Four of us had finished our tea. It was mid of December, 2011. We hired two autos and headed towards Old Delhi Railway Station. After finishing our dinner at the station premises, Ranadeep got four bottles of water. I along with Ramen and Rudra had already purchased some wafers and sliced cakes. Finally we boarded Ranikhet Express around 10:30 pm. We had to make sure that our stomach was full, as the train didn’t have any pantry car. We started cracking horrible jokes, as the train left Delhi station. Around 11:15, keeping the fellow passengers in mind, we decided to have mercy on them and tried to catch some sleep.
Early dawn around 5 am, our sound sleep was interrupted by some coolies. We reached Kathgodam Station. Four of us had some tea with the wafers. It was chilling cold outside. After freshening up, I looked at my watch. It was 5:35 hrs. We stepped out of Kathgodam Station Platform #1 and two of us, went to a nearby SBI ATM to withdraw some cash. Around 6 am, we were all set to start our Kumaoni Paradise trip. After a little bit of negotiation, we booked an Alto for 200 bucks. They generally ask for 350-400 INR for a hatchback to take you to Nainital. But, you should have a little bit of negotiating power. They’ll easily drop to Rs. 200-250.
We reached Nainital bus stand in 1 hr. We checked in around 7:30 am at Hotel Paryatak. Its very near to the bus stop (10-15 mins walking distance) . They have moderate charges for rooms. One double bed room would cost you around 600 bucks per night. We took a suite (two rooms and two double beds) for 1000 bucks + tax per night. The hotel balcony has a terrific view of the Naini Lake. However, if you need luxury, Hotel Alka and Hotel Elphinstone are two good options.
As it was winter, we had to make sure that they have hot running water. The hotel manager said that hot water will be there every day between 9 am and 12 noon. We had our shower, gobbled up some breakfast and charged our mobile phones. Hotel Paryatak has some finger licking foods, I must say. I had a talk with the hotel manager. He arranged for a cab in next 30 mins for sight seeing. We were informed that as it’s the month of December, we could not trust the weather. We were lucky to have a sunny day. We wasted no further time and left for sight seeing at around 11 am.
We had the following points in “Places to visit” list:
- Bara Paththar
- Eco Caves
- Tiffin Top
- Snow View Point
- Botanical Garden
- Lovers’ Point and Suicide Point
After our visit to the above points, we were informed that we would be dropped at Hotel around 5 pm. However, Ramen and I decided to ask the driver to drop us at Mallital instead.
As the name goes, Bara Paththar is a combination of 12 huge rocks, generally visited by travelers who loves trekking. We also met our hearts’ content and trekked to whatever possible extent, we could.
We enjoyed our horse ride to Tiffin Top. The scenic beauty was simply breath taking. Gorgeous Kumaoni range came in front of us with almost every turns of the narrow road. Shera, my horse was very much obedient and being the local resident, it knew the better than anyone, I guess.
Snow View Point, our next point. Immensely beatiful place, where you can hardly stop clicking. Snow clad Himalayan Range, including Nanda Devi peak.
Next, our cab headed towards Botanical Garden. Entry Fee: Rs. 5 per person. Not much to see, but Flora and Fauna at its best ever, with a man made waterfall. We decided of not devoting more than 15 mins at this place.
Around 3pm, we felt hungry. We asked Chandan Ji, our cab driver, to take us to a nearby Dhaba. He took us to Shanno Da Dhaba. Though, we never got the chance to meet Shanno Ji personally, but I intended to thank her personally to provide us with delicious and fresh chicken curry and roti.
After lunch, we were about to proceed towards our next point- Bhimtaal. It was on the way to Mukteshwar. Chandan Ji said us that, instead of going on that day, we should visit it the following day, as we had in our plan. We planned to visit Mukteshwar temple, the very next day.
Hence, our cab headed towards Lovers’ point. Its just an edge of a cliff, but we could not resist clicking snaps. Just 10 feet below Lovers’ point, there is Suicide point. We giggled, that after all both meant the same. if you are in love, you are suicidal. However, we didn’t go deep into this universally true statement and thought of keeping this hard core truth restricted to ourselves only.
