One evening, while browsing the map of Uttrakhand I frequented with many eulogizing comments about Lansdowne. Our veteran fellow ghumakkars were no behind in extolling its serenity and beauty. I had visited Bijnore, Najibabad & even Kotdwar many times but never prompted to step towards the Cantonment area, for no logical reasons though. After reading the reviews, I decided to visit Lansdowne surely next time I happened to visit the area.
4th June 2014, I & my wife decided to celebrate my B’day in the lap of nature. Mercury in Delhi was touching season high hence, we were planning a getaway at an altitudinal destination. Lansdowne being relatively closer & never visited, was chosen to discover. Hastily, I tried to book some GMVN asset but in vain, with no rooms in either of the two properties available. We therefore, decided to reach early & search for alternate options.
Being familiar with the roads & alternate routes, we soon reached at Monty’s Dhaba at Miranpur via Mawana as early as 9 am for a stopover & filling our tummy. It is one of the finest & elaborate resort kind of restaurant with plenty of space and a well-built dining area. The road so far is good enough to drive with ease in early hours.
The road from Miranpur to Kotdwar via Bijnore bye-pass & Najibabad is single but well tarred except some perennial patching work in progress. After Kotdwar the landscape is very inviting and hilly terrain starts with serpentine road canopied by oak & pine. The country side & the hanging cliffs on either side of the road with lesser traffic satisfy the feeling of being away from the daily Delhi tumult. Till we reached closer to Lansdowne, it was really serene but soon before the Cant area, huge structures appeared with large boards of the resorts and hotels.
Driving through, we entered the cant area but stopped at the sight of a huge board wherein a proud caption by Gharwal Rifles “Welcomes to Lansdowne”. We soon came across various magnificent establishments of the Garhwal Rifles. A planned, tidy and beautiful hamlet in the lap of nature, Lansdowne is still tranquil & virgin. A small shopping area with few food joints and a parking space is what may be termed as the mall area. A spirit shop is started recently on the back of the shopping arena in the mall.
My worries regarding staying was though over by the sight of those large hoardings on route however, I was willing to stay in solitude & wilderness. Government properties may not cater the best of hospitality but I believe, the location & size of such assets are unmatched. To try luck, we visited the GMVN TRH personally & fortunately got a deluxe DBR due to a last minute cancellation.
By now the mercury was matching Delhi. The manager of the TRH assured of cooler evening & morning. Sceptically, I retired after refreshments till afternoon. My wife was busy in venturing the flora & fauna around the TRH when she met a group of three ladies from Ghaziabad staying in the cottage accommodation & soon they were friendly. Travelling is not only venturing places but at times we also encounter wonderful people & get to know them. While introductions, we got to know about them better. One of the lady was from Allahabad, serving as Professor in a government college & visited Ghaziabad to join her younger sister who is into acting and her friend with whom she shares apartment was a practising Doctor. Soon we were friends.
Evening was relatively cool or less hot. We reached at the sunset point but it was hard to find a space to see the sun setting through the dense bushes. The crowd settling at the setting point were mostly boozers & stags except a couple of embarrassed families.
Soon I realised we were there in wrong season. The tourists from Delhi-NCR & bordering states visit the place for boozing & partying in the recently developed tourist resorts beyond the Cant area. These resorts are equipped with swimming pools, bars & cater music & dance with DJ facilities till late night at an exorbitant price. An easy option to beat the heat & chill at a relatively closer hill station.
Another GMVN property in Lansdowne is Tip-n-Top. We visited the site & found a view point providing spectacular 180° view of dense oak & pine forest and a serpentine road through the jungle. It was sad to see fire at many places in the woods.
Recently, new cottages are constructed at Tip-n-Top available at an unmatched high tariff. Location of the TRH is best in Lansdowne but the facilities and maintenance is low. The older TRH is a better option at reasonable rate & better amenities. Other options to stay in Lansdowne in the Mall area, are private budget hotels.
Lansdowne being situated at a lower altitude @ 1700 m is relatively hot during peak summer but pleasant during the remaining seasons. Winter is cooler & also attract snow fall during peak winter. June is therefore, not the right time to visit this tiny hill.
We also visited the churches viz. St. Mary’s Church & St. John’s Catholic Church. A small artificial lake with boating facility was almost dry hence, escaped. Enthusiast may also visit the Gharwal Rifles Museum. Unlike the scorching day, night was cool & comfortable. A long stroll after early dinner on the barricaded road till late evening is an extremely refreshing experience. The area is under army surveillance thus well lit, very neat and disciplined.
Next morning we decided to leave Lansdowne after a detour to Tarkeshwar Mahadev Temple around, 35 km from Lansdowne. Our new friends also decided to leave the place due to the unfavourable weather and joined us.
The road to Tarakeshwar is very scenic through dense forest. The last 5 km deep in the woods is extremely serene, now motor-able, ends at the temple site. An open space serves for parking vehicles. Amazingly, no temple structures are visible even from close to the shrine because the temple is situated amidst dense jungle of tall oak, pine and deodar. Deodars are found in abundance here. The fragrance of wild comprised with continuous chirping of crickets and birds in the jungle will surely intoxicate you to feel deep inside the forest.
Descending a flight of stairs & hiking on a jungle track, in 10-15 minutes we reached a flat ground with hundreds of sky high deodars surrounding the temple premise. A range of Shivalik encircling around with similar tall trees, overlooking to make the place like a hideout. Entry to the shrine is through a small gate where rows of bells were hanging symmetrically on both ends and overhead. Rituals may be! The place is astonishingly beautiful, divinely tranquil and naturally wild. The shrine is dedicated to lord Shiva.
After inhaling lungsful of freshness and soulful rejuvenation in the pristine serenity, we dropped our idea of returning Delhi. And extended our trip to Khirsu, another heavenly abode in the wilderness. A less visited idyllic tiny hamlet hidden in the woods of blue pines is around 100 km from Lansdowne in Pauri. More to follow on Khirsu in this series.