April 14, 2011

Kumaon Chronicles

Prelude or How it all Started

I was looking for possible options wherein one could relax, eat some good food and also have a cheap vacation by hitchiking; of all the options that i had and given the month of March(wherein Leh would be closed), i preferred to either hit the beaches or the mountains. We had a great vacation in the Andamans a few months earlier and preferred this time to visit the mountains. Now it was - either the western ghats or the Himalayas; and without any doubt the option swung towards Himalayas. We first booked the flight tickets to Delhi from Bangalore and then decided to research on the possible options. Shimla/Manali, Sikkim, Kumaon and Garhwal were possible options - I preferred to go to Kumaon or Garhwal; and then cornered in on Kumaon as I had been to Garhwal earlier.

The region was now decided, and then started the aspect of researching the TODOs and the MUST-SEEs in this region. We had a pretty good idea of the entire region by our research and decided on a rough itinerary spanning 7-9 days. During our research, we tried to find out travelogues done in public transport and shared-taxis, but got no results; also my posts in IndiaMike did not gather sufficient response on the same subject. Most of the travelogues were by those who had hired a cab on a rental basis of 1300-1500 INR per day and went around the region. This would suit and be economical if you are going in a group of 4-6, but not for a couple who were on a budget trip. Now I decided that we SHOULD necessarily try to roam most of the regions in buses/shared-taxis and then use a private cab only as a last resort.

Our trip was beautiful and we had a great time in the mountains. A couple of days were long, and spent on the road, but otherwise the tranquility and serenity of the entire region was something that would be etched in our memories for a long time.

I have tried to make this travelogue as detailed as possible, and have captured most of the points. Do leave a comment if you need any further assistance in planning your travel. To reiterate, we had a great time going around in buses and shared-taxies, and am sure that if you plan your vacation well, then you can have an even greater experience in the mountains.

Read on...

Day-1, Saturday, 2-Apr-2011  - And we Start
Left home at 9:30 am to reach the airport by around 11:40am and then boarded the flight at 1:45pm to arrive in Delhi at 4pm. The pilots were kind enough to announce the scores at regular intervals, and the passengers were equally enthusiastic in cheering when a wicket had fallen. During taxiing, i came to know that Dhoni had dropped Ashwin for Sreesanth (dooom!).

Airstrip @ Bangalore

Caught the Volvo which is available just outside Terminal-1 to Connaught Place; but the conductor forgot to stop the bus at CP and we ended up at New Delhi Railway Station, which was a blessing. Being a holiday and also a day when whole of India was glued to the TV and radio sets for watching/hearing the match, most of CP was closed. We went to Paharganj and roamed around for sometime and had tasty alu-chat and sandwiches and washed them down with thick lassi and sugarcane juice(each of them costs just 10-15 INR). Many shops were closed due to the cricket match, and those that were open, were listening to the commentary. There was a HUGE cheer with the entire street erupting whenever India got a wicket. I loved it! We then spent sometime in the Ramakrishna Ashram, immersing ourselves in the calmness. The Ashram has a beautiful garden with different varieties of flowers.

Caught a metro then to Chandni Chowk, roamed outside the Old Delhi Railway station for sometime and had our dinner in one of the eat-outs. The places to eat outside the railway station are not very neat, and hence do not indulge if you are very keen on hygiene and cleanliness.

Spent the next few hours in platform listening to the commentary; India's position looked very bleak and I had given up the hope of winning. The train arrived on the platform, and the match was getting even more crucial. People were using their mobile phones as modems and streaming the matches in the laptops whereas some had the radio commentary on phones in the loudspeaker mode. Dhoni hitting the winning six caused a big roar and all the teens in the train formed a mini-train and started cheering and shouting. It was a high-adrenaline environment. The Old Delhi skyline saw some fireworks. We retired for the day soon.

Day-2, Sunday, 3-Apr-2011  - We have arrived!

