15 April 2007

Magic in the mountains...

Come roaming with me
(From “The India I Love” written by Ruskin Bond)

Out of the city and over the hill,
Into the spaces where Time stands still,
Under the tall trees, touching old wood,
Taking the way the warriors once stood;

This is what I think truly describes the whole essence of our trip. It was simply fantastic. India is undoubtedly beautiful! Kaustubh and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on the 8 day trip to Jim Corbett National Park, Ranikhet, Nainital, and Mussoorie via Delhi.


17th march, 07
We had journeyed to the state of Uttaranchal (now Uttarkhand): from Bangalore, we took a flight to New Delhi; from there we headed to Jim Corbett National Park, a 280 km/7hr drive via Moradabad, Kashipur and Ramnagar in a private taxi booked through makemytrip.com.

The thought of having crossed over most of India was exciting. Just before landing at Delhi, we spotted the lotus temple from our plane window and on the way; we passed by the “Akshardham” temple . the view from the highway gave a glimpse of the beautiful carvings that the temple is famous for. We also had a fleeting glance of the River Yamuna.

We stopped for lunch at a dhaba in UP - an experience in itself!:) On each table was kept a plate of rock salt and green chilies! We had very tasty chana and dal-makhani (dal = 50%, makhkhan = 50%) along with butter nan. This was a delight – a crispy light naan is something I tasted for the first time. this is when we truly felt we were in north India, having lunch at a proper UP dhaba. We crossed UP into Uttaranchal. The drive was extremely scenic, green wheat fields, thick mangroves, tall, slender trees planted in order.

We reached Manu Maharani resort, Dhikuli at about 6:30 pm after making another stop for tea. The resort is one fine place and is located on the one of the banks of River Kosi like all other resorts. The other side of the river is the jungle. Our room is very beautiful and has all the comforts provided by any 3/5 star hotel.

18th march, 07
After having had a relaxed breakfast today morning at the river side restaurant, we went and booked a gypsy for ourselves for the jungle safari in the afternoon. (This is because; we were told by our driver that the charge for the safari is more if the hotel books it for you.) We then proceeded to see the Jim Corbett museum and Sri Girija mataa mandir.
The Jim Corbett museum is located inside the jungle (Dhangarhi gate). It houses souvenirs, relics and mementos related to Jim Corbett and his famous exploits (tigers, elephant skulls, and deer horns, stuffed with wooden filings). There are also fetus of deer and tiger kept for display, well-preserved in containers. The watchman opened the museum for us and gave a good explanation of the same. We were out in about half an hour.
Fees : 5 Rs per head.
Distance : about 8 km from Manu Maharani resort and on the way to Ranikhet.
Suggested : in case u are headed for Ranikhet, stop over then at the museum. Going just to see the museum is a waste of time and petrol.

On the way back, we deviated to the Sri Girija Mata mandir. This temple is located in the middle of the river Kosi on a hillock that was once a part of the hills of the jungle. The interesting thing about the temple is that the temple crowns the crest of a hillock. An old wooden bridge leads to the other side of the river , to the base of the hillock. The temple can also be seen from the highway above as the whole area is a ghat.

One thing you notice all over Uttarakhand is at the temples, there are lots of bells tied to poles and some trees are literally covered with millions of small red cloths each with a golden lining.
You would also notice that most of the stones/boulders in this region are mostly white-coloured and very smooth – like pebbles.

On the way back from the temple to the resort, we chanced upon this lovely view below us – the river Kosi flowing silently into the valley, the temple in the middle, a bridge to cross the river – all was fantastic.

After lunch, we left for the jungle safari. The Jim Corbett National Park is a reserved wildlife sanctuary. It has been divided into 5 zones – the Jhirna, Dhikala, Bijrani, Sonanadi and Domunda . We had got the permit to see the Jhirna zone of the National park. The gate to this zone was about 8 km from our resort.
Entrance fee :
Cost of gypsy :
Fact : Jhirna zone does not require a guide…the driver is enough. There is no need to hire any binoculars. There are 2 rides – one in the morning and one in the evening. The ride is about 3 hrs including a break.

