Few missing lines in part 1:
Delhi S Rohilla station looks like a small town station-with just a few tracks and not much people- A peaceful place to board your train and settle down, before the maddening crowd and old Delhi station rushes in. (I had some confusion over Old Delhi and South Delhi- there is no such station called South Delhi)
Next day early morning we went for a walk into the woods- the same path I’d mistakenly covered the previous evening- towards the Manipur villa. We stopped at a place for the day break to happen-the sun rays falling on the mountain peak gave it a red coloured effect. My closest look of the Himalayas ever- Situation forced me to experiment all settings in my camera to get a better view- Increase exposure, reduce ISO, colour filter all these things began to make some sense. The zoom was good, but failed to differentiate effectively between the mountain, fog around it and the background. Compared to few shots taken by Prashanth and Arun in their SLRs, my photos of Himalayas lack the crystal clear effect. Manipur villa is a small view point where Club Mahindra is constructing few cottages. Materials used to construct these cottages were from France and other countries (that’s what’s written on them). On the return journey we passed through the local residence-two dogs-one black and one white, who were initially barking to chase us away, became good friends after we patted them well. The last stretch of the walk involved making our own way through the fields- crossing fences and jumping walls (step irrigation fields).
Post breakfast we set out to visit Jageshwar temple, some 90 kms from the resort, which resulted in about 4 hours travel one way. On the way we stopped at a place which offered good view of the Himalayas. We took a group photo here and proceeded further. (thanks to Prashanth for lending his tripod) We stopped at Almora to meet couple of man eater leopards, while one of the cars had to go into the city to fuel up. In their captive environment these leopards looked as if they’ve lost interest in life-with a rather sad and expressionless face.
After a long journey we reached Jageshwar, a temple complex of the size of a small football field and houses some 125 shrines, of different sizes. Only few of them are big enough where Poojas are being offered. All shrines have a protective structures built on top, probably to protect from bad weather. While temple complex looks good, I didn’t like the priests there- One of them was chatting with a fellow priest while smoking cigarette and as he spotted someone entering the shrine he was in charge of, he quickly buried his cigarette, entered the shrine from a backdoor and took his seat to offer Pooja. Another person was irritatingly forcing everyone to have Darshan of a particular god of which he was in charge of. Once people near his place he would show them a diya and tell “Sir this lamp runs from the donation given by the devotees”, indicating ‘please donate some money’. Few others tried to strike conversation with us, enquiring if we plan to stay there overnight and should they help us with accommodation.
Thick deodar trees that are centuries old surround the place giving it a great ambience. A small river flows by -didn’t find any fishes in that river (petty shops were selling fish food-so I expected feeding fishes to be an activity here.) The tea we had at a local shop, heated on wooden oven, was tasty. A dedicated shrine to Kubera (supposed to be the richest person of ancient times) was few meters away. Dogs in this region are strong and friendly, compared to thin ones we find at southern cities. (they know their chances of getting something to eat from tourists is higher if they behave well, hence the friendliness)
On our way back we stopped at another small temple complex, named Dandeshwar. Next stop was for lunch, a few kms ahead. Club Mahindra has custom made lunch boxes in which food can be packed for those who head for outing. I was sensing a stomach upset so didn’t eat much, though couldn’t resist the temptation of biryani.
We returned to the resort by evening and rest of the day was spent in playing games. On Saturday we visited Binsar bird Sanctuary, in an open top jeep. Viewpoint (about 10 kms drive from the sanctuary entrance) is the main attraction here, from where one would get magnificent view of the Himalayas. We reached there just in time, before the clouds could cover up the peaks. This place is also a trekking destination- saw few tourist vehicles dropping people at the top and returning to base. There were no birds to be seen, though Club Mahindra gave us a guide book on birds and an Olympus Binocular. (Club Mahindra’s Binsar Sanctuary visit in an open top jeep costs Rs 600-inclusive of taxes, 6 people max, returnable binocular and guidebook included)
It would have been possible to club Bird Sanctuary and Jageshwar into a single day (eNidhi India process optimization suggestions), leveraging common distances. But that’d be a bit hectic for guests who may prefer to take it easy.
