My first venture into the Garhwal!!!

“Live your life by a compass not a clock.” – Stephen Covey

The thought of an upcoming weekend fills me up with an enthusiasm to do something which refreshes me . I had called up one of my friends from Kanpur and we were discussing about the destinations being covered by various other friends. The conversation finally ended up with the plan to visit Lansdowne.  It had popped up multiple times on my screen while searching for ” Weekend Getaways from Delhi”. Both of us decided to gather  information about  the place on the internet and also talk to friends who had been there. After chatting with two of my friends who had already been there, we finalized it for the weekend of ” Republic Day”.

Both of us agreed to mark 26th and 27th of January as an exploration to the hill station of Lansdowne. I searched for the connecting trains and we found “Mussorie Express” to be perfect with the timings. Curiously I checked the seats availability and fortunately they were available. After a brief conversation on 3rd January , I booked the tickets for the round trip. The next step of searching a good place to stay was very easy to find. The reviews of “Samskara and Samsara Homestays” enticed us to book our stay there .

As we started discussing about the trip , we felt we will be able to visit some other nearby place along with Lansdowne. Rishikesh came up to be the most viable option for us. The journey began on 25th evening and as decided I was supposed to join the friend of mine from “Yamuna Bank ” Metro station for the trip. But due to huge traffic in Noida, the bus she had boarded from Kanpur got delayed by almost an hour. All these time I was waiting at the Yamuna Bank Metro Station with suspicious eyes of the security guards on me. One of them asked very pleasantly whether I was waiting for someone . On my affirmative reply, they offered me to wait inside. After a while I joined my friend in the metro. We reached Delhi Station and boarded a rickshaw to take us to Haldiram for dinner. The visit to Delhi’s Chandni Chowk brings back memories galore.

After dinner, we proceeded to railway station and found the train already parked at the platform. We comfortably settled and  arrived at Kotdwar at 7:30 a.m on the morning of Republic Day. We boarded a van with co-passengers to Lansdowne. In an hour we had reached the homestay and it was indeed the same as it looked in the pictures.  A pretty view of the place filled our hearts with joy. We were welcomed very courteously and the rooms were arranged. Meanwhile we discussed regarding the  1 day sightseeing of Rishikesh at the reception and they booked a cab for it. We had breakfast on the lovely garden. It was an indeed refreshing experience to have breakfast with the view of mountain ranges. Moreover the view of sparrows picking the food which was artificially made available to them on small cylindrical hanging containers from the trees was extremely gratifying. It is a  gesture of co- existence of human civilization with other creatures . At 10:30 a.m we started off to Rishikesh. The route is extremely beautiful with the Himalayas shining from a distance and long pine trees accompanying  throughout the journey. The shining leaves of these trees fills the surroundings with  freshness. The cool fresh air  refreshed the soul. We could not stop ourselves from halting at one of the points to capture the beauty in the lens. We tried our best but the beauty in front of our eyes couldn’t match with the pictures captured. As we were approaching  Rishikesh , we found the river Heval flowing nearby.The serenity of the place was overwhelming. The soft sound of the river water splashing gently over the pebbles on the ground leaves one with many thoughts. This place has tents nearby for camping with the name “Kaabila”. There are big rocks around and the sand nearby is white in colour. There are multicoloured round shaped  pebbles across the banks of the river. The view is extremely scenic with  blue sky above,  fresh green trees and  crystal clear water of the river running by. It reminds me of Lord Byron’s words:

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, 

There is a rapture on the lonely shore,

There is society where none intrudes,

By the deep Sea, and music in its roar: I love not Man the less,

but Nature more,

From these our interviews, in which I steal From all I may be,

or have been before,

To mingle with the Universe, and feel What I can ne’er express,

yet cannot all conceal.

