A computer guy who loves to travel.

Lunatics on killing Spree

Hi Everybody! This blog is not dead, neither did I stop traveling. Everything in life has a purpose and I was convinced that the purpose of this blog is over. I wasn't sure if I'd ever return to add another entry. I hoped this was not an end, a mere burn out, a hiatus. A couple of days back a bizarre thing happened and then another incident in the subsequent week and it made me write one more time.

These two tragic events were different in nature and proportion; the common thread in both of them however is that they were both driven by a lunatic. The madness of one guy resulted in the death of many innocents. I usually try to keep things light-hearted on the blog, but this deserves serious attention.

I decided to go for a quick trip during the 1st weekend of April with a friend. We arrived at a decision to explore the lakes of Kumaon because of its proximity to Delhi. It was a memorable trip and I had a great time clicking pictures, trekking, watching people rowing the boat etc. Like all my trips, this too was unplanned and therefore there was no reservation. After spending two splendid days at Sattal, Bhimtal and Naukuchiatal, we decided to head back to Delhi. On my return, there were no tickets for Delhi from Nainital. We decided to go to Haldwani and catch a bus from there. Luck still dint favor us as there were no buses that night and we decided to take a shared car till Moradabad and catch the late night bus from there to Delhi.

We boarded a Pilibhit depot bus for Delhi at 1:20 pm. Never did I realize that it was going to be the last journey for some people. I had to sit behind the third row near the aisle as the bus was full. As the bus started, I realized the driver was driving exceptionally fast. I looked at him for a while and then started talking to the guy next to me. The bus was an ordinary bus with very little legroom. So I had to stretch my legs in aisle area. The people around were in deep sleep and my thought process was broken by a sudden and sharp turn made by the bus. Something wasn't right. Going by his maneuvering and swirling, I was wondering either this is an overconfident driver who drives exceptionally well or he is running late. Could he be under the effect of alcohol? My mind shuddered at the thought and then the bus screeched past a sugarcane trolley leaving the sugarcanes slashed and flying in air. I was terrified and extra alert. I looked around – everything was dark and everybody sleeping. I looked at signboards – Delhiwas still 76 kms away. I wanted to walk up to the conductor and tell him to slow down the bus; but he was in semi sleep. I couldn't have walked to the driver and broken his attention at 100 km/hr on a highway. I never felt so helpless in life and was quite restless. Yesterday when I saw this picture of students huddled next to Norris Hall listening to the killer go 'pop, pop' killing 30 people at Virgina Tech, I can understand how helpless they'd felt. They were not in control.

I wanted to get down right at that instant but I thought this too shall pass. I had been to a deadly accident once where my car went turtle and I had to come out breaking the windowpanes and I didn't want anything like that to happen again. I prayed to God to let there not be another accident. I looked out – Delhi was still 67 kms away. It was 3:37 in the morning. Then I saw a lime color mini truck coming from the other side with two young guys sitting in the front and it came too close. I was wondering – can he still swirl this time. Something inside me said, he couldn’t. My body voluntarily flung to the aisle as a reflex. There was a loud impact and everything went black. I experienced glass flying, metal sounds, sound of iron hammering and a few second later, as the metal sounds subsided, I heard loud human sounds screaming for help. This was an accident and I was still alive. I got up thinking I am hurt, I wasn't. I located the exit door and flung it open. As I opened it, I saw a body under my feet. People behind me shoved me out of the door. I immediately thought about my friend. People on the back seats were relatively less injured and they were jumping out. My friend was in the back seat. I started shouting his name hoping he's all right and would respond. He did not, almost all people who were alive, were out. He was inside turning people lying under my seat thinking I am one of the bodies lying on floor. Then he heard me shouting and jumped out. His cheek was bleeding and he had a few bruises but he was in one piece. I asked him to sit in a corner and offered him my handkerchief. I got a few cuts too and bruises in my hands but by and large I was fine. I went inside the bus again. The engine was still revving. The last thing I wanted was the petrol tank to burst. As I went inside, I saw five bodies lying in the front area. With two other guys, I started to pull people out. What I was to see next could be summed as the most terrifying sight of my life. As I tried to pull a body, his hand came off, the skin slipped and bones were visible. We had to drag people holding their clothes. It was a ghastly sight with people reduced to a conglomeration of meat, glass, mud and jelly; it was painful to touch them, leave alone pulling them out. Once we pulled the bodies out, I found my luggage entangled between debris of steel and glass. I opened my bag hoping my camera would be dead, luckily it wasn't. I went to the other side of the bus and tried to take a snap fearing people would beat me that I am taking snaps in this hour of tragedy. My hands were red with blood and shaking as I pressed the shutter. I didn't have the heart to take more. There was no help even after 1 hour of the accident. Nobody would stop his car or bus. It was dark and I had no clue what to do with all this mayhem around me. Fortunately, a bus stopped and we loaded some injured people onto it. When I finally decided to move, there were three bodies lying in such bad state that I had no clue what to do with them. I was sure they wouldn't survive.

