Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Early Bird

nainital, uttarakhand, kumaon, morning, dawn

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark. ~ Rabindranath Tagore

nainital, uttarakhand, kumaon, morning, dawn

It was the morning we were to set out for Kausani from Nainital. So I woke up early at 5:30 that morning and went outside to observe the beauty and absorb the silence of dawn at Nainital. It has been my earliest morning capture so far. 🙂

The following shot was taken at Kausani at around 6:45 in the morning. I stood on the terrace for an hour waiting for the sun god to show up. But he was determined to hide behind the clouds that morning. The mountains and the Queen’s Meadow yonder were covered with a thick blanket of mist and the entire valley looked bluish in the pale morning light.

kausani, uttarakhand, kumaon, morning

Published in response to this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge – Early Bird.
Top post on IndiBlogger.in, the community of Indian Bloggers

Choukori to Almora – A Beautiful Journey Through the Hills of Kumaon

Almora, Choukori

This is the third part of my Nainital Trip Series published after A Memorable Trip to Nainital – The Lake District of India (part I) and A rain-drenched day at ‘Queen’s Meadow’ Ranikhet (part II). Hope you enjoy reading this one too 🙂

Hum jo chalne lage chalne lage hain yeh raaste/ aa ha… manjil se behtar lagne lage hai yeh raaste/ Aao kho jaaye hum Ho jaaye hum yun lapata /Aao milon chale jaana kahan na ho pata…

(Meaning: The road also keeps going as we continue our journey/It feels the journey is better than the destination/ Let’s get lost /Let’s travel with the road not knowing where to go)

The song from my favorite Hindi movie Jab We Met was buzzing in my ears. With winding hilly road as far as eyes can see, pines and cedars lining the road and sunshine on my shoulder (especially after two days of incessant rain) what else I could think of! It was a pleasant, sunny morning. We were headed for Almora after spending the last night in Choukori. Luckily, I could manage the front seat right in the driver’s cabin to enjoy the journey to the fullest.

Almora, Choukori
Sometimes the journey seems better than the destination.

Earlier that morning… we got up at 6:30 and rushed to the balcony of the hotel to get a glimpse of sunrise. It is something you must experience in Choukori, a secluded hill station in Almora District of Uttarakhand. But ‘thanks’ to the ‘Weather God’ we were again deprived of this natural phenomenon, just as we were in Kausani and Ranikhet. When the sun finally peeped out from behind the thick cover of clouds it was already 7:30. 😦

Angan Resort, Choukori
When the sun finally peeped out it was already 7:30

Nevertheless, Angan Resort in Choukori was a beautiful place to stay. There were groves and bushes all around. The garden was in full bloom with cosmos, marigolds and dahlias. The green slopes dotted with cottages created wonderful vista in the soft sunlight.

Angan Resort, Choukori,
That’s our resort in Choukori

But the ultimate joy was yet to come. As the morning grew older the mist dissolved and the sky became clearer. The Himalayan peaks – Nandakot, Panchulli, Trishul – all were shining bright in the daylight. It seemed that the pastures, the hills and the resort – the entire place was surrounded by an array of snow-capped peaks. It was AMAZING!

Just one day ago it was really difficult to imagine a sunny day like this. Weather changes so fast!

Himalayan peaks, Nandakot
Snow white Himalayan peaks were shining bright in the sunlight

The previous day, Kausani to Choukori has been a long journey via Gandhi Ashram, Baijnath Temple and Bageshwar where the rivers Gomati and Sarayu meet.

Gandhi Ashram also called Anasakti Ashram (‘Anasakti’ refers to the spiritual state of selflessness and non-attachment from materialistic pleasure) where Mahatma Gandhi wrote ‘Anasakti Yoga’ (The Gospel of Selfless Action). The ashram has a museum displaying some of the rare photographs of the Mahatma in various stages of his personal and political life.

Gandhi Anasakti Ashram in Kausani
Gandhi Ashram in Kausani – Image: Jean Pierre Chanudaud (Flickr)

Baijnath Temple is a millennia old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva (Vaidyanath, hence the name Baijnath). It is now an archeological site. Built in 1204 A.D. this temple is one of the oldest continuously worshipped temples in the country.

Baijnath Temple, Himachal Pradesh
Baijnath Temple

Still standing strong the temple is a silent witness of the River Gomati’s journey for over thousands of years.

Gomati River, Baijnath
Gomati River in front of Baijnath Temple

Coming back to where we started … we left Choukori for Almora at 9:30 in the morning.