Fortunately for us, the driver knew the jungle like the back of his hand. He was well versed with the road and the life of animals in general. The gypsy was open topped so as to facilitate us to see/spot a tiger (if lucky) else the other animals of the jungle. We spotted many peacocks, pea-hens, fowls, monkeys (white skinned), wild-boars and spotted deer. We were unfortunate as we were not able to spot the elusive tiger.

Facts about nature:

On the way back to the resort, Kaustubh drove the gypsy for almost 5kms. He sure was thrilled and his smile never seemed to drop! I guess one of his childhood dreams had just come true!

19th march , 07
Today morning we checked out of Manu maharani resort and headed towards Ranikhet, about a 100 km from Ramnagar. Our driver was an experienced one who could tackle the incredibly curvy ghat section. The path kept winding up, up and up. The drive was very scenic – deep canyons, dense pine forests, silvery-white waterfalls, meadows blushing with the bloom of wild flowers...all was lovely. It took us a good 2 hours to cover the 80 odd kms till we finally reached the crest – the outskirts of Ranikhet.
Ranikhet, a quiet little hill station tucked away in the Kumaon Himalayas, is an old army cantonment (home of the Kumaon regiment).
Homes of wood and slate sit among the terraced paddy fields. The best part of this town is a stunning view of four peaks of the Himalayan range of such ethereal splendour that one cannot help being lost in staring at them! :)

The drive to the “Hotel Holm farm” was along a narrow zigzag road amid pine, cedar, oak and chestnut groves. We were in for a pleasant surprise. This heritage hotel is actually a 150 yr old British bunglow and has had the honour of hosting personalities like Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehra, the Mountbattens, Smt Indra Gandhi, Achrya Narendra Dev and many more top dignitaries. After Independence this house was bought by very known freedom Fighter Pt. Madam Mohan Upadhyaya.
Many of the famous personalities have stayed here : Vivek Oberoi and the team of the movie “Kisna”, Tom Alter, Naseruddin-shah and now us! :)

Upon arrival, we spent about an hour exploring this lovely heritage hotel. Later, we took a stroll around the place.
The Holm Farm Heritage is an incredible combination of the traditional and the modern. This is a two-storied structure with gabled roofs and trellises, the wallpapers are a pale pastel, all hand painted on silk. The light fittings are porcelain and brass and all over are black and white framed photographs of Nehru and the Mountbattens and other VIPs of the time.
The front of the hotel has a panaromic view of the beautiful Himalayas – of the four famous peaks – the Trishul Parvat, Trishul East, Nandadevi, Nandakot and Panchachuli. Added to this, the people make you feel more like a guest in their home rather than some customer.

Outside the chateau is a nicely laid out lawn. Beyond that is a tennis court. Just at the entrance is a badminton court. The place is up a hill and is about 2-3 km from the main road.
For more information visit: http://www.holmfarmranikhet.com

A little after mid-night, it started raining so heavily, both Kaustubh and I were woken up by the thundering storm and the big rain drops pelting on our roof. We went to the balcony to watch the thundering rain. It was the perfect setting for a horror movie – stormy night, creaky doors, windows, floor, roof ramming with the big rain drops, no lights, no candle, two new people in the room, only light available is the lightning that happened every 2 minutes – all was bizarre.
We found our way back to the bed after faltering upon numerous things. The coziness of the bed was more welcoming than ever! :)

Fact :
Trishul Parvat = 7122m high in the Kumaon Himalayas.
Trishul means the holy trident of lord Shiva with which he destroyed the evil in the world. 3 distinct peaks form the Trishul.
As a tourist attraction, there is not much to see in Ranikhet…so it might be worth a 1 night stay only.

Among the various hotels/heritage resorts in Ranikhet, Hotel Chevron Fairmount might be closer to the mountain ranges and might offer a better view.

