Week long Kumaon Trip – March 2014

Day-1
We took night train from Delhi to kathgodam and reached early morning to start for the hills. On the way we visited many lakes such as, Bhimtal, Naukuchiatal and Sat-tal. After breakfast at Ramgarh, we proceeded to Mukteshwar, a lesser known beautiful hill station. By this time we had reached height of more than 7000 ft. We had unobstructed glimpse of Himalayan range such as Trishul, Nandadevi, Panch-chula etc. After doing soft-track to see Chauli-ki-jali and a temple, we proceeded to Sitala, our sojourn for the day, through forests of deodar, pine and sagvan. Also lots of trees were bearing plenty of rhododendron flowers in full bloom. Many birds could be seen on the trees. They say 330 km of Himalayan range is visible from the room. I think it’s true because I could see silver-topped peaks from one end to another at the horizon.
In 6-7 hours of today’s journey I have not seen more than a couple of tourists. All the places are looking deserted. They say tourism has not picked up after June 2013 flood disaster in Garhwal. Tourists are not trusting unruly weather. Nevertheless locals are hopeful of good summer tourist season.

Weather in the north is cooler than what we had expected. It had rained and snowed last 3 days. But today it is sunny. Driver was happy to show us the peaks as the visibility has been excellent today. We are looking forward to have great experience. Clear Sunset views made our day.

Refections, Sat-tal Lake

Refections, Sat-tal Lake



Chauli ki jali

Chauli ki jali

Day-2
Early in the dawn we had gone on the terrace to click morning pics. But suraj devta refused to come out from veil of clouds. Even the far away Himalayas were covered with scattered clouds. After breakfast we started our journey towards Almora.

Much of our ride till almora was downhill. White fluffy clouds were wandering above the fields. We were literally above the ‘Ninth Cloud’. We halted in almora to taste famous ‘Balmitthai’, which was too sweet so bought another mithai called ‘Singhodi’, which was made of soft fresh khoya and stuffed in cone made of green leaf. It was delicious. Nearby was a temple of Golu Devta, kuldevta of Hill folks. People come and tie bells in temple premises when their wishes are granted. Lots of ghantis of various sizes were to be seen in the temple. Many marriages are done in the temple everyday. It was nice to see lots of newly weds in their wedding costumes.
After that we moved towards Jageshwar some 40 Km. ahead. This shivling is considered as eighth Jyotirling and therefore lots of pilgrims visit it. It’s very special from archeological point too as there are many (nearly 40-50 small and big) temples built in 8th to 12th century are located in the complex. Area around the temple is a dense forest of Deodars. There is a museum maintained by ASI exhibiting ancient idols found from these temples. Very small collection but well displayed. KMVN rest house was located just opposite the precincts and looked well-maintained. Would love to stay here some time in future. We turned back towards Almora and at Badecheena took right to go to Dhaulacheena.

When we planned our trip we had decided to stay inside Binsar Sanctuary. But after considering several practical factors we decided to go for a resort located in buffer zone of the sanctuary. And it turned out to be a prudent decision. We reached Dhaulacheena at about 2 pm. We opted for Lunch in a roadside dhaba and checked in the resort at 3. It was like ’love at first sight’. A handsome dog greeted us at the gate. Initially we were a bit intimidated by its size but soon learnt to bond with him. Surrounding green hills and eco-designed premises were enticing. Owner of the resort was well educated young lad with environmental awareness background. Without wasting a minute we grabbed the opportunity and accepted his generous offer of accompanying us to a jungle trek. Bharat, my husband, is quite fit for these activities and I more than offset my unfit-ness with enthusiasm. Lugging behind them I was panting while climbing the slopes. The trouble was worth the pleasure we got while exploring the jungle. Our highly qualified guide doubled up as professional personal photographer. He pointed out indigenous species of plants, birds and their habitat. Many a times we were at precarious spots which he scaled with agility of feline cats. I was impressed but could not always match up. Still Bharat helped me and pulled me up several times. Once again, I promised myself to be a little lighter in order to win one more trip in the hills. After the jungle trek, we went to see MAA ANANDMAYI ASHRAM and appreciated serene atmosphere there. We decided to go for bird-watching next morning also. We wanted to take advantage of all the time available to us here.

