The ever flowing streams teaches us that life goes on.
The ever flowing streams teaches us that life goes on.
Call it co-incidence, but I have been travelling more frequently to Uttarakhand this year than I ever did before. And although I am not really fond of the pebble laden trails here, the distinct Pahadi culture never fails to baffle me.
And the fact that the magnificent views here are still hidden from my prying eyes, I yearn to return here more often.
This unique experience was curated by the Transforming Travels and the organizers Chandni Aggarwal and Mihir Panda were their usual informative and cheery best.
We, a group of six travellers, boarded an Innova from Mandi House Metro station at 11pm in the night. After getting acquainted with each other, we retired for the day in our car seats.
This day started early at 6:30 a.m. as we reached our hotel Grand Galaxy, a few kilometres from Mussoorie. Since road journeys tend to leave you exhausted, I preferred to sleep till 8:30 although that comforting sleep felt like eternity.
The breakfast ritual was performed in the blazing sun at the hotel courtyard from where you could get a magnificent view of the Mussoorie-Dehardun landscape. The usual poha, poori and aloo sabzi tend to become tastier in the mountains, I feel.
Corn Village was the first place in our itinerary and before visiting the village, our first stoppage was at an elderly couple’s place. The husband Mr. Kunwar is the head of the village and his lady is a Canadian who decided to adopt the Pahadi culture. The lovely couple greeted us with a freshly prepared lemongrass tea and to sip it in the lap of the mountains while listening to the twittering of mountain birds was priceless! The couple have opened an English medium school for the children of Corn Village and are working tirelessly for literacy here.
The vibrant yellow hues of the sweet corn cobs welcome you as you traverse through the village. The smiling villagers while going around their daily chores make you forget the tiredness from the road journey. The smiling children will pester you to play with them while the elderly ladies will oblige when you ask for a photograph to capture their earthy beauty.
Lunch was a delicious affaire with make ki roti (corn chappatis), spiced wheat pancakes, sautéed pumpkins, mixed lentils, rice and sautéed greens. Each and every item was lip smacking to say the least.
After Corn Village, Landour was not far behind. It is at a greater height than Mussoorie (some 2000m) and delicate cold winds will hit you abruptly. The colonial touches are more prominent here – stony pathways, wooden cottages, British conifers, deserted lanes and of course the bakeries.
And I forgot to mention the very sophisticated boarding school kids scouting the Landour bakehouse. The bakery is pretty old – the puny roofs, the wooden interiors and the bone china cutlery will remind you of the bygone days. There is an extensive dessert menu with fresh bakes though I preferred to take chicken croissant sandwich which was ohh-so-warm. Not to forget the fresh ginger lemon tea with organic honey.
Sunsets are not to be missed when you are in the mountains and the view from Lal Tibba is unforgettable.
The day ended with a late dinner in the courtyard at the hotel and a sleep full of snores.
The trek towards the origins of Kempty Falls had to begin early though we started late at 9a.m. A half an hour journey from our hotel to Cloud’s End where George Everest’s home stands tall. The building is in a dilapidated state with some hideous caricatures of undying love drawn on the walls. Nevertheless, the views are a thing of beauty at the canyon. The short hike to the top was a warm up for our trek and we successfully passed it.
The trek towards the Kempty Falls origins is a descending one so expect sore calf muscles. You have to trudge very carefully as the well defined trail does get slippery in between. But the dense forests and the meadows encountered leave you breathless, quite literary. The trail foes through the Mussoorie Wildlife Sanctuary and we were told by some officials that bears and leopards are regular visitors there. Not to mention my chance encounter with a tiny snake that preferred to ran away instead of biting me.
When you finally reach the gushing crystal clear blue-green waters of the many streams which ultimately form Kempty Falls, you can not help basking in the enchanting music. The long journey of 11km lays forgotten in the quiet of these streams.
After snacking on sweet corn and chai, we geared ourselves for Dehardun where we decided to have a grand dinner at Kalsang Ama café. I somehow never understood how these mountain cafes are able to dish out better pizzas, pastas and sandwiches than our high grade Delhi restaurants. The café scored excellent on quality as well as quantity.