We reached Haldwani around 4:40am.  The bus stand at Haldwani is just half a kilometer(or less) from the railway station. We started the first leg of our journey with a hot cup of tea and then boarding a bus at 5:30am. Haldwani to Kausani ride lasts around 6-7hours, going via Ranikhet and Someshwar. You get to see beautiful landscapes all throughout the journey; but dont expect to see any snowcapped mountains - that happens only after you reach Kausani!

Enroute we stopped at some village for tea and breakfast. We had some tea and bread pakoda; I saw many buying sweet packets; and on speaking to them , i found out that it is called as 'bal mithai' made out of mawa(a kind of flour). One of the most important things in travel is sampling the local cuisine, and one should not miss it especially when it comes to sweets(La Dolce Vita). I bought a few of it. There are two variants of this sweet - one with the small sugar balls on top of the raw chocolate looking bars, and one without the sugar balls. I liked both of them!


Inside the Bus, enroute Kausani


We reached Kausani around 12.30pm and checked into our room at Uttarakhand Hotel. Had to bargain the rates from 700 INR to 350INR per night. The room was in the first floor and had direct views of the Himalayas without any obstructions. The room was clean and had a TV and hot water in the morning (7-10am). I was pretty happy to get a good hotel at such a rate (good omen!). We dumped our luggage and had lunch at the Garden restaurant which is just opposite to the hotel; though the food was good, it was over priced and was oily. We rested for sometime and then walked to the Anasakthi Ashram which is just a kilometer away.

The Mad Hatter, View of Kausani

It was one of the most beautiful evenings that i would cherish for a long time. The first evening in the mountains after a really long time and the chill winds was a refresher; like a fresh lime-mint on a sunny day. We roamed around the Ashram for sometime and then a hot cup of tea was perfect for the cold evening. I did not carry a sweater along, but the chillness in the air was wonderful, giving the occasional goosebumps. At 7pm, we congregated for the evening bhajans. I had expected a usual set of old people who would sing some old patriotic and devotional songs; but things were different(and thats the fun of travel - you get to enjoy what you never had expected). We started off with around half a dozen people of all ages, but soon the entire perimeter of the prayer room was full. We had people from Rajasthan, Delhi, Saurashtra, Tamilnadu(us) and Bengal. we sang some patriotic and devotional songs, but the diversity was wonderful. The Bangla family that had participated was wonderful, and i heard the 'Dhano Dhanye Pushpe Bhara' song after almost a decade! The Rajasthani family sang some nice folk songs, which i did not know earlier, but the tone and the melody in it gave me the goosebumps. We ended with the National Anthem being sung by everyone, and i did not feel like stepping out of the prayer room.

The way back to our hotel room was dark, but the thoughts of the songs and the 'unity in diversity' thoughts gave us the company all throughout. It was then that we stumbled on Aradhana restaurant near the Junction(which ended being our abode of good food for the our remaining stay at Kausani)

Day-3, Monday, 4-Apr-2011  - Kausani

Not many days does one get up early in the morning and gets to see the stunning views of the mountains and birds chirping all around. Morning was cool and the mountains looked pale blue; but as the sun rose, so did the magnificence of the Himalayas; the morning rays striking the peak of the Trishul was like the increasing resplendence of the God's ornate face when the 'arati' is done and the chirping of the birds was like the priests reciting the mantras to wake up the God within all of us. The grandiloquence of the entire view and the accompanied aura was something that cannot be compared with anything else. The mynahs and the other birds chirped continuously; the beautiful sounds only to be broken by the occasional tractor which passes by. Sipping a hot cup of tea and watched the Sun's rays continuing to strike one peak after the other; Trishul on the left and the Panchuchuli on the right; and slowly the entire range was shimmering in golden orange.

The morning dance was shortlived , spanning only for an hour or so, and by around 7pm, fog had set in, only to see the outline of the himalayas. Nevertheless, the beauty was to be cherished forever and the magnificence was everlasting.

View in the morning from Kausani

After hot aloo parthas at Aradhana Restaurant we caught a bus to the tea factory which was just a 10minute ride away, and then returned in an hour or so. There is nothing great about the Tea Factory - probably, it was due to the fact that none of the operations were underway when we went; it should probably be a nice experience to see the tea leaves go through all the stages of 'development' finally to end up as a simmering hot cup of tea ;)
Sun was bright thoughout the day, but it wasnt very hot. Evening was the time to stroll around and enjoy the landscapes and immerse oneself into the beauty that transcends everything else.


