When one day papa came home announcing his extended weekend in the January of 2012, we set the records straight on not letting this prospect pass by without making most of it.” A vacation” was the common chorus but for the next few days indecision surmounted as every soul in the family kept coming up with diverse suggestions. From Udaipur to Ooty to Solan(HP) and Tamil Nadu, each one of us had an exquisite and well thought after destination decided complete with the travel itinerary in place. With the weekend nearing without a place decided, papa put to use the age old method of choosing from options- draw of lots. And so the trip to our hometown, Nainital, was planned.
Go. Not go.
We, siblings, were very reluctant at the idea of visiting our hometown as a vacation. “Boring it would be”, my sister said as she sat stuffing her pink pullover in the baggage. True. We were part befuddled and part sceptical of the thought of a hill station as a vacationing spot for winters. “Tamil Nadu or even Ooty would have been a better alternative”, I said adding to the already puzzled atmosphere. Mother said nothing. With her expressions anyone could tell she didn’t want to spoil what treats Nainital had in for us. But as it was, with an unsettling and uncomforting heart, we sat in the Toyota Innova at about 6 in the morning to head to Nainital.
On the way, the major halts were only at Mc Donalds (within the delhi boundary) and a small dhaba (in Uttarakhand). I spotted plush green fields like the ones in SRK’s DDLJ (although I am not a big fan) and a leopard printed dog. We were pretty scared of it ( and were staring in rapt attention) till it barked and wiped off all our fears away. Travelling by road wasn’t a bad idea after all. Post numerous toll gates and amasses of traffic, we reached Nainital at 4.15 in the evening. Checked in to a government aided Sarovar Resort that had a beautiful view of the Naini lake. Did I say beautiful, already? Well, lets move on. With the sun almost down and we had the option of either staying back and relishing the resort food or meeting a few relatives who lived in close proximity of the resort. We chose the latter after weighing the possibility of having the rest of the days to us entirely if we could finish off with this assignment (of meeting relatives) that very moment.
The next morning was the official day one of our trip.
The hotel breakfast timing was very strict. Since a hill station and winters, the relaxation was till 9.00 a.m. only. Our assigned house keeper Pradeep would ring us at 8.00 with specific mentions about the breakfast menu. Quite a diligent person he was. We had the basic toast and omelette for breakfast, even though, there were quite a number of north Indian options available. Later, at about 10.00 a.m., with our cameras and bare essentials in place, lo and behold, started our very much averse yet anticipated vacation.
The first stop was a quite popular zoo in the name of the famous Shri Govind Ballab Pant. For those of you who have little to no background knowledge of Shri. G.B. Pant, you must have heard about the agricultural university in Utarakhand as well as the engineering college in Dehi, let’s just say that he is one among the very influential people back in Uttarakhand. Sorted? Lets resume. So, after climbing up a bit (it’s the hills, nothing would be on plain ground, dude!) we spotted three enormous letters erected at much height to allow proper public view. It read- ZOO.
Jubilant on finding it, we walked further to finally arrive at the gates that read- Ucchch Sthaliy Prani Udyan, Nainital (ofcourse, in hindi!) which means – Elevated animal park. More simply, a Zoo!
For an animal lover like me, there were quite a few species which I saw for the very first time. Like the Edwards and Silver pheasant (much like a hybrid of an eagle and a vulture, only less dangerous). There were all the components of a regular zoo except for the fact that it was elevated. The zoo had its bears, tigers, monkeys, vultures and deer in place. Oh yes, and I spotted a sleeping leopard too (please bear with my excitement) who was overwhelmed with the warmth of the sun and was calmly basking in its glory.
After about an hour or so, bored as hell, we headed to a boat ride of the famous Naini Lake. Our rower was a native and while on our boat trip enlightened us about the history as well as the water recycling process of the Nainital residents. Quite a pro we had hired!
While boating in the massive Naini Lake, the breathtaking view almost astounded us with all its might. Boating, while in Nainital, is something I would recommend to every aspiring soul aiming to explore the expanse of beauty Nainital keeps concealed in itself. Initial reluctance was beginning to fast fade away with every turn of the boat. The charisma this place buried in its heart divulged with inclusive panache. Each of the settlements encasing the lake was totally awe-inspiring; enough to put a plush seven star to shame. The enormous lake left each of us spell bound. It was as if nature was looking at us and laughing in mockery at the colossal reserves of exquisiteness it clutched to his heart and all we could do was feel guilt at our earlier misconception of the place. “I sure would have missed this had I said no flatly the day daddy asked for my opinion”, I thought to myself. As I took a deep breath in, the coolness of the clean, pollution free air filled me with the much needed thrust that finally soaked me in the magnetism of the loch. Still revelling in its beauty, it was suddenly time to alight.
Way to snow!
On our way back, some residents, we spoke to, excitedly mentioned the snow covered peaks and how we were in luck for being “at the right place on the right time”. I hadn’t seen natural snow ever in my life before that. “Real snow?!!” squealed my sister. We all thought it to be another petty gimmick to attract tourists and earn hefty amounts. But mom dad, being devoted to their homeland, affirmed straightaway and hence, we headed to see “snow”.
The trail that led to the snow peaks had a charm of its own. Looking down from our car what we saw was indeed splendid. Settlements although clustered.
But the landscape left me entirely speechless and enthralled. All I did for the first few moments was gawk at the development in rapt attention. It was exactly like those decorations we did in school for Christmas. Cotton like thing enveloped the masses of mountains. And the one thing that I couldn’t believe was I didn’t feel chilly at all. No one around me felt freezing. A lot of other people had removed their cardigans and mufflers. Amused at our perplexity, a native clarified, “You won’t feel cold till the snow is there. Once it starts melting, that’s when the air around turns freezing”. Expressing my indifference towards the showered gyaan, I walked towards the mountains to actually touch and feel and oh! What feeling it was!!! ‘Totally mesmerised’ is how I would summarize the feeling. The cool breeze was not at all irritating me now. All I could do was gape like an idiot or drench myself in the realms of splendour.
After about 15-20 minutes of celebrating the snow, we got bored enough to move further with the itinerary.
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