Sunday, December 4, 2011

Seeking a ‘piece of peace’ in the Heaven

Seeking a ‘piece of peace’ in the Heaven

Reflections - in Bhimtal Lake

A heading for a travelogue? Sounds a bit out of place! Well this journey was undertaken by me, while surveying the area for a small piece of land for building a post-retirement house for me, in the land whose official travel internet portal opens with the phrase ‘enter the heavenly portals’ and hence the heading. The area I am referring to is Kumaon region of Uttarakhand state in India. Some of us friends got together to explore the possibility of acquiring a piece of land in Kumaon region with similar intents and accordingly, we set off in our quest.

Glowing sunset

Due to the advent of the fog menace we decided to start late in the morning and as per our plan we started off at 8.00A.M in the morning, but were in for a big shock as the road in the Vijay Nagar area of Ghaziabad was choked to the brim and we could only get past this part after struggling for more than two hours. This threw our plans haywire, but we proceeded all the same with utmost gusto. The roads for the major part were good thereafter and we made good headway, to stop briefly for B’fast at the Skylark Restaurant, just beyond Garh Mukteshwar. But near Ramnagar we were again struck in a traffic jam at the Railway intersection, as the over bridge is yet to be completed. We finally reached Haldwani, from where the ascent towards Nanital begins, at about 3.30 P.M. and stopped over briefly for some Rice with meat curry at the ‘Shama Restaurant’, which is considered a delicacy of this hotel in Haldwani. Thereafter, we headed towards the Nanital hills from the Bhimtal route via Kathgodam and as we entered the hills, the shadows were already lengthening and the evening was setting in the hills.

Silhouette of trees against the golden colour of sun rays

We got past Bhimtal and saw the reflections of the houses on the lake; as usual I could not resist the temptation of taking a shot with my camera. Having gone further ahead I saw the glow of the evening sun setting alight the hills, creating a mesmerizing silhouette of trees against the golden colour of sun rays, again I was tempted to stop and take a shot. My constant stopping of the vehicle, made us lose more of our valuable time and by the time we reached Bhowali, it was already dark. We still decided to head towards Ranikhet, but just before reaching Kainchi were again struck in a traffic jam, caused by the washing away of the small bridge during the record breaking rains of 2010 and as only one side of the road was available, it was being used alternatively by the traffic coming from either side and as the heavy vehicles had also taken to the road by then, the chaos reigned supreme, leading to further loss of time. Finally, we reached Khairna, where we found the entry board to KMVN run restaurant and checked out for availability of rooms, to put up for the night and were surprisingly pleased to find the place vacant with availability of all the rooms at our disposal.

View from Tourist Rest House - Khairna

As the dusk set in while driving, one of our friends, who goes by the name of Sunder and was driving, started telling stories about ghosts, which I believe is a favourite past time of the people belonging to the hills. The story spun around sightings of huge ghosts at Betalghat, because of which the place is named as such. However, as we choose our rooms at Khairna and put on the water Gyesers for some hot water, the lights went off, despite the fact that the Gyesers were on. We shifted to another room and the same story unfolded and we started joking that this was doing of ‘Betal’/ghost in Hindi, but finally lights in all the rooms went off. We finally shifted to the Dormitory, but having paid for the rooms, sought the better quality linens & bedding to be shifted there. Thereafter, we settled in and few of us had a few rounds of drinks, whereas others like me took to a few cups of hot tea laced with ginger, which tasted divine in the cold environs. I stepped out to find the sky filled with a million stars, as the night air was crisp & clear, enthralled I took out my camera to take a night shot, sans my tripod, which I did not carry during the trip. After an early dinner, every one of us, snored away to glory, only to get up in the morning.

