Making the road trip to Hartola a pleasurable one | Uttarakhand homestay, Pet-friendly homestay in Uttarakhand

How to make the road trip to Hartola a pleasurable one

We have been taking road trips to Hartola from Noida almost every month since we bought our land for Katie’s Abode in 2016. Initially, we used to stay at Calm Cottages in Nathuakhan, which is about 10 kms from Hartola. Thanks to the able and ever-smiling caretaker Dinesh, and of course Calm Cottages’ host, Sandeep, it was like our second home until we rented a small village house in Hartola to oversee the construction of our cottage.

Yes, there are a couple of trains including the Ranikhet Express, Kathgodam Shatabdi and Kathgodam Jan-Shatabdi, that ply at different times every day. For us though, since Katie is our constant travel companion, road trips to Hartola make sense as they are more convenient, delightful and gratifying. To know about train timings and other means of transportation to reach Katie’s Abode, Hartola, refer to our earlier article on How to reach Hartola.

We’ve experimented with different routes on our various trips to Hartola, and each has its own pros and cons. Eventually, we found the route which suits us the best – in terms of road condition, time saved and convenience.

We prefer to hit the road really early – before the break of dawn. That way, by the time Katie gets a little fidgety, we are half way through. Also, past experience has taught us that it’s best to zip through the little towns on the way before they begin to wake up and to avoid getting caught in jams, especially at Brijghat. There have been instances when we were on the highway as early as 3.30 in the morning! However, our average starting time is 4.30-5 am. But a lot of work has been completed on NH 24 reducing travel time from the Ghaziabad border, Dasna and beyond. So, take the decision of leaving home based on whether or not you are comfortable driving in the dark. During winters though, it is advisable to start after daybreak as there can be dense fog on the highway sometimes and it can be pretty difficult to negotiate.

Preparing for the road trip:

Since 2016, we have been following this pattern religiously. We pack our bags the night before and keep them in the car trunk. Katie’s bed is set on the rear seat, the bag with dry snacks like chips and biscuits, another bag or extra toiletries are also in the car. Only one handbag where all the stuff we need till the last minute, stays in the house. Also, at least four water bottles go into the fridge at night and in the morning they are placed in the bottle slots of each door. This saves us time as we don’t need to break journey just to buy a bottle of water. Plus, when you are travelling early, shops are usually closed.

Unless there is some religious activity at Garh Mukteshwar, the route is pretty smooth. Our first stop is usually at Gajraula for our first cup of tea and for a visit to the restroom. There are many options here right from KFC, Burger King, several restaurants of Moga, Haveli Resort, Dominos, Café Coffee Day, Bikanervala, Subway, and a little further ahead is Udupi Restaurant which serves pretty decent south Indian cuisine. However, if you are passing through that area much before 7.30-8.00 am, chances are, they may still be closed.

On the rare occasion when Katie is not travelling with us, we go to any of these, because pets are not allowed in these places. But when Katie is with us, our usual haunt is Tadka Dhaba right behind the BPCL petrol pump and close to Cafe Coffee Day. The restrooms of the BPCL petrol pump are surprisingly clean and there is a fairly large parking area and a lawn where you can walk your pet.

The food at Tadka Dhaba is also not bad. We usually have parathas, bread omelette, and tea. These are items where one can’t go wrong. The staff is courteous and always comply to our request of a boiled egg and plain chapatti for Katie. Although I don’t recall her eating and later on we have to feed it to one of the dogs on the road.

BTW the petrol pump operates very early, so if you haven’t filled your tank this is a good place to do so, although the person who checks the air pressure of tyres is more often than not missing. But there is another puncture repair shop adjacent to the petrol pump, so no sweat.