After sundown they had arranged for bonfire to beat the cold. Music playing in the background and thousands of stars shining overhead added to our upbeat mood. Dinner was served piping hot. Due to cold wee dared not move away from the fire even for a minute. Finally, it was time to hit the bed. Surprisingly the room was cozy and warm. I later came to know that these eco-designed cottages remain warm in cold season and are cool in summer. Isn’t it wonderful?

Aasmaa niche aur mai upar

Aasmaa niche aur mai upar

Jageshwar Dham

Jageshwar Dham

Day-3
At the daybreak we went to the viewpoint which was located just a 100 steps above the eco resort. We observed the sun rising but mostly covered in thin layer of white sheet. Golden peaks eluded us. Nevertheless silver peaks merged in white clouds were as enchanting. Birds were perching on the branches. Bharat was able to spot several unique varieties of birds. Woodpecker, falcon and parrots were the ones we could name. Other unknown ones were also pleasure to watch.

After freshening up and breakfast we took their leave but not before promising to come again with our friends to stay longer. Today, we are going to Patal Bhuvaneshwar which is 80 km away. In hills, safe driving gives average of 25 to 30 Km per hour. And bad road or any other type of block can delay you to a great extent. These roads are usually narrow and even a small accident ahead may block the whole traffic. We witnessed one such block due to collision of a pick up van with a truck. But fortunately, it was solved within reasonable time but further ahead, worst stretch of road with repair work going on marred our speed. The day was cloudy with dark menacing clouds hovering over the valley.

Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple is a geological wonder. Even non-believers should visit it to see this unique place in whole of India. From outside it’s like a non-descript small room. One guide is mandatory with a group of visitors. As you enter the cave you are shown a set of steps going down. One wonders how it would be possible to climb down. One needs to simply sit and slip downwards holding strong chains fitted on side. You need to take care of the head at the same time steps were uneven and route was randomly winding. I wondered whether it will be possible to come up. But guide assured me that coming up was easier. If you don’t mind the trouble, the scene inside was a lot rewarding. Hastily the guide started telling the mythological stories and showed the stone figures matching the stories. In that cave many incidents of satyug, dwaparyug, and tretayug were interpreted in stone formations. It was interesting see that so long tunnel type cave existed with cool atmosphere and water dripping continuously but still not flooding. Even there was no typical odor usually found in caves. People devotionally believe all the stories. But there was surely a feeling of awesomeness. Man sees what he wants to see in these natural formations.

Passing by the small town of Berinag, we reached Chakouri. Once upon a time this was a tea garden village. But today it’s a stopover village on Kumauni trail. We checked in a beautiful resort and were preparing to move towards the room. And I heard sound of small beads falling on ground. I bent and picked what I assumed was a pearl fallen from someone’s necklace. Before realizing what actually it was, I saw many more going on falling on the floor. When I picked it with my finger it slipped and my finger became wet. Soon the whole flooring was filled with those marble looking tiny objects. Our driver shouted ‘oye, ole pade ole!’ This was first time I experienced the hail. Snow is very soft but hail is a bit hard. In a few seconds, it turned in to trickling showers. And our plans to explore the town were shelved. Soon we sped in to the room praying for clear day tomorrow.

Kumauni hut at Chaukori

Kumauni hut at Chaukori

Sleepy village

Sleepy village

Day-4
Thursday: When I opened my eyes and pulled the curtains open, my prayers were heard. The orange streak was seen in eastern sky. I leapt out of my bed and grabbed my camera and woke up Bharat asking him to accompany me. I could see some ice capped tops but others were hidden behind a small hill which was obstructing full view. We climbed that hillock which was an abandoned tea garden to reach top from where we were able to see long range but some tall trees were blocking complete view. Most of trees had shed the leaves in winter so we could see through them. I clicked some frames. My basic camera is unable to distinguish between ice and cloud so I have to do away with white skies. When you get to see my pics, I will draw a zigzag line on the pic and ask you to imagine snow peaks underneath the white clouds. :)

Through out, the day was sunny, sometimes warm too. We were moving downhill towards Bageshwar. Terrace fields were looking beautiful with green crops. Sharp winding roads were giving way to gentle slopes with more open bowl shaped valleys. We did darshan of Bagnath temple on the banks of Saryu River. After about an hour we reached Baijnath where Baidyanath group of temples built in ninth century are located. Only two of them are housing idols. These stone temples are well preserved and declared protected monuments by government agency.

