Sunday, January 12, 2014

Visiting Tarikhet & Timila

Nondescript destinations of Kumaon –
Visiting Tarikhet & Timila
View of the Trishul mastiff from Timila
We again got a chance to visit Uttarakhand in the month of December and I was enthused as we were to stay at the Forest Rest House in Binsar that had been arranged through a close contact of mine.  Because of the bad road conditions between Rampur & Rudrapur, also as we were only male friends (sans wives) that were to travel, we thought of trying out the train and to add on some frugality to our living, we booked the tickets in Sleeper class and this saved us ample amount as we could manage to & fro journey within Rs.400/- per person.  But the flip side of the journey was that as it was considerably cold we were burdened with carrying our sleeping bags/blankets etc.  The train we had chosen was the famed ‘Ranikhet Express’, which leaves Old Delhi station at 22.35 Hours and thus, we had ample time to return back home from office and there from after having a quick dinner leave for the station. 
White capped Plumbeous Redstart
A singing Redstart
Smew (Mergellus albellus)_in Kosi River upstream towards Ranikhet
             We boarded the train and had a chat till we reached Ghaziabad station at about 11.30 P.M as one of our friends was to board the train from there.  Thereafter, we arranged for our beddings and tried to sleep, as I was carrying my ‘sleeping bag’ I was quite comfortable despite the cold conditions outside.  We reached Kathgodam at around 5.00 A.M in the morning and the driver we had contacted, named Kailash was waiting for us with his Sumo.  Since it was quite dark all around, I asked him if we could get some hotel for a few hours, so that we could have some tea etc. and refresh ourselves and start at around 8.00 A.M. when the sun was up.  But he replied in negative, stating the being extremely cold, most of the hotels do not open up after 10.00 P.M. and the early ones start business at around 7.30 A.M at the earliest.  As we had no other option, we started the drive for Ranikhet at a slow pace and I asked the driver to stop the vehicle at the KMVN run Restaurant cum TRH, as he was aware of the place he agreed readily.
Ganiatoli - the road from here bifurcates towards Ranikhet & Tarikhet
Early morning view of clouds settled in valleys and distant Himalayan ranges
            After about two hours drive, having driver slowly and carefully, we reached Khairna and as it was about 7.30 P.M. the workers had just started stirring up.  Our intrusion hurried up and pace and the boy who provides tea etc. informed that he was out of milk, he would only be able to provide black tea/coffee only.  As it was quite cold outside all of us readily agreed to the proposal.  By the time the tea was prepared all of us relieved ourselves and as the sunlight was breaking on the valley, the birds had started chirping and I immediately took out my Camera to launch into my favourite past-time.  Taking cue from my action, my other friend who was accompanying us also took out his gear and we proceeded to take a few shots.  Thereafter, we took the tea and also some biscuits being carried by us and then we proceeded towards Ranikhet.  A further one hour’s drive took us to Ranikhet and we stopped at Ganiatoli, the hamlet from where the road bifurcates towards Ranikhet & Chilyanaula and the other towards Tarikhet, leading to Bhatrauchkhan and then onto Jim Corbett Park, which finally touches the National Highway to Delhi at Ramnagar crossing.
The forest rest house in Binsar
             We got down at Ganiatoli to purchase fooding, as the forest rest house did not have the facilities available in Hotels and the Forest Guard, who acts as all in one is either to be given money or goods to prepare the meals etc.  Since there were no proper markets around the Forest Rest House, we decided to purchase the goods required from Ganiatoli itself.  After having purchased fresh vegetables, milk, eggs, bread, butter, flour et al, we proceeded towards our first destination of the day to refresh ourselves, especially as one of our friends was overcome with an acute bout of nausea.  We slowly wound our way through Tarikhet, Timila and Sauni before reaching the Forest Rest House at Binsar.
View of distant Himalayan ranges from Timila
             Being a Forest Rest House (FRH for short), it had very basic facilities to provide and we had get the water heated by water heating rods and took turns to take bath.  But as we were famished, immediately after having brushed our teeth, we proceeded to partake the Bread & Omelet’s with piping hot tea and this rejuvenated our spirits.  Being inside the forest area, the FRH which was old English time bungalow was quite cold inside and preferred to sit in the sun.  By this time some of our friends started clamoring for getting some non-vegetarian item for dinner and it was decided to send the driver Kailash, who was a local boy to get some local mutton for dinner.  As one of our friends was down with nausea, it was decided that we would remain at the FRH till his health improved and only thereafter, we would go out for some local excursions.  Accordingly, after taking the medicine our friend was put to sleep and we proceeded to take bath one by one and I voluntarily was the last one to take the bath, as I was scouring the locality for my avian interests.  After having had our lunch, freshly prepared and served by the Guard, comprising of Daal (lentil soup), Matar Paneer (Peas with cottage cheese soup) and Roti (Indian bread) and steamed Rice, three of us departed for a short tour of the area.