I think the best thing about the journey from Choukori to Almora (Town) is that you can enjoy the view of snow-white Himalayas all along the way. Our route included Patal Bhubaneswar in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. Patal Bhubaneswar is a natural wonder – an ancient limestone cave with numerous mythological stories hidden in its womb. Descending into the grotto through a narrow opening in the rocks is a thrilling experience which will soon turn into a pleasant surprise as you reach the chamber at the bottom. Camera isn’t allowed inside. And I am in no mood to describe what is inside the cavern. This is for you to discover because some things are better to be discovered than found. 🙂

Hotel Shikhar was our immediate destination in Almora. Our stay in this moderate budget hotel was really enjoyable. Its strategic location allows easy access to the bustling town center and market. You can also spend hours sitting on the terrace watching at the Himalayas and soak in the scenic beauty of Kumaon hills.

Hotel Shikhar Almora
View from the hotel’s terrace in Almora

The next morning was scheduled for Almora sightseeing.

Our first stop was Ramkrishna Kutir, a small monastery operated by the Belur Math. The monastery, nestled in the lap of the mountain, offers a peaceful resort for prayer and meditation for everyone in search of peace and salvation.

Ramakrishna Kutir, Almora scenic beauty
the mountain offers a peaceful resort for prayer and meditation

The star attraction of Almora Zoo is definitely leopards. These leopards are found in the jungles of Kumaon Himalayas and they are the protagonist of the book Man-Eaters of Kumaon by the famous naturalist-hunter Edward James Corbett, popularly known as Jim Corbett in Northern India.

Leopard at the zoo, Almora, Nainital
A female leopard at the zoo

Our next destination was Golu Devata ka Mandir – the temple of Lord Golu, a deity seen as an incarnation of Lord Shiva and is widely worshipped in the villages of Kumaon.  It was a small but beautiful temple boasting hundreds of thousands of wishing bells. They say if you write down your wishes on a paper and tie it with a bell in this temple your wish will come true. The existence of uncountable bells and letters is perhaps the proof if it! 🙂

Golu Devta ka Mandir, Temple of Lord Golu, Almora
the temple having millions of wishing bells

However, here are a few more glimpses of Almora’s scenic beauty for your eyes only 😉

Himalayan peaks, Almora, Kumaon
Soak in the beauty of the Himalayas
Almora town, Kumaon, Uttarakhand
Almora Town

After completing our sightseeing in Almora we returned to the hotel. We had to pack our bags for the next leg of our trip which was from Almora to Lucknow by 13020 Bagh Express which departs from Kathgodam at 9:55 at night.

See you in Lucknow…

A rain-drenched day at ‘Queen’s Meadow’ Ranikhet

Ranikhet Army Golf Course

This post is a sequel to A Memorable Trip to Nainital – The Lake District of India, the first post of my Nainital Trip Series. Hope you enjoy reading… 🙂

Finally, the day came… we were about to leave Nainital for Kausani. I woke up very early, at 5:30 that morning. Put on my hoodie and got out of the hotel room to take a look at the lake, and the promenade, and the buildings all around for one last time. The sky was still dark; the lake was still plunged into darkness; the streetlights were still on and some fitness freaks were seen jogging up and down the Mall Road.

Nainital Lake, Dawn, Kumaon, Uttarakhand
The lake was still plunged into darkness

Suddenly, the temple bell (Naina Devi Temple) started ringing – ting-ling-ting-ling – piercing the silence of the dawn. That moment, standing alone on the balcony, I felt a pang in my heart. The pang of separation from my beloved Nainital.

We started for Kausani at around 8:30 that morning. The sky was dull and gloomy and the drizzle started. It seemed that Nature reflected my mood at that moment! As we proceeded with our journey the drizzle continued giving a hint of the inevitable downpour later. After two sunny days in Nainital the rain was a sheer disappointment. A thin layer of fog limited our vision. We sat inside the bus with all windows tightly shut, and cursed the unexpected rain silently.

I was vaguely looking at the rain-washed road and trees along the slopes of the hills when I suddenly realized that the view outside was quite interesting. It was different but beautiful. This realization wiped away all the bitterness and filled my mind with joy and hope, once again. “Nature never did betray The heart that loved her”… She always compensates one way or the other.

I caught a few glimpses of the hills and towns bathed in late monsoon rain.