Soon we started ascending again to reach Kausani. On the way was a tea garden and factory, where we had green tea after spending some time in the gardens. We skipped a shawl factory as shopping was not on our list. Soon we reached the topmost place of Kausani, Anashakti Ashram. This Ashram is founded in Mahatma Gandhi’s memory. It has valuable memories of Gandhiji on display. Many photographs of Gandhiji can be seen here. It has a library and guest house. Every evening prayer is held there. Best view of Himalayas can be seen from its viewing terrace. Clouds were fondling the mighty tops so we had to keep on hoping for clear morning.

Later on we checked in an eco hotel. We were the only guest of the day and given the best service. Tasty Kumauni food and a long day made us sneak under the thick sheets without reaching for the remote control.

Anashakti Ashram

Anashakti Ashram

Mount Trishul from Kausani

Mount Trishul from Kausani

Day-5
Fortunately clear skies gave us a chance to say proper goodbye to mighty tops. Chukhamba, Trishul, Nandadevi and Panch-chuli were among many shikhars visible today morning. It is said, only from Kausani, distinct trishul shape can be seen on the equilateral triangle shaped Trishul peak. In fact these are three peaks on one massif. Though we might be seeing mountain tops still from our next points of visit but not all of them in one go.

We started descending for Ranikhet. The valley was green with wheat and mustard farms. Most of the farms were carved in hill terraces. Different shades of green were splashed on round curved fields. Apple trees were leafless but were bearing white flowers. Some of the other trees were total yellow and some red. But many others had shed their leaves in the winter and were waiting for warmer weather. Spring has almost arrived but frequent unexpected snowfall has delayed blooming season. Anyways, fall does have its own beauty. I could not resist myself from comparing seasons with life-cycle.

On the way, we visited a kalika temple. Next was a Golf Course which was covered with yellow grass. It was noon time so couldn’t stand in open for long and moved ahead. One more temple, a shawl factory and a barren empty fruit orchard could not interest us much.
Ranikhet is basically an army cantonment area. Lots of training facility buildings and practice grounds occupy most of the town. Security connected jawans and their families form majority of population. Cleanliness and environmental care was visible in the town. Civilian areas had not matched that standard.

We went to see Army museum which was well-curetted. It has housed many memorabilia of Kumaon regiment as well as general army stuff. It always fills us with the sense of indebtedness when we are reminded of the sacrifice the jawans gave while defending our nation. We are proud of our armed forces and salute them in honour.

Ranikhet is full of tall trees and northern horizon was not easily visible. We found a nice view point from where we could see the Sun blissfully setting behind the hills. Today we had checked in a heritage hotel which was built 130 years ago. They had used Victorian furniture and decorative artifacts. Even the tapestry and cutlery was of bygone era. We were elated when served with colonial etiquettes. Nice change, good for a day.

Trident At The Dawn

Trident At The Dawn

Colour contrast

Colour contrast

Day-6
We left Ranikhet for Nainital. But before that we went to see Haidakhan temple at Chilianchula just 7 km away from Ranikhet. It was on north facing ridge and had beautiful views of mountains. The trust also runs quite big Ayurvedic hospital. KMVN TRH located nearby looked attractive.
We reached Nainital in 3 hours and decided to do sightseeing before checking in. In this region you don’t get tired very soon and moreover the days are shorter so it is wise to finish outdoor wandering before or by Sunset.

We went to see a few places which are only accessible only by horse-riding or by foot. We opted for horses. Land’s End, Tiffin’s Top, Forest point, Dorothy’s point etc. were beautiful places. But most of them reminded us of our own Mahabaleshwar.

A Temple in the terrace farms

A Temple in the terrace farms

Naini Devi Temple

Naini Devi Temple


Day-7

Today we started with zoo in the morning. I don’t know about any other zoo which is located at this high Altitude say more than 2000 m. It was very unique in design that we could see animals from different heights as we walked up the hills. Over and above colorful birds it had impressive population of wild cats. A pair of tigers was entertaining onlookers with their roars. Leopards and wolves were in good health. Interesting facts about local animals were on display.
Later, we did what Nainital is the most popular about. What else but boating. Row-boating, paddle-boats and Yachts were available to choose from. Boatman came with us in a rowboat. We quietly enjoyed nice view of surrounding town.