Saturday night was spent in a tent (not any ordinary tent-it’s an ISO 9001 certified tent- Mind it), as a part of our overnight camping. But with Club Mahindra guys taking care of everything-from carrying the goods, setting up the tents, lighting bonfire etc, it was too simplified for us- go there, warm up, eat and sleep. 3 assistants for a group of 5 was a kind of waste of manpower, if you ask me. But then, maybe that’s how guests would prefer it. One of the crew- KG Panth, told us few stories of jungle life he and his family has experienced. We tried to play Antyakshari for a while but that didn’t last long. About a litre of petrol and several logs of woods were burnt into ashes that night. The sleeping bag was much thicker than the one I had few years ago. I am just wondering if I’ll be allowed to set up a tent and camp on the roof of my office and stay there, saving several thousand rupees of rent every month. Moonlight was great as it was just 2 days short of full moon day. Woke up for a sunny morning and the guys made tea for us (heat water on the fire and use tea bags and milk powder to make tea) Kiruba’s post has more photos and write up on the night camping.
It was time to check out from the resort, bringing 4 days of luxury to an end. Our driver Nitin stopped at a specific shop in Almora for us to buy sweets. (probably it is his relative’s shop) Internet literature had suggested Almora is very famous for sweets- Didn’t find anything great about these sweet shops or their sweets- a normal peda and burfi and one more item whose name I am not able to recall now. I am sure Adyar Anand Bhavan has more varieties. At Rs 120 per kg the shopkeeper refused to give a discount, though we gave him a decent business. I checked at the next shop, who quoted Rs 100 per kg, a savings of Rs 20 over the previous shop. Lots of bees were hovering around the sweet trays- not sure if they were adding to the sweetness or taking it away.
Subsequently we stopped at a river side restaurant for lunch, not before diving into Kosi for a quick swim. Apparently we spent little extra time in the river because of which couldn’t reach Nainital in time to go to a specific view point (Mall roads close at a specific time-most of the hill stations in Uttaranchal have one thing in common- A MALL Road where entry will be restricted either by timing or vehicle type(commercial or non commercial) or both) Had to be content with a good view of the Nainital lake and continue our journey towards Kathagodam. The roads were so nice and tempting- but the driver was hesitant to let me drive-have to try self drive in this region.
Jai Golu Dev and Jai Mata Di appear to be most worshipped gods in the region, as most of the vehicles sported these names.
Stopped by at the Udupiwala restaurant for dinner- Few ordered Sambar vada expecting Chennai style sambar vada (vadas soaked in Sambar) but got Sambar and Vada separately (Udupi style). Idly was OK and Upma was tasty. We gave some parcel order which seemed forever to take- Had to follow them right into the kitchen to ensure that they packed our order in time. We reached Kathagodam, with only 10 minutes to spare.
Journey consisted of sundry talks and viewing photos. We reached Rohilla by 6 AM, rented two cars to take us to airport- destination reached within 25 mins while it had taken more than 2 hours the other day. Kingfisher and Indian Airline passengers need to go to terminal 1A, using a shuttle. A taxi driver tried to con us saying “no shuttles available-you’ve to take taxi”- as a bus arrived he added “this bus leaves only by 9 AM”. The bus left in next 10 mins.
[An experience at CCD outlet in Delhi Airport] A delayed flight ensured that we reached Chennai only by noon. Kingfisher cost cutting was visible everywhere-now they are giving a cheap Rs 15 earphone. Most of the seats were full, though the seat next to us was empty and we called back Kiruba, who had carefully selected seat no. 12 C
[my earlier post on Kingfisher experience]
Back in hot Chennai, that marked an end to a memorable trip.
More photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/clayclubmahindra/