Kumaun-Day-3

Day 3: 21 December 2013: The Trek and various lakes & Pangot

The time to meetup outside the KMVN TRH for the trek was decided last night for 0700 hrs. As per the same, I freshened up and came out and promptly, Hooda Saab was there, waiting for his family. Shortly, Dheeraj also came out. In the melee, Shikha also got up and came out just to meet everyone. And then Hooda Saab’s wife asked Shikha as to why she’s not coming along. She explained that she has trouble walking and develops ankle pain, plus we have our daughter also, who would need to be carried if we both go. We’ll manage, it’s not too tough, we’ll take turns to carry your daughter was the answer. After a bit of persuading, Shikha also got ready to trek. And of course accompanying us was my little kiddo.

So we 7 started the trek which starts just before the KMVN TRH. There is a nondescript small board on a tree trunk that reads way to Shree Shakti Hidimba Dham, however, since it is facing the traffic coming towards KMVN, we missed it and went further where the path to Purna Tal meets the road. Hooda Saab, who had been there earlier too, identified that this is wrong path and started calling his acquaintances to know the correct path. We started going back towards the KMVN TRH when we noticed the small board and finally took the trail.

 

Purna Tal

Purna Tal

The board

The board

 

Now this trail is not a normal one on a flat surface. Actually you’d be climbing up a mountain, albeit on a lower gradient which ranges from 15 to 45 degrees incline and is almost 1.5 kms with loose soil and gravel. We took turns carrying my daughter and it was Hooda Saab’s son who was the clear winner in the race, marching far ahead of us.

 

Hitting off

Hitting off

Already tired

Already tired

Taking turns - with Dheeraj

Taking turns – with Dheeraj

And another one's turn

And another one’s turn

Trying to capture a bird, blinded by sunlight

Trying to capture a bird, blinded by sunlight

A look towards Sattal from the height

A look towards Sattal from the height

 

Sattal (translated in English: Seven Lakes) and area around is famous birdwatcher’s paradise. Because of the ecosystem created by the green mountains, shrubs and the seven lakes, namely Ram Tal, Sita Tal, Laxman Tal, Purna Tal, Garud Tal (also called Panna Tal), Nal-Damayanti Tal and Sukha Tal (also called Khurdariya Tal) which are said to be interconnected (although I could see that Purna Tal has shrink-ed and not anymore connected), hundreds of varieties of birds inhibit the place in season. We were able to hear the birds chirping and spotted a couple of them, however, couldn’t capture them as either I was carrying the kiddo or the sun was directly peeking into my camera lenses. Instead, I clicked these…

Flower in the jungle

Flower in the jungle

Pine-cone, sunbathed

Pine-cone, sunbathed

 

Huffing and puffing, we somehow managed to reach the gates of the Vankhandi Ashram and believe me, it was lot of relief, just having a look at the cemented paved stairs! πŸ™‚ What was supposed to be just 40 minutes’ trek at the max, too us nearly 1.5 hours to complete. Having washed our hands and shoes undone, we climbed up the stairs of the Hidibma dham and we were immediately welcomed by a baba, known as Aloo Baba with a prasad comprising of piping hot Jeera-Aloo, a Banana and hot tea! It was out of the world taste – OK, may be because we were too exhausted by the trek and would have gorged on anything eatable. πŸ˜€

 

Climbing the stairs

Climbing the stairs

Hidimba Devi Temple Gate

Hidimba Devi Temple Gate

Aloo Baba

Aloo Baba – Notice the camaraderie between the dog and the kittens

 

Aloo Baba is the one who has set up this entire Vankhandi Ashram and Hidimba Dham. It is said that he had been working for Indian Army, but then decided to do something for the nature, being destroyed by the foreign variety of trees like Pine & Poplar being propagated widely. Baba enlightened that these foreign varieties need more water to grow and thereby they suck the ground water, thereby causing erosion of the mountains and these are the main reason that the mountains have started to die. Babaji has planted over 500 varieties of local trees over the mountain and even the Government has appreciated his efforts.