There is one special thing about Nainital which I adored most was cycle rickshaw. The one km or more of the Mall road runs parallel to east coast of Naini Lake. And the local authority has fixed rate for ric that runs from one end of Mall to another. We can enjoy the landscape sitting and moving at easy speed. Otherwise also mall road is on straight level and pleasure to walk. We spent evening at the lakeside watching the revelers of the week-end.

Barren Beauty

Barren Beauty

Lakeside, Nainital.

Lakeside, Nainital.

Day-8
Today we are going for a ropeway ride. The trolley takes you another 300 m higher than the town. You get beautiful aerial view of the town as well as the lake. The fog had blocked faraway views which I’m sure would have been breathtaking.

After checking out we started towards Kaladhungi. On the way we had good look at Khurpataal, a smaller but cute lake. We moved downhill towards Corbett Falls. The road was passing through dense forest. As altitude was decreasing, parrot green lush trees were replacing leafless dry trees. The falls were easily accessible and surprisigly full of silver cascades. It seemed quite safe for a shower but we did not dare as that is fun only when you are in a group.
Nearby there was the Jim Corbett Museum located in the house which belonged to him once upon a time. Apt tribute to great environmentalist and animal lover! Not to miss it if you are his fan.
By this time we had come in plains. We passed through green fields and town of Haldwani to reach Kathgodam from where we were to board train. It is very difficult to say goodbye to the enchanting Himalayas. Our love for these Silver Mighties brings us to these new places again and again. Each of these regions has its own beauty and characteristics. We are going home to come back again some time sooner or later.

Naini Lake

Naini Lake

Corbett Falls

Corbett Falls

21 Comments

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Asha,
    A warm welcome to Ghumakkar dot com. Interesting post with beautiful pictures, specially last 3 pictures are really captivating. Your debut at ghumakkar is commendable. Keep traveling and keep sharing at ghumakkar. Best of Luck.

    Thanks.

  • Anupam Chakraborty says:

    There is something about Kumaon, you know, it always attracts, even though you read so many times or visited those before, always makes the bonding afresh with your heart. And what a nice way to refresh the memories of Kumaon through your such a beautiful post.

    I give you a special praise for your photos Colour contrast, Barren Beauty and Lakeside, Nainital.

    Welcome Aboard Asha. Keep coming back to the hills of Himalayan range and keep sharing.

  • Very well written equally supported by beautiful pictures. You traveled almost 8 days hence expecting some more details on Hotels/ restaurants / roads etc… .

    And post could have dived into two parts with additional information which I mentioned above.

    Good job …keep traveling , keep sharing.

  • silentsoul says:

    Welcome aboard Ashji. The log was interesting with b’ful fotos. It would have been better to make this grand jounrey into 2-3 parts with more fotos..

    enjoyed your log

  • Ashok Sharma says:

    beautiful post, your way of narration is very good. Kumaon is really a part of heaven gifted to the mankind by the allmighty. some of the pics are good,others could have been better.

  • Asha says:

    Thank you guys for your feedback on my first ever write-up. I promise to do better in the future. I agree with you Anupamji and Ashokji, Kumaon is still untouched by mindless exploitation. Commercialization has not penetrated here unlike its counterparts in Himachal Pradesh. India has lot to offer for travel-hungry souls.

  • Saurabh Gupta says:

    Brilliant Post equally supported by brilliant photographs.

  • Vivek Kumar Srivastava says:

    Your post attracts me to visit Nainital.

  • Anagha Hunnurkar says:

    Superb account Asha

    Have never traveled to Kumaon but got the glimpse through your blog and in this heat , had such a cooling effect on the mind.Keep it up and continue writing

  • Naturebuff says:

    A very good post Asha. Welcome aboard!

    Having done a small part of Garhwal last year, this region of Uttarakhand is definitely beckoning!! Hopefully sooner than later:-)

  • Great. I’ve been to Binsar and few other places, but this region has much more to be explored

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Hi Asha – Welcome aboard.

    When we were publishing your story, we were thinking of breaking it into 2 or 3 stories but we kind of let it go. Now when I read it again, I feel that we should have split it.

