As I sit down and close my eyes the panoramic view of Himalayas with the daunting peaks of trishul, nanda devi, and Panchchuli comes flashing and up close as if i could stretch my hand and touch them. Driving through the sinuous mountain roads, pine & deodar forests and the Himalayas in the background, our Himalayan odyssey of seven nights and eight days in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand has been etched in our minds forever, only to be relived in dreams.
It could have been just another day in the office had Rakesh and I over a cup of tea discussed of taking a break away from the monotonous daily routine. We discussed overnight with our families and next morning the idea born last evening took shape of a tentative itinerary for Kumaon. We also involved another colleague of ours Hashmi who was sitting some 2000 kms away from us in Jorhat to join us for the trip. After consensus on dates, a final plan was chalked out and 6 adults & 2 children aged 5 and 11 months each were ready for a trip to the hills from 7th to 15th February 2009.
The plan was to visit Binsar, Chaukori, Munsiyari and Nainiatal. A couple of days before the trip all arrangements of tickets, bookings at KMVN Binsar and Chaukori were made and shopping for some stuff required during travelling with two kids was done. We all were excited for an adventurous holiday in the hills. As it happens with every group tour , Hashmi had to back out at the 11th hour due to his wife’s illness, not to dampen our spirits of an adventurous holiday ahead.
All packed we arrived at Surat Railway station on Friday 6th Feb’09 to board our train for New Delhi at 1930hrs and found it to be running on time. It was Aryaman’s ( my 11 month child) first train journey and he was all excited to see something different from what he used to see every day. We had our dinner before train reached Baroda, met Rakesh’ in laws at the baroda railway station and retired for the night. Suddenly we heard sounds of Aryaman crying, standing by the berth side ( don’t know how he managed to step down from the berth) at around 11 in the night and it took me almost an hour to make him sleep again. This was the first time in our trip we wondered if we had made the right decision to travel with an eleven month child.
Day 1, 7th February 2009
Nevertheless we moved on and reached New Delhi at 0900hrs on 7th February and Rakesh’s relative had already arranged for a guest house with a chauffeured car for us for our stay in Delhi. Aryaman was most happy amongst us to reach the guest house as he got lots of space to crawl around. We got fresh, had breakfast and then we realised that we had left one milk bottle of Aryaman in the train. It was our first casualty.
We did some last minute shopping in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar market, moved on Connaught Place, had some delicious chat and also went to Humayun’s Tomb.
The second Mughal Emperor Humayun died just a year after he regained Delhi. His Persian wife, Hamida Begum, supervised the construction of his tomb from 1562-1572. It was designed by the Persian architect, Mirak Mirza Ghiyuath. Situated on the bank of River Yamuna and adjoining the shrine of the famous Sufi saint Nizam al-Din Auliya, this tomb is said to have been a precedent of later Mughal mausoleums in India. The geometrically arranged gardens intersected with numerous water channels present a paradise setting. The tomb took eight years to build and had a Char Bagh Garden style in its design, the first of its kind in the region.
These were later introduced in the Red Fort of Delhi and at the Taj Mahal of Agra. Persian architectural traits are also evident in the building and its main chamber is said to be inspired from the tomb of the Persian Mongol ruler, Oljeytu, at Sultaniyya. The tomb of Timur (Tamerlane) in Samarkand is also said to be the source of inspiration for the Mughal architecture in India. We returned at around seven in the evening and after having a quick dinner, packed our stuff and left for Old Delhi railway station for our onward train to Kathgodam- gateway to Kumaon. We reached the chaotic Old Delhi railway station at around 2130hrs only to find no coolies around for our luggage. It took quite an effort to put our luggage in the train and we finally left for Kathgodam at 2240hrs in Ranikhet Express. Aryaman was tired after a hectic day and slept peacefully to wake up in the morning at 7. Train was running a little late and arrived at Kathgodam at 8 in the morning. Our driver Anil was there at the station to receive us and after getting fresh, giving Aryaman his breakfast in the waiting room we left for Binsar in our hired Innova.
Day 2, 8th February 2009
Distance: 128 kms
Some 10 kms after Kathgodam we had our breakfast and already ladies were showing signs of mountain sickness. The sinuous roads and hair pin bends were starting to take it effect on them. First to go was Rakhi ( Rakesh’ wife), then Aryaman and finally Ria ( Rakesh daughter). Somewhere near Almora we took some medicine for mountain sickness and only then thing came under control. Just as we were reaching Almora we had our first view of Himalayas, and what a sight it was.
