Our Visit to Naukuchiatal – June 11 to June 14, 2015
To write or not to write? That was the question:-
I was actually in three minds whether to write this Post or not, because:
– it was such a short trip-just 4 days and 370km!
– quite a few other ghumakkars had already written about this place accompanied with some great pictures, I read all those posts.
– and got the feeling that this place, a lake among many others was just a place only for “touch & go”, done it, and not for a 4-day stay.
On top of it all, I had nothing new to say about this place, and felt like a Pigmy among Giant Ghumakkars like Mahesh Semwal,Vishal Rathod, Uday Baxi, Mukesh Bhalse, Vibha, Ram Dhall AND not forgetting the World-Trotter Nandan Jha!
But we decided to go to Naukuchiatal and write about OUR experience of the place, for our memory.
The motivation to go to any nearby hillstation was two-fold. 1, our grand-daughter, who had come to Gurgaon to do her internment with one of the companies as her Fist-year project, had completed it and was flying back to her institute for her final year. So we wanted to spend some quality time together, peacefully. And 2, as someone said, it was the time of the year when one must rekindle one’s affair with the hills. So we took the path most taken and the nearest – Naukuchiatal!
We found the perfect new place to spend quality time together at the lake at “The Camphor Tree “, a boutique resort. Having located this new, just opened place, we contacted Nandan to check and get direction to go. Nandan gave us a detailed, precise route to follow from Gurgaon to Nauchukiatal and Google-type direction to reach this new resort. We got the 4 day booking and paid for the same, we decided to leave our Gurgaon home at 4.30 A.M on 11th (Thursday to reach there by noon.)
DEPARTURE FROM GURGAON
Having packed at night, we got up at 3.30 for our departure. Instead of 4.30, we left our home at 4:51 am and as usual, our daughter-in-law (an excellent Mountain and city driver — “touch-wood”) took to the wheels of her Skoda Laura, and the Sethis were off to hills, to The Camphor Tree, Nauchukiatal.
Thursday being a working day, there wasn’t much traffic at that time, but we decided to drive leisurely, and made our first road-side stop at DASNA (58km) at 6:10 am with Sandwiches, Battata Vadas, Chips and Tea. We left at 6:25 to hit the first Toll at 6:30 (RS.30). We passed Simbhaoli at 7:15am (131km) got a little stuck in a jam on the second Toll (Rs45). As we progressed, the toll tax kept going up. The third Toll (Rs60) was at 165km at 7:55am, before Moradabad; and the last one at 216km at 8:40am cost Rs.80/-.
At 10:10am we reached Rudrapur (278km). While passing through the bazaar, we stopped to buy some fruits from one of the many road-side sellers. Mangoes and lichees, at the same rate as in Gurgaon, not any cheaper. We could not avoid going through Haldwani (as advised by Nandan). At 10:37 (291km) we were at Haldwani and at 11:10 am (315km), our destination was now about 26km away. So we decided to have a break at a small tea stall.
At 11:45 (just 10 minutes break) we began our journey again. To our final destination—The Camphor Tree at Naukuchiatal.
We had with us the detailed route right up to the black entrance -gate of the property. After all the little big difficulty, the zigzagging and going up-down the hills we finally located the entrance “black gate”. It took us almost an hour to finally find this elusive place. The place turned out to be right where the Naukuchiatal’s Boating House and the shops are. But once we entered the private track, running along the lake, we fell in love with the place.
Arrival Time: 13:40 hours
Mileage from Gurgaon: 346km
Time taken (including loss) 8 hours, 45 minutes
Upon reaching the Camphor Tree, the host served us some excellent cold coffee and soft drinks, and were told that lunch would be ready in an hour’s time. After getting into our rooms (not feeling tired at all after 8 hours journey,) we started exploring the wild area around, and to build up an appetite for lunch.
HOW WE SPENT 4 DAYS AT THE CAMPHOR TREE, NAUKUCHIATAL
Since a number of other ghumakkars had already written about this lake, we did not have anything NEW to add for the interest of future visitors. We just spent our four days exploring the place, trying to find some interesting tales about the place, plus driving around the lakes. Coming to this Lake District, and not going for a Boat-Ride is like turning back from the goal post! So we decided, even the senior citizens, to go for a boat ride at one of the busiest lakes and watch other tourists at Sattal (Saat Taal, Seven Lakes).
After the boat ride at the crowded Sattal, we became like other tourists and got persuaded by one of the shopkeeper to have lunch there.
A STRAY THOUGHT WHILE WATCHING ALL THE TOURISTS.
While waiting for lunch, I walked around observing the tourists and what they were doing. While watching them, I was reminded of an old saying; When someone used to get sick or feeling “not well’, they used to be advised that “In ko Pahard per lay jao – AAB-O-HAWA badli karao” (Take them to the hills and give them a change of “Water & Air”)!
Now people come to hills but there is no change either Aab (Water) or Hawaa (Air)!!. You drink the same branded bottled water here, and live in the same closed air-conditioned rooms!! The very purpose of being near the nature, hills, lakes, et al is defeated. Some of you may not agree, but I never drink bottled water.
Few Other Facts of Interests about Naukuchiatal.