Intresting things that you notice at the Vankhandi Ashram – the Aloo-Jeera is said to be never short in supply, whatever may be the count of people visiting the ashram. What I also saw was a dog and two kittens, completely at peace and in fact enjoying the company of each other. The Ashram, situated on the top, also gives a good view towards Nainital town.

Kittens

Kittens

The Hidimba Devi Temple

The Hidimba Devi Temple

Brooming the temple premises

Brooming the temple premises

That's Hooda Saab

That’s Hooda Saab

Leave your shoes, sandals and Ego here

Leave your shoes, sandals and Ego here

 

Having spent some time there, we decided to descend down. This time, Dheeraj carried my little daughter and I was supporting Shikha all the time since she’s always wary of loosing balance and falling down on the descent. Gradually, we climbed down, picking up and collecting some pine cones for souvenir. By the time we reached KMVN TRH, Dheeraj had already bathed and was having his breakfast. We also quickly had our bath and ate our breakfast. And then we decided to visit the various lakes around – Bhimtal first. Hooda Saab has also given the contact details of one of his friend who runs a heritage property at Mallital, a bit far away from main crowd of Nainital. We had now two options for the night – Mallital and of course camps at Pangot.

After a short drive, we arrived at Bhimtal, however, the place has commercialized much and then the influx of tourists during the daytime made it a crowded place. We decided to skip and reach Naukuchiatal instead which is just 5 kms away. Now when you are with your family, at times you have to indulge in some touristy acts and hence a unanimous decision from respective Headquarters was to go for the boating. The rates were 250 for half an hour and so we asked the boatman if we could enjoy the ride for full hour and he agreed for 500 INR.

 

Boats at Naukuchiatal

Boats at Naukuchiatal

 

The boatman enlightened us with his mix of facts and fiction – that Naukuchiatal means lake with 9 corners and if someone can view all the 9 corners from one place, he’s supposed to be very lucky and blessed. He also informs us that the lake is very similar to the map of India, if seen from a height (believe me, I checked Google maps and found some similarity if you assume certain things, but far from the map it appears as an inverted arrow-head!). Anyways, the ride was pleasant with cold wind blowing on face and it was interesting to hear the stories! πŸ™‚

 

Boatman with stories

Boatman with stories

Naukuchiatal

Naukuchiatal – some corners

Naukuchiatal

Naukuchiatal – some other corners

Ducks at Naukuchiatal

Ducks at Naukuchiatal

Looking at the waters

Looking at the waters

 

Freed up from the ride, Dheeraj’s son spotted a horse, strategically placed to attracted customers and so off he went for a ride. In the meantime, Shikha noticed a Photographer’s shop who would get the clients clicked in ethnic attire customized as wrap-around/hook-ons with instant print. She wanted our daughter to be clicked in the attire and I couldn’t disagree. And the little kiddo enjoyed the dress and being clicked! And next was time for other ladies to indulge! πŸ˜€ The time read 1600 hrs.

 

Wait.. wait..

Wait.. wait.. lemme pick up the Gagar

Ok.. better now!

Ok.. better now!

See! I'm happy! :)

See! I’m happy! πŸ™‚

Is there any water in this?

Is there any water in this?

 

Free from there, we wandered where to go – Pangot or Mallital. During the deliberations, it also came to my knowledge (albeit I don’t believe it.. he he) that Pangot has got bears in the woods and they smell kids easily from far away and since we were to stay in camps, it wasn’t too safe. While we were deliberating, Dheeraj came up with the idea why not we shall head back home as there was no point staying at Mallital – yet another lake that everyone has been multiple times. Shikha wasn’t quite agreeing to the idea as she had made up her mind for Pangot, however after some persuasion and a promise (not to be kept.. he he), she agreed to return.

It had to be a mad rush back home, trying to get as early as possible and since we wanted to get out of the hills before the darkness falls, we decided to skip our lunch and have something after we reach the plains. I enticed Shikha with the idea of having something at KFC too! πŸ™‚

And so we started and this time, we took the shortcut via Bhimtal that would not require us to go via Jeolikote. By around 1800 hrs, we were at Haldwani/Kathgodam and the traffic had grown a bit. We stopped at Udupiwala and had something to eat so that we can drive non-stop to Noida/Delhi. Hunger satiated, we rushed towards Noida and in the rush, even while Dheeraj was signalling me to drive further and then take a right turn at Haldwani, I mistook his signals and turned in what was a one way road, though barely 200 mtrs. I realized it late and had nothing to say sorry to myself. The traffic continued till the city limits and then it was a breeze through Rampur and then taking a right turn on NH24 to Noida.