At the end of it all, I realized this could well have been avoided. I wish the driver hadn't taken alcohol and lived to see another day. It is a weird feeling to know that the guy you're talking to wouldn't be alive in the next hour. He didn't make it. While Virginia Tech hit all the newspapers and became international news, this will go down as just another stray accident, where a couple of lives were lost.

posted by Vj @ Friday, April 20, 2007, , links to this post

Nanda Devi & the Unsoeld story

“No photograph can do justice to 13,000 feet of vertical relief,” said Jim Wickwire about K2…..

….and there I was standing face to face with the 2nd highest mountain peak in the country, The Nanda Devi!! The Nanda Devi stands tall at 25,645 feet after Mt. Everest at 29,035. What I saw was inexpressible and clearly one of the most spectacular and moving sights one can hope to see in the planet. I was right there in front of that awe-inspiring staggering giant structure feeling like a tiny dot against a huge white canvas!
Since Nanda Devi is surrounded by a group of 6-7 peaks namely Trishul, Nanda Ghunti and the Panchuli range (collection of 5 peaks) – that makes its ascent one of most difficult ones. The mountain goddess has cast its spell on many mountaineers and a lot of tragic stories are associated with it. The most heart rending story is that of Willi Unsoeld. As a young man, Willi climbed the Nanda Devi. Enamored with its magnificence and mysticism, he later named his daughter after it. Being the daughter of a legendary climber, it was only a matter of time that Nanda Devi Unsoeld would attempt to climb her namesake. It was an Indo-American joint expedition in 1977 through a new route and after climbing 24,000 feet and being inside a tent due to a stormy day, she developed clots and felt too ill to move and said very calmly, "I am going to die" and died in her father arms. Willie tried to resuscitate her only to realize that she was dead and made the body to rest in an icy tomb there as a tribute to the goddess.

I was extremely lucky that it was a bright and sunny day with absolutely no clouds.As we move towards the higher regions of Kumaon Himalayas, the peaks start to get bigger and clearer.. On the subsequent days of my itinerary, I ventured into the higher regions but unfortunately the sky was overcast. Despite the clouds I felt I could extend my hands and touch the peaks! By this time I had even begun to feel comfortable with the icy-cold breeze that brushed my skin and blew in the direction of the Nanda Devi. I got a feeling of a warm communion with the mighty peak.
Next year I plan to go into the Darma and Gori valleys, Munsyari, Dharchula and on the Pindari glacier trek. Kumaon is a place like no other; its magnificence provides a lifetime experience. The first few photographs are taken from Kausani in the Almora district and the last one if from Chokori in the Pithoragarh district.

