We were planning for a visit of the Taal area in Kumaon during Dussehra with my sister who was coming Delhi from Tata Nagar with her two daughters and I promised the kids to take them to some hills. Eventually, the day of departure neared and we planned to stay at Naukuchiatal or Bhimtal instead of staying at Nainital. Browsing the KMVN TRH revealed a house full hence,
I decided to search a hotel after reaching there. On 14.10.2013, we were set to start as early as possible to escape the Delhi-Ghaziabad usual bustles. With two kids of 9 yrs and 5 yrs the earliest possible we could do was to start at 7 am. My wife in the mean time hurriedly managed to keep some sand witches, sweets, juice cans and aerated drinks. We always carry water as a habit with disposable plates and glasses. The tank was filled previous night hence after dusting the car a little we started off and soon reached the NH-24 without much hassle. Almost non stop, in no time, we reached Garhmukteshwar where a halt at an Indian Oil service station for refreshments for the ladies and kids and a long awaited fag to me was done in 15 minutes.
By around 10 am we reached Rampur on the still well maintained 4-lane NH-24, while relishing the home made sand witches and drinks on the way. The road from Rampur to Rudrapur is single and was in very-very bad condition. The 40 km drive was like wrestling with the steering and took us almost 2.5 hrs to reach Rudrapur. Passing through the bustling town Haldwani, took another 30 minutes and finally on the hills. A right turn just after Kathgodam takes you towards Bhimtal and a straight road to Nainital. With clear mind, we took a right and in another 45 min enjoyable drive reached Bhimtal by around 2 pm.
It was high time for satisfying our belly especially the kids. One recently opened restaurant at the corner of entry to Bhimtal served our purpose. Just beside the restaurant was a man selling freshly caught fish from the local lakes, my sister and my wife couldn’t resist from buying an almost living fish and on request the restaurant owner quickly cooked it on the recipe provided by my wife. It was actually a fish curry which was delicately served with Basmati rice. In one hour the good job was over with compliments to the restaurant owner who was a courteous young chap in early twenties. On the back of my mind, I was worried about finding a nice accommodation because my sister and her kids are not the ones to compromise with situation. Finally, I decided to go Naukuchiatal and give a try in the KMVN TRH personally. The way to Naukuchiatal is through Bhimtal, a narrow steep lane upside on the left just at the parking of Bhimtal with a small direction board leads further 5 km towards it. Soon we reached in one of the two TRH but alas! there were no rooms however, the humble manager telephonically enquired about availability in the other one which is the older one and luckily we found one cottage available there. Immediately, I requested him to book it and on reaching there, it was an ecstasy to see the huge KMVN TRH Parichay.
The Parichay, is a heritage property with rich history. It was an adobe to Shri Govind Ballabh Pant which was later leased to the TATA and now converted to a resort. Situated at the bank of Naukuchiatal, its splendid architectural design looks more magnificent due to its serenity and wildness. Our cottage comprised of two spacious bed rooms with attached baths and one living room quite well furnished with large windows facing the giant lake. The kids were very happy to find a space to play both in the cottage and at the wide spread lawns. The cottages were lately built by the TATA for accommodating their officials which are now converted for tourists. A few tents are also available but were not operational due to renovations in progress. The main building is mammoth amidst the lush greenery all around reflecting the colonial era look. There are rooms on the first floor of the building also but they were already packed.
The tariff was Rs. 3,500/- including break fast & dinner which is very reasonable. Local taxes are exempted by UK Govt. for promoting tourism hence a net 3,500/- for so good accommodation was a good prize. No in-house bar is though a draw back but one can pick one of his choice from the licensed shop at Bhimtal-Bhowali road, 6 km from the resort.
Bhimtal and Naukuchialtal are close-by but have no connections and are completely separate. Bhimtal is much popular because of its visible location along the road and is authentically very beautiful, surrounded by hills with bottle green water and an island amidst which is now converted to an aquarium and a tourists’ delight. Boating in the lake is the only activity offered here hence, rows of boats can be seen which adds in ornamenting the lake’s beauty. I had last visited the place in 2008 and in five years it seemed retaining the same glamour and still magnificent. A few constructions on its banks is inevitable to accommodate the growing foot falls due to word of mouth advertisements of the charming serene wilderness which is one of the few still left raw.
The lake is christened after Bhim who according to beliefs had stayed here during the exile of the Pandavas. A temple of Lord Shiva here is said to have been constructed by Bhim and thus named as Bhimeshwar Mahadev.
After a little rest by the adults and more play by the kids (their way of relaxing) we visited Bhimtal for boating in the lake. The boats are privately run by locales but in a well managed way on fixed rate of Rs. 210/- for half hour, out of which Rs. 10/- is for their union and remaining to the boatman. We hired it for one hour hence paid twice the usual rate. Rowing haltingly in the wild water, with numerous birds around besides few domestic ducks left in the lake by the boatmen for enhancing the beauty of the lake was an enchanting and soothing experience. The aquarium in the island opens at 11 am and closes at 5 pm. Kids were enthusiastic to see fish hence we decided to halt on the way back next day as it was almost dark while sailing for an hour in the tranquil water. All of us were silently cherishing while capturing the unparallel beauty of nature and could hear only the splash of water while rowing by the boatman. The cool moist breeze with aroma of wilderness was so relaxing that we were hypnotized and lost in the infinity. Surprisingly, not even the kids making noise. The silence broke only when the boatman asked us to shift our arms inside the boat as we nearing the shore.