P.S.: We did stopped at KFC. I informed Dheeraj of the decision and asked him to proceed ahead as they would not be interested in non-veg food. Eating half a bucket and half kept for home, we drove back and reached home around midnight.

On the hindsight, rushing back home a day earlier gave us time to get some sleep and shrug off the tiredness to attend office the next day. πŸ˜€

I hope you enjoyed the nice little trip. If you have any question around the places, how to reach, where to stay, what to see etc, feel free to leave a comment and I’d try to answer it as soon as possible.

Total Distance covered: Approx 303 kms

Driving Directions from Sattal/Bhimtal to Noida:Β  Traverse the route back to Country Inn, Bhimtal (check last post), taking extreme right when the Kutani-Sattal road meets the Bhowali-Bhimtal road to reach Country Inn. Drive ahead and pass by Bhimtal Petrol Pump. Just ahead, you have an option to take extreme right turn and go to Bhimtal through a shortcut, however, the road passes through congested market area, so it is better to avoid that road and drive further and just ahead of Paradise Hill Resort, take the right fork at next tri-junction to be on Kutani-Haldwani road which directly reaches Bhimtal.

From here, if you want to go to Naukuchiatal, take the left fork along the shore of Bhimtal and drive straight ahead on Naukuchiatal Road and turn left before SBI at the next tri-junction. Further ahead, take the right fork at the next tri-junction to remain on Naukuchiatal Road. Drive further ahead and again take the right fork to remain on the Naukuchiatal Road. Driving on the most prominent road, reach Jungle Adventure Camp and then take the right fork to circumvent around the Kamal Tal (now reduced to debris dump) and reach the boat stand.

From Bhimtal, to drive towards Noida/Delhi, take the right fork and drive along the Bhimtal to be on the Bhowali-Bhimtal-Haldwani Road. Keep on following the road until you arrive at a tri-junction and then take a extreme right turn on the right fork. Just ahead, take the left fork (you may take the right one as well, which goes around the HMT factory and joins back the same road. Further at the tri-junction (this is where the road we missed while going towards Mukteshwar), take extreme left to go towards Haldwani. Drive straight ahead and reach Udupiwala on your right. Keep straight and pass by Kathgodam Railway station and further ahead the Haldwani Stadium. You might see a marker to Delhi just ahead, but that is for oncoming traffic and supposed to be one-way. Drive a little ahead to pass by Pankaj Mall and then take right turn on Rampur road. Keep straight on the road to pass by Tanda Range forest and further Rudrapur. Keep on the straight road to pass by Bilaspur and then Rampur. At Rampur, take a right turn at the T-point on NH24. Drive straight ahead following NH24 and signages to take Moradabad Bypass and driving further ahead, reach KFC to your left at Gajraula. Driving following NH24 straight, pass by Garhmukteshwar followed by Pilakhuwa (a handloom hub) and Ghaziabad. To reach Noida, take a right turn at sector 62 T-point or if you want to reach Delhi, continue following NH24 across the Yamuna to reach the Millenium Park.

Google Map directions for Sattal/Bhimtal to Noida: http://goo.gl/maps/XkkpH

Kumaun-Day-1

Day 1: 19 December 2013: Reaching Mukteshwar

As year end was approaching, many friends at DevilOnWheels were planning for an escapade in search of solitude and finally what we zeroed in on were Mukteshwar, Sattal (and other tals around Nainital) and Pangot. It was desided that we will spend one night each and the dates were finalised as 19th to 22nd December. Nainital was kept deliberately out of the itinerary as it would be crowded – as always and we were in search of tranquility. Pangot, because it happens to be bird-watcher’s paradise! Initially, we formed a large group of around 20, but gradually the numbers dwilled down and finally we settled down to just two families – Dheeraj with his wife, son, plus brother-in-law – Gaurav, and me with wifey and li’l daughter who was 15 month old – in all 7 persons in two cars.