I was dormant for sometime and I thank everybody for the overwhelming response and concerned inquiries during my absence. I've a lot to share.Visit the space next week . My year-end trip to the Himalayas, my home, has been a very special one and Iam sure next year is going to be even better.

and as we say goodbye to the year gone by,let me reiterate that Not all those who travel are lost.

posted by Vj @ Saturday, December 30, 2006, , links to this post

Lansdowne & Garhwal Rifles

We don't remember the days, we remember the moments and I re-lived each moment of my past in those 24 hours. It was one of those perfect days and everything seemed so right. The surroundings were the same, the faces were so pleasantly familier, the trees were testimony of the fact that not everything in this world has changed. I spotted the Pine tree next to my house and it felt that it wanted to stretch its arms to welcome me. Under it, I would play cricket endlessly.

Looking at my house almost drove me to tears. It was a half a century old British house with wooden floors and a fireplace. Time had left abrasions in the walls but the grass was as green as ever. I had a strong urge to peep inside my room but I resisted, the house had new owners. I sat there for a moment and it seemed like a lifetime

Ten years is an amazingly long time but this city has perfectly preserved itself. I was so apprehensive when I decided to set out for Lansdowne wondering if it would still be the same as I left it 10 years back.

The city has never failed to surprize me. For a place so beautiful it is a wonder that people have no clue where it is and that is really a blessing in disguise. The town is unspoiled thanks to the cantonment and would easily qualify as the prettiest and the quitest hill station in India.
Lansdowne is the base headquarters of the Garhwal rifles. Garhwal Rifles is a well known combat arm of the Indian Army whose recruits are from the upper hills and are known for their hardmanship. Everywhere in the cantonment area you can find green vehicles and army men doing their daily chores. I spotted a platoon of soldiers practicing bagpipers for Republic day and it was indeed a pretty sight. These soldiers undergo rigorous drills which includes running atleast 10 kms a day. This is the only city where you can find armymen playing musical instruments and handling weapons with equal elan and if they are not doing anything, they're removing the moss from rocks and buildings. Majority of trees here have surrogate vegetation on the bark (see the tree in the lake). I guess it is the moisture that facilitates it. It makes such a beautiful sight!

If you love the old world charm of the 19th century, then the place is an ideal getaway. It was founded by Lord Lansdowne in 1887 AD thus being named after him (3rd picture). Lansdowne is at a height of 5800 ft above sea level and as far as you can see, you will find pine and oak trees and if you're the one who wants to go beyond Mussoorie and Nainitaal - this is your ideal hill station as you won't find cars, crowded public transport, game parlours and rikshaws. There are no cinemas, neither ice cream shops.

(to be conti

posted by Vj @ Friday, September 29, 2006, , links to this post

Songsten library

33rd Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo (617-650 A.D.

Dehradun is quite a paradoxical city .On one hand there is the mad rush of tourists and then there are areas that are unusally quite and at times their aloofness seems exceedingly inexplicable.Over the recent years ,there is a huge influx of local tourists primarily from Delhi and adjoining states for a quick weekend trip . They often pick tips from websites or travel books for finding popular places and hotels .I personally hate these books because more often than not they end up disseminating knowledge which is not only commonplace but also profoundly useless.Their writing style is awfully cliched and most reporters rather than researchingand finding virgin territories would refer to places which are already mentioned in several other hundred books/websites. The end result of this whole excercise is often dissapointment for the reader . Pick any travel book or google the word "Dehradun" or "Dehradun tourism" and you often find articles that look like replicas of a master template.
Out of curiosity , I did a similar queryand these are the most repetitive places of interest .

*Robbers Cave
*Shakya Center
*Tapkeshwar Temple
*Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology
*Forest Research Institute
*Survey of India
*Malsi Deer Park
*Academic Institutions
Anthropological Survey of India, Botanical Survey of India, Survey of India, Indian Institute of Petroleum, Rashtriya Indian Military College, Zoological Survey of India, Wildlife Institute of India, Indian Institute of Remote Sensing, and Indian Military Academy known as IMA .

