“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson
The Road Trip to Kumaun continues the following day after visiting the famous Jim Corbett reserve. The distance from Ramnagar to Nainital is tentatively 65 km via Kaladhungi and 85 km via Haldwani-Kathgodam. Both the routes are well maintained and picturesque. One can follow the later route if intended to visit Bhimtal, Naukuchiatal & Sattal on the way and reach Tallital in Nainital else may follow the earlier shorter route via Khurpatal and Sadiatal towards the Mallital in Nainital. We have preferred the shorter route because it is little more adventurous and has lesser traffic. The famous winter home of the Hunter turned naturalist, conservationist, writer & savior Edward James “Jim” Corbett is situated in Kaladhungi also known as Chhoti Haldwani, now preserved as a museum in commemoration of the White Saint. An insight story through paintings and pictures can be found in galore of his hunting skills and relevance to his philanthropic ideologies and passion towards conservation, immaculately depicted.
I have visited the museum a couple of times during my previous visits hence, moved on and reached Khurpatal on the way. Paddle boats are available here for those willing for a short boating in the not so big but beautiful lake. The lake when viewed from a higher point appears like a picture on a canvass. This point is a must visit spot for those who reaches Nainital from the other road too i.e. via Bhowali. A beautiful spot for photography, the lake appears like a horse shoe hence named as Khurpatal. We too stopped at the point for few photographs even though we had visited the lake on our way.
Sadiatal and its cascade also fall on the way just after climbing a few kilometers on the serpentine road. A short halt for photography there is never a bad idea. A little before reaching Nainital is Bara Pathar, an ideal Rock climbing spot conducted in supervision of trained professionals and maintained by Nainital Mountaineering Club. Horse riding activities are another attraction in the area. We have though neither tried hand in rock climbing nor horse riding but couldn’t ignore the next spot i.e. the Cave Garden just a few minutes from Bara Pathar. It is relatively a new tourist spot carved out of natural rocks as caves for a feel like entering the real caves named after predator viz. Panther Cave, Tiger Cave etc., a better place for kids rather. A KMVN run restaurant opposite to cave garden was a worth one to quench our hunger. By around 4 pm we reached Nainital. A hotel was the immediate search with safe parking space. Soon we found one just behind the famous and most expensive Manu Maharani. The Langdale Manor, though not a star hotel but it was very nice and comfortable with very professional and courteous staffs at a reasonable rate of Rs. 1,200/- for three including extra bedding (off season).
We decided to take some rest hence after a quick shower we reclined on the comfortable bed for a short while talking about the so far visited places and planning the onward journey. Soon, we remembered that the camera battery was exhausted and was supposed to be recharged. After playing blame game for few minutes, we decided to recharge it for at least one hour before going to the Naini Lake. With nothing much special to do, one of us open the window to allow some fresh air to come in (polluted due to smoking inside). Suddenly we shivered and realized that we were not in Delhi and also repented the mistake of not equipped with any woolens. Well, “there is a way where there is a will”. We used our “shatir dimag” and gestured unanimously to open the “Mohan Nagar Product” (Delhi NCR guys must know it). In no time the things were ready on the table. It was decided to take it as medicine but after a few minutes every one was his own master. Gradually our whispers turned louder and debates starting on Baba Ram Dev to Sunny Leone could be heard upto the reception from behind the closed doors. Later we discovered that the windows once opened remain opened and the room was full of smokes of varied brands. The room boy was paid tips each time he brought our orders which was later realized to be more than Rs. 300/-. Suddenly I stood up and cautiously dictated to stop the nuisance and keep the bottle aside, enough is enough. Laughter broke out as the first bottle was already consumed and was taken away by the room service boy whereas the second was at the verge of finish. Posing my innocence, I agreed for a last one and took assurance from the rests to go for a stroll after that. Agreed! A last order was placed for a full Tandoori Chicken, the waiter in awe reconfirmed by stating, “Sahaab yeh teesra hai, full lana hai ya half” (Sir this is the third full chicken, should I bring another full or half). Once ordered is ordered, you go fast and bring one more full Tandoori, was our reply. After relishing the whole of it we were like Ajgar after a big catch. The camera battery was over charged and so was our condition. It was 11 pm and the entire plans to visit the lake and other places around were postponed for the next day. After a long 6 hour celebration we rolled on the bed and fast asleep till the waiter rang the door bell with morning tea.
