Days 2 and 3
Sunday was off to a lazy start with a leisurely breakfast of poori-subzi. We decided to loll about and explore the place, taking things as they came. There was a slight drizzle and the clouds had decided to waft around us and in the valley below. Just the sort of atmosphere that reminds one of spooky movies which, for some reason or the other get an extra dimension if they’re set in the lonely mountains enveloped in a mysterious swirling mist that makes its way through the tall, formidable coniferous trees.
We caught up with some reading, checked mails (yes, we’ve become too much of city slickers to stay away from technology for long) and just listened—to bird songs and insect sounds. It was heart-warming to see a couple of sparrows looking for tidbits on the verandah and a Himalayan bulbul too! And to think that the humble sparrow has been driven out of Delhi and we now have to go to the mountains to see them!
By afternoon the drizzle had stopped and so we decided to go walking down to the market (?!?) and explore the place a bit. The distance from the Lodge is around 2 km. We reached the market, clicking pictures on the way and stopping to admire the view. Someone has thoughtfully placed stone benches at intervals along the road (State VIP Guesthouse road). There’re a handful of very basic shops that put together just about earn the place the name of ‘market’. We went along a road that branched away towards the left past a small and rather sorry-looking police station, and it seemed the entire force was there (about 6-7 of them) keeping an eye on things. Hungry by now, we were quite happy to spot a restaurant with a machan and a board that claimed to serve dishes that we didn’t think possible in a place like that—pizzas, pastries, and so on. It was the Garden Restaurant which looked rather unkempt and worse for wear. We were inclined to put it down to the off-season factor. Although there were the stray tourists who’d walked in like us attracted by the menu on offer (I mean, it does seem odd that in such a tiny place there could be places that offered to serve up dishes that you expect in bigger cities or towns). Since we couldn’t see any other restaurant worth venturing into, we settled for a cup of tea and chow mien and braved the onslaught of flies that seemed to follow us everywhere till our order arrived. We were told that flies were active because of the delayed monsoon.
Anyhow, the order arrived and the chow mien was passable—one can’t go too wrong with that no matter what avatar it’s served in across India. But the flask containing the tea was another matter altogether. Seemed as though someone hadn’t had the will or the time to clean it for some time.
Nothing much to do or explore further, we headed back to the Lodge. It was an uneventful and laidback evening some of which was spent on the verandah taking in the night sounds and view of the lights of Baijnath (famed for its 12th century temple complex), 17 km from Kausani.
We’d been talking to the resort staff and a couple of locals about the places to visit in the area, and based on their feedback, we decided to give the much-talked-about Munsiyari a miss this time. It takes about 7-8 hours (approx.. 164 km) depending on the road and traffic conditions and the length of stops one makes on the way. Locals told us that the Himalayan peaks are visible from really close quarters in Munsiyari, but the view from Kausani is more wide-ranging. Plus, the presence of clouds at this time of year would be a deterrent. It was enough for us to shelve the trip to another time in the future.
Ranikhet seemed like a good option—and once there, we’d decide where to go next. We had the time and the inclination. So we made bookings at the Vimoksha Valley Resort from the 15th.
The next day (14th) began with the sound of the rain on the roof, and when the window was opened, the mist came rushing in to greet us! Another leisurely morning followed with a late breakfast and more lolling about. After having lived and worked in a city for far too long, why is it that one is always consumed by a feeling of guilt when doing nothing?
We had the option of going down to Baijnath or visit a tea factory on the way, or make a trip to the Rudrahari falls. We chose the latter, on the advice of an ex-colleague. So off we went towards the Someshwar road and then took a lesser road going away to the right from the highway. We slowly emerged into another lush green valley where scores of men and women were busy planting new crops.
This side of the mountain was even quieter and we hardly met a vehicle or two. The rain had done its bit to help loosen stones and rocks come crashing down on the road and so we had to weave the car carefully—but not so carefully it seemed, as very soon there was a disturbing ‘clank’ as the car went over a rather large stone whose size the driver had underestimated. This was followed soon after by a terrible sound, which on inspection turned out to be some damage to the exhaust pipe. There was nothing to do but retrace our path back to Kausani in the hope that there would be a mechanic available to at least do a patch-up job.
A while later we were back at the main ‘market’ area desperately looking for a mechanic. A passerby told us that there were two of them but both were away for lunch and would be available only by 4.
As expected, he could only do a patch up job—had it been more serious, we would have had to go to either Baijnath or Someshwar.
We’d been hearing so much about the view of the peaks and how glorious they look that we were a tad disappointed that we would be leaving without a glimpse. There was heavy cloud cover that kept the mountain range firmly out of sight.
And then, around 4.30 or so, as we were looking in the general direction of where the mountains would be, a brief white shape between the moving clouds caught our attention—because it seemed stationery. Excited, we waited for more, eyes fixed in anticipation. And then, another peak on the left appeared for a brief while, followed by another to the right of the first one. When we compared what we’d seen with a poster of the peaks we realized that we’d had a glimpse of Trishul, Mrigthuni, and possibly Nanda Devi further to the right. We thanked the gods for having granted us the brief glimpse—at least we wouldn’t go back disappointed.
We wound up the day by going for a walk towards the end of the State VIP Guesthouse road which has a couple of resorts and a Kendriya Vidyalaya and a college as well.
A little rest and an early impromptu candlelit dinner later, we decided to turn in.
Tomorrow we’d leave after breakfast for Ranikhet through the Someshwar valley which —we didn’t know yet—was going to be one of the most beautiful and scenic drives we’d undertaken ever!