We reached Binsar Check post at around 1330 hrs and after registering and paying the entry fees we haeded for Tourist Rest House of KMVN, a few kms further ahead and an old colonial style bungalow with its rustic charm and no electricity. You only get electricity from 7pm to 9pm through sloar power. Rooms are all wood panelled and offer good views. The terrace of TRH,Binsar offers spectacular view of Hmalyas.
We had our lunch and while Aryaman and Nitya dozed off for an afternoon siesta, Rakesh and i decided to explore Binsar Sanctuary. Silence is an aspect one is bound to notice about Binsar. Quiteness and stillness can be found in lots of places, specially in mountains, but there is something different about the quiteness of Binsar.
Specially, on the 2 Km walk to Zero-Point. It's the highest point of Binsar Hill and offers the best views of the ranges. From rest-house, we take the unpaved, gradually ascending road.
There is dense forest all around, and not a single sound is to be heard. Not even a bird chirp. And with the stories of leopards and bears regularly traversing this area at back of one's mind, one is tempted a lot to turn back. Even with couple of people along with you, it's an eerie experience. The silence, stillness and beauty around me was of the kind that can only be experienced and is impossible to capture in words.
We came back just in time for the sunset and th
ough it was quite hazy and peaks were not clearly visible it was still quite an experience from the terrace of our rest house to witness the faaling ray of sun on the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas. On a clear day one can see many peaks from Binsar namely Nanda Ghunti, Trishul, Mrighthuni, Mailkoti, Nanda Devi, Nanda Devi east Nandkot and some other which i don’t remember.
As electricity supply is only available between 7 to 9 , we had our early dinner and within the cosiness of quits, with candle light to offer some warmth we dozed off quietly into the night.
Day 3, 9th February’09
I woke up around 060
0 hrs to a cloudy morning at Binsar. The horizon was orange red painted by the rays of morning sun. Most of the peaks were covered with clouds yet the overall experience had an element of peace and tranquillity. Aryaman and Nitya too joined me on the terrace and we had some family photos along with tea at the terrace of KMVN. After having bath with the rationed hot water supplied by KMVN ( only 1 bucket per adult), we had our breakfast and left at 0940 hrs for Chaukori stopping enroute for pictures of beautiful Binsar valley filled
Stopping enroute frequently as is the case when you travel with a small child, we reached Chaukori at 1400hrs and the location of KMVN cottages was once again excellent providing clear views of Panchchuli peaks.
Chaukori is a somnolent, peaceful hamlet, surrounded by the towering Himalayan peaks and dense forests. To the north is Tibet and to the south is Terai. The Mahakali River, running along its eastern boundary, forms the Indo-Nepal international border. At a height of 2,010 m, above the sea level Chaukori is not just another hill station, but it's for the very few, who want to be there, in the majestic proximity of the Himalayas for an unbound view of the Panchchuli peaks.
As the name suggests, it's like a bowl, cupped within the Himalayan heartland. It is an idyllic holiday resort amidst unspoilt nature, a land bestowed with natural abundance, fruit orchards, and the jungles of Pines, Oaks and Rhododendrons.
ne of the most magnificent aspects of holidaying in Chaukori is the fabulous sunrise and sunset that you are treated to. The night sky is studded with a million stars that simply take your breath away.
Though the weather was cloudy, the overall landscape was glowing in the afternoon light of winter sun.
We had lunch of Alu Parathas as that was the only thing available at that time. An intresting thing about we found out was that only vegetables available at most places were just potatoes or gobis as the supply used to come once a week only. Nitya and Aryaman went to sleep after lunch and i decided to walk around the place to have a look at the beautiful landscape of Chaukori.
I went for a walk behind KMVN and the vistas didn’t disappoint me. It was a good and refreshing walk and i was just in time when my little one woke up fresh and happy.
We had tea in the evening and asked the caretaker to bring some wood for a bornfire. Played some games around the bornfire, had sumptuous dinner and retired for the night.
Day 4, 10th February’09
Chaukori – Thal - Chaukori
The morning was very cloudy and the peaks were not visible but sunrise was spectacular with its varied hues of red and orange. The valley looked in peace with itself from the watch tower of KMVN, Chauk
Aryaman woke up all charged up and excited for a new day ahead. We had leisurely breakfast and then went on to explore nearby places.