Rain, Ranikhet, Almora, Kumaon, Uttarakhand
“Nature never did betray The heart that loved her”
Town, Ranikhet, Almora,  Kumaon, Uttarakhand
Colors of monsoon at Ranikhet, Almora

On our way to Kausani via Ranikhet our first stop was Kalika Mandir, an old temple nestled on top of the hill overlooking the green slopes. Then we halted at Ranikhet Golf Course in the Army Cantonment area and spent some time there. Rain could no longer spoil my spirit neither the excitement of stepping on a golf ground for the first time in my life.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see any golfer on the ground. After all it’s raining out there…who’s gonna come out for a practice!… But as I looked around I found them grazing at their own pace. 🙂

Cattle, Ranikhet, Golf Course, Kumaon, Uttarakhand
No golfers on a rainy day, only cattle grazing on the fields…

The Army Golf Course at Ranikhet is a wide-open space soaked in quietness. I think the combination of rain and fog made the atmosphere even more dramatic.

Ranikhet Army Golf Course, Almora, Kumaon, Uttarakhand
Ranikhet Army Golf Course

The sprawling green field with varying elevations and towering pines lining the boundary is altogether a treat to the eye.

meadow, Ranikhet, Golf Course, Almora, Kumaon, Uttarakhand
The sprawling green field has varying elevations and towering pines lining the boundary

The pitch-black highway runs through the green field and finally disappears into the mist.

Ranikhet Army Golf Course, Almora, Kumaon, Uttarakhand
The highway runs through the green field and finally disappears into the mist.

I wanted to run like a kid but didn’t dare, as the ground had already turned slippery from continuous rain since morning.

After roaming around amidst the greenery of the golf course for nearly two hours we were back on the road. It was cold and my hands and feet got completely wet from the rain. What I badly needed at that moment was a cup of brewing coffee which I got only after reaching the hotel. Poor me…

I have been on the hills in monsoon when we made our trip to Namchi, Sikkim. So, I have seen it raining on the hills. But in Ranikhet and all the way to Kausani it was more pleasant an experience than it was in Namchi.

It was almost 5 pm when we reached our hotel in Kausani. I switched on the TV in my room while leisurely sipping my coffee. The news report said that this untimely downpour was the side effect of cyclone Hudhud that left my favorite port city Vizag in utter destruction. My heart sank at the scenes of devastations that were showing on the news channel. My memories are still fresh with beautiful pictures of from our trip to Vizag back in 2010.

We stayed at Himalayan Mount View Resort in Kausani from where you can expect breathtaking views of snow-clad Panchchuli peaks of the Himalayas. Since it rained all night I gave up all hope of any scenic view next morning. When I got up at 6:30 next morning rain had stopped but there was no sign of the sun god. A veil of mist covered the hills and blotted out the peaks from our vision. As the morning grew older (it seemed) the mist got heavier and hovered down the slopes of the mountain offering an obscure view of the surrounding.

Himalayas, peak, resort, Kausani, Almora, Kumaon, Uttarakhand
A veil of mist covered the mountains.

And that’s when I spotted this beautiful visitor who got herself perched on top of a tree and posed for me. 🙂

bird, twitter, Kausani, Almora, Kumaon, Uttarakhand
A beautiful bird perched on top of a tree and posed for me…

To be continued…

Waiting Never Seemed So Exciting and Fun!

MajesticMisty… and sometimes Mysterious – that’s what mountain is to me.

Majestic, because of its greatness.

Misty, because of smoky clouds hovering over it.

Mysterious, because you never know what’s in store in its every bend.

The thought of exploring mountain vales simply excites me. And in India, it is none other than the Himalayas, which is synonymous to mountain.

Sikkim Image courtesy: Sukanya Chakraborty

It has been quite a long time that I have last visited the hills. It was the Queen of Hills, Darjeeling where I had been once when I was in school. The memories of the hill town are still vivid. Now I am a working woman who got busy with her 9 to 6 job. And in the monotony of everyday’s routine my mind often seeks escape from the bleak surrounding of concrete jungle. My eyes are thirsty for a glimpse of the mountain with its snow capped peaks turned golden in the soft morning sun; green slopes brightened with blooming rhododendron and rippling streams running down the picturesque valley.

Well, I am lucky to have found friends who think the same way as I do. What we needed was to sit together and decide where to go and when, because ‘leave’ is a very important factor especially for professionals working in private sector. Our timings had to match. Finally, ‘Sikkim’ was the unanimous choice. We settled with a beautiful place called Namchi in Sikkim while it took quite a few days to finalize the time, which is end of September, this year.

The next few days went in searching for hotels and trains and booking tickets. Then we had a lot of discussion about packing … what to take and what not. The excitement of traveling to a new place is not new to me. But this time it is doubled as I have actively took part in booking hotels and trains which was my father’s department when we traveled together with family.

Now that we have finished with all of the initial arrangements the only thing that remains is the ‘wait’… wait for the day we are going to board the train for Sikkim…wait for the time we reach our destination, Namchi … wait for the moment we set foot on the hills, once again. Waiting never seemed so exhilarating, desirable and fun!