Listen to God in the silence of Mukteshwar, Mountain Trail

My hubby’s company sponsors a family trip every year. The focus of such trips is a relaxing stay at a comfortable resort bordering on luxury and lots of fun activity and games. Usually such trips are planned well in advance. I remember, we had gone for an office trip, from the same office to the same destination way back in 2003. It was a memorable and fun-filled vacation. So lasting was the impact that this time too the same destination was suggested; but of course apart from just two families, the travellers had all changed faces over a span of 9 years.

With the experienced ones comprising my husband and me and another couple at the helm of affairs, things went really smooth and also the relatively younger and over-enthusiastic crowd of 31 members benefitted from these 4 repeat journey holders. Last time, the group had a tough time travelling in a 20-something-seater mini bus all the way to Mukteshwar, so this time it was decided that we would travel by Satabdi till Kathgodam and there would be vehicles carrying people for the rest of the odd 60 kms or so till the resort from Kathgodam. All the 12 rooms of the resort were booked, meaning we were the only ones demanding attention from the resort people at all times.

There was the helpful tour-operator-cum-guide Manav who was omnipresent to sort out issues, major or minor. Among the 31 adults and a few more children, there were seven couples with and without kids and rest were bachelors.

Mukteshwar is situated at a height of 2285 meters above sea level. Mukteshwar was first developed by the British with the establishment of the IVRI research and education institute. It is situated in the Nainital district of the Uttarakhand State. There is an ancient temple about 350 years old dedicated to Lord Shiva known as Mukteshwar Dham. The small quaint hill station of Mukteshwar has derived its name from this beautiful old temple. The beautiful green ancient forests, the dawn breaking with the sweet chirping of the birds, and all-pervading peace and solitude will surely create an enigmatic boutique holiday for you and your family.

It was unusually early in the Saturday morning when we left our cosy beds and hurriedly got ready to catch our Satabdi to Kathgodam. We had booked a cab and arranged for the two families staying close by to hire and share the drop till the Anand Vihar Railway Station. It was 5.30 in the morning when we reached the station. It was the first time that I was visiting Anand Vihar Railway Station. Never before had anybody told me that there was such a huge bustling railway station so close at hand apart from the three major stations of Delhi and NCR region. We were the first ones to reach the station, thanks to my punctuality freak husband. Soon the entire team gathered in from various corners of Delhi and NCR. The platform was bustling with enthusiastic ghumakkars. Of course among them a few looked very sleepy and dull and seemed to be waiting to fall asleep immediately after boarding. The train was on schedule. Everybody boarded comfortably and settled down.

Masti in the train

Masti in the train

Unfortunately, the entire group could not be accommodated in a continuous series of seats. The youngsters eyed and targeted and persuaded a few co-travellers to shift and adjust and let the group be together. Some smilingly and some reluctantly obliged. Once the members were together in a continuous arrangement of seats, they happily started playing the game of UNO Cards, Dumb Charades, Guess Who and Antakshari with passion. The cat-fights over game, the laughter, the giggles, the commotion in general that could be heard in the compartment, all ensued from the members of our gang itself. After the intermittent sessions of games punctuated by the brief intervals of food and beverage breaks, we reached Kathgodam at around 12.40.

There were 5 SUVs waiting at the station to transport us to the resort. Amidst much hullabaloo, the family especially with small children were first accommodated and then the rest of the team was spread in the vehicles and we went off to a roaring start to what seemed like a fun-filled weekend ahead. The mountain roads were beautiful but not without its share of meanders and thus nausea!

The SUV’s charting meandering mountain roads

The SUV’s charting meandering mountain roads

Four of the vehicles were more or less speeding in tandem but the fifth vehicle had a family who started suffering from acute nausea in half an hour after the journey commenced. There were phone calls from the members to reduce the speed as they wanted to be together with the other vehicles and not to be left trailing behind. So the first four vehicles of the lines took up a wide corridor and parked themselves along the side. That gave us an opportunity to jump out of the vehicles and click and pose for some shots. Half an hour later the journey resumed and in around 2 hours we reached the resort.

