A road off Artola leads to a most enchanting valley which has protected one of the best Shiva temple complex in North India at Jageshwar. There are not so many ancient temples in Kumaon as in the Garhwal but still places like Jageshwar ,40 kms off Almora, wrapped in tallest and dense Devdar trees overlooking 1200 year old scores of Shiva temples(150) at 6000 feet valley , make up for that.
The peace and tranquility in this place if you go in the non festive days is divine. This is evident by numbers of rock caves you see along the road , with old wood doors which a generations of sadhus , meditators have used. Stay here in non festive days if you want to soak yourself in Shiva Bhakti and meditation .
KMVN the tourist body, has a good accommodation. The road leading to the temple off Artola on Almora -Pithora garh road itself is along a rivulet surrounded by dense shadow of devdars and other trees. The treks ahead of the temple reach isolated spots with clear view of greater Himalayas.
Ahead, the main road leads to another natural spectacle of Patal Bhuvaneshwar. It is a cave-temple complex of stalagmites and stalactites, lime droppings forming needles from above and spears from below.We did not stay but returned to Almora for an evening in the cultural capital of Kumaon . You can see its representations in a local Museum.
The next day we were off to Binsar, Bineshwar, and 32 kms from Almora, 2412 meters altitude, off Bageshwar road, which was a summer retreat of Chand rulers of Kumaon. It is uphill ride by a jeep at a U turn you can miss as a forest gate seen on drivers side behind you ,so be careful as you reach 20 kms milestone of Kapdhakhan .
Up there you see a great rest house with no electricity in the dense hill top. You have to walk to zero point along moss-covered trees to reach a forest hut at the top. A painted wall of a hut lists various fauna you are likely to see in the sanctuary. It also offers a "great" view of snow peaks, when the sky is clear. You can stay in the KMVN rest house if your wife and children are not averse to dark jungle nights (till may 2000).
We left for Kosi and towards Kausani. You reach a point in your uphill drive where you can look down to one of the finest jig saw like views of fields below. They were in all shades of green and yellow quadrangles lined on the slopes by Pine trees giving us a idea of the altitude 5000 feet , of this vast peninsula type valley before us.
Flowers of all colors lined the houses along the road and the green farms were everywhere. Probably you would not see these in September!! We reached the favourite hill station in kumaon , Kausani 1890 Meters,53 kms off Almora. The KMVN has a large accommodation facility here and from your galleries you can see the sun rise as well as sunsets.
You can see Trishuli, Nandadevi and Nandakot ranges very well ..come September.!! So off we went to Baijnath and Gwaldham to see them at the closest. Baijnath has the ancient but still the most enchanting statue of Goddess Parvati standing tall. No photography is allowed according to archaic rules of its protectors. The Saryu river has this 1000 years old temple of Shiva . We saw fresh water fishes Mahasheer in its clear water. We returned to rest at Kausani.
The Anashakti ashram is fully surrounded by hotels and only thing it offers is variety of food, if you decide to stay long enough in Kausani as KMVN place had the same
limitations about it in the food. We all can never go to one place and just stay put when you have so much else to see around. For those who can, this is the place to relax in Diwali vacation. With Bageshwar close by you can plan to Trek to Pindari glacier or go via Gwaldham to the Nandadevi Sanctuary.
We left Kausani and went to Ranikhet to stay at the newer rest house of Chilyanaula at end of the road to Baba Hadekhan temple. We pass the grand gates manned by grander silhoutte of Kumaoni youths in green uniform of The Kumaon Regiment of Indian Army . The main mall road has two or three hotels and as the darkness falls all signs of life disappear. One of the restaurants has a menu matching British mess and some of the items are unique. More charming were its wooden rooms well maintained and gives you a different experience of stay. Many back packers from Europe stayed here.
Place to visit In May to June is the Chaubatia Horticultural Institute in Ranikhet. Most of the plants, flowers, different varieties of Roses, Apples are grown here except orchids. Why do we find orchids more in Sikkim not in Western Himalayas? Why do we not help Garhwali's and Kumaoni's help develop dairy farms with Cheese making as climate can match Swiss Alps?? May be the next generation of these proud people will have the proper attitude of "Why Not?"-for every prospects of growth in economy via Tourism, Ecology and otherwise.