All these places are immensly admirable but then there are places that have not been mentioned anywhere and exist inmidst of nature and oblivious from prying eyes of public .Songsten library is one such place It happens so very rarely that you stumble upon a place that nobody around knows and you're completely overwhelmed by its magnitude ,architecture and immaculate planning . My first expression on visiting the place was "Oh ! My God".I've been living in this city for 10 years and how can I not know this place .Absolutely fantastic and I thought I'd write about it someday and today is the day .

Songtsen Library was established by His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang, the head of Drikung Kagyu Order of Tibetan Buddhism. The library is a non-political institution geared to the collection and preservation of books, as well as research and publication on various subjects related to Tibet and the Himalayas. The library is officially recognized as a Research Resource Center by the H.N.B. Garhwal University, Srinagar Uttaranchal.The library is named after the 33rd Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo (617-650 A.D.). It is a branch of Drikung Kagyu Institute (DKI) though it functions independently. It was inaugrated by his holiness XIV Dalai Lama.

The library aims to have a comprehensive collection of important books as well as rare manuscripts on Tibet and the Himalayas. Of particular interest is the collection of books on the Dunhuang documents, one of the earliest written sources on numerous subjects including history, literature, religion, law, astrology and medicine. The original manuscripts date from around the 6th to the 10th century and were discovered in the early part of the 20th century at various caves on and near the famed Silk Route in Central Asia.
Another important collection will be the publications in various languages of the Buddhist Kagyur and Tengyur, the Bon Kagyur and commentaries of great scholars. The library is presently working to make these texts as well as others available online as part of the library's development of an electronic library.The library would use advanced technology to provide visting scholars with access to access to see images of original manuscipts and images of tibet online through a "digital image server" which is installed in the library itself
Also, If you are interested in pursuing a short-term meditational retreat, Songtsen Library has various facilities to provide for you. There are suites with sitting room, bedroom and kitchens as well as simple single rooms -- all with private baths -- for you to choose from.

I rate it as the best place in Dehradun. Quite, serene with absoltely no honks ,no pollution .There is a lush green valley to soothe your eyes and great books to captivate you in an idle afternoon .Isn't that sound like your ideal summer retreat .

Moral of the story -- Don't always believe in your travel books , keep them aside and go and discover it yourself .

Songtsen Library : http://www.songtsen-library.org/tour.html
Songtsen Website : http://www.songtsen-library.org/

posted by Vj @ Sunday, August 20, 2006, , links to this post

The 12 Jyotirlingas

There are places , you go with blank mind,unaware of their significance.You witness it and have a great time there .Then you go home and read about it and realize Wow,I've been actually there.Jageshwar was such an experience .I've been told that It is one of the The 12 Jyotirlingas.I surely consider myself fortunate to have visited one of them,unaware of its importance.Now what is a Jyotirlinga . Wikipedia says " Jyotirlinga or Jyotirling or Jyotirlingam is a shrine where Lord Shiva, an aspect of god in the Hinduism is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlingam or "Lingam of light". There are traditionally twelve Jyotirlinga shrines in India. as recited in a sanskrit shloka.

“Saurashtre Somanathamcha Srisaile MallikarjunamUjjayinya Mahakalam mkaramamaleswaram Paralyam Vaidyanathancha Dakinyam Bheema Shankaram Setu Bandhethu Ramesam, Nagesam DarukavaneVaranasyantu Vishwesam Tryambakam Gauthameeathe Himalayetu Kedaaram,Ghrishnesamcha hivaalayeEtani jyotirlingani, Saayam Praatah PatennarahSapta Janma Kritam pApam, Smaranena Vinashyati” One who recites these 12 names regularly in the morning and evening washes all the sins committed in the previous 7 births and attains all the powers and Siddhis,that is what is written in our ancient scriptures. This is the complete list of Jyotirlingas

