Nahan was the first major attraction. After our happy stay in Grand View, we decided to move on to the other planned attractions of the trip. Next in line was Paonta Sahib. Paonta Sahib is especially famous for its beautiful gurudwara. We started our journey from the land of misty white clouds of Jamta that nestled Grand View and reached till Nahan. From Nahan we took the route to Paonta Sahib and reached around noon. It was approximately 45 kms. We took around 1 hour to reach Paonta Sahib through a leisurely drive along fairly well-maintained roads amidst heavy sporadic downpour.
The Paonta Sahib Gurudwara bears association with the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Govind Singh. This place was initially known as Paontika, where paon means feet in Hindi and tika means stable. People believe that Guru Gobind Singh’s horse had stopped at this place on its own and thus the guru had decided to live here. The Gurudwara is said to have a museum containing a lot of antiques and weapons used by Guru Gobind Singh during his stay. But unfortunately, we did not get a chance to see any of these. Nor was it in public display.
After parking our car in the dedicated parking bay of the gurudwara, we decided to check out Hotel Yamuna belonging to the HPTDC, built on the banks of Yamuna just a few meters away from the gurudwara. To weigh out the option of spending overnight in the hotel, we took a look around and peeped into the hotel rooms. The hotel can barely be termed as neat and clean with sparse furnishing. It did not look as if any of those shoddy looking rooms were occupied. There were three categories of rooms available: basic, executive and deluxe, with the basic difference of “no AC or cooler”, “air cooler”, and “window AC”, respectively. The tariff was also quite reasonable: 500, 700 and 900 for double bedded rooms in each category. But the damp, soaked walls and the lizards creeping along them coupled with the overpowering damp smell in the basic type room that lingered on as we walked over to see the other rooms was enough for us to drop the idea of spending the night in one of those. We went over to the front yard that was overlooking the Yamuna gushing past below. Brimming with brown muddy waters, Yamuna looked so very different from the filthy stagnant river of the capital and actually filled us with the joy that at some point during its course Yamuna actually looks like a real river, with real waters. After spending some time gazing at the water-filled, new-look Yamuna, we headed for the Gurudwara.
We entered the sacred place of worship after covering our heads with the colourful brocade scarves that we collected from the entrance gate. I chose one that gelled well with my dress. Removing our shoes and washing our hands and feet, we entered the hall where the worshippers had gathered and the satgurus were singing the religious hymns. The fragrance of agarbattis (incense sticks), fresh flowers and the freshly cooked Prasad (halwa) being offered to the worshippers, along with the very familiar hymns sung in praise of Sikh gurus, the ornate interiors, the devotees sitting with closed eyes, folded hands and swaying bodies created its own enchantment. We offered our earnest prayers, humbly accepted our quota of prasad, completed our pradakshina (going round the altar) and sat for a while absorbing a lot of the peace and harmony from the religious gathering all around.
We also went over to the small marble courtyard at the back. It had a wonderful view of the Yamuna Ghats similar to the one we had from the Yamuna Hotel. Devotees were seen completing their religious visit with a dip into the cold and muddy Yamuna waters. The banks had chains for aiding the devotees to safely take their bath without the fear of drowning.
It was almost lunch time when we came out of the Gurudwara. But we had miles to go before we sleep. Thus it was decided that we would take some food, but forego an elaborate lunch till we reach Dakpatthar. Also the mildly worrying thought that we did not have a place to stay through the night was there at the back of our minds. So we stopped over at the corner shop in front of the Gurudwara and had decent amount of smoking hot and freshly steamed veg momos and cold drinks, some wafers and biscuits.
We started off towards Dakpatthar. The roads were very familiar to our co-travellers and so the drive was carefree. We reached Dakpatthar Tourist Guest House in less than an hour. It was almost 40 kms from Paonta Sahib. This guest house was another potential night staying option and we decided to check it out before going to visit the famous Dakpatthar Dam across Yamuna. In spite of being located in one of the most picturesque locations with a mesmerizing 180 degree view and equipped with a garden in front and an Olympic size pool at the back, the rooms of Dakpatthar Tourist Guest House had similar, even worse, story of dampness and stink and lizards to tell.
The garden was beautiful but looked unkempt; the pool was sadly dry and dirty and had several broken tiles. The dining space had tables and chairs that were not so clean and the adjacent washroom was a real eyesore and a bigger sore to all other four senses.