We sat for a while alongside the river, took some photographs and came back hoping for a clear view of
peaks at sunset.
But again peaks were all covered with clouds and there were some dark clouds on the horizon. Signs were ominous for a stormy night ahead.
We had our dinner of delicious Rajma-Chawal and no sooner had we finished our dinner it started raining heavily. Raindrops on the tin roof of the cottage was making different noises making it perfect setting for a Ramsay brother movie. Suddenly there was a tap on the door. I opened it to find our caretaker standing there with candles in his hand. He said “ Sahib Yeh candles rakh lain, hum generator off karne wale hain”. Thankfully Aryaman was sleeping peacefully. The sound of raindrops and ferocious wind reminded me of the night in the tent at Tso-Moriri, Ladakh.Day -5 Chaukori - Kausani
The weather was cloudy in the morning but the news was that it was raining all over Kumaon and we decided to skip Munsiyari and head towards Kausani. We were afraid that we might get stuck up in Munsiyari and with Aryaman with us we didn’t wanted to take a chance. We left Chaukori at 1000 hrs and by that time it had started raining. Stopping frequently we reached Baijnath temple some 15 kms before Kausani at 1400 hrs and started our climb uphill for Kausani. The rain gave way to hail storm and as we reached closer to our destination it had started snowing. And Kausani greeted us with our first snowfall of our life.
In no time Kausani was covered under a blanket of ice. We later found out that it was the first snowfall of the season.
Day 6, 11th February’09
It was starting to get very cold and there was no power in the region. We were staying at Krishna Mount View and with the generator supplying power the voltage wasn’t enough for room heater to work properly.
The lunch was delicious and since we were the only guest in the hotel we got full attention of the hotel staff.
We slept early and when we got up in the morning next day the sky was clear and the view from our room was just breath taking.
There was clear view of Himalyan ranges and a layer of cloud had settled below the mountains making Kausani look like floating on clouds.
As the first rays of the sun touched the Trishul, I clicked the shutter to my heart’s content.
There are no contradictions in nature, last night it was looking as if there is no tomorrow and the next morning it was so calm and peaceful as if nothing happened.
Kausani – Gwaldam – Kausani
Kausani (1890 m) is a celebrated spot for its scenic beauty enroute to Baijnath and Bageshwar. Nature has bestowed its beauty to make
it a spot par-excellence. The close and captivating view which Kausani offers of the silvery majesty of the great Himalayas kindles hope even in the greatest pessimist and enlivens the worst of the depressed feelings.
Leisurely enjoying the pleasant morning sunshine resulted in delayed schedule and we had our breakfast/ brunch at 1200 noon and by the time we left for Gwaldam after visiting tea gardens and shawl factory it was almost 1430hrs.
Negotiating snow on the roads from the previous day snowfall, we reached Gwaldam. After some picture session we left Gwaldam as i had to watch the sunset on the Himalyan Ranges from Kausani. We reached just in time at 1750 hrs when Sun had already set but the reflections on the peaks was lending it a crimson red glow. I ran to my room to quickly get my telephoto lens to have an up-close view of Trishul.
My lens didn’t disappoint me and just as i finished clicking the play of light was over. I was just in time....
We took some tea and snacks and walked around the hotel. The sky was filled with stars as if a painter has spread stardust on his canvas. It was almost 2030 hrs, we had dinner back at the hotel which was once again delicious and the service was also perfect.
After a wonderful sunrise and sunset we called it a day with delicious hot gulabjamuns to carry the sweetness of Kausan
i with us forever in our hearts.
Day 7, 12th February’09
Day 8, Nainital- Saat Tal – Nakuchiataal- Kathgodam
Kausani – Almora - Nainital
We were on the last leg of our journey travelling from Kausani to Nainital through Almora. Weather was absolutely fine and there was bright sunshine in Kausani. We left the hotel at 1000 hrs after having a sumptuous breakfast of chhole bhature and paneer parathas. Just before we could say goodbye to Kausani, Nitya ( my wife) wanted to do some last minute shopping again at the shawl factory and so we stopped there for sometime. The caretaker there was more than happy to showus around and even let Nitya try her hand at weaving.
