Saturday, July 2, 2016

Kumaon Diaries: Around Nainital

On our first morning in Mukteshwar we rose to a breathtaking view. There were hues of orange which had started appearing in the sky, gradually announcing the onset of another day. The colours kept changing, different shades with every passing moment and then came the first rays of the rising sun , somewhere from beyond the mountains. Silence which had prevailed during the night was now being broken by morning melodies .This surreal day break made for an amazing start for the day. We went out for a stroll, a refreshing one, no dust, no noise, no pollution . It was  early in the morning and the day's routine had just begun. There were other resorts  as well nearby. With the number of vehicles parked outside, it was fair to assume that there were quite a few others who had taken time out to  stay in the rustic environs of Sargakhet.
Hues of Kumaon
Sunrise in Mukteshwar
After a nice breakfast courtesy Panditji we were raring to go, having planned to spend the day in Nainital, the epicenter of tourism in Kumaon. The challenge however was in reaching there, our driver obviously did not know the way and neither did we. We took some directions from Panditji, but his typical local accent meant that I could only follow it partially. We set out assuming that we would figure out the route somehow, but only a few kilometers through in our journey we took a wrong turn. We checked and rechecked but it seemed all the roads went to Nainital, so I resorted to Google Maps again to get back on track. As we drove on following Google's navigation there came a stretch from where we got a clear view of the snow capped peaks, one of them was Nanda Devi. The compelling view of the mighty Himalayan peaks made us stop for a while, it was a clear day with no haze and peaks on the horizon were clearly visible. It was like looking at the Empire State building from the roof of the tallest building in Mumbai, perfect spot of a profile picture.
The Nanda Devi
Majestic peaks of the Himalayas:The one on the right is Nanda Devi
After finishing our photo-op we started again, and then came what turned out to be the interesting part of the journey. I remembered Panditji mentioning Ramgarh when he gave us directions to Nainital, so when Google maps asked us to take a right turn which coincided with a board showing Talla Ramgarh we followed. A few kilometers and a left turn later the alarm bells started ringing again,  especially when we came across locals playing  cricket on the road we were on, surely that was not a good sign. So I had to resort to the manual compass again. Luckily the road we were on did go to Nainital, albeit it was under construction. We were supposed to reach Kaichi where we would join the normal traffic but it  was a risk. The upside was the stunning beauty of this route, it was aloof, pure and untouched. With all the prayers going on in our mind we thankfully reached Kaichi( later going through one of the guide books on Kumaon I got to know that it is place of religious importance and is really revered in the region). Nonetheless we were happy to be on a busy and running road again and reached Nainital in about half an hour from there.
The Mall Road at Nainital
Mall road at Nainital which runs parallel to the lake
It was almost noon by the time we reached Nainital. Beautiful emerald green waters of the lake surrounded by hills was a wonderful sight. Parallel to one of the banks of the lake ran the Mall Road of Nainital, a busy thoroughfare, it had already started swelling up with people. Hordes of tourists, beaming with energy and enthusiasm walked up and down the road. There has the beautiful lake on one side and an array of souvenir shops, local crafts, restaurants, cafes and food stalls on one side. Quite obviously many queued up for a boat ride in the lake, others like us strolled along , soaking in the vibrant ambiance.
Faces in the Crowd
One of the many  stalls on the Mall Raod , this one was selling head gear for winters
You are bound to be approached by guides in a place like Nainital and one of them came up to us offering packaged tours to some touristy spots around. There were two options to choose from. Considering the paucity of time and the fact we still had to figure out the way back when we returned to Mukteshwar we chose the shorter package which covered some 6-7 points. A rickety Omni van came within a few minutes. We started our tour and immediately we were scaling a very steep gradient , on our way to the point of Himalaya Darshan. The small van was at full load, you could hear its small jittery engine giving its all to move up and ahead. The place was crowded, a long queue of cars who were also on duty were parked outside a watch tower A narrow spiraling staircase went up to the viewing balcony from where the tall snow clad peaks of Himalayas were visible. I took the service of a guy with a telescope, at a rate of Rs.50 he showed me the Nandadevi and Trishul two of the major peaks visible from there.
Trishul
Himalaya Darshan: Catching a view Trishul
Once our Himalyan Darshan was over we were offloaded on to a Alto and drove off to  the next "point". It stood right above the lake on  one of the hills above Talli Tal. From there you could see a lovely panoramic view the Naini Lake below, shaped like a mango. It was a lovely panoramic view of the lake below.
The Mango Lake
Naini Lake
In the next half an hour we covered Khurpatal, a small lake amidst the settlements around Nainital, stopped at the twin attractions of Lover's Point and Suicide Point , the latter was a few feet below the other, irony or convenience I could not figure out.
Lover's Point
Lover's Point , a few steps below was the other one
On the other side of the road started the trail to Tiffin Top or Dorothy's Edge. The only way to reach there was through a horse ride, several man sat there ready to offer you one. We parked this for a trip we will make in future, perhaps when our daughter grew old enough to ride a horse.
Mountain Men
These  men would take you to the Dorothy's Edge , helping you with the horse ride.
So we were back on the Mall Road within two hours, our short and sweet tour had given us a glimpse of the scenic beauty which is present around this beautiful lake. After this quick tour The Mountain Cafe was just the perfect place to unwind for a while with its awesome pastries and coffee.
Sakley's
Sakley's Mountain Cafe is a perfect place to hang out with its delicious menu

In the meantime Mall Road had really got crowded, sunset was close and it grew colder. We figured out that the way to reach Mukteshwar was via Bhowali- Ramgarh and were shortly on our way back.

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