Naukuchiatal – a comfortable weekend getaway with family

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 Lake of all Seasons

The Lake of all Seasons

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.)

Bags packed and ready to go

Bags packed and ready to go

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.

Stopping by the small dhabas on mountain roads

Stopping by the small dhabas on mountain roads

The big Hanuman temple you can't miss

The big Hanuman temple you can’t miss

At 11:45 (just 10 minutes break) we began our journey again. To our final destination—The Camphor Tree at Naukuchiatal.

Kamal taal - next to the main lake

Kamal taal – next to the main lake

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

The famed "Black Gate"

The famed “Black Gate”

THAT is the Camphor tree you see

THAT is the Camphor tree you see

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.

Camphor tree - front

Camphor tree – front

Right by the lake

Right by the lake

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).

The tourists are ready

The tourists are ready

In the lake

In the lake

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.

Negotiating lunch at Saat Taal

Negotiating lunch at Saat Taal

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”)!

Observations

Observations

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.

Bottled water and more

Bottled water and more

No bottles for me

No bottles for me

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.

The old cheese factory

The old cheese factory

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

With the Ranas

With the Ranas

Laze and gaze

Laze and gaze

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.

On the way back from Firdaus

On the way back from Firdaus

The tall man

The tall man

Naukuchiatal from the top

Naukuchiatal from the top

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.

At Mountain Trail

At Mountain Trail

Awaiting our turn. With the Owner-DILIP GUPTA-of Mountain Trail

Awaiting our turn. With the Owner-DILIP GUPTA-of Mountain Trail

Mukteshwar. Read as much as you desire, just don't call up on the number

Mukteshwar. Read as much as you desire, just don’t call up on the number

The Italian food at Mountain Trail

The Italian food at Mountain Trail

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.

From the top of Cafe Brownies, Bhimtal

From the top of Cafe Brownies, Bhimtal

From the top of Cafe Brownies, Bhimtal

From the top of Cafe Brownies, Bhimtal

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!

Jatinder Sethi under the Camphor Tree - edge of the lake

Jatinder Sethi under the Camphor Tree – edge of the lake

31 Comments

  • Arun says:

    Lovely post Sir….really!

    Regards,
    Arun

  • Virag Sharma says:

    We have been many time Sattal for birding. But your Writeup show new dimension of Naukuchiatal.
    In day Time Sattal look crowded , but in evening it is pin drop silence ….. Sattal Park is place where we spend whole day in Birding.
    I like your line “I never drink bottled water.” , Yes in Mountain , I also don’t drink bottled water
    Thanks for your sharing info about Naukuchiatal

  • Jatinder Sethi says:

    Hi Virag

    Thanks for GOOD words. Visit to Sattal was to have Crowd experience. At Camphor,very quiet and peaceful,
    you can still see the now most uncommon bird,the “Common Sparrows. And hear the Junglee Murg early morning.

    Happy Birding
    JATINDER”

  • Anil Misra says:

    Lovely write up. Feeling nostalgic. Must visit the area again.

  • Jatinder Sethi says:

    Anil
    If ever you do revisit, there are two good new places to stay
    1.The Camphor Tree,
    2 And the other is FIDAUS

    Try any one.Good Luck

    Jatinder

  • AJAY SHARMA says:

    Sir,
    A nostalgic read of an idyllic holidaying. I love Naukuchhia Taal for its serenity & wild fragrance. Another good place to enjoy the wilderness is Parichay, a heritage property of KMVN. But I think it is either under renovation or non-functional these days because during my last visit in June’15, the KMVN site was not responding for its booking.

    Regards
    Ajay

    • JatinderSethi says:

      Ajay
      We did come across the signboard of Parichay number of times but didn’t bother to look inside.
      The location seemed ,as you say, wilderness. The two other Heritage properties which we enjoyed staying were \Silverton Estate Guest House,above Circuit House,Dalhousie.The residence belongs to Lt,Gen Gurminder Singh
      And the other place is HotelnPadmini,Mussoorie.
      Visit them if you get a chance,
      Thanks for your comment.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    And the log is here. Clap Clap. :-)

    Beautifully told and reads as idylic as any hill visit should be. I am told that hoors went shy after learning all the hard trek you did.

    Let me get the Camphor Tree guys to respond on this log. :) and next time Firdaus.