View of Panchachuli ranges from Timila
The Hathi peak behind the hills
A local shop cum house in Timila
The shop owner - Harish Chand Papnai
A typical village house in Timila
Panoramic view of Timila village
Oranges growing in Timila
             Having taken a walk on one side of the forest area, we returned after an hour or so and found that our friend taken sick earlier was refreshed and raring to go and thus, we went out to check out the nearby village of Sauni and Timila.  Whereas, Sauni is a pretty big village, with a small market on the main road itself and houses a few hundred feet above it.  It houses a primary school just across the road where the shops stand and it also caters to the village called Talla Dabar, which is also about a few hundred feet below the road head.  However, from the main road itself there is no view of the Himalayan ranges per se from this village, one has to move away from the road head towards the edge of the terraced fields to get a view.  We just stopped here for a few minutes and headed upwards towards Timila.  From either side Timila village is at the highest point of elevation, may it be from Sauni or from Tarikhet.  Timila village stands at about 1800 meters above mean sea level i.e. about 6000 feet.  It is situated next to a virgin Oak forest area and therefore, a plethora of birds & animals can be viewed from this village.  The view of the Himalayan ranges from the road above the village itself is astounding; as one can view almost 100 Kms. of Himalayan ranges from this village.  To add a feather to its cap, the village being at a moderate height also grows fruit trees like oranges, sweet limes, walnuts etc.  Timila is situated about 11 Kms. from Ranikhet and 3 Kms. from Tarikhet on the State Highway running from Ranikhet to Jim Corbett Park through Bhatrochkhan.  It is located 28 KM towards west from District head quarters Almora and about 180 KM from State capital Dehradun.  Timila is surrounded by Betalghat Tehsil towards its South, Bhikiyasain Tehsil towards its West, Dwarahat Tehsil towards its North and Hawalbag Tehsil towards its East. 
As the clouds cover the Himalayan ranges - view from behind Devikeht village
As the clouds roll over the hills
Evening sets in at Binsar 
It is getting darker and I try to take a shot of the Fox - a palpable shake - 1/50 Sec. hand held at 500mm
The glittering stars - view of Ranikhet et al from Timila at night
The fire place burns brightly at night in the Forest Rest House, Binsar
             We turned back from this point after deciding to return back after nightfall to try and photograph the Himalayan Ranges in moonlight.  We headed further beyond the FRH to explore the region beyond as the driver informed us that the view from there was equally spectacular and we thus, headed towards Devlikhet village and beyond it.  The valley is south facing and by the time we reached, evening was slowly settling in and we found that the Himalayan ranges were not visible as clouds had started gathering.  We roamed around and had a cup of tea near the Binsar reserve forest and also checked out the local bakery, which was manufacturing fresh biscuits & buns.  We tried to explore the forest and as the light was really low, I could not get to photograph the Fox that appeared suddenly and also a bird and thus, thought it proper to return back to the FRH.  By the time we reached the FRH, it was already dark and the sun was setting, it was getting extremely cold and we requested the Guard to arrange for some firewood so that the fireplace could be lighted, which would provide to some warmth to us.  At around 9.00 P.M we headed back to Timila to try and photograph the Himalayas, but due to cloud cover, despite trying many permutations & combinations with the aperture, shutter speed et al we could not succeed in getting the desired shot and so we took a shot of the twinkling lights of villages across the valley and returned back to the FRH.  We enjoyed our dinner of mutton & roti, sitting in front of the fireplace with raging fire and thereafter, retired for the night.  Finding the bed & beddings too cold for comfort I took out my sleeping bag and retired for the night, having a very cozy sleep.
Out of focus - NO - in focus are the water drops dripping after overnight dew

