When we were young summer breaks meant time to go to grandparents in villages to enjoy sunbaked mangoes and litchis. I still have a fond remembrance of plucking mangoes on my own from the farms sitting on the shoulders of caretaker of our farm. But rapidly changing society has snatched that opportunity from our kids, for whom summer break means more of TV, Videogames, and cricket at the apartment ground. The world no longer opens their eyes and ears to the warmth of morning sun and sound of chirping birds. We are indeed living in a concrete jungle. I had also stopped taking these breaks but this time when my kid's first summer break from school came I wanted to switch off from here and go to same old places. Hence the plan for Uttarakhand culminated. If you are trying to build your itinerary for this DEVBHOOMI - Land of the GODS there will be two alternate options you will face is the choice between Kumaon and Garhwal region.
Both are unique and bedrock of Himalayas but still have different things to offer. Garhwal region is the land of Ganga and boasts of all major Prayag starting from Rishikesh-Haridwar to Rudraprayag and Joshimath. Coupled with Auli the Switzerland of India it is a very inviting destination and one should definitely try this once in life at least. But this area is also home to Kachha mountains or mountains that are more prone to landslides. Most of you will remember the recent flood situation in this area and that was the reason we struck off this option. instead, we choose Kumaon region that has more of greener and peaceful hills all around. It starts with Corbett, Nainital and goes up to Munsiyari the last frontier before the mighty Himalayas begin. This stretch is home to multiple glaciers and a place to falling in love with nature again and again. All the reviews and news that I read showed some good road conditions throughout and promised awesome views of Himalaya and so the choice was made swiftly.
But then what do you roam in Kumaon, being very near to the capital the place has become too commercialized and it's losing its pristine beauty and calmness in the process. The only way to reach this place easily is flying to Delhi or Dehradun and then taking a cab from there. Although people from Eastern India like Bengal also prefer to take a train till kathgodam and then take a cab from there. Either way, it will be a road trip around these places and during winter which lasts between Nov-April most of the areas receive snow and visibility is a bare minimum. The roads are long continuous one and even if you want you can not bypass places like Nainital, Corbett, Bhimtal. One can plan to add these places as a stopover and keep on going further inside to some amazing offbeat places that really brings out the best of the region mesmerizing you with its tranquility and awesome views of Himalaya. Our trip came up well with mapping these natural oases with our needs as we finalized the following 5 destinations. 1. Munsiyari 2. Chaukori 3. Pithoragarh 4. Bageshwar 5. Binsar The itinerary that we followed was Delhi-Corbett-Kausani via Ranikhet-Munsiyari-Chaukori-Pithoragarh-Bageshwar-Binsar-Bhimtal-Delhi. We tried keeping travel time to a bare minimum so that it does not take a toll on my daughter and wife. And you can also take a similar route if you do not like the long circuitous mountain routes because some stretches like the one between Kausani and Munsiyari are on moderate to tough in terms of drive comfort as I will cover later in detail. But it's unlike Ladakh and you will not have breathing problems as its pretty much covered in long Pine trees everywhere you go.Corbett National Park: The entry to the Kumaon region being guarded by fiercest of them all the king of the Jungle himself. The place is an oasis for Tiger Safari and probability of a sighting here during early morning near waterbed is very high as compared to many other National forests across India. The place is filled with farm resorts but one of the most sought after remains the KMVN (Government Financed) that is nestled inside jungle unlike any other. We though stayed in Maya Resort which once used to be a riverside resort but due to canal redirection no longer enjoys the view and should be booked only as a night stay like we did. With an attractive all-inclusive pricing and some good home cooked food, it is a good place to spend a day or two. Safari could be booked online in advance or through your hotel for last minute plans. The cost is Rs 4000 for Jeep and 3200 for Elephant Safari and it includes pick and drop to all the major resorts of the area. At the Park gate, there are options to go for Elephant ride as well which my Kid liked a lot. Although Corbett was the briefest of our stay as it took us almost 6 hours to reach here from Delhi Airport and it was very Hot outside but we still have the picturesque setting in our mind for this jungle.
Places to Visit:
National Park Safari Corbett Museum followed by Corbett Waterfall both of which are situated almost next to each other Important Points: Museum and Park gate closes at 5 PM Museum is around 30 minutes drive from park gate Most of the resorts do not have adjoining markets so pack your bags accordingly Safari during peak season are hard to get in morning so book in advance here Ranikhet: the Second day after breakfast we started off to Kausani. The journey time was showing 5 hours but our plan was to take a detour of Ranikhet as it was on the way. Ranikhet is a small hill station that has military written all over it. This place houses one of the most dreaded armed force of the world namely the Indian Army. The place is naturally green and has been well maintained by Military. Although being a small place it gets crowded too soon. Our first visit was Girjya Temple a beautiful and very famous temple situated atop a small hillock with only stairs as the access point. The magnificent Kosi river passes alongside touching the feet of the goddess. The landscape of this temple makes it a must stop before heading to ranikhet. As this place is very near to Corbett so one can cover it in few hours from the main park as well.