Day-4, Tueday, 5-Apr-2011  - From one Heaven to the other : Kausani-Baijnath-Chaukori

We stayed to witness one more beautiful morning of mind numbing sunrise and the snow-capped peaks. And then, we started from Kausani post breakfast at the Aradhana restaurant at around 9am. Got a bus to Baijnath.Almost all buses which go via Kausani, go to Baijnath.

Baijnath(also called Vaidyanath) is a small cluster of temples by the Gomti river. It lies between Kausani and Bageshshwar in what is called as the Katyuri valley - it was once called as Kartikyapura as it was ruled by the Katyuri dynasty during the 12-13th centuries. There are idols of different gods and goddesses, but the main temple houses Goddess Parvati in a beautiful carved black stone. It is believed that Lord shiva and Goddess Parvati were married here. The temple architecture is  characteristic of the Katyuris i believe, as the one at Jageshwar is also similar. The idol of Parvati looked very similar to the design of the idols at Belur and Halebidu(not sure how the Hoysalas and Katyuris knowledge-shared!) The Gomti river was pretty dry when we visited, but i hear that it gets filled up during monsoons. The small lake formed from the river houses loads of fishes - some as big as 3-4 feet!

The Mad Hatter @ Baijnath


We then caught another bus to Bageshwar and then after the lunch there proceeded to Chaukori.  we had to get down at Kotmanya to proceed to Chaukori; got a shared-taxi and after a 15minute ride we were in front of the KMVN at Chaukori. KMVN rates were high(700-800 INR) and then we got a decent deal at Hardik resort for 300 INR a room. There was no one except for us in this resort! The resort's assistants were nice and helpful. We then went for a long walk around the neighbouring hillocks and exploring the rundown structures at the hill-tops. Evening set in fast and the assistants at Hardik got us some hot rotis and dal.


KMVN cottages in Chaukori

View of the Himalayas from Chaukori


Day-5, Wednesday, 6-Apr-2011  - How we got stranded and ended up having a great time : Chaukori-Berinag-Guptadi-Patal Bhubhneswar-Guptadi-Raigarh-Ganai-Rampur.

Have you felt a bucket of hot boiling water getting cold in matter of seconds - well thats what happens in Chaukori! Preferred to have the breakfast at KMVN; the views from KMVN were great, though by the time we finished , around 9:30am, sun was bright and the panchuchuli range was again covered with fog.

Chaukori is a nice little place where there are hardly any people or shops. There are a handful of hotels and some amazing neat views. Chaukori is the perfect place where you just want to laze around or probably read a book. You get to hear *only* the chirping of the birds. We finally bid adieu to this beautiful nice place in hopes of revisiting it again sometime in the future.

We caught a shared-taxi to the neighbouring town of Berinag and then caught another one till Guptadi. Guptadi is a small junction from where roads branches off to Raigarh and Gangolihat. Patal Bhubhaneshwar is around 6km from Guptadi. We were again lucky to get a connecting shared-taxi to Patal. 

Patal Bhubhneswar -  This awesome cave is believed to be as old as the Earth itself. It has been mentioned in detail in 103 chapter of manaskhand of "Skanda Purana". The first human who entered this cave was King Rituparna of Surya Dynasty during the tretayuga. It is said that during his visit he had encountered several devils and 'adisesha' himself acted as his guide. In Duapar yuga, this cave is rediscoverd by Pandavas. In Kaliyuga, Adishankaracharya consecrated this cave and since 1191, the priests have been performing rituals here and people have been visiting here both for worship and for wonder. For worship in this cave priest(Bhandari family) came from Kasht(Bhandaris) are appointed by Chand Dynasty King. At present 18th generation of Bhandari Priests are doing all the religious  ceremonies along with Rawals, Gurs, Dsaunis, Duapas and Bhuls.