1 Somnath in Saurashtra (Kathiawad), Gujarat
2 Mallikarjun in Shrishailam or Srisailam AP(listed as ShaktiPitha site).
3 Mahakal in Ujjain OR Mahakalaswar at Ujjain, MP.
4Omkar in Mammaleshwaram(at Omkareshwar on river Narmada, MP)
5 Vaijnath in Parli (Vaidyanath at Deogarh, Bihar)
6 Bhima Shankar in Dakini northwest of Poona, in Dhakini, Maharashtra
7 Rameshwaram in Setubandha, TamilNadu
8 Nagesh,Naganath/Nageshwar, in Darukavana, Mh.
9 Vishweshwar/ Viswanath in Banaras/Varanasi , UP
10 Trimbakeshwar near on banks of Gautami/Godavari,Maharashtra
11 Kedarnath/Jageshwar in Uttrakhand Himalayas, UP
12 Ghurmeshwar in Shivalaya,Grineshwar in Visalakam, near Ellora caves, Maharastra

The Jageshwar Temple is at a distance of 34 kms from Almora over well made mountain road and breathtaking scenery. I had earlier seen photographs of the Jageshwar temple in various travel books and had been quite taken in by the architecture. Basically, the Jageshwar
templecomplex is a cluster of 124 small and big temples enclosed within a walled premise. The temples date back to as old as the 4th century although the priests there preferred to maintain a degree of ambiguity with regard to its inception. They were of the opinion that no one is sure about who built it and when it was built. These centuries’ old temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva. I googled to find out it’s origin and learnt that time the temples were built, the Kumaon hills were governed by the Katyuri kings who built these temples. Eventually other dynasties came and overthrew the Katyuris and renovated them. I was told some muslim rulers in 17 th centuary were able to reach here and destroyed some of the temples and it was renovated later.

An outstanding feature of this temple complex is its location. It is surrounded by towering alpine ,deoadar trees in a narrow valley and together the ambience presents a majestic picture.I spotted few lotus in a pond inside the complex (See top pic) However I found the stream that flows besides it being used as a dumping ground. On bringing the matter to the notice of the priests, I found them playing the blame game, at the same time being “understanding” about the issue.Also here one thing requires special mention and they are the priests of temple,I found them misleading the tourists and making money in the process .As you enter the temple complex a gang of priests are waiting to pounce on you .They would literally hold your hands and ferry you from one temple to another .There are about 15 mini temples in the complex ,each belonging to a different god. It looks more an organized gang.They can easily identify a first timer and would make him sit in every temple and recite mantras which for an ordinary person would sound greek and latin.Then they would ask you to donate money for Akhand jyoti,they propose it in such a manner that you can't refuse.I gave 100 rs on first two mandirs , 50 on next ,by the time and I reached the 6th one ,I simply refused and there were still a lot of them waiting to catch their prey.That was a real turn off .I wish they would leave people alone to enjoy and explore .
Their professionalism can be gauged by this business card ,which was offered to me in one of the temple complex by a pundit.

Outside the temple complex is an internet café ,Yes you read that right an internet café run by a foreigner I did some quick data transfer as I was dying to see the pics .There is a small dhaba too where I stopped by to have a simple, light and delicious lunch. It is unlikely that we would be able to find such good and healthy food in the plains in an outdoor eating place. The raita in this region is typical. It is made up of cucumber of the gigantic variety available in the mountains and flavored with mustard and a dash of turmeric in the curd. The pungent flavor of the mustard gets into the nose and that is what makes it so typical and I loved it!

Few thing y'd like to know about Jageshwar

Area :
1 sq. km
Altitude : 1870meters
Season : Round the year .
By Rail: Nearest railway station is Kathgodam (90kms)

By Road: Delhi to Almora is 382 kms.I took a state roadways bus which took me exactly 12 hours to reach back to Delhi . Road Journeys tends to become very tiring .But then road journey has it's own fun and you wouldn't want to miss photo-ops like this one ,when this truck blocked our car's way .Unlike in cities, there was no fight as the truck driver gave way to us as we were moving up in the hill.There people may not be highly educated but they surely understand and follow the simple protocols of road.

posted by Vj @ Saturday, July 29, 2006, , links to this post

Letters to the god

This is an an amazing story of faith .