And as usual, we decided to retire for the day in our car seats and reached Delhi in the morning hours.
Such rural explorations with unchartered trails are a speciality of Transforming Travels. Not to forget the comfort factor involved during road journey as well as hotel/resort stay.
First of all, thank you to the very talented and resourceful organizers at The Transforming Travels for organizing this unique experience in the midst of nature. Chandni Aggarwal and Mihir Panda, you people deserve a salute!
So how about a calming trip with least use of your digital devices, comfortable stay at a colonial bungalow with wooden interiors, surroundings that speak organic nestled in the lap of Himalayas and amongst gleeful people who share your passion for travel.
We were picked up from Mandi House metro station, Delhi at around 10:30pm in a tempo traveller with flexible chairs that did not give your backs a resounding ache. We departed straight to Haldwani through Hapur with occasional stops in between.
Arrival – Day 1
The village in which we were going to stay for the next 1.5 days was an hour and a half drive away from Haldwani and was called Khatauni village. A light shower greeted us at Haldwani with the soothing shade of deciduous trees protecting us from a heavy spell. First time in Haldwani – too good!
We reached the Silent Valley Resort near Kalsa river at 8:30 a.m. and were warmly welcomed by the owners who showed us the bungalow cum house with rooms that exuded the old world charm.
A delicious breakfast followed in the lap of coniferous trees and the wild twittering of birds. How delicious it is to move away for a few days from the city and enjoy a raw unhindered experience of the mountains.
After a few hours rest, we went for a short downhill trek towards the river Kalsa. The dried pine leaves occasionally give you a surprise slip but the pleasant s walk in the shade of the towering flora makes you forget them.
We also saw the organic farms in the vicinity of the resort where organic peas, cauliflower and other vegetables were growing and the workers engaged in their routine work rituals. We were warmly welcomed by the hosts to savour the fresh green peas from the farm and needless, to say, they were sweet and mellow.
The flow of the river Kalsa was moderate but care should be taken while crossing the banks as the rocks are quite slippery. I was slightly careless and slipped quite a few times. In one such incident, my Ray Bans went into the flowing waters and I had to hanker along to get them back from the clutches of Kalsa.
Sitting on the rocks at the Kalsa river is a therapy in itself. The cool environment and the music of the gushing water transforms you into a blissful state.
After returning from our sojourn, we were greeted with a delicious and humble home cooked meal of chappati, masoor dal, sautéed potatoes and okra. All the ingredients are organic and grown in the family’s farm itself. What a joy it is to eat a home cooked meal away from home!
After this delicious lunch, I preferred to sleep in my vintage room for four hours! The cool surroundings with the comfortable environment of high ceiling roof and woody interiors aided in a relaxing nap.
We were greeted with a heavy downpour which lasted two hours. The breakfast was shifted to the indoor wooden dining area while savouring the beautiful Himalayan rainfall.
We geared for our trek to the Karkotak peak while leaving our main luggage behind which would be taken to Bheemtal by our traveller. The trek started after the crossing the Kalsa river and the initial terrain was simple and levelled. Gradually the trail started involving pebbles and dried pine leaves with breath taking views of the surrounding villages and the mountains.
Some views would definitely remind you of those old Bollywood numbers when the protagonists get lost in some coniferous forest.
For me, this easy trek was difficult because of my ankle inflammation and the knee injury sustained a day before. I was always the last one in the group, so at times, it got frustrating. Those 8.5km seemed like a lifetime because of the slower pace of my legs and continuous drizzling but after reaching the peak, those two aspects were readily forgotten.
The Karkotak peak is situated at an elevation of around 1700m and a clear pristine view of the Bheemtal and Nauchekital is clearly visible. You will spot some local kids playing merrily around the temple area and you will slightly wish to be amongst them.
The descent was easier and we met many local villagers there and enjoyed clicking a few pictures in the tall mountain grasses. An hour’s rest at a local guest house and an hour’s hangout at a pub made us forget the tiredness of the trek.
Special thank you to all the fellow travel mates, who made this trip unforgettable.
Picture credits to Divyajeet, Gaurav and Mihir Panda.