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-2

Day 2: 20 December 2013: Exploring Mukteshwar & Sattal

I had asked Bahadur last night about the sunrise time and he had said 0630. Not to miss the spectacular performance expected, I woke up at 0600, got fresh and by 0610, I was out of the room with my gears to witness the sunrise. However, it was still dark and not before 0650 hrs that I could see the first ray of light. However, the morning breeze was cool and I enjoyed the time while having a cup of tea and clicking anything and everything, everywhere. πŸ™‚ No one else braved the cold to come out. The sun was rising behind the hills and the sky was gradually turning fiery orange…

 

Kumaun21

Kumaun22

Kumaun23

Morning in the valley

Morning in the valley

Remains of the Bonfire

Remains of the Bonfire

 

Precisely about 0727 hrs, I saw the crown of the ball of fire rising above the hills, and rose it quickly – by 0730, it was all out playing with the clouds with its rays dancing burning up the entire sky. What a fantastic experience it was.. never before I had witnessed such a magic in the sky. I just kept soaking in the beautiful display that was there all for myself and kept on clicking too.

 

The Rising Sun - First view

The Rising Sun – First view

Out from behind the hills

Out from behind the hills

A wider shot

A wider shot, reflection in the sky

Closer look

Closer look

Firing up the sky!

Firing up the sky!

Completely out and climbing up

Completely out and climbing up

 

As the ball of fire rose, it created embers in the clouds…

 

Embers in the sky

Embers in the sky

Tearing the cloud cover

Tearing the cloud cover – light and clouds

 

Everything was basking in the light that was coming filtered through the clouds and I just kept on clicking.

Basking in Sun

Basking in Sun

A perspective

A perspective

Lighting up!

Lighting up!

Rays of hope - morning has begun!

Rays of hope – morning has begun!

Oak Chalet, lit up by Sun

Oak Chalet, sunbathing!

The kitchen - heating up!

The kitchen – heating up!

Rays drowning everything!

Golden Rays drowning everything!

 

It was about 0750 that this spectacular performance ended and this was when I ordered tea for everyone as it was time to get up! πŸ™‚ While we were out having our tea (second round for me!), my little kiddo woke up and upon not finding anyone in the room, started crying. We immediately rushed up and just see how the cry changes to smile and then laughter when she saw us and then climbed up to Shikha’s lap. πŸ™‚

 

Crying Baby

Crying Baby

 

Getting calm

Getting calm – smile appearing!

Smiling :)

Smiling πŸ™‚

Happy in mamma's lap

Happy in mamma’s lap

 

Taking some indoor shots while getting ready for the breakfast, we took a couple of shots of kiddo in the wooden almirah kept in the room and she too enjoyed fitting in the various sized compartments πŸ˜€

I can stand up here

I can stand up here

I can fit here too! :D

I can fit here too! πŸ˜€

And I'm super excited! :)

And I’m super excited! πŸ™‚

 

After getting over with daily rituals and bath, we came out for the breakfast, and while there was some time in getting it served, the kids enjoyed being outdoors with nothing specific to do. So while Dheeraj’s son started badminton with lemons, my li’l kiddo enjoyed climbing up the stairs, while me and Dheeraj continued capturing the place.

Badminton with lemons

Badminton with lemons

Kumaun49

Lurking from the window!

Lurking from the window!

Some day, I'll climb high! :)

Some day, I’ll climb high! πŸ™‚

 

We got ourselves clicked too!

With Papa

With Papa

 

Mamma's turn!

Mamma’s turn!

 

I want both together!

I want both together!

 

Last night, we had denied opting for non-veg food as Dheeraj and family are eggetarians and it won’t look good. So the breakfast in the morning had chapatis, potato & pea veggie and lip-smacking farm-fresh spinach. Everything that is offered for food is grown locally and the food really has taste into it. I in particularly overstuffed myself by finishing the last remaining piece of spinach in the bowl! πŸ™‚

 

Spinach - mmmmm.. Popeye's (and Papa's too) favorite!

Spinach – mmmmm.. Popeye’s (and Papa’s too) favorite!

 

Today afternoon was leisure as we had planned nothing of sorts and were to just visit the local Aanganbadi to distribute some stationery to local kids as part of DoW Causes and so we kept loitering around the place, basking in the warm sun. The time read 1215 hrs.

 

Trying my hand

Trying my hand

Captured Dheeraj capturing something...

Captured Dheeraj capturing something…

 

Finally, we asked Hemu to guide us to the local aanganwadi for the causes. We started through the trail and the plan was to go downhill to the aanganwadi.

 

The trail.. sunbathed!

The trail.. sunbathed!

 

While we were trekking the trail, Hemu called up his contacts in the village downhill and came to know that being Saturday, the aanganwadi’s close early and the one downhill in the village has closed now. Now unlike Ladakh, where kids live nearby and can be gathered anytime, Uttarakhand has people living sparsely and hence gathering the kids after they have left is an arduous task. Hemu then said that there is another aanganwadi uphill on way to Mukteshwar temple and we should go there for the Causes.

We talked amongst ourselves and decided that trekking uphill to Somerset lodge, coming back and then trekking again would be too exhaustive and so all of us including family and kids should go together with luggage. So while Dheeraj, Gaurav and Dheeraj’s son stayed halfway through the trail, I came back to Oak Chalet to inform Shikha and Dheeraj’s wife to get ready to go. Couple of phone calls exchanged, Dheeraj and Gaurav also came back as Dheeraj’s son started crying sitting idle halfway through the trail and then we had to have lunch as well!