The temples in the Uttaranchal region have always fascinated me for their sheer uniqueness. I decided to visit at least two of the well known ones situated within a few kilometers distance from Almora.(that’s all I could have managed in a day) I decided to pamper myself and cover the distances in a hired private car!

The Chitai Temple: The Chitai temple was my next stop. It is an amazing temple! This is once again a bell temple like the Jhula Devi temple at Ranikhet. It is difficult to put a count to the number of bells. You can just get an idea from the pictures! The temple of Chitai is dedicated to Lord Golu, a highly revered local deity of the Kumaon region on whom the people have absolute faith.

Lord Golu is also popularly known to fulfill the wishes of his followers. The inside of the complex is full of letters to God written by Lord Golu’s followers! I took some pictures of letters in all kinds of paper ranging from stamp paper to ordinary paper!! They are open letters to Lord Golu, making a wish or in thanksgiving. The letters are tied to bells that the devotees get and hang them in the complex adding to the several thousands of them. I too added mine. I scribbled my note on the backside of one sided paper fished out from my bag and wrote with borrowed pen!!

I faith of the Indian people is just amazing. No wonder that India is a place where the west has begun coming to in search of inner peace and spirituality. It is indeed faith that makes our people go around. The ability to accept things with equanimity is something that I guess faith teaches us.I saw letters from school kids,Local congress party,in court stamp paper ,in english and in german . The faith cuts among all caste and countries.

The Chitai temple was the last place on my itinerary in my four-day travel to the Kumaon region. It marked an auspicious closure to my travels for the time being.

With the blessings from Lord Shiva and Lord Golu, I prepared to leave on my onward journey back to the plains with the resolve that I would be back in the mountains again and soon.

There were some letters written in perfect innocence like the one below, where the lady requests the god to turn her into beautiful women. Well faith can move mountains .I hope god grants her the wish.

My thanks goes to Patrix for making this post visible to a bigger audience .
This post is also featured at DesiPundit :The best of Indian blogosphere.

In the end..I was too shy to ask god anything, while other's reading at it . At the same time I really wanted god to listen to me also ..and I found a way out and quickly ended up writing my wish like this..Iam still waiting to hear from him .

P.S - Somebody sent me this link today,so in case you can't make it to the temple,you can still address god right from the comfort of your home through this site. Email to the god

posted by Vj @ Sunday, July 23, 2006, , links to this post

From Colombo to Almora

There are times when I think, how wonderful it would it be, if I could just add one more day in my holidays.Doing a regular office job leaves you with very little time and then you have to make the most of whatever you get (read weekends).
My Kumaon trip was such an extended weekend.At the end of 4th day,I didn't want to come back and I asked myself , What if I had just one more day?
The answer is, in that case, I would have actually hit Nepal .I was on periphery of India (Pithoragarh) and Nepal was couple of hours away, 7 hrs to be precise .

Speaking of Almora,Almora is not your usual hill station.Most tourists travelling on this belt seem to go to Nainital, some reach Ranikhet but very few include Almora in their itinerary. Needless to say, a treasure awaits here. I arrived in Almora after a little more than an hour’s drive in a shared jeep from Ranikhet. The first sight of the Almora settlement over a horse saddle shaped ridge of a mountain was a delight.

Almora is a bustling little hill town, Indeed so. It houses the Kumaon University, The Vivekananda agricultural institute,lines of shops that make up a market place, a crowded bus station, a Museum, the Vivekananda Library and every other institution that goes to making a happening town.

Almora has beautiful residential houses, the lawns laden with rich vegetation. There were swarms of bright eyed school children going up and down the mountain road and while I was walking like a tourist with my backpack they were going to school!!