20th march , 07
The sight that greeted us the next morning, as we staggered out of our warm rooms, was simply majestic. There weren’t any words to describe the breathtaking vision that we were confronted with. The peaks silhouetted against the pale blue sky stood tall watching the valley below them. The sun’s rays reflected on the mountains – the snow shimmering in orange and yellow hues made the mountains look heavenly.
The sight was a joy to behold. It was like a perfect painting of the Himalayas hung in the sky and was very captivating.

Today was a bright sunny day -- I guess the effect of the rain. All seemed fresh and green.
We were able to see most of the peaks – the Trishul East, Nandadevi, Nandakot, and Panchachuli. It was a good way to start the morning. We got ready, went down, played TT, had breakfast and left for a tour of Ranikhet.

We first went to Sri Kalika Mata Mandir then stopped by the golf course (this is just one big lawn and was a bit of a disappointment), then to KRC (Kumaon Rehabilitation Centre) woolens factory. This has an AWWA (army wives welfare association) shop where they had a colourful and distinctive range of Kumaoni shawls made in merino and tweed. Here, at the shawl factory we got elegant shawls – not just fresh stock but at prices half of those quoted at glitzy metro showrooms.
After this, we had lunch at the Ranikhet club (they charge an entry fee of Rs 50/person for non-members). then we visited Chaubattia gardens famous for the apple orchards.
Chaubattia gardens had skeletons of apple trees spread across acres of land deep into the valley.
On the way back, we visited the Jhuladevi mandir – the temple of goddess Durga. This mandir is famous for the bells that are tied by devotees when any of their wishes come true. So obviously, there were at least a million bells tied up all over the temple. We met a reporter of “Amar Ujala” who was making a report on the Jhuladevi temple and therefore wanted a picture of us tying the bell. Hope we’ve appeared in the next 2-3 days’ paper! :)

21st march , 07
After a heavy breakfast, today we left for Nainital. The drive was about 3 hrs. The valley was a never ending saga of green foliage – mostly the fir trees -- against the backdrop of the tall Kumaon mountains. We passed through the Deciduous forests, the deep green pinnacles of the tall fir trees seemed to touch the sky. The enchanting sight will be stored in our minds forever.
On the way, we stopped at Naukuchiyatal - the lake with 9 corners. Legend has it that if you can spot all the 9 corners, u become a millionare…too bad we got to know of the legend after we got back! :)
We then stopped over at Bhimtal. story goes that the Pandavas were thirsty and Bhima hit his gada onto the land and then there was water) – Bhimeshwar mandir and then to Nainital. We had lunch at the Tibetian market, had a stroll into the shopping area, went to Nainidevi’s temple. Nainital is famous for its candles. We then checked into “Hotel Chevron – Fair Heavens” – into a lake view room. The view was of the lake and the settlement on the slopes. Nainital is a very commercial tourist attraction. During the British raj, this heritage hotel was a nun’s hostel in pre-independent India. Though the inside of the heritage hotel has a sort of gloomy look to it, the food was very good.

22nd march , 07
Today we had breakfast at the hotel and left for the Himalayan viewpoint. Since it had rained the earlier night, it was foggy and we could not see anything! :(
We took photos of me dressed in a typical Kumaon/Gharwal outfit. The photos have unexpectedly come out very nice! :)
View of Nainital from the ghats:

we stopped by the Aravind ashram where Kaustubh had been 12 yrs back with his cousins for a rappelling camp. He got nostalgic on seeing the place and old memories were alive again. There was a rappelling session in progress – being conducted for some school students from Delhi. Luckily, the same sir who had taught Kaustubh 12 yrs back was there, teaching the students the same way as he used to. He was a real gentleman! His voice was so warm and welcoming, we got comfortable in a few minutes itself! He offered us to do one rappelling feet and we did do it! That was real fun!
We took leave of him after taking his contact number and then headed to do some horse riding. We individually had to hire a horse each. Mine was Sikander and Kaustubh’s was Discoverer. The boy took us on a path that can otherwise be trekked. We saw 5 points from above : the place where “Jadu” lands on earth in “Koi Mil Gaya”, a view of the Khurpa tal from high above the mountains, Tiffin tower – this was really high up in the mountains and a view of Ranikhet of which I could not tell the difference and had to just nod my head!
Horse riding is an experience of its own – the feeling of sitting on a living thing – riding something that has a mind of its own and need not listen to u, instead is capable of causing you a lot of physical injury if you are not used to it. The 2 hr horse ride up the rocky pathway shook us up! That evening both Kaustubh and I had strained backs.

