Almora - The First Stop

Trip Start Aug 19, 2006
Trip End Sep 13, 2006

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

It is the ninth day of the waning moon. We reach our first day's camp in KMVN, tourist's bungalow in Almora, late in the evening. It is pitch dark out side and cold and damp inside. There is a calm and quietness about this place. During the rainy season clouds spread their wings all over. They cling on the mountains for days, even enter inside the houses and stay their uninvited. The faint odour of the dampness lingers every where in the dormitory. We are four occupants in the dormitory in eastern wing of the Guest House. Each one of us is busy with his private chain of thoughts, as are other thirty yatris in their cocoons, somewhere in other suites of the guest house. It has been a long and an eventful day. It is not the end of the day yet as I sit in the dormitory under a dim light of bulbs and reflect on the day's proceedings. The whole scenario passes through in front of me as if I watch every thing from far off.
Ah, what a day, jam-packed with activities. Sitting in the cosy recesses of the dormitory I recollect dreamily the passage through the day; our tumultuous reception in Gajiabad followed by a heavy breakfast given by local bigwigs of the town, A brief stopover at Garhmukteswar where River Ganges full up to the brim flows on lazily carrying huge load of  rain water and silt; the drive through Gajraula, once a tiny village dotted with Dhabas ( the roadside eateries) on either side of the road where buses to and from Delhi would stop over for breakfast, lunch or dinner, is now grown into a big town - they are now attractive restaurants providing many facilities to the wayfarer at a relatively cheap rate; the glimpse of brass city of Moradabad famous for brass artefacts made by local skilled artisans; a passage through Pantnagar, seat of Agriculture University which transformed the face of Terai region notorious for malarial climate, into a grain bowl of the state - we had a glimpse of panorama of village life on way and their green paddy fields which frantically waved us bon-voyage and thus saw the country side fly past from the bus window; then we drove on to Haldwani a big trading centre "a mandi" of supplies to the hills and finally we are at Kathgodam so named as it was once big timber depot, the railway terminus and gateway to the mountains  - nestled in the foothills of Himalayas, late in the afternoon for lunch. Though clouds are playing hide and seek with the sun, it has generally been a cloudy day. Here we changed over in two smaller buses, as big capacity bus can not ply on narrow and serpentine hill roads.


We passed through Lake District of Kumaon in which Nainital is the famous lake town and includes Bhimtal, Naukuchiatal, Sat-tal, Naldamyanti-tal, Khurpa-tal and Malwa-tal.
We reached Bhimtal -a small beautiful lake town, through a steep ascent. We passed through beautiful poplar avenue which cast their long shadows in the lake. The water edge of the lake is lined with weeping willows. They droop down to touch the waters to have better look of themselves in the depths of the lake. Besides Lake Bhimtal there is another lake nearby called Naukuchiatal so named for its nine corners.
As sun sets behind the mountains the phantom like silhouette of the serrated hills is painted in the backdrop of rosy flushed western sky. Under these mountains, not far off, is nestled yet another lake Sat-tal under the shadows of ancient oak trees. There are no buildings or hotels in the vicinity of the lake. There are only few thatch roofed sheds on higher grounds who sell tea and snacks to the visitors during the day time. If you happen to be there you would see the ancient oak trees are loaded with bracken-fern, vines and orchids. In them also thrive many lives. Different species of insects can be seen crawling along the bole and branches of the tree. In fact the area is a happy home of bats, owls, crows, mynas, monkeys and squirrels. The generous oak tree allows the squirrels and monkeys to nibble the acorn. Towards evening there is cacophony of birds as they come to roost here. Entire area resonates with their shrill cries as they fight for a space of their own. The branches of oak trees are play-ground of monkeys and langurs. They show off their skills with great zest and noise. A woodpecker up in the hollow of a tree continues tapping the tree until late in the evening even while stars have presented their presence. Indeed a noble spirit resides in the oak trees. In the twilight the lake looks black, awesome and frightening. The eerie silence that this lake presents is indeed very fearsome. Due to thicket of oak it is dark even during the day. As evening descends, a blanket of darkness spreads every where; lake is quiet, trees stand still, it's calm every where, and only the occasional hissing whiff of breeze disturbs the tranquillity, and an army of glow worms come out blinking tiny lights from every nook and corner as if to show the way to the stray wayfarer. The crickets and cicadas begin their evening song. As darkness deepens it is time for night denizens to make rounds of the area in search of food, especially carnivores like panthers and leopards. Alas! This time we did not have the chance to linger on there but next time if we have a chance to visit this lake, I hope to see similar scenario that is painted in my memory.
Crossing over the saddle, we enter Kosi river catchment area and reach Bhawali -- an orchard town that has mainly apples, plum, apricot and peach orchards in its surround. Not very far away from here is Ramgarh where there are extensive fruit orchards and is aptly called fruit basket of Kumaon.
Evening comes quickly with aroma of cookies wafting from near by houses. A lone bird slices through the calm airs and vanishes into the thicket of the trees. The light turns grey and night fell fast. And we are still in Bhawali, miles away from our camp. I recall quite vividly, we pass through whispering pines lined up on either side of the road; visit Hunuman temple at Kainchi located at the end of a sharp u-bend beside a small stream; reach Khairna where road forks - one on the left across the river leads to Ranikhet and another on right along river Kosi takes us to our camp Almora. Soon it was pitch-dark as clouds gathered and covered the sky. It deepened with every passing moment and finally became impregnable. Nothing was visible except the faint beam of bus-head lights. I was wondering whether the bus driver was able to see so many blind bends and turns. It was scary but at last we reached the camp in almost dazed state. And what a relief it was. It was the price we paid for our extended reception at Gajiabad.
We have covered a long distance of 378km of plain and 94 km of hill journey by bus and have many more miles yet to go. My eyes are too tired to keep open any longer and I am off to dream land as soon as I hit the pillow.
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Kumaon Mandal V ikas Nigam (KMVN) Tourist Bungalow
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