valley. For me, it was a near death experience when the instructor told me to push my body back towards the valley with my feet at the edge of the cliff.
After this we headed back to the resort where we had asked for a bonfire. We had to share this with another family. The resort had a karaoke machine that gave you scores based on how well you are able to match your words with the tune of a song. Some of us tried our luck with this. Rest of the time was spent playing dumb charades and the usual antakshari with the family with whom we shared the bonfire. After dinner, we walked around the resort that was surrounded by trees and bushes that looked decidedly spooky at night and the cowards amongst us (me again) freaked out at the first mention of a ghost. After long walks and some heart-to-heart discussions in the room, we slept at 1:30 AM.
The next morning started early at 6:00 AM when we started out for a morning walk. This was a 5-6 km trek, half of it uphill. This is where, I think, we finally lost it. We took turns imitating the koel with each subsequent ‘koohoo’ at a higher pitch than the previous. Soon the valley was echoing with the songs of four completely out-of-tune koels who instigated all the dogs within a radius of 4 kms to start barking. I guess we were not really popular in Mukteshwar after this and decided to leave right after the breakfast.
But this is not where the craziness ended.
The distance between Nainital and Mukteshwar is about 35 kms. We had come about 5 kms when some of us started feeling sick. We got out of our car and decided to walk some distance till we got better. It was a comfortable down-hill trek and the weather was pleasant. Hand-pumps had been installed at regular intervals and the water from these was really sweet. We asked our cab driver to go on for 5 kms and wait for us there. After 5 kms, we did not feel like getting into the cab so sent it forward again. We ended up walking about 20 kms downhill till we reached Bhowali. On the way, we played the ‘koel’ game again with the same response from all the Dogs in the valley. We also made it a point to drink water from every hand pump on the way.
Nainital was just 10 kms from Bhowali and the road went uphill. So we decided to board the cab at last. Nainital meant the usual activity of walking around the Naini Lake, One hour in peddle boats and a shopping spree on the mall road. One thing we discovered was that the maximum capacity of the boats available in the whole of Nainital is 4 people + the row man. We had to hire a two seater and a 4 seater for the six of us. We had our dinner at a pure-vegetarian restaurant called “Naani-Naanu”. The food was not so great but the prices were reasonable.
We started from Nainital towards Delhi at about 9:00 PM on Sunday and reached Noida at 5:30 AM on Monday.
No. of People: 6
Nature of the trip: Spiritual, Religious, Adventurous
Total Duration from Delhi to Delhi: 3 nights/2 days
Total hours of sleep: 7.5 hours
Meals per day: 2 (Brunch + Dinner)
Total Distance travelled: 750 kms
Total Distance travelled on foot: 40 kms
Total Expenditure: A little above 3000 per head
No of Cameras: 4
Total No of Pics taken: >500