Now that we had our breakfast and bladders voided, time to put on some good music and enjoy the ride and for the spouse to click random shots or catch up on her sleep. We make it a point to cover as much as possible before the office-going crowd hits the road in the many small towns on the highway. Once we are in Bazpur and have crossed the railway barrier, we can breathe easy. It’s about 11-11.30 am and I make a visit to the ATM, because the nearest ATM in Hartola is half-an-hour away.

Also it’s time to satiate the light hunger pangs. May be a buttermilk, lassi or another cup of tea would do the trick for some time. Half an hour here, we head out again and now our next stop is for lunch either in one of the many restaurants on the outskirts of Bazpur. There is a particularly nice restaurant, FarmDine Family Restaurant, which serves pretty decent food. There is outdoor sitting and the staff is particularly courteous. On one occasion, they even packed some homemade pickle for us because we said we loved it.

The fun actually begins once we have left Bazpur far behind and have entered the Corbett National Park. The road leads through a pretty thick forest lined with trees on both sides and even in the summer season the shade of the tall trees keeps the place pretty cool. We always make it a point to get down here and give Katie a leisurely walk. For us too it’s a good place to stretch our bodies. Taking in the fresh air and sometimes enjoying a snack in the car, we move on. A word of caution: Vehicles on this road ply at very high speed, so be alert while crossing the road and particularly if you have kids.

The next stop will probably be Kaladhungi, unless of course, you want to head off to Nainital directly. In which case, you’ll need to take a left turn from Jim Corbett’s museum. Else you continue straight for a few kilometres till you’re in Kaladhungi or Chota Haldwani. If you’re adventurous enough to try some local snack, then you need to stop at Jiya Sweets on the right – the place where you can try their lip-smacking chole-samosas. Once the samosas are devoured, the tea relished, the restaurant owner thanked, we continue. Our next stop is usually either before Bhimtal or any broad bend on the road just before Malla Ramgarh.

Our stop before Bhimtal again depends on our earlier stop. If we didn’t stop at Kaladhungi, we stop here. This place called Khutani has a whole lot of restaurants mostly known for pakodas and other snacks. The first one on the right just after you take the bend is supposedly the best among them and our usual haunt. Apart from the hot and delicious pakodas and tea, we prefer this place because there are benches and desks outside, so Katie can join us too. While she enjoys the traffic going past and an occasional pat from the people around, we enjoy our pakodas with tea.

On the road again, we usually avoid stopping at Bhimtal or Bhowali, unless we have to fill our gas tank in the former and buy veggies and other non-veg items in the latter. Once you cross Bhowali, the scene changes completely, the hustle and bustle dims gradually and the first blast of the chill air hits your face announcing that you are now in the mountains. Even after numerous trips over the years, that feeling never fails to excite us and we make it a point to park the car and take a walk and fill our lungs with the pure mountain air.

About a kilometer and a half after crossing Malla Ramgarh, there’s a road leading to the left for Nathuakhan and Talla Ramgarh. You need to take this road. The road gets a little narrow, but wide enough for two vehicles to pass very easily so there is no reason to panic at all. It is advisable to honk at every bend, because vehicles on this road are few and far between and one tends to relax and get lost in the surrounding scenic beauty.

About 10 kms on this road, you will reach Talla Ramgarh. If you have to get the air pressure of the tyres checked, buy medicines, withdraw money, buy alcohol, this is your last chance. Seven kilometers from Talla Ramgarh is Nathuakhan, a small village with a decent-sized market. If you still haven’t withdrawn money earlier, there is an ATM here and if you are lucky, it could also be operating. From the centre of the little market, you need to take a left to enter the Hartola road. Once again the scenic beauty is spellbinding. The view of the majestic snow-capped Himalayas makes a grand appearance. No wonder we fell in love with the place instantly.

It takes around half an hour from Nathuakhan to reach Hartola. When you reach Hartola and cross the village school on the right, there is a kutchha road leading off the main road down to the right that goes to Satpuri village. You have to take this road. A kilometer or so on this road and you have arrived at Katie’s Abode, Hartola. From here on we take over your entire burden while you relax and spend a couple of days doing absolutely nothing. Sometimes doing nothing too can be good for the soul!