But we were hungry and therefore ordered our lunch and even had to pay partially in advance before leaving for the sightseeing of the adjacent barrage. We felt pity for the newlywed couple that had arrived to stay there for the weekend. They were looking very unenthusiastic and bored at the very beginning of the stay. Guess they were the only tourists there to stay overnight. The interiors were also dull and damp and insufficiently lighted with cheap CFLs.
As we came to the park built on the Yamuna banks just across the dam, our spirits brightened on seeing the beautiful and crowded park throbbing and bustling with scores of families, little kids, couples and school children. The children enjoyed the rides. We got overenthusiastic and took a ride on the mini toy train.
It was a miracle that the toy train could bear the weight and assault of four fully grown kids (at heart) along with the two real ones. There was also a busy restaurant serving refreshments and exuding mixed delicious aromas that was strongly alluring but we reminded ourselves that we have already paid some advance to the tourist guest house for our lunch that was being prepared and reluctantly moved on. One of us was hungry enough to settle for a lunch there and forego the advance that was paid but we listened to our materialistic minds and not our hungry hearts.
We walked over to the Dakpatthar barrage. It was a huge dam (barrage actually) 516.5 meters wide and controlling Yamuna waters for irrigation through its huge placid collection lake artificially created to serve irrigational purposes and prevent floods. It was peak monsoons at that time and Yamuna was getting its fair share of water from all corners. We stood on the bridge built over the gates and gazed below at the waters being released through the gates. We watched the white foam created by the released waters through most of its all 25 gates and started feeling a bit dizzy. It was not difficult to imagine the importance of the Dakpatthar Barrage and its contribution towards generation of hydro-electric power.
After spending some peaceful couple of hours in the park and gazing at the wide expanse of watery Yamuna, we headed for our booked lunch at the guest house. It was past 5 o clock in the evening and we had our simple and very late lunch of chapattis, aloo gobi, daal and veg fried rice.
After finishing off our lunch to the last morsel in minutes (we realized how hungry we were once the food was served), we started off for Dehradun. The backup plan was to spend the night in one of those decent hotels of Dehradun in case the Dakpatthar and Paonta Sahib rest houses fall below our expectations.
We hit the roads of Dehradun driving via the Harbatpur route and reached at around 8 p.m. After checking out a couple of hotels on the Rajpur Road, we opted for Hotel Ambassador situated in the Windlass Shopping Complex absolutely in the heart of the city beside the Dehradun Clock Tower.
Investing a lot of energy in bargaining, we booked two double-bed AC rooms at INR 1,700 a night without breakfast and dinner. It was neat and clean and the rooms were more than decent. The two dining halls were tastefully decorated. The hotel looked moderately occupied, it being the extended weekend of the Id-Ul-Fitr. After freshening up and changing, we hit the famous market along the roads. We tasted the legendary sweet ‘rosogolla’ from the so-called Bengali sweet shop. There was the local market by the name Paltan Bazaar that sold a wide assortment of products. It was a busy and congested street like any other local market of a small Indian town and people from all corners seemed to be busily shopping. Along the narrow road, beautiful Muslim ladies were lined up in dozens to apply mehendi from the local artists for their upcoming festival the following day.
You could get anything you want from home furnishing to dress materials, readymade dresses for young, old and kids to household items. Fruits, chats, pani puris, bhelpuri, south Indian recipes, spicy Chinese dishes, both veg and non-veg—there were so many small unassuming shops offering mouth-watering Indian recipes. Such places were true potpourris of the traditional and the modern to satiate Indian taste buds from every corner of the country and people could be seen stuffing their stomachs to the limits. Our co-travellers Neeraj Bhaiya, Vinita and 10-year old Saksham played our host and led us to a small South Indian restaurant where we had some delicious dosas and hot coffee along with ‘Rabri’, another legendary Indian sweet dish made from thickened sweetened milk and flavoured with aromatic pistachios.
Too tired and too filled, we somehow managed to stroll back to our hotel and sat for a while in the elegant dining hall with glass walls overlooking the market area. After sitting for a while I started browsing through the hotel menu card to check out if I had missed out too much from the hotel menu on offer. While eyeing the elaborate menu and exotic dishes typed in neatly, I suddenly developed a serious craving and ordered a plate of hakka noodle and cold coffee with ice cream. I was fortunate enough that hubby offered to share it with me because the quantity was immense. The food was really very tasty and I was glad I decided to order in spite of my partially filled tummy. Happy and over-satiated, I somehow manage to crawl up to my room and called it a day. Hubby and the ever-naughty four-year old enjoyed TV for a little while; how long I am not sure because before long I was knocking at the doors of slumber land to let my tired body and mind in.