We had decided to meet near the CISF camp on NH24 as that is the route to take. Dheeraj was coming from Dwarka and we had decided to synchronize drive times so as to avoid any long waiting time and hence we decided to meet at sharp 0600 hrs. Now getting ready early in the morning, when you’ve a lady with you and a kid too, and to top that, when you’re used to get up at 0700 hrs and that too on alarm – was the first challenge. However, since we had planned in advance and packed our bags, I managed to leave our residence by 0550 hrs. Ringed Dheeraj and he said that he was approaching the meeting point, however, said that he was crossing a bridge. That should be the Hindon bridge! And it means that he missed the CISF camp. I asked him to stop immediately after crossing the bridge and I’ll be there in next 5-10 minutes.

 

Kumaun1

 

Reached there shortly and then I met Dheeraj for the first time, though we’ve known each other for longer – online! πŸ™‚

Pleasantries exchanged, we started the drive. It was still dark and a thick fog was settling very quickly reducing our speeds as the visibility reduced to just couple of meters.

Kumaun2

 

None of us had our breakfast and we decided to stop somewhere for some quick bite. I knew from my previous experiences about Skylark Tourist Dhaba, just 8 kilometers ahead of crossing the Ganga river at Garhmukteshwar which serves fresh and tasty food. Communicated the same to Dheeraj as he was following me and by 0745 hrs, we reached the Dhaba. The average speed was less than 45kmph!

Kumaun3

 

We had some parathas and sandwiches plus tea for breakfast, settled the bill and then decided to run non-stop to Mukteshwar. The time read 0830 hrs. However, with a small kid, you are bound to take some breaks – nappy changing, feeding, … And I tried not to loose time by driving ahead full speed, taking breaks while Dheeraj was driving non-stop and then catching up with them. At Moradabad bypass toll, we two were again back to back. We purchased some guavas there and munching on them, we drove ahead to reach Rampur.

 

Kumaun4

 

The fog was still there, but it dispersed after we were about to reach Moradabad.

Kumaun5

Kumaun6

 

We had deliberated earlier on the route and instead of taking Moradabad-Tanda-Bazpur-Kaladhungi-Nainital-Bhowali-Mukteshwar which was reported to be too much troublesome and full of huge craters that could swallow a truck (literally!) around Tanda, we had decided to go via Moradabad-Rampur-Suar-Bazpur-Kaladhungi-Nainital-Bhowali-Mukteshwar as the same route was taken by our friend – Ashish and was reported to be better. Since I wasn’t aware of the route and my GPS was not getting the route either, I let Dheeraj drive ahead and guide us for the route. As we entered Rampur, we took the correct left turn towards Suar. Finding many intersections that were confusing, Dheeraj decided to ask for the directions, however, he missed to ask for the directions to Suar and instead asked for directions towards Nainital and the people there directed us to a narrow lane which eventually led us to the Nainital road going via Rudrapur-Haldwani (Check the maps to see what we went through!).

The traffic of all sorts – trucks, tractors, tempo, bikes, cycles and bullock karts ensured that our progress remains dead slow. And to top that, the road condition became worse with big potholes and broken roads. The moment you’d think of overtaking a slow moving vehicle, you’d encounter a big crater and then you fall back in line. Driving slowly ahead, I stopped at the Punjabi Potli, 22 kms ahead of Rampur (just 8 kms short of Bilaspur) to have some tea and feed something to the kiddo. Dheeraj was following me and so I tried waving down so that they could stop, however, he couldn’t see me and drove ahead. I called up Dheeraj to let him know that I had stopped and will catch up in sometime. The time read 1125 hrs.