We rested for sometime outside the caves and then after a mediocre lunch in one of the hotels there, proceeded onto Guptadi. While we were waiting for the connecting taxi to Jageshwar from here, someone (who happened to be a Youth Congress Secretary) gave us a lift till Raigarh. It was already 2pm and then we caught a connecting cab till Ganai. The driver told us that we would easily get cabs from Ganai to Jageshwar or Bade China from where we could continue, but hardly did we know that he tricked us. On reaching Ganai, we were told that no transportation was available post 3pm to anywhere on the route to Bade China. we waited till 5pm and got no shared taxis. One of the guys who was travelling with us and was waiting for the connecting bus/taxi was the son-in-law of a farmer(Mr.Singh) in the village of Rampur which was just a 10minute ride from Ganai; he invited us to stay with them if were not to get the transportation. After some careful deliberations, we accepted his offer and then reached Rampur in a cab which was to go till Sheraghat.

Wheat fields of Rampur



His house was a nice two-storeyed one by the road. We gave us a small room on the first floor, which was neat, albeit filled with flies. We got some great views of the mountains and the green wheat fields. I could see and hear a stream at a distance and was told that it was the Sarayu river. The farmer's daughter offered us some tea and then we went for a walk along the wheat fields and rested near the banks of the Sarayu river for sometime. Prayer was being offered in the small village temple which was built by the bank. There were a few ladies who were plucking some dried plants and also a few who were breaking stones along the river bank. It was a beautiful tranquil evening and the sun was slowly setting down. Happened to see that mustard was being grown along with wheat - guess this was due to the beneficial aspects that each plant casted on another. By the time we came back to the house, it was dark. Rested for sometime and when we heard the knock on the door, we realized that it was 8pm!

The family offered us dinner - ghee coated phulkas, egg gravy and amazing alu-mutter along with the thickest curd serving. The curd was made out of buffalo milk and the purity was beyond comparison; we had to literally slice the curd. Mr.Singh told us that they dont ferment milk to get curd, but instead they keep it in some vessel which automatically converts the milk into curd.

Onion seeds

Day-6, Thursday, 7-Apr-2011 - Another long day on the road : Rampur-Bade China - Pithorgarh road-Jageshwar-Pithorgarh rd-Panunwala-Almora-Bhowali-Nainital
 
Early morning view of the mountains from the terrace was a treat and i could hear the Sarayu river clearly, along with the birds. Quickly packed our bags and the daughter of Mr.Singh brought us fresh buffalo's milk and some dosa(this was like dosa, but made in the local way - was made of rice flour) and potato-peas curry(from last night). As we were quiet heavy from last night's dinner we did not have it(i had a piece of the dosa) and then conveyed our gratitude and then moved on.

Got a bus from there to Bade China. I had to sit in the front seat and the 2 hour ride was pretty rickety and a little dusty. I had a small gas cyclinder right next to me, and the thoughts of it bursting right under my foot sometimes gave me the chill in the spine. Nevertheless, it all went fine and the bus driver made us alight just before Bade China, near a junction which forks to Pithorgarh. We were told that we can get buses/taxi from here to Jageshwar and dont have to go all the way down to Bade China for this - and hence saved another 8km ride, i.e, 15-20minutes of travel. After a quick hot masala tea, we got a bus to Pithorgarh road which would drop us 2km away from Jageshwar. One of the locals informed us that it was pretty difficult to get the connecting bus/taxi from Pithogarh Road to Jageshwar , and we might be lucky if we get one. Luckily, we got a lift in one of the cars which was run by a hotel there and got down in front of the temples after a 10min ride which goes through dense pine/deodar forests.

Jageshwar temple (Jyothirlingam)

Jageshwar is considered to be one of the 12 Jyothirlingams in India. 'Jagesham Daruka Vane' is the line from one of the slokas that lists the 12 jyothirlingams. The cluster of temples was consecrated by Adi Shankaracharya and houses few gods and goddesses. There is an eternal flame(diya) which has been burning for centuries inside the sanctum-sanctorum of the main Shiva linga. The temple campus was pretty small for its importance as a Jyothirlingam site; the crowd was also very less(handful of them!) and after a quick darshan and lunch at one of the hotels by the road we departed from here.