Almora has its fair share of history too. Mr. Nehru was impriosned here. Also,After his memorable work in the West, Swami Vivekananda landed in Colombo on 15 January 1897. During his passage from Colombo to Calcutta, and from there to Almora, he had delivered electrifying lectures at different places rousing the Indian masses from their age long siesta. His " From Colombo To Almora"

I reached Almora just before sunset and after
parking at the KMVN guest house, headed straight for the Bright End Corner. Bright End Corner is the “sunset point”

In the town where people flock in the evenings to watch the sun disappear behind the mountains. I must say it was a beautiful experience to watch that happen. I did not fathom that it would last very long but actually the experience transcended beyond the mere setting of the sun. The sky changed its hues every minute thereafter and the sight was not short of a miracle! It was a spectacular transition into a star studded night. I was there for more than an hour admiring natures’ glory.

I also sat and spoke to a lady who had come to walk her pet dog and both were enjoying the sunset when I approached them. The lady is a veteran announcer on the state local radio station. She informed me that this corner was named after Brighton, the Englishman, over time it became popular as the Bright End Corner. People also come here to see the sun rise. I was inspired to note her contentment and her deep love for her town, to her it is the best place on earth that offered everything that a person could ask for, for a healthy living.

She also told me that the town looks out over
a fertile terraced valley and four ranges of hills - Banari Devi, Kasan Devi, Shyahi Devi and Katarmal. The Himalyan ranges with the peaks of Trishul, Nanda Devi and Nanda Kot can also be seen from the town.

Swami Vivekanada had this to say about Almora. "These mountains are associated with the best memories of our race: Here, therefore, must be one of centres, not merely of activity, but more of calmness of meditation, and of peace and I hope some one day to realize it." Consequently, Ramakrishna Mission was constructed at Bright End Corner serving as a retreat center.Facing this spot is the Bright End Café on a hillock, a cute but unassuming place serving the tastiest snacks I had in the last two days. The thupka was delicious and so were the burgers! I highly recommend the thupka at Bright End Café to all travelers who go there.I must mention that the KMVN guest house at Almora is also a lovely place to stay in. The garden was blooming at the time with lovely flowers. At the reception area, the hotel sells Uttaranchal tea in attractive gift packs. My friends who got it as gifts found the tea nice and refreshing. It is very light and I loved it too.

Traversing the market place, I was excited to catch sight of the motorbike of two Dutch travellers, Maarten and Ilse laden wit
h their rucksacks.

On the tin box attached to the tail of the motorbike was scribbled the address of their blog. You can check them out at :


These guys have travelled all the way from Europe to India in this illustrious bike.It was a chance discovery and I was checking the images after my return to Delhi,when i was caught by their URL and I opened their page. My only regret is that I could not speak to them.I gave them a fleeting glance and they returned a reassuring smile and I knew we're headed in same direction and we will surely meet some other day ,maybe, in a different land.

The world is after all is such a small place,afterall.

posted by Vj @ Saturday, July 15, 2006, , links to this post

Rendezvous with Ranikhet

"You can live for years next door to a big pine tree, honored to have so venerable a neighbor, even when it sheds needles all over your flowers or wakes you, dropping big cones onto your deck at still of night." ~Denise Levertov .

The two-hour drive from Nainital to Ranikhet over miles of mountain road is full of pine trees and step farms.Ranikhet could easily be called the city of pine trees. Every turn on the mountain road presents a picture perfect frame.Each view is entrenched in my mind even now.There is much greenery here ,much more than hills of Himachal pradesh and garhwal himalayas. The land is apparently very very fertile as one can see lot of step-farming happening across all the seasons around mountains roads and that provides a truly spectacular view .This is probably one the best managed and the cleanest hill stations of India .Part of the reason is only serious travel manage to come this far and go beyond and also being an army cantoment,there is lot of discipline.The mountains being in my blood makes the feeling all the more strong and special.

It took me a almost 2 hrs to reach Ranikhet from Naintaal.I had already missed my bus and I was told that a bus or a jeep could be taken from Bhawali , which is about 12 kms away. Nainital to Bhawali cost me Rs 8 on a state tranport bus and since I rached there after 5 , I missed the state gov. bus too and had to take a private car, which was again economic at 100 rs for a 1.5 hrs journey. It was a nice and comfortble ride

Arriving in Ranikhet in the evening of the second day of my trip, the first place I alighted at was the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam KMVN Government guest house on Mall Road. The place deserves a mention for its sheer aesthetics with the rooms almost nestled in the arms of nature, polite and efficient service and well-cooked food. A dormitory with comfortable beds costs Rs. 80/- per night while a double-bed room with ample space costs Rs. 450/-. There are other options available at higher prices too.