 

Kumaun7

 

Starting from the Punjabi Potli, we pass by Bilaspur and soon approach the UP-Uttarakhand Border at Rudrapur, after which the road conditions improved. Dheeraj was nowhere to be seen and so I pressed the pedal. However, navigating through the city traffic at Rudrapur makes you a bit slow and I was guessing that once Dheeraj reaches the Tanda range, he would also pick up speed. Keeping up with the speed, soon we passed the Tanda range and as we were about to reach the traffic junction at Haldwani, I noticed Dheeraj two cars ahead. Haldwani is generally congested, however, traffic keeps on moving at slow pace. Soon we both were driving back to back and passed by Kathgodam Railway station.

 

Monkeys in the Tanda range

Monkeys in the Tanda range

 

From this point onwards, I wasn’t very sure of the route to take, although I had GPS maps working, so I let Dheeraj lead the way. The mountains had started…

 

Kumaun9

 

Driving ahead, we missed the right fork to Bhimtal, which would have shortened the distance by couple of kilometers and instead drove towards Jeolikote on the left fork. A bit ahead, Dheeraj stopped his car and so did I. Dheeraj’s son wasn’t feeling well and the motion sickness coupled with start of hilly drive made him throw again. Since he had by now thrown a couple of times, so he was crying and so we took time to pacify him, share some quick snacks (fried flattend rice with groundnut and salts and chips) as the time read 1330 hrs and it was almost time. Since we had plans of having lunch at Mukteshwar, which was still about three hours ahead (70kms odd), we shared some with Dheeraj so that they can munch while driving too.

 

Kumaun10

Dheeraj & Junior Devil

Dheeraj & Junior Devil

 

Starting from there, we passed Jeolikote and just ahead, we kept on the right/straight fork of the road so as to bypass Nainital town and passed by Ghodakhal (landmark Ghodakhal Sainik School), where the road from Tallital meets this road. We kept on straight and then took right near the Bhowali bus stand and moving ahead, took the left fork going towards Mukteshwar (around 40kms). The right fork here is the one that goes towards Bhimtal. Driving ahead, the road conditions detoriated a bit and we passed by Ramgarh. Apparently, commercialization has taken a big toll on the hills and we could see that majority of the peaks being devoid of trees and cement and concrete structures coming up just about everywhere – from small guest houses to big retreats! πŸ™

 

Kumaun12

 

Pretty soon, we left all those commercialized structures and it was soothing to eyes to see greenery again. We were about to reach the Oak Chalet resort and so Dheeraj called him. Surely enough, there were two persons waving us down to a property after couple of hundred of meters. We parked our cars to what appeared to be a beautiful property. The people introduced themselves.. a lean figure with dishelved and curly hairs – Hemu and the other one is Bahadur. Hemu is the one who mainly takes care of the affairs here. And then he tells us that the property that we are looking at just now is Somerset lodge. Oak Chalet, where our booking is, is a 10 minutes walk down. They say it is a nice walk and we would enjoy. Ok! What about the lugguage? No problem, they’ll carry. Fine! We’ll take the walk, but please guide us. No need sir, there is just a single trail, just follow that! The time reads 1610 hrs.

A word of caution – when in hills and you ask for distance to any place, whatever the answer is, whether in terms of distance or time, just double the amount! And so a 10 minute walk for them becomes a 20 minute downhill (and sometimes uphill too) walk for us. As we walk down the trail, we wonder whether this one property has owned up an entire mountain! The moment we approach first structure that could be inhabited, we ask a lady whether we have reached the Oak Chalet, but no! This is accommodation for people working on the farms, Oak Chalet is still a while ago. In the meantime, Hemu and Bahadur catch up with us, even when carrying all those lugguages. He says it is just ahead of the bushes and so we keep on walking and many bushes ahead, we finally reach the Oak Chalet! The time read 1630 hrs.

 

Kumaun13

 

Soon after our lugguage arrived, we checked in the rooms and boy! What big room with huge glass windows was this! Nice ambience!! Since we two families were the only guests, we had all the place to ourselves! πŸ™‚

 

Kumaun14

 

Soon, we were called for the lunch. The dining hall is in a separate building situated adjacent to Oak Chalet. This also doubles up as the library and has got a nice collection of travel books. A corner also had badminton rackets and corks to play with. We however, decided first to have lunch as the time was already 1720. Chapatis, Rice, Rajma, Raita, Salad and potato-cauliflower vegetable tasted marvellous, may be because we were really hungry?