Naughty children determined to have a lot of fun

Naughty children determined to have a lot of fun

Welcome was a grand and joyful one with bright red tikas on the forehead, flower petals sprinkled in the air and a sweet sugary fruity juice along with some bright, smiling fresh youthful faces. After the initial reception was over, room keys were handed over to the people. The resort rooms were spread on different folds of the mountain side and depending on the location one had to do a bit of climbing up and down. The families were kept on the upper levels while the young ones were allocated rooms situated downhill. People immediately vanished off into their rooms to freshen up and get ready for the lunch. We were all terribly hungry. It was past 3 o clock and the banquet area immediately got crowded with hungry faces peeping through the buffet menu for picking and choosing. Lunch was a varied amalgamation of Indian dishes, roti, parantha, rice, sabji, dal and a few non-veg dishes and rounded off with some delicious sweet dishes. Right from the starter to the dessert everything tasted so very tasty; more probably because we were all so hungry.

Khana Peena in the resort

Khana Peena in the resort

Lunch was over even as it had begun. But the resort arrangement seemed to be at tethers with full occupancy. The staff shuffled around all the while busily pottering about taking and executing a milieu of orders. Satisfied faces and sleepy-eyed guests gradually poured out of the luncheon area into the front courtyard under the warmth of the September sun. Plans were discussed as to how best utilize the lazy last daylight hours. Some voted for a trek down the clean Mukteshwar mountain roads. So the group dispersed in bits and pieces and after getting sub-divided into smaller groups started their walk down the paved picturesque roads. We admired all the wild flowers that adorned the mountain sides and the blue hazy mountain peaks that peeped out of the clouds, the golden-tinted azure blue sky coloured by the last blazing sun rays. Mukteshwar is anyways known as a hiker’s haven. We stopped at places touching and feeling the giant dahlias and yellow sunflowers; while the children ran about here and there.

Pretty pink flower

Pretty pink flower

Rowdy red

Rowdy red

Fabulous fungi

Fabulous fungi

The peaceful silence of the mountains left us at peace with ourselves. Just as the sun dropped off beyond the horizon and the mercury dipped, we decided to take a u-turn and head back towards the resort. On our way, we had spotted a woollen, hand-knitted merchandise shop also selling some indigenous honey and juices, pickles and spices. We stopped over for the ones who were interested and some bright-coloured shawls and mufflers, caps and bottled juices changed hands after a brief session of unsuccessful bargaining.

Next stop was a small dimly lit and a bit shaggy maggi and tea-coffee corner. Some enthusiasts, who were already under the impression that they were hungry, stayed back to have steaming hot maggis with tea and coffee right on the roof top of the shop. A flight of precariously carved staircases had to be climbed to get to the rooftop. That added to all the excitement. Then as the chilly dusk settled in and the small neon lights started showing on the distant hills, we sipped our tea and coffee and slurped on our slimy maggi strands and cracked some stupid jokes and laughed a lot at the very stupidity of the jokes.

Shaggy Maggi corner

Shaggy Maggi corner

As cold and darkness thickened, we climbed down those steps and made our way back into the resort to take shelter in the warmth of the fireplace. The crowd gradually gathered in the hall where a big bright fireplace was already at work. A loud throbbing music, drinks waiting at the counter, munchy snacks doing the rounds, children gyrating on the dance floor, sparkling, blinking lights creating dance effects—evening party was on in full gusto.

Shaking a leg during the evening dhaamal

Shaking a leg during the evening dhaamal

When people were tired of dancing and eating and not doing anything interesting, we decided to play. Musical chairs, tailing the donkey, dumb charades, guess who, who would have thought even adults could enjoy these childhood games so much. Young and old participated and enjoyed to heart’s content till the little ones seemed really tired and sleepy and the gathering slowly dwindled as one by one people proceeded to the dining hall to eat something if at all they can. Some of us were so full with snacks that we skipped our main course and continued lingering on by the side of the now-ebbing fire till the little babies were snoring away cuddled in their parents’ laps. It was midnight, when we finally called it a day. The bachelors decided to extend their share of fun and cooped in one four-bedded room drinking away further and playing their favourite cards game.

Next day morning, people gathered in the dining hall seemed ready to a day full of fun and food. There were two options: (1) A trek of half a kilometre through a dense pine forest down to a nearby waterfall or mountain stream for a guided packed lunch picnic beside a nearby hill stream/waterfall; there was an added optional planned activity involving soft adventure such as rappelling and river crossing on the spot while others can enjoy their lunch in the wilderness (2) A small tour to the Mukteshwar Township where one can visit the (a) Jim Corbett’s Bungalow; (b) the famous spot commonly known as the Chauthi ki Jaali, which is nothing but a cliff having a straight drop of approximately 2000 ft; (c) and the century old Shiva Temple. And of course a third (almost non-existent) option for the extremely lazy ones: relax at the resort and make use of the club area where one can enjoy watching movies on a mini home theatre system. And for the slightly less lazy ones: laying their hands on the TT table, carom or dart board.