Kosi River flowing by night at Khairna (hand held exposure) - check out the light spots on top of frame which are stars in night sky

Khairna is a nondescript place, but strategically located on the left bank of Kosi River at the junction from where roads towards Almora & Ranikhet bi-furcate. I have seen in certain blogs defining the altitude of Khairna at about 1830 meters, but the same is not correct as Ranikhet itself is perched at that height and Khairna is a valley and at best would be about 1300 meters. The morning brought in new subjects to explore with my camera, there were a plethora of birds and one of the birds that I found outstanding was the kind of Kingfisher with a black & white chequered pattern, akin to tweed design, but considerably bigger than ordinary Kingfishers, with a very reflective eyes. I took a few shots and rued not having carried my tripod along. There were other birds also and also a macaque rummaging along the river bank for some food. The scenic beauty of Kosi river was unfolding, as the light started touching the higher hill tops and the reflections were prominent on the river water, I took up a vantage position for a photo-shoot and resultantly was the last one to complete the morning ablutions. As the sun got higher, I could see the extent of damage that Kosi had caused during the extraordinary flooding due to heavy rains in 2010.

View of Kosi River from Khairna - early morning

Kingfisher with a black & white chequered pattern, akin to tweed design

As we had started on a Saturday and planning to return back on Sunday, we started deliberating over the B’fast table as to whether it would be advisable to head to Ranikhet, which was another 30 Kms. ahead and to return back the same day with a few more spots to visit in between. We deliberated upon this issue and finally reached a conclusion that if we did visit Ranikhet, we would reach Delhi very late at night and it would be impossible to attend office on Monday morning. Therefore, we decided to explore the two locations nearby and accordingly headed for the road leading towards Betalghat. Having crossed the bridge across the Kosi river, we went past the G.B. Pant Potato Research Institute and having gone past some nondescript villages, changed course from the main road to an smaller road that headed upwards, till we reached Siltuna village. This village is perched at about 5,500 feet above mean sea level and is placed on a flat ridge, on which there was a lot of cultivable land. The views of the Himalayan ranges were clear, albeit the fact that due to advent of bigger hill across the sight of view, a part of the ranges were not visible. The biggest vantage point of this spot was that the motorable road reached the village and beyond it and is about 6 Kms. from main highway at Khairna. I again could not resist the temptation to take a few shots of the scenic beauty of the destination with my camera.

Birds eye view of Kosi River

Panoramic view of Siltuna village

Having retraced our path back to Khairna and onto National Highway 87, we headed for the next destination that bifurcates from Ratighat on the NH. Having gone past Garampani, we reached Ratighat where we found that the side road leading to village Kapaholta had been affected by landslide and portion of road had slid down and necessary repair work was underway. We left our vehicle on the main road side and we had to tread on foot for some distance before we could mount our next conveyance, which was a rickety old Jeep. The road leading up to Chorha village runs through Kapaholta and is essentially a bridle path or jungle road meant for transportation by foot or by horses. The incline was steep and road narrow and badly damaged by the rain, making the journey difficult and we had roller coaster like experience. After struggling for about an hour, we stopped and made further way upwards by foot across village fields cut into steps. But when we reached the village, the beauty was awesome and the struggle to reach the destination was all forgotten. We waited for about an hour at the village, soaking in the splendors of nature and I took the opportunity to take a few shots with my camera. Thereafter, we retracted back upto Ratighat, but the return journey was all the more harrowing for my friends, not for me as I have made to even more extreme destinations and naturally was perched in the front with the driver. Having experienced some immemorial scenes of the Himalayan ranges, we made our way back to Delhi, reaching home late at night.

View of Dhaura River from below Siltuna village

Some Views of Himalayan Peaks -

Panoramic view of Himalayan ranges from Chorha village

L_R - Mrigthuni, Maiktoli, Nanda Devi, Nanda Devi East, Nanda khat, Trails pass & Pindari glacier,Chhangueh,Nanda Kot

L_R - Nanda Ghunti, Trishul -3,2,1 Peaks, Mrigthuni,Maiktoli & Nanda devi

L_R - Nanda Ghunti, Trishul -3,2,1 Peaks, Mrigthuni,Maiktoli - panorama

The Panchachuli group

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