 

The library

The library

Kumaun16

Delicious Food

Delicious Food

 

Done with stuffing the stomach, the kids pickup the badminton rackets and started playing with just about anything – from cork, to small pebbles to big lemons that were on the premise. It was feeling really nice to be away from any sort of noise of traffic/vehicles, mountains all around that are green. It was getting dark and cold and hence we decided to rest a bit and then come back again at 2000 hrs when the bonfire will be lit followed by dinner. Dheeraj and Gaurav decided to go back to the car to get some items and while on return, Gaurav sprained his ankle and it swelled like hell! Fortunately, I always carry some pain killers pain cream and so we handed it over and advised him to get some sleep.

 

Kumaun18

 

At about 2030 hrs, I came out and inquired with Hemu if they were to start the bonfire. He said that he was in fact waiting for us only and so I asked it to be lit. Initially, I was all alone enjoying the bonfire and later joined by Dheeraj, his wife and the kid. My daughter was sleeping and hence Shikha also came down a while later.

 

Dheeraj & Family

Dheeraj & Family

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Bonfire

 

 

Half an hour later, we had our dinner and then we retired for the day.

Next: Exploring Mukteshwar & Sattal

CONTD…

Total Distance covered: Approx 330 kms

Driving Directions from Noida to Mukteshwar: Take Ashok Marg to pass by Shopprix Mall. At the next traffic intersection, turn left to go towards sector 62 – NH 24 traffic tri-junction. Turn right at NH 24 and keep on driving following the highway to pass by Crossing Republic and ABES Colleges on your right. Take the flyover to be on NH24, left diversion goes to Ghaziabad town. Keep on following NH24 to pass by Dasna, Masuri and Pilakhwa (Handloom hub) towards Hapur. Take right fork after Nizampur to be on the Hapur bypass road and pass by Babugarh and Simbhaoli to arrive at Skylark Tourist Dhaba on your left. Drive ahead and cross the Ganga river (Ganges) at Garhmukteshwar and pass by Gajraula. Further ahead, just after Pakwara (marked by Tirthanker Mahaveer University), take the right fork to go on to Moradabad bypass. After the bypass ends, turn right to remain on NH24 and drive towards Rampur. Enter Rampur (marked by a left turn and immediate bridge, NH24 is being worked upon and later a straight road from here will continue as NH24) and pass by DM Residence followed by Railway station. At the T-point just ahead, turn left to take NH87 (also called Nainital Road). Keep on driving and pass by Bhot, following which you arrive at Punjabi Potli to your left. Drive ahead straight and pass by Bilaspur and reach the UP-Uttrakhand border, marked by a gate. Drive ahead to reach Rudrapur and keep on driving through the city on the same road without taking any turn. At Chhatarpur junction, majority of traffic appears to be following right fork, however, take the left fork off NH87 to go via the Tanda range forest towards Haldwani, the right fork (NH87) goes to Pantnagar again to reach Haldwani through a longer route. Keep on straight on the road without taking any left or right cut and you’ll be passing through the Haldwani market. At next triffic T-point in the market, turn left to go towards Nainital, the right one is the NH87 coming via Pantnagar. Pass by Kathgodam railway station and keep on driving whereby soon the hills will start. Just ahead of Ranibagh, take the left fork towards Jeolikote. Driving ahead of Jeolikote, take the right fork (known as Bhowali-Haldwani road), the left one goes towards Nainital. Pass by Bhowali Sanitorium (TB Hospital) and Bus stand and then just ahead, take the right fork, the left one goes towards Almora/Ranikhet. Just as you pass by the market area, take the left fork (Bhowali-Ramgarh-Mukteshwar road) at next junction ahead of KMVN Tourist Rest House. Follow the road and at next tri-junction, take the left fork. Keep on following the prominent road and pass by Ramgarh and just ahead, take the right fork to reach Mukteshwar

Google Map directions for Noida to Mukteshwar travel that we took: http://goo.gl/maps/cojoH

Google Map directions for Noida to Mukteshwar travel via Bhimtal (317kms): http://goo.gl/maps/yu1yk

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