  Lord Byron , Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

We went back to the car and proceeded towards Shivpuri. This place is at a distance of 15-20 km from Rishikesh city centre and is the starting point of rafting. This place is also extremely scenic with the mountains enclosing the green water of the Ganga. We could see many water sport enthusiasts en route the rafting experience and screaming with joy. After Shivpuri, we headed towards Neer Waterfalls which is at a distance of 4-5 km from this place. The waterfall is  a major tourist attraction. The view of water dropping from a height and accumulating on a pool is beautiful.I had started feeling extremely hungry by then. At around 5 o clock we reached the Swarg Ashram area of Rishikesh which has many restaurants , souvenir shops and other shops selling traditional items. We quenched our hunger at one of the restaurants and then proceeded towards Lakshman Jhula. It is a civil engineering marvel. As we started walking on it, we could see Ganga Aarti being done by the priests of the temple. Our timing to reach Lakshman Jhula was perfect as we witnessed the Aarti which is considered as one of the most important events held in Rishikesh. People from all places flock to get a glimpse of this Aarti. Lakshman Jhula  was decorated with lights and happily welcoming the tourists from all over the world. It swings when we walk over it but is held strongly by the cables.

At 7 o clock we started our return journey. It was dark by then . During the return journey we had an active conversation with the driver regarding the lifestyle and challenges being faced by the residents of the hilly regions. We got many insights . In between it started raining and immediately hailstones started falling. As the temperatures fall , the rainwater converts to hailstones. In the hilly areas the fall in temperature happens very rapidly. Our driver started explaining his experiences during heavy hailstone showers. He assured us that the people of this region are extremely helpful and will make the stay comfortable in case one is stuck in some emergency situation. After a while, it stopped raining and by 10 o clock we reached safely at the Homestay. Hot and delicious dinner was served and we had a good night’s sleep. We woke up next morning to experience the sunny side of Lansdowne. The view of mountain ranges and pine forests soothed our eyes. There were birds chirping around. After having breakfast  we started the 2.5 km trek which lands us at the Lansdowne Main Market . We had covered  some  distance  and  reached the main road and thought that we have accomplished the goal. As we were walking gradually , we asked one of the travellers about the distance of Lansdowne Market . He said there is another 1.5 km to be covered. We took the shortcut but after 5 minutes realized that the path is leading to nowhere. Just then we heard the voices of people nearby and we ran towards them to ask the directions leading to the market. They guided us and we followed the path to reach the destination. On reaching the market place, google maps showed the major tourist attractions within a radius of 2 kms. Initially we thought of hiring a cab for sightseeing but the pleasant weather changed our decision. We had ample time as well . So we decided to follow google maps and traverse Lansdowne on foot. The best part about this place is every nook and corner is reachable on foot. The first point of interest ” Bhulla Tal”. The walk in the pleasant weather was refreshing. Bhulla Tal is an artificial lake and garden . It’s a beautiful place. On our way a board showed the direction of Tip n Top Viewpoint and marked it to be located within a distance of 1 km. We took the path which was exclusively for pedestrians and prohibited any entry of vehicles.  We walked for a while and then got confused with the road ahead as there were diversions. We made up our mind to return . Just then we heard the voices of some folks nearby and rushed to ask them about the distance to Tip n Top. They said its just a few steps ahead and showed us the way. Thus we were destined to visit the major tourist attractions of Lansdowne with a supreme power sending us messengers to guide us whenever we lost the path.

We saw the boundary walls of the “St. Mary’s Church ” soon . The church dates back to the 19th century . A board near the church says the Tip n Top point is at a distance of 400 metres. We started the uphill journey and reached the viewpoint in 15 minutes. Since the weather was cloudy , the view of the Shivalik Hills was not clear. We viewed the clouds covering the mountains and started the return journey. The downhill slopes led us to cover the complete distance in just 10 minutes. We had a sumptuous lunch and then tasted the famous sweet dish of Lansdowne called ” Bal Mithaai”. It is a sweet with a chocolate base and sugar cubes sprinkled on the top.

The clocked showed 3: 30 . We visited the Gurudwara nearby and then boarded the van to Kotdwar at 4 p.m. We got the luggage on our way from the homestay and at 5:30 , we reached Kotdwar Railway Station. We had dinner at one of the restaurants nearby and then boarded the Mussorie Express. The train is quite punctual and reached the destination on time.

My first step into the Garhwal region rejuvenated my spirits and left me with an impression of visiting it again.

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