    Kumaon in March is heavenly, very little tourist, clear views (no smog), access to snow and that mountain thin fresh air. Thank you for sharing your detailed log. I am sure it is almost like a mini guide and a great reference to plan a Kumaon Itinerary.

    When possible, please add more about yourself in your bio at Ghumakkar and please get a profile picture of yor choice by registering at http://www.gravatar.com

    Wishes and look fwd to read more from you.

  • Asha says:

    Thank you readers for your support.

    Only regret I have about this trip is that due to time constraint we could not include Munsyari in our trip. Its extreme location required two more days which was not possible. But as someone had aptly said, “you are bound to come back if you have missed a place or two in the trip.” So my fingers are crossed.

    :-)

  • S. SIDDIQUI says:

    thanks asha for guiding, please tell me about the nearby places of chaukori and kausani . how much time is required to visit the places of kausani? i am planning 10-11 days trip in june with my family for mukteshwar, chaukori, munsiyari, binsar, kausani and nainital. please advise .me

    • Asha says:

      Hi S. Siddiqui,

      Chaukori is a beautiful hamlet and worth spending a night as stop-over on the way to Munsyari. A few guest houses and couple of cottages… thats all in Chaukori. Nevertheless, it rewards us with pristine views of snow capped mountains. If you have a couple of hours to spend then there is a government-run musk-deer farm at a distance of nearly 5-7 km. It will require you to do half an hour’s uphill trek. These deers are brought from high altitude areas of Himalaya and raised here in captivity for research. Patal Bhuvaneshwar, a rock- formation cave is just 35 km away but takes a bit long time as the road condition in that stretch is pretty bad.

      Frankly speaking, there is not much to do in terms of sightseeing at Kausani or Ranikhet. The tourist places can be covered in couple of hours. But if you are keen on absorbing the beauty of quaint hills and wonderful valleys these are the places to be. Plan moving nearly 100 to 150 km daily and take halt at next stop. There are nice short treks at many of these places where you will have a chance to come closer to nature.
      Nainital is the happening place where the most touristy attractions are available. But beware if you are in search of pure natural bliss.

      10-12 days are enough to do a round trip at relaxed pace. You may consider spending more time at places like Binsar or Munsyari.

      Take your pick and do share your experience.

      Thanks,
      Asha.

    • Ramta Jogi says:

      Hi,

      There are Gandhi cottage & Poet Sumitranandan residence in Kausani. Tea garden & shawl factory are 3-4 km away.All you can cover in 3-4 hrs. But Sunset is worth watching from Kausani . After Mukteshawr you can halt either at Kausani or Chaukori. Another 3-4 hrs drive for Chaukori from Kausani indeed

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Asha,

    The debut post is great and it was one long trip – you seem to have covered entire Kumaon in one trip.

    Hope to see the Jageshwar Temples soon. Wish you had added a photo from Patal Bhuvaneshwar too.

    Nice photos too – keep writing!

    • Asha says:

      Hi Nirdesh Singh,

      Thanks for the feed-back. Jageshwar temples are located in dense devdar jungle on the banks of a small spring.
      Please do not forget to visit the museum nearby.
      I myself is apalled at the fact that i could not take any pictures of the cave formations. The camera is not allowed inside the cave structure. One needs to deposit cameras and cell phones at the reception area. The structure at road level is totally non-descript enclosure. They have several reasons for not allowing cell phones and cameras….so no pics of Patal Bhuvaneshwar.
      Have a nice trip.
      Asha.

  • Ramta Jogi says:

    Nice clicks Asha…

    You have covered ..most of the places in this periphery except Binsar (Near Ranikhet ) & Munsyari..
    Recommended Itinerary. One can explore Naukhutial & Binsar also in can of additional day.

  • varun says:

    Hi,
    Greetings from “Veselka Cottage Homestay”

    Thanks for this wonderful blog.We run a Homestay ‘Veselka” in satkhol a small sleepy village at the lap of Himalayas near mukteshwar.

    Regards
    Veselka cottage
    Satkhol(Mukteshwar)

  • Varun says:

    Hi,

    Greetings from Veselka Cottage.

    Thanks for this wonderful blog.
    We also run a small homestay ‘veselka’ in satkhol a small & beautiful village at the lap of Himalayas near mukteshwar.

    Regards & wishes
    Veselka cottage
    Satkhol mukteshwar

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