After the horse ride, we saw the “Suicide point” . I think every hill station has at least one suicide point! :)

after this, we were back in Nainital town and headed towards the Eco-caves. These caves are definitely worth a visit! There are many natural caves here, preserved by the govt. – the panther cave, tiger cave, porcupine cave, bat cave – the caves are well lit with directions regarding entry and exit to each cave. These caves however are wet and slippery and cold. There is also a musical fountain. We did not stop to see this.
We got back to the hotel, had lunch and left for the cable-car ride. There was nothing atop – only the ride was very scenic and offered an excellent view of the Nainital lake and the green mountains.

After this, we did some boating. Boating is something u must do in any of the tals. The calm water all around you really relaxes your senses! A boatman’s job is a tough one alright! After the boating, we roamed around the Mall road and did some shopping, had dinner at the hotel and had a good night’s sleep after all the excitement of the day.

23rd march , 07
Today we had breakfast and left for Mussoorie. We had been rejuvenated enough to hit the road, into the valley. The drive was a smooth one. We had lunch on the way.
At about 3:30 pm, we reached the holy city of Haridwar where the river Ganga leaves the Himalayas and enters the plains. I saw Ganga-ji for the first time in my entire life in its actual form – flowing softly yet with a certain power.
There are Chandi devi and the Manasa devi temples in Haridwar which are very well known and very famous. These are approachable by rope-ways/cable-cars or one can trek up to the temples.
The gods/goddesses in Uttaranchal – the abode of Gods as it is rightly called – are willing to share the beauty of nature with those who seek their blessings, but at a price. It seems that the devotees have to earn their darshan!
As I had expected, the place was bustling with pilgrim traffic. We saw hoards of people taking the holy dip in the sacred waters. We approached the famous temple. This was crowded with people of all sorts.

As we had very little time, we could not attend the evening aarti(prayer) that happen every day at 7pm at “Hari ki pauri” temple. We sat by the river on the steps for some time, washed our hands, legs and face and soon headed for Mussoorie. The milestones by the side of the highway indicated that Hrishikesh was 15 odd km from Haridwar. Having come so close and not having visited the holy yet beautiful place Hrishikesh, we decided to take a detour to Hrishikesh.

We first passed by the Ram jhula. The river Ganga looks simply majestic from here. We stopped atop Lakshman jhula and trekked our way down a pathway lined with stalls. The steps were big but deep. The bridge is well built. There were some bhajans(hymns) being sung in the temple across the mighty river Ganga. The atmosphere was spiritually charged and the feeling was peaceful. The holy river Ganga looked pure and divine from the top of the bridge. We were able to catch the sunset on the banks of river Ganga and behind the mountains. At Hrishikesh, there are a lot of adventure sports lessons and gears offered on hire. Unfortunately, we had very little time and had to leave this serene place.
The experience of having seen, tasted the holy water of the great river Ganges/Ganga-ji or Ganga-maiya as it is so lovingly called here will remain in memory for a long time to come! :)
We were back on track to Mussoorie. We came to the outskirts of Dehradun – the capital city of Uttaranchal and took the ring road to Mussoorie. The road was winding and hilly. As it had gotten dark, we were able to see the town lit up high above us on the slopes of the hills. We reached our destination – “Fort Resort Comfort Inn” around dinner time.
There was a ghazal program going on at the dining area. There was one male singer playing the harmonium, one female singer, one guitarist and one tabal-ji. The ‘mehefil’ or the atmosphere was that of the classic old 70’s. Cool climate, song in the air and hot and tasty food for the empty stomach…what else would one want?! :)Unfortunately, people were too busy chatting and eating and had no patience to listen/clap for the very melodious ghazals. All effort wasted on an uninterested audience! :(
Mussoorie is a sleepy hill station. There are roads which go winding up and down. The hotel is very good! Our room is all carpeted and very ‘American’ looking. It has a lovely view of the valley.