We again got a shared-taxi from Jageshwar, got down at Pithorgarh Road and then went onto Panunwala for the connecting ride to Almora. At Almora, we had to haggle with a few taxi drivers for the ride to Nainital and finally settled at 85 INR per head to Nainital. The driver was extremely nice and inspite of the dusty and really bad roads, we managed to reach Bhowali at 4:30pm and then got a bus to Nainital and reach Tallital by 5pm.

After a nice alu-chat(cannot be beaten by the one at Paharganj) and tea at one of the eat-outs in Tallital, we walked all the way from Tallital to Mallital, the walk being broken with the usual hotel checks et al. Light drizzles and strong winds welcomed us in Nainital. It was beautiful to see tides formed in the lake and the drizzles, which lasted for a few minutes; it was a welcome shower. Finally, checked into a room at Kohli Hotel. (Tallital and Mallital are the two ends of the mainlake at Nainital. Tallital is the end closer to the bus stand, whereas Mallital is on the other end; Malli is closer to the Market. You get cycle-rickshaws from either ends to the other for 8 INR). After giving some breather to the legs, we came out for a walk along The Mall road, indulging into another bout of street food and window shopping, and finally retiring after having dinner at Macchan Restaurant.


Street Food @ Nainital


The view of the lake and the entire city from the balcony of the Kohli was nice. The Bada Market and the hanging electricity cables gave way to the lake and at the distant end one could see the lights of the shops and houses at distant Tallital twinkling.

Day-7, Friday, 8-Apr-2011  - Zoo, Boating and Roaming in Nainital

Had a sound sleep only to get up at around 8:30am; and after the breakfast we walked towards the Nainital Zoo. The road next to Alkas leads to the Zoo. Its a nice walk upto the zoo; though you have to be in good shape to make the ascent. Prefer to go via the road than taking the steps if you are walking, its always advisable to use the ramp for ascent than the stairs. I was visiting the zoo after almost 3 years and i was as excited as a kid visiting a candy store after a long time. After watching the pheasants, it was the tiger in the cage - it was highly unkempt and there were loads of flies in the cage. It was disappointing. We roamed around from cage to cage watching the different species of birds and canids, leopards and the deers.

Peocock dance @ Nainital Zoo

Thats not a sponge ball! @ Nainital Zoo

Blackberries @ Nainital

After having finished most of the cages, we walked down via the stairs and then proceeded on for lunch. Post lunch, we walked and lazed near Mallital and then tried our legs at pedalling the boat. The boat ride costs 100 INR for an hour; you can also opt for an oared-boat in which case i think you have to pay some more to the oarsman. We preferred pedalling. It was a beautiful, clear afternoon and the occasional cool winds were refreshing. We roamed around the market area and bought some candles as memorabilia. After having some light street food, we preferred to go back to the room to give the legs some rest. We retired pretty early after having dinner at Embassy.

Nainital Lake


Day-8, Saturday, 9-Apr-2011 - Sight seeing in Nainital and Departure.
The Kohli guys did not appreciate a late checkout(not even by an hour!); and we preferred to checkout by 10am after a quick breakfast, as I did not feel comfortable leaving my luggage with these guys. We then hired a cab for the local sight seeing tour, which would last around 2.5 hours and would cost 400 INR. This also helped us in killing some time and also keeping the backpack with us. I did not have any great expectation from this sight-seeing thingy, but the tour happened to be a good one with some really great views. The 2.5 hours just whisked by. The driver(Hitesh:9758163407) was nice and he did not make us hurry at any of the places.


Cave Garden


We started off from the Cave Gardens,and then onto Khurpatal and then some intermediate view points(like Lover's and suicide), Himalaya darshan and then Mango Point.

Khurpatal is a small turquoise green lake and has a village next to it, the whole of Nainital gets its vegetables from this village. It was a beautiful view.


