On a Himalayan high

A visit to the Himalayas could be the perfect holiday plan for a respite from the routine. The Kumaon region in Uttarakhand, with its magical mountains, is a haven for those who wish to relax in the lap of nature.

An overnight train journey from Delhi, Kathgodam is situated at the foothills of the Kumaon range. Kath-wood, and Godam-godown was said to be a ‘godown for the wood’ felled in the mountains.

A cab took us along winding roads, uphill to Almora.

The cool air was rejuvenating, and the hills and valleys were clothed in verdant green.
En route is the town of Kainchidham. There are two loop-like roads, shaped like the handle of scissors, giving the name ‘Kainchi’ to the town. The Vaishnodevi Temple here on the banks of the Kosi River, has a beautiful shrine.

The driver pulled up at a wayside stop teeming with tourists. We soon knew why – the most delicious aloo parathas and moong dal vadas were selling like hot cakes! Road signs were good fun to read. One of them urged, ‘If you are married, divorce speed’.

Almora, which was the summer resort of the erstwhile Chand rulers, is a pretty town built into the hillsides. Numerous temples were constructed here over a period of time. Jageshwar has a cluster of temples, which exhibit the grandeur of the Chand architecture. The statues enshrined here continue to be worshipped. Pilgrims take a dip in the Nandini and Surabhi rivers flowing here.

The Kasar Devi Temple atop the Kashyap Hills, offers panoramic views of the
mountains. It is said to be the place of enlightenment of Swami Vivekananda.
Lord Golu in the Chitai Temple, is famous for dispensing justice. People appeal to Him by writing letters with requests for justice. A brass bell is offered to the Lord when they do receive justice. It’s amazing to see the thousands of bells and chits all over
the temple!

Next day, we set off on a nature trip. We headed for Binsar, situated 30 kms away, at an altitude of 8000 ft. Binsar is home to a variety of flora and fauna. We were surrounded by oak, deodar and pine trees. On the trek up the mountain leading to Zero Point, the guide pointed out a variety of medicinal plants. The black-faced langurs could be seen all over the forest. Two yellow-throated martins darted across our path and jumped into the gorge below. The region is home to the leopard, barking deer, mountain goat, wild bear, porcupine and the Himalayan black bear.

The view of the Himalayan peaks from Zero Point was disappointing. It was rather hazy, being shrouded with mist and clouds.

And then, we drove to the Lake District of UK. (No, not the United Kingdom – we mean Uttarakhand!). Nainital derives its name from Goddess Naina Devi whose temple is at the edge of the lake. A visit to the Raj Bhavan here proved worthwhile. Modelled after Buckingham Palace, the architecture is of ‘early domestic Gothic style’. It has a rich collection of 19th and 20th century weapons and other trophies. There is a deodhar tree, shaped like a trishul and a huge playground and school nearby. “Koi Mil Gaya was shot here,” exclaimed our guide, with pride.

The trolley ride up the ropeway to Snowview Peak gave us scintillating views of Nainital city and the lake. And then, the piece-de-resistance of the entire Himalayan experience was a view of the mountains. On the return journey to Kathgodam, we drove by the other lakes - Bhimtal, Saattal of which a few have disappeared, and Naukuchiyatal. According to a popular belief, if one travels through all the nine corners (Nau Kuchiya) of the lake, one would attain moksha, Well, the visit to see the wonders of Kumaon was certainly a step in
that direction!

The author can be reached at sudhathanjavur@hotmail.com)

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