Remember watching a movie in the early 80s ‘The Mighty Himalayan Man’, a fantasy flick about Yeti in the lines of King Kong. This Hong Kong movie greatly impressed my young mind and helped to create an atmosphere of awe about this magnificent, snow-clad mountain range.
A summer rain is always welcome in the oppressive heat of June in the plains but early rains made it unbearably humid this year. The call of the hills was thus getting irresistible and we settled for Ranikhet and Kausani, up in the Kumaon hills. The offer of a panoramic view of the mighty ranges added to the thrill.
We set off early in the morning and drove east in great spirits, going past Gazipur, Ghaziabad and Hapur. Owing to never-ending flyover construction, the drive up to Moradabad was thrilling only in patches. Excited by last year’s experience at Corbett and egged on by fellow Ghumakkars, we left NH24 at Moradabad and took the Kaladhungi route to reach Haldwani clocking 260-odd kilometers. Needless to say, the drive under the green canopy provided graciously by the forest was indeed refreshing as it drove away the fatigue collected over the past few months.
After having lunch at Haldwani we started the climb and took the route to Ranikhet via Bhowali and Bheemtal. The road is good mountain road and not very steep either and we covered the distance in about a couple of hours.
Ranikhet: Situated at a height of 1830 meters, Ranikhet offers pleasant climate and beautiful views. Being a cantonment area the upkeep of the town is good. The place is not crowded even in summer except the mall road. Accommodation is available that suits any pocket. Jhula Devi temple with its innumerable bells – offered by devotees – hanging everywhere is a good spot for the religious-minded. Chaubatia offers nature-walk and agro-tourism. You get to see various kinds of fruit-bearing trees.
We moved from Ranikhet to Kausani the next day via the golf course. Narrow but motorable roads. The scenic beauty along the way is superlative. Road signs are good enough so you can safely reach your destination without asking around. This stretch is mostly lonely so the road signs are a big help.
Kausani: The absence of crowds was a welcome change in this place as well. No mall road to boast about but the available accommodation was good enough. The ‘wow’ factor is the spectacular view of the mighty Himalayas – 300 kilometers of unhindered and unmatched majestic view. Peaks Nandadevi, Nandaghunti, Trishul etc. glistening in the morning sunshine, gives lovely viewing pleasure. On a clear morning as you open your bedside window, the sight of these snow-capped mountains which sometimes seem to be bending towards you, simply take your breath away.
Gandhiji spent a few days here in the Anashakti ashram – which is right in the middle of the town and displays some photographs from his life – and called this place ‘the Switzerland of India’. Hindi poet Sumitra Nandan Pant was born in this place.
Baijnath, 19 km downhill from Kausani, boasts of a 1000 year old temple complex situated on the banks of river Gomti. Children enjoyed feeding the fish here.
Bageshwar, a town around the confluence of river Gomti and Sarayu is 26 km further down. Gomti was looking haggard whereas Sarayu was young and full of life.
The distances are:
Delhi – Haldwani – 260
Haldwani – Ranikhet – 56
Ranikhet – Kausani – 70
Kausani – Baijnath – 19
Baijnath – Bageshwar – 26
For the he return journey we took the Almora – Haldwani – Rampur route. The under-construction highway was a nightmare. We were held up in the hills due to ‘Pandara’ which was going on in the nearby temples and it seemed the whole of Kumaon had gathered there. It took 5 hrs to crawl the distance of 10 km to Bhowali. May be due to the intermittent drizzle and the lush green surroundings or the nice hill folks milling about, we never felt tired or bored.