Khrupatal



Mangopoint, View of Nainital (shaped like a Mango)

Try out the shooting which is offered at some places - for 20 INR you get to shoot 10 steel pellets at bottles which are places a few meters away, and is fun(i hit only one out of 5-6 shots!!). The trick is : you have to concentrate on the 'v' shaped mark and then align it with the cursor on the barrel ; and then pull the trigger. The feeling when the pellet hits the bottle is nice, as holding the gun tight without even moving it by a millimeter is quite an achievement.

Bid adieu to the driver and then walked along the Mall Road with stops along the benches by the road and then had lunch at Alka's. This was the celebratory lunch for a successful trip; and then we lazed near the lake for an hour or so, tallying the expenses. I was surprised to find that we were far far below the budget and it called for some more celebration(which we eventually had at Delhi!!). Caught the bus to Kathgodam from Tallital and reached Kathgodam railway station in an hour and 40minutes.

I was surprised to find that the Kathgodam railway station was s00per clean. There were no litters and the station did not smell bad(though there were lot of flies!). The floor was clean and shiny too. We strolled around the station for sometime. The next 3.5 hours were to be spent in the station till we caught our train at 8:40pm. The train was also clean and all the seats were neat. I went and thanked the Station Master for all the efforts in keeping the railway station clean and tidy. I wish all the stations in India are maintained like this - calls for good station masters and also responsible citizens who dont litter the place.

A clean kathgodam railway station

Certificate of cleanness and maintainance to Kathgodam

Day-9, Sunday, 10-Apr-2011 : Dilli Meri Jaan!

We reached the Old Delhi Railway Station at 4am and then moved into the waiting room for the next 4 hours, to get some more sleep and then freshen up to carry on towards Paharganj(yes, again!). Spent about an hour in the Ramakrishna Ashram and then roamed around the market, drinking lassi and sugarcane juice, interspersed with shopping sprees :) . Had lunch at Malhotra Hotel(not good, dont go!) and then caught the metro to New Delhi station and then caught the Airport Express to Terminal-3.



Delhi Metro - Airport Express

The train looks spartan clean and the was an unique experience. This was one of the cleanest and neatest trains i had ever been on. The train runs s00per smooth and was fast; and the entire journey was done in 16minutes (otherwise takes more than an hour in an Auto-rick or Bus)! Costs 80INR per head. Highly Recommended! The Metro train goes to Terminal-3 and then if you want to go to Terminal-1, then you have to catch the Volvo bus or take a cab. The shuttle service from Terminal-3 to Terminal-1 is ONLY available if you had taken a flight arriving at Terminal-3.

Boarded the flight back home and hence it all came to an end!
Bangalore City (think thats Hebbal Flyover)


Expenses (all expenses mentioned are for two people) :
  Total                                     : 21000

  Commute----------------------------------------------
    Bangalore - Delhi - Bangalore(Plane)              :11,800
    Delhi - Kathgodam - Delhi(Train)                  : 604
    Haldwani - Kausani(Bus)                           : 270
    Kausani - Tea Factory(bus)                        :  10
    Tea Factory - Kausani(cab)                        :  15
    Kausani - Baijnath                                :  30
    Baijnath - Bageshwar(Bus)                         :  40
    Bageshwar - Chaukori(Bus)                         :  90
    Chaukori - Berinag(Shared-taxi)                   :  30
    Berinag - Guptadi(Shared-taxi)                    :  60
    Guptadi - Patal(Shared-taxi)                      :  40
    Patal - Guptadi(Shared-taxi)                      :  40
    Guptadi - Raigarh(lift)                           :   0
    Raigarh - Ganai(Shared-taxi)                      :  60
    Ganai - Rampur((Shared-taxi)                      :  30
    Rampur - Bade China(Bus)                          :  70
    Bade China - Pithogarh Road(Bus)                  :  30
    Pithogard Road - Jageshwar(Shared-taxi)           :  20
    Jageshwar - Pithogard Road(Shared-taxi)           :  20
    Pithogard Road - Panunwala(Shared-taxi)           :  10
    Panunwala - Almora(Shared-taxi)                   :  70
    Almora - Bhowali(Shared-taxi)                     : 170
    Bhowali - Nainital(Bus)                           :  20
    Nainital sight seeing (Private cab):400           : 400
    Nanital - Kathgodam(Bus)                          :  68
   