A woodpecker intently seeking its food
As the first rays of sun filter in through Binsar forest
Indian Robin in Binsar forest
A Spotted forktail in Binsar
             The next day I woke up early hearing some noises on the wooden floorings and found that my friends were readying for the day by getting water heated by using the Water rod.  After lazing around a bit, I got up and completed the morning ablutions and found that the entire forest area was dripping with the dew than had accumulated on the tree leaves.  I took a shot of the crow, the first bird that had woken up in the morning and was hopping around on tree branches and simultaneously enjoyed the cup of tea & biscuits around a small fire built up the Guard in a ‘Chullah’ (a movable wooden stove).  We decided that we would move out around 8.00 A.M when the morning sun would have stirred most of the birds from their nests and accordingly, we went to explore the forests around Binsar Mahadev temple.  We were amply rewarded for our efforts, although the low light did not allow us to photograph many birds that we could see.  Thereafter, we paid our obeisance at the Binsar Mahadeve temple and returned back to the FRH.  Here we had a sumptuous Breakfast of Pranthas & subzi with tea and then headed for Tarikhet.
A traditional Kumaoni marriage party ready for departure
All decked up to attend he marriage - Kumaoni traditional ornaments - on way to Tarikhet
View from 'Gandhi Kutir' in Tarikhet
Martyr's memorial in Tarikhet
The spot where Ganhiji stayed in a makeshift hut in June, 1929
The dilapidated building known as Gandhi Kutir in Tarikhet 
All the doors & windows stolen from Gandhi Kutir
From L to R - Vikas Pandey, author, Vinay Mongia & Ravindra Varoon
The statute of Gandhiji kept in safe custody by Prem Kutir school Principal in Tarikhet
Tarikhet view
The volunteers heading for Namo meeting in Dehradun in Ganiatoli
As we head homewards - the last view of the hills
            Tarikhet is a big hamlet, which is the Block headquarters that goes by the name and covers most of villages’ upto Sauni & beyond.  It is at a lower elevation of about 1560 meters above mean sea level and apart from the Block Development Office, it houses banks, ATMs, a Primary Health Centre, Govt. Inter College et al.  With Indian independence struggle movement in its credit, Tarikhet is a charming, verdant and beautiful cute village nearby Ranikhet on the way to Ramnagar. The prime attraction here is the small hut known as Gandhi Kuti, where Mahatma Gandhi, the great symbol of peace and tranquility and Father of our Nation, stayed once during the freedom movement. Tarikhet was the nerve center for all the activities related to the freedom struggle. This is a must place to be visited to get the feeling of the history of India and its independence.  But the recognition of Tarikhet is attributable to the famous ‘Gandhi Kutiya', a small hut where Mahatma Gandhi, the great freedom fighter once stayed for three days in June, 1929. This place is thus, a symbol of India’s freedom struggle against the British Raj.  However, as you approach this venerated place, the government apathy is palpable & noticeable straight away.  The condition of the approach road is atrocious, with no maintenance whatsoever.  Even more so is the actual Kutir, which is ceremonially decked up during the Gandhi Jayanti etc., as informed by the local residents, only when the local leaders troop in and make tall claims, only to disappear later.  The staircase is in bad shape, the place where Gandhiji stayed was converted into a school but the same is now in a state of total disrepair and the locals have even removed the doors & windows from the building, that sans any kind of security or periphery wall whatsoever.  The statute of Ghandhi ji that was placed at the Kutir and was on verge of being vandalized has been kept in safe custody by the Principal of the local school of Prem Vidyalaya, Tarikhet.  The place also offers an opportunity to visit the Golu Devta Temple, which is located in the vicinity of this place.  Thus, after visiting the two destinations, we headed back to Kathgodam, wherefrom we boarded the ‘Ranikhet Express’ for Delhi at night, after having a very well proportioned dinner ‘thali’ at the IRCTC run restaurant in Kathgodam station, ending our short but rejuvenation sojourn to the hill state of Uttarakhand.

Here is a video of the destination

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