I began my exploration of Ranikhet, translated “Queen’s Meadow” the following morning. I partly walked and partly hitched in local jeeps and sumos. The KMVN guest house is situated in the Army Cantonment area and for several miles till you hit the main city, it is an immaculate road with breathtaking views. At times when I was walking, once in a while I got the urge to digress and went into the slopes covered with glorious pine trees, 100 yr old ramshackled British houses (above pic), rich shrubbery, all under the beautiful blanket of the sky in a special hue of blue. I liked the sight of a pine tree with lisa (adhesive ,turpentine) dripping from it.This is indeed very very strong is applied to stick willows and furniture and also used in varnishes .here’s how it looks for you (photo). The bark has already been slit open and some of the formed material is out there.The forest officials place a conical box below it and collect it every couple of months.

I walked to the Jhula Devi Temple (pic) which is on this stretch. The temples in the Kumaon region have a particular characteristic and that is that hung in their interiors and exteriors are an extraordinary number of bronze bells of all shapes and sizes. There must have been thousands in this temple! They often look like bunches of grapes. Often it is the devotees who tie these bells as an offering. Legend goes that once in the thick forest of Chaubatia mayhem was created by wild animals, whereupon the people invoked Goddess Durga to help them. The Goddess came in a shepherd’s dream and suggested an idol be found and a temple be installed at the particular spot. The village people carried out the commandments of the Goddess and ever since then all creatures in this belt live peacefully.

There is the 7-km long “Nehru Path” or a walking path and the Trekking route in Ranikhet Cant but since I was short on time, I could not take those and decided to go to Chaubatia instead.

Chaubatia means the “Abode of Devtas” and is the junction of four paths interlinking…… . I particularly wanted to visit the Chaubatia orchards and I did. Words can fall short at describing this place but I hope the pictures I took can do some justice to the experience. In short the orchard is a place where you can spend countless idle hours/days/months/years simply gazing at the sceneries. Sitting there one gets the notion of timelessness, of no beginnings and no ends . Magnificent is perhaps the word but I wonder if it is enough. The apple trees were in full bloom with the fruits still half green and half pink. Outside the premises of the orchard is a counter where fruits from the orchard is sold – I carried 1 ½ kilograms of fruit (apples, plums and pears) for Rs. 18/-. Fresh and bottled apple juice and bottled jams, jellies, pickles and juices from the fruits in the gardens is also available from a counter inside.

My next stop was the Golf Course. It is definitely one of the prettiest golf courses I have seen. While tourists searched for photo opportunities and video-taped their excitement, Army men played their favorite sport making experienced shots. As for me, I took pictures, and relaxed on the inviting grass with my laptop and newspaper and even had a quick nap under the beautiful blue sky!

Soon it was time to find a transport for Almora. As I waited at the bus stop at a clearing in the hill, I had the opportunity to have a quick snack at a small shop, probably 40 years old and chit-chat with the owner, an old man. A high-protein meal of chole and eggs cost me a paltry Rs. 12/- and left me wondering and marveling at the sense of contentment of the indigenous people of the hills whose hearts and minds are still untouched by greed and possession. The old man had saved up pine fruits for his fire and gladly offered me some of the perfect ones as keepsakes.

and before I leave... let me show you a real naughty road-sign I captured next to a curvecous road in this beautiful cantonment city of Ranikhet. I always thought of these army people as perfect gentlemen and the one who only mean business , but this one probably captures thier naughty side best.I hope they teach similar lessons to our Dilli-wallahs drivers too.

posted by Vj @ Saturday, July 08, 2006, , links to this post