    • Jatinder Sethi says:

      Nandan
      Thanks for the “Log is here”.I noticed it on Monday>Thanks for all the help.
      Incidently,I remembered that my association with Firdaus goes back to 1968, I had changed my job and moved out of company flat at Malabar Hill, to Bandra Band Stand. The building, where we had sea facing
      .apartment, was called FIRDAUS-the Natalwalla Bunglow. This is now adjacent to the famous house of SRKhan
      We stayed there for thre3 years,before moving to another apartment
      Thanks again,

  • I wanted to come after Nandan. Because it is a second home to him. So I wanted to see his comment. :-) Somewhere I read that story of a place is completed only when it is told by many. So there is no reason why not to contribute your part to the story. And how nicely it is told by you, Sethi sir! I too clap, clap clap :-)

    • Jatinder sethi says:

      Anupam Sir,
      The idea of writing these logs is,mainly,to record the life’s events for our own fall back in later years. Looking back with nostalgia keeps you fresh and young. The memories are readily available to boast about.
      Good to get good word from one of the Giant ghumakkars.

  • Sandeep says:

    Can you please advise on the location of Cafe Brownies

    • Jatinder sethi says:

      Sandeep
      I do not know the exact postal address,. But it is quite famous a popular place both with the young hep crowd and oldies. Known for coffee,cakes and burgers. Its on the main market road in Bhimtal.Parking is possible. Ask any one in Bhimtal.
      regards

  • Uday Baxi says:

    Dear Mr. Sethi

    Let me start with your photographs with Mr. Gupta, the owner of the Mountain Trail. In this photographs, your resemblances with legendary Raj Kapoor was remarkable. The “Tall man” was classy. The “Laze and Gaze” was thoughtful. And the last one, “Edge of the lake” was sentimental.

    About the log, I completely agree with Ajay Sharma Ji, Nandan and Anupam.

    All the so called giant ghumakkars must learn humility and friendliness from the gentle and caring incidents of searching a “firdaus” and exploring the German Bakery, which earlier could not have provided with the Homestay. Such instances have made this log a wonderful read. Otherwise Naukuchia Taal is same as ever.

    Thanks for sharing..

    Regards

    • Jatinder Sethi says:

      Uday,
      Its quite a jump from the Battlegrounds to the Retreat on the hills. Thanks for the ego-boosting words.
      Regards

  • Samir Rana says:

    Thank you sir for sharing your experiences of naukuchiatal and the Camphor tree. It was an informative and enjoyable read. Look forward to seeing the Sethi’s in Naukuchiatal again.

    Cheers
    All of us at The Camphor Tree

  • ram dhall says:

    Dear Jatinder ji,

    As usual, this post from you is simply superb.

    Luckily I have been to Camphor Tree and Firdaus recently and hence could very well relate to your experiences. Naukuchia Tal is indeed a very refreshing place, away from the madding crowd.

    Thanks for sharing piece of writing.

    • Jatinder Sethi says:

      Well Ram
      As usual your kind words make me feel very humble. The senior Ranas were quite appreciative of you,
      You have also got good place in Firdaus.
      Regards

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Sandeep Sir – If you are coming towards Bhimtal market from Shikha Inn / Sattal side, then this is on your right, before the main market.

    • Jatinder Sethi says:

      Sandeep & Nandan,
      Just to clarify that the pictures of us having tea on the terrace is NOT Brownie, but one restaurant before that. Nandan has given the right direction. My apology

  • Ramta Jogi says:

    Well written Sethiji..

    Your travel instinct & 90 min walk every morning are very inspirational .
    I usually take a dip in Garud Lake near Sattal & spend few hours during my trips from Gurgaon to Kausani.

    • Jatinder Sethi says:

      Ramta
      I am unable to follow your routine .swimming stopped after the pool at Huda Club(sector29) became too crowded and dirty.
      wish you all the best,Jatinder

  • Vibha says:

    Mr Sethi, you say that you have nothing new to say about naukuchiatal and yet manage to hold the readers’ attention. I loved reading this post.

  • jatinder Sethi says:

    Vibha
    I read your comment this morning(5/4/18),on my phone, while watching couple of small sparrows having bath in our little front lawn(i will send the pics,if i get your mailid)
    You made my day, because I value your comment as a personal praise. Thanks a million.(I am Save the Sparrow follower)
    My comments on your FIRDAUS were the result of reading(not seeing) house sparrows.
    good to hear from you.

  • Vibha Malhotra says:

    Thank you Mr Sethi. I am humbled by your kind comments. I have sent you a friend’s request on Facebook. Would share my email IDs there once you accept the request. I would love to see the pictures of house sparrows. I absolutely love sparrows and theirs was the music I used to wake up to when I was living alone in Noida sector – 51 a few years back. I wish we could see more of them everywhere. They used to make the neighborhood lively.

  • jatinder Sethi says:

    Well, we have now about 4 small aparrows and Bulbuls has a nest in one of the bushes.small lawn but quite chirpy.. Happy week end.

  • jatinder Sethi says:

    thanks for your offer of friendshipo.Well, we have now about 4 small aparrows and Bulbuls has a nest in one of the bushes.small lawn but quite chirpy.. Happy week end.

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