This is a weekend break, which we almost did not have.
It seems the whole of Delhi had the same idea of heading for the mountains and that too much before it occured to us. We wanted to go to Lansdowne in the Garhwal, which is less than 6 hours away from Delhi. The other choices were Mukteshwar and Kausani in the Kumaon region of the Himalayas. After vainly trying on the net and through assorted travel agents we could find accomodation only at Kausani a good 10 hours drive from New Delhi. We decided to leave earlier, a night before, broke our journey en route at Moradabad and left for Kausani the next morning.
We drove in driving rain and stopped at Haldwani in the foothills, for breakfast.
The drive in the hills had a dream like quality to it. We were in the clouds, enveloped by a steadily drizzling gossamer curtain, which seemed to have descended upon us straight from the heavens. From this curtain emerged the hills and the vales of the magnificent Kumaon, covered in astoundiong shades of green. We drove up the side of a hill and than down to Bhowali and than took a right for Almora. We took the Almora bypass to avoid the bustling hill town and drove on to Kausani, which turned out to be no more than a hamlet with many hotels.
As we drove up to the town’s main square, we ran into a Janamashtami Mela, with thousands of people celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna at the town’s main temple. Men dressed in their very best, women in gaudy sarees and faux jewellery and young girls in salwar kurtas pressed against the car. The street vendors selling ‘bhuttas’, pakoris, sweetmeats, baubles and trinkets and cheap cosmetics were having a field day. After much shouting and blaring of horns, we were able to drive up to our hotel about 3 kms from the town square.
Kausani, at 1890mt. lies atop a ridge, surrounded by dense pine forests and affords a magnificent view of the Himalayan peaks of Nanda Devi, Trishul and Panchchauli. It also overlooks the Someshwar valley on one side and the Garur valley on the other side. From our hotel, perched right on the top, we could see clouds filled valleys and the distant peaks looked ghostly, almost floating on the clouds. We decided to spend the evening doing nothing, which is really the best you can do in Kausani. I settled down on a reclining chair in the hotel’s balcony and quietly watched the clouds flit by, changing by the minute the splendour spread all around us. As darkness gathered and the lights came on, we could see Garur glittering in the valley, the light filtering through the haze. We played chess and enjoyed a perfect evening, had dinner and went for a walk in the hills.
After breakfast the next morning we headed for a drive in the hills. The valley still shrouded in the mist had an unreal feel to it. We drove down from Kausani to the Garud valley. We stopped at the fabled tea gardens on the hill slopes and clambered up the mountainside surrounded by the tea bushes. As the day wore on the mist slowly dispersed, and we caught glimpses of the far away snow peaks, appearing surreal, almost suspended in air. We drove down to the temple town of Baijnath on the banks of the river Gomti. The drive is through majestic forests of Pine, Devdar and Fir. Often, we would stop and spill out of the car to look at and appreciate the vistas of Himalayan ranges spread out in front of us.
Kausani turned out to be the perfect place for getting away from the hustle and bustle of Delhi. Even during a long weekend, it did not attract hoards of tourist. It was a quiet and peaceful place with clouds filled valleys and forests, a place for a little solitude and reflection. A perfect getaway, if ever there was one from the madness and wild scramble of Delhi.
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