It so happened that the families with babies shied away from the trekking, and decided to opt for the day tour to Mukteshwar. The younger and more enthusiastic ones formed a second group and headed for the waterfall trek. I was the one among those with strings attached. The string here was my four-year old naughty little kiddo, who walks and treks on mood basis. I did not have the courage to trek half a kilometre of steep crevices carrying him through slimy and slippery narrow mountain trails.

So we were a team of four odd families with children and a handful of not-so-adventurous youngsters who decided to stick on with the family-wala group.

The first stop was the Mukteshwar Temple. It is said that Mukteshwar has received its name from the 350 year old Shiva Temple known as the Mukteshwar Dham. We could see the hundreds of bells strewn together by devotees when they come to ask for something from the resident deity. These old metal big and small bells hanging from all corners lend the whole atmosphere an enigma that I had never experienced in any temple previously. It is believed that Lord Shiva had killed a demon and granted him salvation in Mukteshwar. The hill top where this temple is situated provided a mesmerizing view of the majestic Himalayan ranges all around. We could see the green coniferous forest belt covering the hill slopes and the smoky mountains reaching up to the blue blue sky.

Millions of bells: Suspended wishes, deep prayers

Millions of bells: Suspended wishes, deep prayers

Chauthi ki Jaali was a short walk along a fairly easy smooth trail (as can be on a mountain trail) from the Mukteshwar Temple. This point was a steep rock face, an overwhelming rocky cliff overlooking a valley very far down below. The magnetism of the place lies in the sheer sense of height that the rocky 2,000 feet gives you. The rock face was nearly vertical and some adventurous people had arranged for rappelling, mountain climbing and valley crossing on the spot. There was another huge corporate group and that made the place a bit crowded. Some of us who were interested in the activities opted for them and gelled with the gang of corporate crowd on a self-paid basis. I got charged after a valley-crossing session.

Straining muscles crossing valley

Straining muscles crossing valley

And then went and sat on a hanging ledge overlooking the valley and feasted my eyes on the beautiful Himalayan peaks and terrain for an hour or so. Others were trying out their hands on some activities down below, munching on some snacks while the children played under the strict surveillance of the adults. There was also some awesome location to catch and capture memories. Each of us tried our hands at photography. There was also an intermediate shower of heavy mountain downpour. And that made the white clouds whiter and mountains hazier and even more mystic. And after what seemed like we have had our heart’s fill of beauty and enchantment, we decided to move on to the next location.

Chauthi ki Jaali: Vertical limit

Chauthi ki Jaali: Vertical limit

Chauthi ki Jaali: Dizzying heights

Chauthi ki Jaali: Dizzying heights

It was nearing lunch time and we decided to visit the Jim Corbett Bungalow before we return to our resort. Jim Cobett had actually come to Mukteshwar to shoot a tiger and stayed on and had even built a bungalow where he used to stay at times. The Bungalow provides an awesome 180 degree view of the Himalayan peaks such as Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot, Nandaghunti, Trishul and Panchachuli. By the time we reached the Bungalow, the rains had abated to a very light drizzle. The rain-washed mountain terrain sparkled under the hazy sun beams. We could view some portions of some of the peaks. The bungalow was surrounded by a beautiful flower garden and we spent as much time as we needed to.

Jim Corbett bungalow as the backdrop

Jim Corbett bungalow as the backdrop

Jim Corbett bungalow overlooking the famous Himalayan range

Jim Corbett bungalow overlooking the famous Himalayan range

Cloud shroud crowning the peaks

Cloud shroud crowning the peaks

The garden had plethora of floral surprises

The garden had plethora of floral surprises

Even the cactus blossoms

Even the cactus blossoms

Hungry stomachs and the lunch hour dragged us back to the resort where we had our fair share of a huge and sumptuous luncheon. After the lunch, both groups met and exchanged notes and decided to attempt vice versa. So it was time for us to visit the waterfall and the other group set out for the city-tour. Two Taveras took us to the spot of the last motorable road and we began our guided trek downhill. Inch by inch we proceeded, my four-year old clinging onto me. His whole weight was on me and carefully and stealthily we neared the rushing gushing sound of the mountain stream tumbling downhill. The shoes skidded and my grasp on my son’s hand tightened. But in the end I must say we had put up a great show and we reached the foothills of the medium-sized waterfall.