The Old Cheese Factory Run By a German Resident—Peddy(?)
While looking for a place, on the net, to stay in Naukuchiatal, my daughter-in-law got in touch with a lady who had rooms at her “Home-Stay” place. But they were all booked so she put us in touch with this new place called The Camphor Tree, where we got in touch with the young owner (Samir Rana) and booked the place. So while in Naukuchiatal, we decided to go and meet this lady and see her place. It was near Bhimtal, on Haldwani Road, a small dirt-road going up the hill on right hand for almost 3 km sheer drop on the right side. We, with RAM-NAAM on our lips finally, climbed up to the place — a secluded old house with steep old stone steps leading to the place. The place was owned by a German resident who used to have lot of properties in this lake area.
In olden times he and his daughter-law (the present lady who gave us the contact to The Camphor Tree) used to run a Cheese Factory-now defunct. This is just below the steps leading to house.
IT’S A SMALL SMALL WORLD
When we came back to Camphor Tree, and had a get–together with the young owner and his parents – the Senior Ranas who had come down from Bhimtal – to celebrate the completion of FIRST Month (Anniversary?) of the opening of this resort. When we mentioned our visit to this old Cheese factory and the lady, The Ranas laughed. They told us that Ranas (belonging to the well-known and powerful Ranas of Nepal) and the German (Peddy) and the present lady were old family friends and used to own lot of land in Naukuchiatal, around the lakes. Including the old stone Hunters Bungalow where they now built the resort – The Camphor Tree. And the seedlings for the camphor tree—planted almost a hundred year ago-were brought by the British owners from Burma. We thought it to be a wonderful story, and what a small world.
Well, we made two good friends — the Ranas and the lady of Old Cheese Factory. Nepal and Germany at Naukuchiatal
Now looking for Firdaus…
I was suggested to go and see a small cottage called, Firdaus. The name made me curious and I decided to go and see it. I got the direction from Camphor, and journeyed towards Firdaus on foot as a rigour of regular morning walk. I left Camphor at 5.30 on Saturday (June13) morning and walked around the lake and right up to the Hanuman Mandir to do my NAMASKAR before aiming for the destination. I was told that its quite far, but quite walkable for person who does 90 minute walk every morning. This was like my regular morning in Gurgaon. The way to the place was uphill – after all it is called FIRDAUS for nothing. A cobbled road, with partly Fort-like wall on one side, part of the way. Quite a steep climb but my walking stick helped to enjoy the morning sun and view of lake from up there. Past Mahindra’s and the diverting from Templeton Academy. I did not shoot any picture of FIRDAUS, looked at it from a distance, saw the lake from the top of the hill and remembered Amir Khusro, “Agar firdaus bar roo-e-zameen ast——-Hameen ast-o-hameen ast’. (It is here, It is here). Good choice of name.
And then I thought of another point of view.
Firdaus-e-Jannat mein lakh hooron ka tasvur sahi,
Log ik insane ke ishqe se niklein to waha tak sochen.
Disappointed at not having seen any Hoors there, I walked back all the way to Camphor with the Sun at my back, giving me a long shadow.
VISIT TO MUKTESHWAR, MUKHTSIR SI
After coming back from the morning walk, we decided to visit Mukteshwar and have lunch at The Mountain Trail – one of our favourite places of stay, besides Somerset Lodge. We were told that there is an excellent Italian Chef, and we wanted to try his creations. The place was crowded and we were asked to wait. Finally the wait ended and we had some wonderful food at The Mountain Trail. The Italian Chef has a separate kitchen to prepare his items. He is a tourist; fell in love with the place. The Owner of the Mountain Trail offered him free stay, and helped him start Italian Food. Success! We enjoyed our revisit to the place.
The Italian food was excellent. After doing little shopping we returned to Camphor Tree.
On way back we stopped at few places for tea and then for cake and coffee at a very popular place at Bhimtal – Cafe BROWNIES. Lovely view.
SUNDAY JUNE 14 2015 – WE LEFT CAMPHOR TREE AT NOON-TO REACH GURGAON BY 8PM
After spending some great time together, walking, talking, exploring, para-gliding and communion with nature, we left this place with heavy heart. Hoping to reach home by late evening. But we reached home at midnight – four hours late. Firstly there was total jam around all lakes, and later on we lost our way and drove into the miles long queue of heavy vehicles inside Rampur city. We had to reverse miles back and take another route (following another car going to Delhi). Anyway we finally got out to the right road, but took four hours extra to reach Gurgaon.
On the way out from Naukuchiatal, we stopped over to see all the fruit sellers – khurmanis, peaches, plums and mangoes and found them too expensive. We, in fact, came across few children on the road selling khurmanis in plastic bag. We bought one bag of 2kg for just Rs.40.
Later on, we stopped at a newly opened Apna Punjab Resturant. Still under renovation, but full. Sat down for dinner. When we were giving the order, the Manager came and said ”Khanna is finished. No more orders”. The old Sardarji, the owner was hurt to know this,. Then with number of other people we went ahead to find another place only few yards away-a banquet Hall with outside sitting arrangement(Flora Resort). We got nice place and good dinner. And the lady who had been driving all these four days, took us home, God Bless Her!