Quickly, we finished our lunch and climbed up the trail to reach Somerset lodge. Hemu, Bahadur and others picked up our lugguage. The trek appeared beautiful!

 

Less of a tigress met us

Less of a tigress met us

Hiking up! Umph!

Hiking up! Umph!

Views

Views

 

While we had covered 3/4th of the trek, Hemu came back after gathering the luggage and then carried my li’l kiddo.

 

Hemu carrying li'l kiddo

Hemu carrying li’l kiddo

 

Man! trekking uphill was a task in itself!!

 

Uff...!!!

Uff…!!!

 

We started from the Somerset lodge towards Mukteshwar temple, Hemu being with us. Unfortunately, the aanganwadi uphill had also closed for the day. Perhaps the causes will need to be executed on some other trip. πŸ™

Next on the list was to visit Mukteshwar dham temple. We reached there, parked our cars and everyone except me went to the temple. This temple is said to be at least 350 years old and abode of Shri Mukteshwar Maharaj ji from whom the town derives its name. The temple is located on the highest hill in the town.

 

Mukteshwar Dham gate

Mukteshwar Dham gate

Ringing the bells

Ringing the bells

We're done

We’re done

 

Temple visit done, next attraction was Chouli Ki Jali which is famous for its vertical drop. While there is a paved way from the temple to Chouli Ki Jali, there is a shortcut trail too about which Hemu informed us. So we took the trail.

The trail to Chouli ki jali

The trail to Chouli ki jali

 

Chouli ki Jali is a wonder of nature, a natural latticework of rocks, which face upward inclined at an angle nearly 44 degrees as if they are coming out of the surface and trying to touch the sky. These projecting rocks seem to take various shapes based on your imagination. Due to the same, there are various folklore spread, one of them talking about some goddess fighting with some demon and also that touching the rocks helps with fertility to women!

 

I see a wolf. Do you?

I see a wolf. Do you?

 

Nevertheless, just at the edge, when you see below, the heart skips a beat – over 1000 feet of sheer vertical drop is what you see! This is made to good use as this place is said to used for rappelling and rock climbing. It is said that once paragliding was also done here, but the same has been stopped now.

 

The vertical drop

The vertical drop

vertical drop at chouli ki jali

vertical drop at chouli ki jali

 

 

Now when you are at such top of the world, you gotta get yourselves clicked! πŸ™‚

At the edge of the world :)

At the edge of the world πŸ™‚

 

There is a structure erected with raised platforms, purportedly to be used as rest area. A guy was running temporary tea-stall cum Maggi joint there. We did had Maggi and then he provided us very good froth coffee, beaten vigorously, and that too just for Rs 10!

Having our fill, reached back the parking area where Dheeraj distributed some causes items to the guides and taxi drivers there. We started to our destination of the day – Sattal and dropped Hemu on the way at the gate of the resort. The time read 1515 hrs.

 

The parking area

The parking area

 

Driving at ease, soaking in the nature around, we reached at Sattal in two hours.

 

Beauty and the Beast at Sita Tal

Beauty and the Beast at Sita Tal

Beauty and the Beast at Sita Tal- different perspective!

Beauty and the Beast at Sita Tal- different perspective!

 

We checked in with KMVN TRH at Sattal and rooms were available in plenty. The cottages were also available and I was inclined to go for it since the rates were also reduced owing to off-season, however, the manager stated that out of the two cottages, one was under repair and hence can’t be allotted. We decided to stay in the rooms itself. We spent the evening loitering in the KMVN campus itself and noticed a family consisting of Husband, wife and a son, coming in a Scorpio and checking-in into the cottage. Dinner was served around 2000 hrs which was tasty homely food.

After dinner, I was getting some fresh cold breeze when the person arrived. We talked about what brings us here and he said that he was a regular at Sattal and that he belonged to Kashipur. We talked about Nainital being overcrowded and farming and many of the things. He shared that he owned a huge farm at Kashipur and that he owned the Indane Gas Agency at Kashipur itself. Jitendra Singh Hooda was the name. By that time, Dheeraj also joined us and Hooda saab told us that we would not be able to execute causes as the Aanganbadi nearby would be closed, tomorrow being Sunday. He then informed us that there is some Vankhandi Babaji atop the mountain just behind the KMVN and that it would be a good trek if we are interested.

We agreed that me and Dheeraj would trek there in the morning along with Hooda family and we came back to our rooms after bidding good night.

Next: Vankhandi Ashram, Lakes and Pangot

CONTD…

Total Distance covered: Approx 51 kms

Driving Directions from Mukteshwar to Sattal:Β  Trace back the route till the KMVN TRH at Bhowali (check previous post for directions). At the tri-junction, take a sharp left and further ahead, take right on the Bhimtal-Bhowali road. At the next tri-junction, take extreme left fork to remain on Bhimtal road and pass by Woodbridge School. Further ahead, you’d find a large temple complex just besides the road. Drive ahead and take extreme right turn on the Kutani-Sattal road (If you pass by Country Inn, Bhimtal, it means you missed that fork, take a U-turn and turn left on the road). Drive ahead passing by Graphic Era Hill University campus. Drive ahead passing by Garur Tal and further ahead the parking barrier and arrive at KMVN to your right.

Google Map directions for Mukteshwar to Sattal: http://goo.gl/maps/5Arrl

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