Next day, a bright clear morning with beautiful white fluffy clouds greeted us.
We had our breakfast of sandwiches, coffee, aloo paranthas and curd and checked out of the hotel. The plan for the day was to visit the famous Shahastradhara, a beautiful waterfall around 30 kms form Dehradun.
We reached the waterfall after a brief help with directions from the localites in about half an hour. It was around 11 a.m. but the waterfall site was bustling with a mixed crowd. The river’s course can viewed for quite a long stretch before it tumbles down in form of a fall, not that big. On the other side of the river, we could see a temple and a long queue of devotees waiting to offer their puja and also taking their ritualistic bath in the stream waters.
The place seemed to have been commercialized majorly and there was a water park. It had started drizzling but still the enthusiastic young crowd was seen to be having bindaas fun in the water park. Most of the people seemed to be localites. The tourists mostly were seen opting for the 20-minute ropeway ride up into the hills. We got the tickets for INR 200 each for both ways.
There was a small park and small eating joint at the other end and a lot of scope to have a couple of nice and beautiful hours of quality time with a lovely view. As the ropeway gently pulled us up, we took in the modestly beautiful view of the river and its downhill course till it jumps out suddenly into a fall. Loud blaring noise and excited shrieks of the water park crowd floated up in installments breaking the peace and serenity intermittently.
On reaching the other side, the children started playing in the park and enjoyed the cute little rides built in a colourful but very small manicured garden. We practiced some shooting with a pair of rusted and twisted rifles: Rs. 20 for 5 shots.
It had again started raining heavily and we took our shelter in the eating place and ordered spicy veg pakoras, tea, coffee, cold drinks, and steaming hot finger licking Maggis. As we devoured our snacks, we also enjoyed the beautiful rain-washed green view all around. There were couple of indoor rides that the children enjoyed and there was also table hockey in which even the elders participated with an enthusiasm greater than the kids.
After a couple of hours we decided to move out and took the ropeway ride back downhill. As we waited for our turn in the ropeway, we decided to try the free space ride. It was a vortex built with minimum complexity and engineering. A few moments inside that blue rotating tunnel and we came out all dizzy and light-headed with churning stomachs and helpless giggles. The pros set off into a discussion how we can recreate the same simple arrangement somewhere in and around home to give kids this same feel of awesome thrill. By the time the discussion faded away into the nothingness and died its natural death, we had already reached downhill.
We packed ourselves off into the car quickly as it had started raining heavily once more and headed back straight for home.
After reaching Dehradun, we took the route via Roorkee towards Muzaffar Nagar crossing Meerut and Ghaziabad, to reach Noida at around 12 midnight. It was Id-Ul-Fitr and en route we found a lot of people decked in finery travelling from one place to another to wish their near and dear ones and celebrate. It was constantly pouring all the way. There was a stretch of over 5 kms with heavy traffic jam for a brief half an hour well into the middle of our journey just before we reached Roorkee. We had no inkling as to what cause the whole furore. But then 1 hour of slow snail-pace driving and we came to the action point. And almost all of a sudden, we realized we were driving into what seemed like a muddy pond. A lot of on-lookers were standing in higher and safer grounds on both sides of the road. And they were hooked on to the passing vehicles enjoying the drivers’ and passengers’ consternation in the hope of experiencing the cruel enjoyment of seeing a water-logged stranded car with helpless passengers inside. At least 50 odd two-wheelers were seen tugging along their vehicles wading through waist-deep mud and slosh with little children in festive clothes sloshing and pushing the two wheelers from the back, yelling and cheering each other. With beating hearts and praying souls, we gently prodded our vehicle through the mud pond. And after what seemed like the longest few minutes of the entire trip, we climbed up on to safer grounds without any mishap.
As we neared our home sweet home, we talked about the days’ happenings with those lazy and fun moments and fondly remembered the cosy stay at Nahan Grand View. The sad thought dawned that another beautiful trip has come to an end and very soon we need to research on the next best destination and think of the next extended lean phase to make another escape into the heart of nature.
Return route map:
Jamta -> Nahan -> Paonta Saheb -> Harbatpur -> Dak Pathar
Dak Pathar-> Harbatpur -> Dehradun -> Roorkee -> Muzaffar Nagar -> Meerut -> Ghaziabad