While returning, we touched the last point of the day: Eco caves. Man made 9 caves, with names as Flying Fox, Squirrel, Panther etc. encouraged us to check our fitness. We struggled to cover 7 out of them, and decided the next two as ‘pending’ for our next trip to Nainital.
We returned to Nainital after our sight seeing. As promised, we were dropped at Mallital. We were charged 750 bucks for the sight seeing. Mallital is a place, which is just perfect for an evening stroll and some quick shopping. Nainital, as known for amazing candles and wood works, is a place worth spending as much as you want depending upon your heart’s content. Naturally, we couldn’t stop ourselves from almost endless shopping. There is Naina Devi Mandir nearby. We tried to pay a visit. But, we decided to visit the temple, the very next day morning.
We had, 2-3 cups of coffee from Mallital in between. Rudra was still not satisfied with the shopping, and he headed towards a nearby Bank Of Baroda ATM. Around 8:45 pm, we returned back to our hotel. Like any normal Indian traveller, we opened and checked our recently purchased gifts and souvenirs. It was damn cold. We purchased some scotch from a nearby IMFL shop. (Prices are slightly high as compared to Delhi). After few shots, we had our dinner. Bed never looked so tempting.
Next morning we had our breakfast at our room. While having shower in lukewarm water, I thought how improper the famous song “Thande Thande Paani Se Nahana Chahiye..” stands here. By 10 am, all of us were ready to leave for Mukteshwar. We asked Chandan Ji to pick up from Mallital around 11 :30am. We reached out boating point (near Amar Ujala office). Normally, you would be charged around 80-100 bucks for an half an hour ride. It comes to 160 INR for an hour. The boatman gave us life jackets, and we were ready to enjoy our ride on the renowned Naini Lake. We asked the boatman to leave us at Mallital, towhich he easily agreed. around 11:10 am, we were at Mallital. We entered into Naina Devi Temple. You can get Puja Daali outside the temple. Nainital derived its name from Naina Devi only. This temple is one of the most revered temples among Hindus in India. Soon after our visit, Ramen got a call. He informed us that Chandan Ji is ready with his WagonR. We looked at our respective watches. We could not stop admiring his punctuality, and mocking ourselves for being a typical Dilliwala regarding time.
We left for Mukteshwar. On our way Channdan Ji informed us that Mukteshwar is a place where Lord Shiva bestowed a demon, which he slew, with salvation or “Mukti“. The temple and town obtained its name from this . We were thrilled to head towards an altitude of 2315 Mts. above sea level. We stopped at Gollu Devta Mandir or in local terms Ghantewala Mandir (Temple of Bells). We were amazed to see uncountable bells of different shapes and sizes outside the temple in a small market. Its a belief that, if you worship Gollu Devta and offer your Puja thali, after tying a Bell, it will be fulfilled.
After spending some time, and clicking some snaps, we left for Mukteshwar. Our cab stopped at next spot: Ghorakhal Tea Estate. Its an organic tea plantation. In the serene beauty, you can enjoy the greenery and some samples of Organic Tea. They have a small shop inside, from where you can buy small tea packs.
Finally, we reached Mukteshwar temple. We visited the temple, with Ranadeep struggling with him cell phone as network was poor. However, I was thankful to Mr. Bharti Mittal, to find Airtel Network firm and strong at even at such high altitude. We quenched our thirst in a nearby coffee shop after our visit. While returning back, we asked Chandan Ji to be present around 1 pm, the following day to escort us to Kathgodam Railway Station. For Mukteshwar trip, we paid him 800 INR. We returned hotel in the evening around 6pm. A surprise was waiting for 2 of my friends. Ranadeep and I had a talk with the Manager earlier in the morning for a bonfire near parking lot of the hotel. Ramen and Rudra were unaware of it. He had arranged for logs and fire, by evening. Now, it was our turn to get a surprise. He had arranged for coffee, snacks and some music near our bonfire. Some more fellow boarders joined us.
Next day morning, we went to the Zoo. We were amazed to see Tibetian Wolf, Siberian Tiger and some rare species of birds. Though we missed Snow Leopard, but it was worth visiting the G.B.Pant Nainital Zoo. We left for Katgodam Station with Chandan Ji around 1pm to board our Kathgodam-Anand Vihar AC Superfast Train around 3:30pm.