The magical sight of the alluring waterfall spraying its way across made our efforts worthwhile. Leaving the less adventurous ones with the children to take snaps and shoot us as we climb up the rocks to a certain height, a few of us attempted the last leg of the adventure. We crawled, pawed and dragged ourselves to the overhanging ledge closer to the source of the fall. The water was cold and refreshing. It was already pretty cold outside with temperatures dipping as dusk was thickening. We climbed down and decided to stand under the fall and take an ultimate refreshing bath. But the experience was unexpectedly out of the world. The force with which the water tumbled down on the head and shoulders was tremendous. It seemed like you are being beaten with a pound of grounded sack of rice.

The pouring falls

The pouring falls

The immense weight of the tumbling falls

The immense weight of the tumbling falls

A few moments under the dashing, bashing and gushing water fall, is all you can take. You come out and then go back again. It’s a sort of madness, the touch of water and the pain and thrill mixed with the wet cold coolness. It was refreshing and fun. Squealing and shrieking, pulling and tugging each other, we spent some half an hour in the water and came out alive and re-energized. A quick session of changing into something dry and patting ourselves dry with the towels we carried and then began the uphill trek back to where the Tavera dropped us and was waiting. It was getting chilly and we came back to the resort. Refreshing hot cups of tea and coffee arrived just as the sun was at its lowest best; and music and busy chatting, giggles and laughter of small children running around filled the darkening air.

The evening turned out to be even more gala and entertaining with dance, DJ, food, drinks, and fun games. Children were streaking across the party hall like shooting stars full of unending fire and energy. Elders drank and ate till they could drink and eat no more. Young ones ran and squealed till they had no energy left. Fun continued till past midnight and gradually people started retreating to their respective rooms for the much needed rest and sleep.

Next day a warm sunny morning greeted us. We were up and going. We had our breakfast and also had ample relaxation in the resort.

Nature watch with fresh flowers

Nature watch with fresh flowers

Flower fresh morning

Flower fresh morning

The entire team in freeze frame

The entire team in freeze frame

But then it started getting cloudy and soon it started drizzling. People wandered here and there restless to leave and head for the Kathgodam station from where our Satabdi was scheduled at 3.45 p.m. The planned itinerary was to leave the resort at around 12 and reach station by 2.30. The lunch was planned at some restaurant close to the station such as Udupi or Zaika. In the worst case, in case of unforeseen circumstances and shortage of time the railway canteen at Kathgodam was in the plan for lunch. The rains and nausea slowed down the pace and we were just in time to grab a buffet lunch at a fairly decent restaurant 10 minutes from the station. We reached the station comfortably and excitedly boarded the train for our journey back home.

Children continued playing, the smaller ones dozed off in their mother’s laps, and elders were divided in group and were playing cards or antakshari. Some chose to be aloof and comfortably dozed off to a light slumber as the train gradually seemed to get filled with the enchanting mountain magic memories.

About the Mountain Trail Resort

Mountain Trail Resort was the chosen destination. It is around 330 kilometres from Delhi and about 46 kilometres from Nainital. It is a cosy beautiful destination and apt for people who would like to spend some solitary moments isolated from the maddening crowds. There lies unexplored virgin verdant territory all around. The peace and quietness is overwhelming. Some precious moments in close association with Mother Earth! Isn’t this all we are looking forward to always. This desire drives all Ghumakkars to inhabit this eco-friendly green resort. Clean and comfortable rooms, adequately spacious and tastefully furnished, a small collection of books in the library, serene Himalayan view, a scented and flowery garden, small birds chirping, cocks crowing, happy smiling faces of the resort employees buzzing with activities walking around —will make your stay pleasant and maybe memorable too. The resort also arranges special packages for various activities such as rappelling, rock climbing, valley crossing, yoga and meditation sessions, birding and angling, and trekking.

21 Comments

  • Saurabh Gupta says:

    A very well described post.

    I think it is PWD rest house not Jim Corbett bungalow as I have stayed there 2 times and nothing is there like Jim Corbett bungalow.