  Accomodation----------------------------------------- 2000
    Kausani(Uttarakhand)                              : 2 x 350 =  700
    Chaukori(Hardik)                                  : 1 x 300 =  300
    Nainital(Kohli Hotel)                             : 2 x 500 = 1000

  Remaining in Food and Sundries

Some Useful Tips and Notes:

1. Prefer to get down at Haldwani than Kathgodam as Haldwani is the transport hub of the entire region. You get taxis and buses from Haldwani to almost every place in this region.

2. The buses halt at Someshwar for almost an hour for the driver to have his lunch; this would be a good time to visit the Shiva Temple - this is considered to be one of the Jyothirlingams. We missed this, as i completely forgot about it.

3. If you are in Kausani and dont visit Anasakthi Ashram and do not participate in the evening bhajan, then you are missing a LOT :)

4. Visit to Tea Factory can be done if you want to kill time; otherwise i did not see anything 'great'.

5. Prefer staying at Uttarakhand or any other hotel near the Kausani junction than KMVN; these are much cheaper and have more options for food. Prefer KMVn, when you have your own transport options and can afford the price of KMVN. KMVN is good, but comes with its own set of trade-offs.

6. We found the food at Aradhana Restaurant to be much much better than the others; this is a small and clean restaurant run by a family(husband/wife and 2 children) and serves good hot food at very reasonable rates. The owner is extremely nice. We ate most of the time here, as he served us food with our requirements(like non-oily).

7. Feed the fish in the Baijnath temple, it just costs 2INR for a packet and helps the local economy in a very small way; and also its a nice view to see the fishes fight to get the pulses(chana) thrown.

8. Hardik does not have the views of the snow-capped peaks but it is a nice calm place which is much cheaper than KMVN; prefer to stay at Hardik and then have breakfast and dinner at KMVN.

9. Visit to Patal Bhubhaneshwar is a MUST if you are vising this region. I can repeat this a zillion times.

10. Before you enter the caves at Patal, order for food(lunch) in KMVN and then proceed, doing this helps, as lunch would be ready by the time you return.

11. Start from Chaukori early, around 7-8am to finish Patal Bhubaneshwar early and then to reach Jageshwar by evening. Or else, halt at Patal or Raigarh for the evening to start the next leg of the journey the next day in the morning.

12. Visit to Jageshwar can be done if you are religious; otherwise the temple cluster looks very much like Baijnath and can be skipped.(Though i believe in the powers of a Jyothirlingam)

13. Kohli hotel was recommended in the Lonely Planet Guide in the budget section and we preferred this to others. But when we went into the room, we were totally unhappy, the room was unkempt and dusty and the paint had come off at many places. The toilet/bathroom was not at all clean. Also, the manager of the hotel and his assistant were quiet curt in replies(not at all freindly) (though the guidebook says that the Mr.Shah is one of the reasons to stay!). Since we were tired, we preferred to stick to this for now and then look for something the next day. But little did we know that we would end up staying both the days during our stay in Nainital in here.

14. Boating in the main Nainital lake is highly recommended.

15. Prefer buying candles from the guy who sits last in the market - in the lane after the Naina Devi temple; he does not have a 'shop' as such and sells stuff on a table; he does not negotiate the price but sells stuff at the cheapest rates of all. Good deal.

16. Visit to Kathgodam Railway station and travel by Delhi Metro-Airport Express are HIGHLY recommended; and dont miss the street food and buying trinkets and other hippie-stuff from Paharganj.


Videos: You can watch some of the videos taken during this trip in here : http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=0104A98CAD2B44ED ( will be adding more in here).


Highlights of the trip:
1. Stunning early morning views of the Himalayas.
2. Stay with a farmer family in a village near the banks of Sarayu river.
3. Delhi Metro - Airport Express
4. Anasakti Ashram - bhajans and the aura.
5. A Clean Kathgodam station
6. Walking with a Leopard
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