We finally left Kausani at 1100hrs and stopped at Almora for tasting the local delicacy ‘Bal Mithai’ which for our tast buds was a little too sweet. We moved on without further interruptions and reached Nainital around 1500 hrs. Looked around the Mall Road for some accommodation and finally settled in “Classic-The Mall”
. The offseason effect could clearly be seen as we got a suite for Rs 2500 originally quoted by the manager as Rs 8000. Room was very nice n cosy and we had a clear view of Naini lake from the balcony of our room.
Aryaman too found lots of space to crawl around and he was just more than happy. We took some rest and then in the evening took a stroll on the mall road. We visited the tiny bylanes around the mall road, had some snacks, visited some shops and came back around 2100hrs tired and exhausted.
So it was our final day in Uttarakhand and our holiday was about to come to an end. It was another sunny morning and we were all out from our hotel by 1000hrs,
did some boating in the Naini Lake, then took the cable car up to have a birds eye view of the city of Nainital. After spending sometime at the top where kids did some horseriding, we returned back around 1400 hrs and left for Saat Taal.
Saat-taal can bed described as the synonym of scenery, sunshine, serenity and solitude. Of the seven lakes at Saat-taal, Hanuman-taal, Bhiyun-taal and Sukha-taal are seasonal, filling up when the monsoon is at its peak. Most of the lakes in Saat-taal are named after the characters from the Ramayana. The names of the lakes here are Ram, Sita and Laxman etc. Interestingly these lakes are interconnected. Garud-taal is another interesting place. This is a place filled with myths and legends. These myths and legends gives place a mystical aura.
We then proceeded to visit Nakuchaitaal – Lake with nine corners, though we didn’t count them. Naukuchiatal or ‘lake of nine corners’ is known for its tranquillity and for the orchards and dense jungles that surround it.
The lake is fed by an underground perennial spring and has a good walking track alongside. As Aryaman was sleeping Rakesh and myself went for a long walk alongside the lake and took some pictures. There is good lakeside resort “ Lake View Resort” for staying overnight, away from the hustle bustle of Nainital.
After spending sometime at Nainital it was time to say good bye to Kumaon and we proceeded for Kthgodam for our train to Delhi. Enroute our driver Anil took us to a South Indian Udipi restaurant to satisfy our cravings for authentic south Indian food. After some delicious Idilis & Uthapas, we finally reached Kathgodam station at 1900hrs. We bid Goodbye to Anil after paying Anil his dues and some generous gift for an excellent service rendered to us through out our trip. Since there was still some time we kept our luggage in waiting room which was surprisingly clean and waited for our train to arrive. Our train arrived on the platform at 2015 hrs and as soon as we loaded our luggage in our compartment we started to feel hungry again. A quick run at the platform yielded nothing but the phone number of the same Udipi restaurant. It was only 15 minutes for departure but we thought of trying our luck. To our surprise the restaurant took our order and delivered just in time before the departure of the train. We once again devoured on the delicious Uthappa’s and retired for the night, taking with us the memories of a wonderful 8 day trip to the hills of Kumaon.
Kumaon hills have a timeless beauty and an eloquent grandeur.
Travelling in the Kumaon region was an extraordinary experience. Its breathtaking beauty makes a frame of a paradise on earth at each and every turn leaving the heart and the soul craving for more of all things pristine. Ranging from star-studded lakes by the night that look stunningly emerald in the daytime, the lush green step-farms on the hills, the glorious pine trees, the rich vegetation, spectacular sunsets, magnificent fruit orchards, boating, golfing, adventure sports, long walks, treks, the friendly-contended people – the experience of exploring in the Kumaon region gives the notion of timelessness, of no beginnings and no ends. It inspires creativity of the highest order, poetry and freedom – it draws one to go back there again and again and to return each time with a bundle of positive energies. No wonder then, that at times it is even known as the Switzerland of India!
Binsar : Tourist Rest House, KMVN
Phone No: 05962-210176
Tariff : Rs 1500 for Super Deluxe Room (MAP)
Chaukori : Tourist Rest House, KMVN
Phone No: 05962-210176
Tariff : Rs 900 for Cottage (EP)
Kausani : Krishna Mount View
Phone No: 05962 258008, 258022, 258168
Tariff: Rs 1200 (EP)
Nainital: Classic- The Mall
Phone No: 05942- 237704
Tariff: Rs 2500
Innova- Ex Kathgodam – Rs 1900 per day all inclusive.
Driver: Mr Anil Mobile: 09719276904