Baba HaidaKhan Ashram which was made by Bhole Baba as he is fondly called here. The Haidakhan Ashram covers a quite big area including three different levels, the main Ashram, Fakirabad and the Gufa Side and offers a good view of the valley. it is a very chilled out place to come sit and enjoy the beauty of nature all around.
Next in line was Jhula Devi Temple which has a long story of getting wishes fulfilled by Goddess Durga for all the pilgrimage. But as we moved towards the place we found that Army for some unknown reason had decided to close the direct route and the detour would have taken additional time of 2 hours. With a heavy heart, my wife agreed to skip this location. The road closure also meant we were deprived of visiting the very famous Chaubatia Orchard. If you are in Ranikhet don't forget to try this place, besides having some amazing viewpoints amongst the apple and other fruits trees are the guided tours that are on offer here. You will see some very interesting plants here and be hearing about them through the widened eyes of the caretaker there will make it worth every penny spent. Best season to visit is during July-August when orchard has fruits on trees. It's so tempting you will have a tough time not drooling here.
So after having some pizza in Pizza Talk Cafe that is situated just near the Taxi parking area and serves some decent Pizza options, we continued our journey to stop at Golf Course. Situated at height of 6132 ft it is one of the most challenging and beautiful Golf areas and though you will need Membership to play here you can easily take a tour of the place free of cost and have some amazing clicks. Naturally built with reusing the existing Alpine cover all around the place the place is majestic in sight and keeps on switching between vibrant colors of Rainy season to an earthly look of Brown during Summer. We were greeted by an amalgamation of brown and green and was a wallpaper like a view.
Kausani: The remaining drive was peaceful with my daughter and wife both sleeping peacefully in the back and myself engrossed in Kindle. It took me around 8 hours to cover this itinerary. We reached Kausani around 6 pm and checked into our resort for next two days called as Nature Valley Resort. Had seen some very good review of this place on TripAdvisor but I guess reviews could be misleading sometimes. Ok, maybe not completely because what they lack in Room Quality and overall ambiance they compensate by their excellent service.
The rooms which we were first put had a very gloomy look maybe because it was a corner one and one side was covered by some kind of storage. We asked for a Room upgrade but were told it's a busy weekend and all other rooms were booked. I was disappointed but while coming down I saw one room open at my floor itself that was on the other side of the property and at least had an open area all around. I enquired about it and although the service staff was a bit reluctant to change the room I finally managed to get it done. After initial hiccups, the stay otherwise was issueless with some very good food and equally good Service staff. They pampered by daughter a lot and allowed me to relax. There was an excellent view of the valley from all the rooms and it would be really awesome to stay here during snow as we could see from the pictures.
Next morning we planned to visit Anashakti Ashram, the place where Gandhiji spent some good amount of time creating the Anashakti Yoga Book. The place is known only as ashram around here and should be visited to see some very old and rare photographs of Gandhiji and other national leaders who gave this opportunity to enjoy the free air. The place has a beautiful view point and it was here that we had our first glimpse of Snow capped Himalayas.
The staff there told us the view is better on cloudless days. There was a beautiful quote here that I guess encompasses all in simple words. It was part of Gandhiji letter to Sumitranandan Pant, who actually belonged to this pace and has a small museum showcasing his handwritten poems nearby. It read"I see the magnificence of the Himalayas here and white beauty all around and it appears The grandeur of Himalayas has made the Kausani like a love-stricken girl who has wrapped herself in a green shawl all around out of sheer shyness". What a wordplay and we thought Gandhiji only knew Ahimsa.
If you don't take the right turn to enter the Ashram you can continue on an uphill that takes you to Eco Park a great place to unwind amongst the bountiful nature. A hidden picnic spot which is not even listed amongst the travel destinations and we also reached here just because we lost our way to the ashram. We could have covered Baijnath Temple as it was only around 30 min drive from our place but we left it for last day as it was in any ways en route to our next destination of Munsiyari.
We instead spent the day roaming around the Tea garden which is not as majestic as you would see in Ooty or Darjeeling but still a place to stroll. You will find shawl factory there as well but as we came to know later it was just a rebranding shop selling Ludhiana Items under the pretext of the Local cottage industry. Rudradhari Falls is also a recommended place here but we left that as it requires to cover some hundred of steps to reach the bottom and I wasn't prepared for the trek with my daughter. So maybe next time but if you are travelers without kid you should go here especially when its monsoon.
Best Places to visit:
Girjya Temple Jhula Devi Temple Golu Devta Temple Chaubatia Orchard Golf Ground Baba HaidaKhan Ashram Anashkati Ashram Eco Park Sumitrananadan Pant Museum Rudradhari Falls and Cave Temple Important point: The place is good only in snow otherwise not much to see here except the temple The place has a small market and if you are traveling with Kid buy your own ready to use Milk at plains. During April weather is just idle don't carry lots of winters wear, a jacket is enough. Roads are not a problem in this stretch. Part II continues here