    Mukteshwar is really a very nice place for peace lover. Thanks for the sharing the post and such wonderful photos.
    Regards

    • Bidisha says:

      Thanks a ton Saurabh, for your reading through and leaving some wonderful words. :)

      Well! I was told by the local guide that it was the Jim Corbett bunglow and that Jim Corbett used to stay here whenever he was in Mukteshwar. Putting up here, it is said that he used to devise his strategies to tackle the man-eaters of Kumaon. General staying is not allowed here. You can only visit it with permission.

      Regards
      Bidisha

      • Saurabh Gupta says:

        You are right Bidisha Ji. It can be booked only on the permission of DM. and one of our friend did it on our request. Information related to Jim corbett may be correct but nothing was mentioned there so I was confused. Anyways thanks for sharing the information.

        • Bidisha says:

          Thanks Saurabh for getting back on this :).

          You people were so lucky to have been able to stay in such a lovely property.

          Even I was confused after reading your comment. What all I narrated was gathered from the localites who were provided to us as guides by the tour operator. And at times they just make up stories to grab attention, glamorize and create hype.

  • Pushpinder Singh says:

    Your description and photography is really good. Have been to mukteshwar but missed the water fall. On the way one can also visit Ramgarh and Hartaula. For Nausea and vomiting due to motion sickness we have tried Cinarazine (Stugerion) with very good result .
    Regards
    Pushpinder Singh

  • Bidisha says:

    Thanks Pushpinder for your encouragement. I am sure the readers will be benefited by your suggestions, especially the nausea remedy.

    Thanks
    Bidisha

  • Nice and informative post. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Shouvik says:

    A nice read with great detailing and pictures .. where’s my backpack ?!??! :))

  • injamaven says:

    I still don’t understand why photographs of the road. Almost every post has one.

    • Bidisha says:

      Well! I can explain why. That’s because the roads are a haven to heaven for all ghumakkars. A picture of the roads in a travelogue helps in setting the mood and the ambiance. It gives you a feel that you are a co-traveler and gives you a vicarious pleasure of being in a new place through your mind’s eye. Hope that explains!

  • ashok sharma says:

    good post,nice pics.

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Bidisha,

    “My hubbys company sponsors a family trip every year.” – could you, by any chance, check out from him if this nice company would employ me. It will be obviously be a difficult task because my employability will be restricted to the ‘trip time’; so no good for company :-)

    On a serious note, it was our drive from Bhowali to Mukteshwar when we seriously considered buying a piece of land in Himalayas. In my view, this drive is on of the best vis-a-vis proximity to plains.

    Jim Corbette bungalow – we missed on that but I remember that while walking through IVRI area we had generally wondered that a sizeable number of Bong officials were holding residence in that compound !!!

    The article is very interesting with apt description, as ever.

    Thanks for taking us through those parts of Kumaon.

    Auro.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Great log Bidisha. Very well told with enough detail to make anyone feel like with the gang. I think the group should allow you to be the official story teller :-) of the trip.

    Regarding the PWD Guest house thing, both you and Saurabh are correct. The place is called PWD House and I have heard the same stories about this house and Jim Corbett. In this book, ‘Maneaters of Kumaon’, Jim mentions about Mukteshwar but I do not remember about this place, am sure it would have been known as some other name. The more official, real bungalow is in Kaladhungi and now there is a museum. It is where Jim actually lived.

    By the way, that shop was by any chance, ‘Kilmora’.It is a NGO which works with local artisans. It is a small single room with a verandah kind of shop. There are other shops as well in this reason but just guessing, it is close to Mountain Trail.

    I would pass on the good words to Manav. :-)

  • A very good travelogue Bidhisha and a detailed one, supported by beautiful pictures.
    Though all the pictures are very nice, I like “Chauthi ki Jaali: Vertical limit” – you can spend end number of hours at those spots and don’t want to leave.

    The fun of group traveling is unlimited and it proves right throughout your post. We are not so lucky always.

    Was there in that part two weeks back, but couldn’t go to Mukteshwar, due to time constraints but throughout our drive, we have just one thing in our mind…can we stop here at every corner and at every turn and that’s the beauty of Himalayas.

  • Bidisha says:

    Thanks for putting in a few words, Amitava.

    Glad that you liked it. We had actually spent a lot more time than was planned in Chauthi ki Jaali. It was simply a surreal experience.

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