The morning was so refreshing and cool, we hurriedly got ready and soon we were at the Naini Jheel for boating early in the morning. The safety jackets were compensating the woolens. We thought of no congestion in the lake at that early but we were wrong, there were plenty of sailors already occupying the bottle green water of the giant lake. We too joined them and after a one hour sailing in the serene, cool, refreshing and aromatic arena we visited the Naina Devi Temple built at the shores of the water body at Mallital, for omniscience. It is believed that the temple is one of the 64 Shakti Peeths, and the eyes of the Sati, Parvati fell here while the charred body of Sati was being carried by Lord Shiva thus, the lake christened as Nainital or lake of the eye.
After bowing head and praying for a safe journey ahead we also visited the Gurudwara Shree Guru Singh Sabha and the Mosque all situated side by side with pride and harmony depicting the values of humanity as the primary religion of our country. Having blessed, we left for a stroll in the Mall Road. A huge metal statue of Sh. Govind Ballabh Pant the renowned statesman and leader of India’s independence movement, first Indian Premier of British India, the first Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and the first Home Minister of India is situated at the entry of the Mall road. Alike any other Mall road in the hill stations in India the road was full of tourists and local vendors with rows of shops selling handicrafts to foods and what not. A few ATM machines and travel agents are also available there. A service lane alongside the Naini Lake adjacent to the Naina Devi Temple upto Tallital is known as Thandi Sarak (Cold Road) and vehicles are not allowed to ply here. The road aside the Naini Lake adjacent to the Boat Club connecting Mallital to Tallital i.e. both ends of the lake is called the Mall Road and open for vehicles to ply towards Bhowali, the gateway to Nainital, Almora & to the plains of UP or Delhi. This road also leads towards Bhimtal, Sattal and Naukuchiatal all in a row within a vicinity of 25-30 km from Nainital, generally preferred for day visit by tourists based in Nainital.
Nainital is one of the most visited places in India and most talked and written about destinations hence, there is no shortage of hotels in and around the area and readily available even in peak seasons. However, tourist in large groups or with family shall make prior arrangements to avoid paying extra in emergency during seasons. There are two KMVN tourist rest houses in Nainital, one is at Tallital and another at Snow Point, access here is only by the cable car. Tariff, availability status and bookings to these TRH can be done through the official site of KMVN by browsing www.kmvn.gov.in. Other budget hotels ranging Rs. 500/- onwards can be booked by other sites of repute of your choice.
Our next point was the Cheena Peak also known as Naina Peak at an altitude of 2615 m is the highest point in Nainital. It’s a steep high climb on a serpentine road with loose gradients and very unsafe to drive. A unique place offering a 360 degree view of the Himalayas and an eagle eye of the vibrant town with the pear shaped lake amidst. The road to Naina Peak leads to a pleasant forest of vibrant rhododendrons, soaring deodars and cypresses. Prior to a massive land slide, it is said that the famous Great Wall of China was visible from here. Whatever, but this is an excellent place to fill your lung with fresh oxygen and an extensive view of the Himalayan range in a clear day. It is better to trek on this road than to risk driving.
Other worth visiting place in Nainital is Tiffin Top also known as Dorothy’s seat at a height of almost 2300 m, is a traveler’s delight. It also offers a bird eye of the lake and the mountains, mostly cloudy and fog clad. The view of Palan Khet from the top, famous after the Aamir Khan movie Raja Hindustani shot here is also an attraction. In clear days, the range of snow covered Nanda Devi is also visible through telescopes.
A very narrow road from Mallital towards the Government House passing by the famous Sherwood College where the legendary Amitabh Bachhan has studied is an alternate route to Tallital from Mallital avoiding the Mall road during heavy traffics. We were once diverted on this route by the local police and the experience was quite informative and enjoyable.
In nut and shell, Nainital is famous for Nainital (lake) and people come here primarily to see and experience the enchanting and exorbitant giant lake surrounded by thick lush greenery and bounded by hills. Boating or sitting at its bank or even walking along its side on Thandi Sarak fills the mind with an extensive fulfillment and feed the soul with immense ecstasy besides relaxing the body and rejuvenating it.
After a whole day wandering, in the evening we decided to keep ourselves as close to the beautiful lake as possible and breath-in the fresh aromatic air as much as offered by the Mother Nature. Quickly, we came out of our hotel putting on one extra T-shirt inside the full sleeved shirt, parked the car in the hotel’s parking and walked leisurely down the lane towards the lake. Soon we reached the bustling Mall road but we turned towards the Thandi Sarak and walked haltingly for almost two hours till it was dark and shivering. The stroll was sufficiently refreshing and soothing, on the way back we had some street foods and were back to bed with a plan to drive upto Kausani next morning. The google map informed about two roads from Nainital to Kausani one via Ranihet and another via Almora both almost of equal distance i.e. 120 km via the gateway Bhowali. We preferred the Almora route because that was better maintained, informed by the locals.