A personal travel blog by Ms. Reetwika Banerjee
(Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reetwika.banerjee)
We had been on a ten-day trip to Kumaon Hills last summer with a plan to cover top eight destinations of the region – Nainital, Pithoragarh, Almora, Dharchula, Jageshwar, Munsiyari, Chaukori and Mukteshwar.
Our base travel location was New Delhi. We had multiple options to reach Kumaon from the country’s capital and we chose the night bus journey. It would be an overnight trip of roughly nine hours from Delhi to Nainital. But only after taking a city taxi we realized that our boarding point was at Ghaziabad which falls under Delhi’s NCR area and special permits are needed for the commercial cabs to enter NCR parts with passengers.
That was our first blow at the very commencement of the journey. Luckily, we were a young couple and had tough hearts to accept any odds coming our way during a travel. But I must say, our taxi driver was a smart guy indeed. He promised us to drop at the maximum possible point falling under his permissible territory and showed us a shortcut to the Ghaziabad bus depot. We only had two strolleys and hence it was not much difficult for us to take the walk.
Once we reached the bus depot around 9.30pm, it seemed as though we had landed on moon with no one around except a few hooligans ready to create nuisance at the very first opportunity. I could sense my husband’s tension from his growing impatience, looking at this watch at every passing second. Couple of tourist buses were standing in front of us, but none of them seemed to be ours. It was quarter to eleven, and we were still waiting for our bus to arrive. Finally, it came at five past eleven and we wasted no time jumping onto it. It was already almost full and the remaining seats were occupied from our stop.
Hills of Kumaon – welcome to Nainital
We reached Kathgodam around six in the morning where the majority of the local passengers alighted. Little later, the bus took its first break at Ranibagh for tea which is located at the base of Kumaon Hills. Nainital would be an hour’s uphill drive from there.
It was seven thirty when we landed at Nainital – a heavenly British built hill town in the lap of Himalayas, perched at an altitude of 6600 feet above sea level. It boasts of some of the best resorts and bungalows of the country constructed during British era. We had booked our stays with KMVN tourist rest houses at all the places in the trip except in Nainital and Mukteshwar. Though our hotel was little away from the Nainital market, but we loved the grand view of Nainital Lake and the hill town from our balcony.
Grand view of Nainital Lake from our hotel balcony
View of Nainital hill station from our hotel balcony
The natural freshwater lake is the centre of all Nainital attractions as the whole city is built around it. From atop it looks like a crescent shaped ink blue waterbody with a coniferous outline surrounded by a captivating Himalayan vista. There were three more lakes in vicinity namely Bhimtal, Sattal and Naukuchiyatal, but no doubt Nainital Lake was the queen of all the lakes of Kumaon.
Leisure afternoon boat ride on Nainital Lake
Having a siesta for couple of hours, we relished a leisure afternoon boat ride on the cold waters of the lake, clicked some memorable photographs and then took a stroll to the historic Naina Devi temple along the ornate boulevard. It’s a Hindu pilgrimage site located at the northern edge of the lake. As per legends, the temple is believed to be one of the sixty-four Shaktipeeths of Hindu religion where the eyes (hence the name ‘Naina’) of Sati had fallen when Lord Shiva passed through the place with her corpse.
Our visit to Naina Devi Temple
The temple houses four idols – Naina Devi, Lord Ganesh, Goddess Kali and Lord Hanuman with separate sanctums for each deity. However, over the ages the building had to be reconstructed several times due to its destruction by landslides. A sacred Peepal tree at the entrance is a testimony in itself of the temple’s prehistoric existence. The view of the lake from the temple courtyard was a treat to eyes. We also fed innumerable Mahaseer fishes of the lake with the holy prasad.
View of Nainital Lake from Naina Devi Temple premises
The famous Nainital playground in front of Naina Devi temple
Our next stopover was the Snow View Point, located three kilometres away from the lake. We took a gondola (rope-way) ride up and down from the Mall road to the hilltop. Due to afternoon time, the view was that clear but as heard from the locals, Himalayan snow peaks, Tiffin Top, China Peak could be seen on a sunny morning apart from the Nainital Lake, famous playground and Raj Bhawan. The gondola ride was one of the memorable experiences of our Nainital trip, though the view point needed better maintenance and cleanliness.
Rope-way ride to Snow View Point
Waiting lounge at the Rope-way boarding point
View of Nainital Lake and hill station from the Snow View Point
Our best touchpoint in the entire trip was a short visit to Gurney House (a historic building which used to be the residence of famous tiger hunter Jim Corbett, now owned by Varma family). We did not choose to take photographs there as it was an entirely private property. Way back, we savoured our retreat through the evening free market shopping loads of chats, local sweets, woolen garments and dry fruits.
Way back through evening free market along the mall road of Nainital
Sunset on Nainital Lake
Night view of Nainital hill station from our hotel balcony