Road Conditions:

  • Because the Moradabad highway is being widened, there will be a couple of places where the road can be narrow. But these are not very lengthy patches.
  • In case there is some auspicious day that requires taking a dip in the Ganges, chances are you will encounter a traffic jam at Garh Mukteshwar. It could be long frustrating minutes of getting stuck on the highway. So better keep water bottles and munchies in the car to keep yourselves alive and kicking (and not the driver in front of you!!).
  • During sugarcane harvest season, you might encounter traffic jams near sugar mills with never-ending queues of tractors and buffalo-carts taking over the state highway.
  • The road near Pantnagar, in case you take the Rampur-Rudrapur route is perpetually potholed. Although it is the shortest route and in the process of being widened, one can’t risk a breakdown just to save a couple of hours. Having said that, I haven’t been on that route for quite some time, so the road could have been laid. Better to find out beforehand.
  • Hartola receives snowfall. So if you are coming in the winter chances are it might have snowed or still snowing. In that case, drive slowly and carefully. enjoy the moment. Also best to call us and inquire about road conditions
  • The last kilometer to Katie’s Abode, Hartola is unmetalled road. So it’s advisable to drive slowly. Anyway you have already reached your destination, so why rush the last mile. Plus this unmetalled road is the reason why our cottage is far from rampant constructions.

Restrooms:

  • There are numerous restaurants on the Moradabad highway with clean restrooms.
  • The BPCL restroom in Gajraula is a clean one.
  • Avoid the restrooms of Sagar Ratna and KFC in Gajraula. They are dirty and very ill-maintained.
  • In Bhowali you can use the restrooms of Sarthak Inn and Tarang Restaurant
  • After Bhowali there will be no restrooms available.

Petrol pumps:

  • There are many 24 x 7 petrol pumps on the Moradabad highway. However it is highly recommended to fill your tank in Delhi/Noida the day before you leave.
  • If you are taking the Nainital route, there is a petrol pump before you enter the city.
  • If you are taking the Haldwani route, there are numerous stations available.
  • There is a petrol pump or two in Bhimtal and some good restaurants too.
  • The last petrol pump on your way to Hartola is in Bhowali. So it is a good practice to fill your tank here, before you head out.

Pharmacies/ Chemists:

The last chemist is in Nathuakhan, although don’t be surprised if you find it closed. So ensure that you buy all your medicines in Haldwani/Kathgodam or at the most if you remember, at Talla Ramgarh.

Wine Shops:  

  • The last wine shop is in Talla Ramgarh, although the choices will be limited. Since we don’t serve liquor at Katie’s Abode, Hartola, it is advisable to carry your bottle from home or buy it on the way.
  • There is a good liquor shop just before Kathgodam Railway Station if you are taking that route.

ATMs/ Card Swiping Machines:

  • There is an ATM of Nainital Cooperative Bank in Nathuakhan, although best not to rely on it as many a time it’s either out of cash or out of order.
  • There is a Bank of Baroda ATM in Talla Ramgarh and another two in Malla Ramgarh.
  • Meanwhile in Haldwani/Kathgodam, Bhimtal, Nainital, and Bhowali, you will get ATMs of most leading banks.
  • The last card swiping machine you will probably find in Bhowali.

I hope you too will be able to have a pleasurable road trip to Katie’s Abode, Hartola. Just like in real estate it’s location, location, location; when it comes to a road trip it’s planning, planning, planning. However, we hope the information here was enough to take that off your list of things to do. Meanwhile, if you are an impromptu traveler, you needn’t fret. You can call us and we will guide you through the way, right to our humble abode! Until we meet at Katie’s Abode, Hartola, ciao and take care!!

Dhruv Baruah

Journalist by profession till he became a freelance-writer/co-host of Katie's Abode, Hartola.

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