After getting down everyone was showering their best words of describing the pristine beauty of the lake and about the enjoyable boat ride. Kids wanted to have another ride immediately by innocently insisting me for a paddle boat with a yellow duck structure. With promises, to take them on another ride next day we reached our resort. A few tourists from WB, next door came for asking our experience in Bhimtal and before my wife or sister could describe anything, the kids loaded them with tons of praises about their boat ride, bird watching, ducks, aquariums, tea-magie stalls and also toy & chocolate shops. The Bengali tourists were saturated with valuable information and expert views thus decided to courteously make way to their cottage and never dared to confront them again.
The dinner is served on buffet in the large dining hall upto 10 pm. Evening was comfortably cool hence kids were dressed with light woolens and ladies wrapped their stoles. I was busy sipping my tin of Carlsberg in the car at the parking lot listening Kishore da’s 80s hits mixed with Jhankar beat of crickets and other insects from the bushes and jungle around. At 9 pm we were in the dining hall, once occupied by great personalities. The dinner was sumptuous, tasty and well served. After finishing we strolled a little in the long verandah and then shifted in our cottage.
Next morning, we woke up with the melodious calls of various birds which I have last experienced in Bharatpur in September this year. Sliding the curtain of the window, the charismatic view of magnificent Naukuchiatal bounded by thick lush greenery filled the heart with divine pleasure and spontaneously developed feeling of deep respect and immense passion towards nature. I must say that Naukuchiatal is the best preserved in its natural form lakes in the area and experiencing its beauty from Parichay KMVN TRH adds to its essence.
Lethargically we got ready for the breakfast and a boat ride in Naukuchiatal, later we were planned to visit the other lakes in the vicinity. Breakfast was again a very sumptuous treat that could be selected out of two menus of Bread-Omelets or Puri-Subzi and tea. We had of our choices and waited for the boat to reach the banks of Parichay. No boats are available stranded there but the hotel management arranges a boat for Rs. 50/- extra on demand. The otherwise rate is Rs. 300/- from its designated point which is 3 km away.
Naukuchiatal is the deepest lake in the region with an average of 40 m depth and surrounded by hills with dense forest hence the water appears very dark. Mythological views are that the lake was created by Lord Brahma after tough meditation. As per the local rituals a Parikrama of the lake is conducted for Moksha (Salvation) and obtaining blessings of Brahmaji. After hearing the mythology, ladies wanted to perform the Parikarma which was later satisfied by sprinkling its water around themselves and all of us. After boating for half hour in the clear deep water of Naukuchiatal we left for Bhimtal again to see the aquariums in the island. On the way we found paragliding was also available which must have been recently introduced.
The aquarium is very well maintained with variety of fish and a worth visit. In the mean time we remembered that it was Dushera that day hence, we decided to visit the Naina Devi Temple at Nainital for a Devi Darshan. I knew of the Durga Puja held in Naina Devi Temple from local sources therefore, we rushed to Nainital to pay our reverence to the Devi. Luckily we reached there when the idols of the deities were about to taken from there for immersing with a procession and Jhanki. As per their rituals the Devi is decorated with Sindoor by the married women before leaving the platform where she rests for four days during the Puja. Similar ritual is followed in WB also. We had a glorious glimpse of Devi Durga, Laxmi, Saraswati, Ganesh & Kartik and ladies were very happy to witness the rituals. With pomp and show the procession was about to begin in few minutes. Rows of bands both traditional and modern were ready practicing their tunes with local dancing troops and a Jhanki of children imitating Gods and Goddesses dressed heavily with lots of make-ups, waiting outside in a truck to accompany the procession. Our religious mind fills with devotion with the mere sight of our deities in any shape or form that depicted when passers byes paid salutation even to the imitated children with much reverence.
One of the police officials instructed us to leave the Taal area as soon as possible because the entire roads would be blocked for entry or exit during the procession upto 6 pm. Hurriedly therefore, we descended towards Sattal which is 7 km right inside on the way back to Bhimtal.
Sattal is another pristine and less polluted natural place in the area. Seven lakes interconnected and bounded by many hills from different sides never allow viewing the entire lakes together. The hillocks in the water obstruct a wide angle vision however, the greenery around with clear water beautifies the area mystically. Few good resorts and one KMVN TRH are located here offering a pacific stay in wilderness. Camps are also organized by locals on the back drops of the hills amidst the water, now gaining popularity gradually. Evening is very calm and solitary here since, it is located far from any near by localities, feelings of adversity may engulf family tourists. We however, enjoyed a boat ride, a red duck shaped paddle boat, yellow was not available but the kids were generous and happy with a red one too.
Next day, we checked out from the KMVN, Parichay after a comfortable two night stay in the resort treasuring very good memories of the hospitable and courteous staffs and management of the heritage property.