24th march, 07
Today we had breakfast and set out to see the Kempty falls, Company bagh/gardens and the Mall road – seemingly the only places in and around Musoorie that are tourist attractions.
Kempty falls is a cascading waterfall that slices through the spectacular mountainous terrain. A lot of work has been done – laying of stones, cable-car etc to ensure that we get the best view of the entire falls at different levels. There are water sports and other activities available for the kids and they sure look fun. What struck us here was that the place has been kept clean of plastic.
We then left for Company bagh. The road leading to this public park/garden is very scenic and well lit for night travelers. The park was very beautiful. It also has a nursery.
After this, we went to Mall road. This was like every other Mall road except that it has a lot of ups and downs. Cars have to pay a toll and so we told the driver to meet us at the other end of the road. Here, the most memorable moment of our day –- perhaps our trip -- was awaiting us. We were passing by a book store where we saw a poster which said something like ‘meet Ruskin Bond and get books autographed by him from 4 to 6 pm on Saturdays’. There was a photo of the writer Ruskin Bond as well. We saw a person similar looking, sitting there, and chatting with two men. Excitedly, we crossed the street and met him, spoke to him and bought books autographed by him – “The India I love” and “The trees still grow in Dehra”. It felt great to meet this famous writer in person. Kaustubh and I were both excited for a long time! :) we got back, packed our bags, had dinner and prepared ourselves for the longest drive of our entire trip the next day – back to Delhi.

25th march, 07
Today early morning, we set off on a 7 hr/260 km journey back to Delhi. We were down through and out of Dehradun in about 2 hrs. Musoorie – Dehradun – Musaffarabad – Gaziabad – Delhi was the route. We reached the airport well within time. Unfortunately, we did not have time to shop at Delhi! :( soon we boarded the Jet airways flight to Bangalore and reached Bangalore by 9pm.
The day’s travel had left us all exhausted and we were glad to tumble into our beds and fell asleep immediately.

Having been away from the incessant growl of city traffic, surrounded by the colossal mountains, the hushed swaying of trees and relaxed twittering of birds had relaxed our minds and souls completely.
Uttaranchal –- a panorama of undulating hills, shades of greens, blue skies and the waterfalls -- has traveled home with us and the memories will always be cherished! :)

Total expense : ~60k for 2 people for 8 nights – Jim Corbett, Ranikhet, Nainital, Mussoorie. This included air tickets Bangalore – Delhi to and fro plus a non-AC Indica at our disposal.


  1. zuper !!
    very good descriptive write-up !! came to know many things !
    i saw that Ruskin Bond foto in orkut..zuper!
    ps:so u were njoyin far away when i was searchin for u in ur office...i said i wud like to meet priti sathe and the reception said there was no one like that..when i said only priti he said there is priti gadgil..then i said that person only, i knew her as sathe [:)] he searched and said u might have gone for lunch..

  2. Nice description....however one minor spelling mishtik....Nehru cha spelling "Nehra" asa zhala aahe...tyamule :) ...hehehehe Panditji nche fast bowler zhale na ekdam..... baki its all very good..I enjoyed it all the more 'cause I have seen most of the pix.... :)

  3. Have you scanned the panoramic picture? Or have you taken it yourself.. (for I have one framed and kept in our drawing room back home!)

  4. madam, very well written..it can easily fit into a travel magazine..! After reading , i felt completely 'j'..for i miis all this green & picturesque countryside here in dubai !