We moved down to Corbett via Mohan to reach Dhangarhi gate of the national park. There is a Museum and a hall where model map of the park with all the flora and fauna are displayed as pictures and sketches. It is a must see for those interested or on an educational tour. You can go ahead only if you have booking to stay inside at Dhikala ,Sarpadhuli or other forest rest houses of Project Tiger . Book directly from its head office at Ramnagar ,through KMVN or reach Ramnagar and find the Jeep driver pimps who can probably get you accommodation inside these most economical heritage complexes at a price.
The road from Dhikala to Ramnagar or the Bijrani gate of the Park is lined on your left by higher range resorts on the banks of the river Kosi that flows along it. You even have eco tent accommodation in farms along this road. For those like us who had planned not to go and stay inside the Park but to just visit it at daytime, we can enter via Bijrani gate 3 kms off Ramnagar.
Take a vehicle with at least 4 hours promise; have packed lunch, water, Maps.caps, binoculars, camera, films, pencil-note book, Birds and Trees guide, back pack to collect leaves for a herbarium, whatever your interests dictate!! Do not take guide from gate or if taken do not leave main Bijarani camp early with him, for the tour inside as they are keen to finish soon and road leads to OUT gate only!! Go without a guide to camp , eat and enjoy the 'machaan' on a grand tree and slowly explore this limited section of the Park. For a full Corbett experience plan to stay 3 days in Dhikala or other rest house inside ( See its Map) .We did not see a tiger but lots of other animals like elephants ,sambar ,deers, birds .
Next day we went to Kaladhungi on Haldwani road to see the House-Museum where Jim Corbett stayed. It has all the story of this pioneer with artifacts and photographs. In between we took a right turn to see Lichie & Plum fruit farms. One road to the right leads to a picnic complex made by Forest department with a real water falls to jump into. From Kaladhungi we turned UP to Khurpataal to appreciate this small but mirror like silent pond and then reached Nainitaal.
We had booked into 125 steps up KMVN place called Taalitaal below Raj Bhawan and Commissioners 's office. It has a great and direct view from east of the Naini and has walks behind it up on the hill. The high altitude Zoo on the North up road via Mall is a showcase of many Himalyan fauna like that in Kufri , Shimla is.
The Mall has its rules for vehicles and best way to enjoy and go west to Mallitaal, Ropeway, Nainadevi mandir ,Boat house, capitol Cinema Skating and entertainment complex is to take a row boat and walk back after sight seeing. Drive upto Tonnekay ,Kilbury and trek up to Naina Peak 2611 meters ,for a snow peak view. Take packed food for Kilbury day time long walk trip.
People from plains do have difficulty to do so much walking but maybe they should prepare themselves at home by sessions of staircase climbing.!! Nainitaal is the most complete routine hill stations where people who really can afford and have inclination to stay at a stretch at One place go. You have every thing from skating rinks, ropeway, A Mall, all items of boating, horse riding walks, food of all variety and biggest lake on any Indian Hill station.
Most of the hotels give excellent view of this bean shaped lake. In third week of May they have National sailing-rowing competition which we missed as we had not planned for it. We did see participants practicing in kayaks and rowboats.We rested and experienced the usual daal rice and service delay problem as in every KMVN hotel . Bought a series of prints of Himalayan peaks, which occupy most of the wall area of my drawing room in Baroda today.
I have just had a small experience of the great Himalyan Holiday possibilities . There are so many and so different that one can spend lifetime enjoying "All' the beautiful places that, Garhwal , Kumaon , Himachal and other places till Nepal, Sikkim & Arunachal has to offer. Only prayer is that people who matter in these places and policy makers being always vigilant with vision to protect that which they have been bestowed by the divine.
We can work out a plan where ecology and the aspirations of people -locals and Tourists can be balanced, and then this beauty will be there to be Seen by our children and theirs.
Dr Hemant Sant MS
94, Ashutosh Nagar ,
Karelibaug, Vadodara ,
(** Vadodara = a city of vad =Bunyan trees ,probably a only city in the
world ? named after a tree!!)