It was Dushera, which meant a welcome holiday amidst the long six-day work weeks at the factory. We decided to get away from civilization, which is quite a natural feeling when you are in the land of Forests and Factories - Uttaranchal. Our shortlisted options this time consisted of a Touch&Come overnight Dehradun trip or a drive to the picturesque forests of Ranikhet or the small temple-hill town of Mukteshwar about 85 km from Haldwani. Finally the Atheist in me lost and we decided to visit Mukteshwar.
Getting up at 6am on a Sunday is possible only when you have joined a coaching class at Dadar or for an exam at 7am in a B-School or when an interesting new place is lined up for travel. Thankfully this time it was the most pleasant one of the three. Leaving by 7.15am, we hit NH87 and took the detour off the Nainital road towards Bhimtal. Even the off-roads are great, which should come as no surprise if you have already entered Uttaranchal from UP. We drove for an hour and got a bit bored of the chilly weather making us sluggish. The car parked safely, we began a small, half an hour trek through the beautiful trees and the comforting sunshine.
With some warmth in the bones, we drove on for another half an hour past some breathtaking scenery devoid of any human beings in the entire horizon. Uttaranchal is blessed. Period.
We drove near the Bhimtal Lake where we had been just a week ago and headed to the small town called Bhowali. After a short breakfast stop at a very cozy place overlooking the valley, called George’s, we took the road towards Ramgarh which happens not to be the one from Sholay. Duh!
Enroute the hills, a sudden moment of sanity made us realize how fucked up we were with the Fuel indicator at one stick. Thanks to some pretty awesome ‘Crisis Management’, 7 Bisleri bottles (filled with a suspected 33% Petrol, 33% Kerosene, 33% No-One-Knows-What) were purchased for 100 bucks each just to Play Safe. Finally we reached the temple at 11am and expected to see a grand 350 year old Shiva temple. Reality as often the case is a letdown of epic proportions. Not choosing to capture the disappointment of the small temple structure, we captured this view looking down from the temple.
The rocky cliff seen above is the famous Chauli ki Jaali, where legend has it that women who take out their head out of some hole amidst the rocks is blessed with a baby. Of course we headed out there immediately, our reasons being only slightly different – Rappelling and Rock Climbing.
The cliff has a safe height of 20m fit for adventure after which it becomes dangerous. Spending about 45 min and Rs. 800 for two people for both activities, we drove away from the temple to explore the ‘main market’ of Mukteshwar which had exactly 4 shops and a restaurant. No trip to a hill station is complete without having Maggi, and this one was no different! We drove past the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) where we came across a rather interesting sign board.
Since there was not much to be done on the way back, we decided to stop randomly at places, clicking and enjoying beautiful sceneries like this one below.
When the mood gets a bit cranky, nothing like Chocolate to get things back. A European styled shop claiming to offer local made chocolate at rates upto Rs. 1800/kg made us salivate and sure enough we bought the costliest chocolate at the store.
After driving on for a further hour, we finally stopped at a ‘Tea Factory’ sign board which lead us on a half a km downhill detour through some of the most amazing Shire-like (LOTR) homes. The factory was not in operation that day but the shop and the Tea Gardens were open to visitors (possibly just the two of us in the whole day). Though the Himalayas aren't really known for its Tea plantations, the sights were just as pretty as the Nilgiri ones.
Already tired with the trekking, rappelling, rock climbing and the walking around, we decided to drive to Bhowali and then through Sattal, yet another lake in the Nainital district. Though nothing extraordinary, the lake was again pristine with just one other gang around. On the way back, for the first time in the day, navigation on Google Maps ditched us and the path shown ahead turned out to be a non-drivable, walk-only road. This resulted in a 15 min extra drive and we reached Haldwani at 7.30pm.
The day had just got more interesting for my partner-in-crime as Firefox had opened an outlet in Haldwani barely 24hr ago. With her long intended Firefox Target 21 speed All Terrain Bike being available, Rs.20,000 quickly exchanged hands and the result was one beaming kiddo. The night was then aptly concluded at midnight continuing from its early morning temple start, with the roadside Ramleela at Kathgodam. We in our metros can never challenge the sights and spirits of a small town where the whole family enthusiastically turns up in their festive attire to watch the same 3hr Ramleela year after year. Perhaps our materialistic world would do well to ask itself some of the questions we have forgotten to ask ourselves over time. Why do we exist in the first place, for example.. The answer that we find out, might well be - Traveling!
Photos: Galaxy Note 2