Issue with travel bug & middle class is, its not easy to balance the expenses that easily to manage multiple journeys at short durations but this time I was to make an exception. Its not been long to the journey to Manali and I was already itching to another journey to hills.
Month of August since last many years been unique to set continuous holidays for professionals and usually the time when its hard to avoid the temptation to go out. I guess half of Delhi goes empty from professional considering the number of options around Delhi to go out. This years these been four days means it was hard to sit back home.
Before buying car in 2012, my first long car journey to any tourist destination was Nainital only with Sister-In-Law & her husband & daughter. That was the first time when I experienced the fun of travelling long distances in car & being on your own to decide the schedule than being dependent on Trains etc. In that impromptu journey, we didn’t even had hotels booked in advance despite of being aware of unprecedented rush. Those rains many waterfall at every 10km distance in hills, thrill of greenery all around & top of that I wasn’t on driving seat either .
That time, Pankaj (Sister-In-Law’s Husband, couldn’t find English word for the relation yet) was superman driving through those twists & turns and Hyundai i10 best suitable car to our need for such tours as I was coming from driving bike for last full decade. During the majority of journey, I kept on thinking that when would I be able to drive in hills this way confidently.
Later on, after buying own car, I gradually raised the bar by first to Jaipur from Faridabad, then Mussorie from Faridabad and last Manali from Delhi but those imprints of driving in Nainital Hills during Monsoon refused to die down. It was the time to take the challenge heads on, by choosing exactly the same time, same season, to drive to Nainital from the same place, only missing variable was absence of partners in crime and we had to go for the journey alone means me, wife and kiddo. Same time it was customary to write about the experiences of the last journey before overwriting them in coming weeks, so I finished the post about Nainital journey 2011 based on photos and memories available of that time in my mind.
Preparations and calculations before the journey
So, decision was taken, schedule was set, hotel booking was done in Bhimtal this time and route etc was verified through “online research” but like Manali time, there were two choices; One is to take the main highway route which Google suggests: Via Rampur- Rudrapur route and the other one via Bazpur-Kaladhungi route.
First route was supposed to have lightweight traffic while an 8-10km bad patch of unpaved roads (in plains) and second route was notorious since years for 35-40 kms of roads in craters. But the recent update in many forums that main route has been re-tarred now considering the last election season and the fact that we were planned to start very early, was making me go back to main route only (It was actually reconfirmed by Nandan @ Ghumakkar as well). I was expecting to leave before 4AM & reach before 11 AM in any case, as early as better depending on rain condition on that day as during rain, no matter what time you start, it’s not gonna get any better.
The other issues in hand were the riot condition in Moradabad and certain area of Rampur, which been in new during late July. Same time memories of last journey to Nainital when we faced a partial landslide even wasn’t making me very comfortable but then it was against my nature to back down from what I decided once. It was to be seen if we would remain lucky like last all visits about the roads and journey or something unexpected would come over our way. Would my car gonna remain loyal like all the last journeys? What about weather and roads during the journey?
The journey day finally
Considering the two hill journeys by the same year, this time the feeling was a little different and we felt little more casual than excited. Everything was business as usual, except the last night when luggage etc was moved to car by night itself. Even though our experience of same season in Nainital from 3 yrs back told us otherwise, we took caution of keeping 3-4 jackets for the family. Even though it found no use throughout the journey but then what’s harm in keeping a little more caution?
We left the house almost by the target schedule which was 0340 hrs around. The first milestone of the journey was the cross the Garmukteshwar (Pain point last time) before the sunrise and we managed the same within time. Very early morning means no city traffic to hurt the drive and we were able to enjoy the greenery on both sides of highway. Roads were reminding us of the last time journey at places though everything was getting overwritten now.
Gajraula was just after few kms to Garmukteshwar and then two strange toll booth by just 1-2 kms apart each other. Hard to understand the point of two tolls at such close distance, specially when rather than providing good roads they offer worse/narrow roads in between them. Luckily it was early morning and that too of independence day, so traffic was still sparse.
Traffic troubles begun with Rampur-Rudrapur stretch and that too with Bilaspur area in particular. Even though it was early morning, trucks loaded with woods kept blocking roads and I was to manage overtakes whenever I got chance for one. Anyway… the first view of hills was touched by some 0845 hrs around and the first stop we took at around 1020 hrs.
I really want to make a point about the kind of parking tourists and even locals do in hills. I mean, you are well aware that it’s a two lane only road with no option to accommodate anything else but still while parking the vehicle, you won’t even bother to find a proper place with some better space. The same not only risks your vehicle but of others as well at a place where a slight mistake can be fatal for some.
Driving in Hills and Reaching to the Hotel
When we reached at the tea shop, then Red Fort speech of PM was being aired over the TV. We took the tea and finished the sandwiches we had prepared for the journey. Even though we weren’t tired but it was a needed rest in the heavy rains at that moment.
It was raining heavily along with fog and then we were hit with another hurdle which was landslide to the main route to Bhimtal. Officials been re-routing the traffic from that way while Google maps were pointing us towards that direction only. Leaving the short route was meant to move towards Nainital all the way and then take the road from Bhowali to Bhimtal. But we didn’t had any options either.
We passed through this tall statue after taking the route towards Nainital but couldn’t take a stop as wanted to reach as early as possible and finally we made it to the hotel by some 12 PM.
Hotel Kanara, Worse first impressions
The hotel was chosen purely based on budget reasons and some good reviews over Internet. I was well prepared that what to expect and what not to from the particular hotel. You can accommodate if you given a backside room without pointless view, but it’s really unacceptable if you get a room whose lock is broken and hotel management not ready to change the same even after making the protest clear. The room was simply unlockable and anyone could have opened it by just a little force. We stayed for three nights and four days and management simply didn’t even tried to change the room or even the lock. If this is called Deluxe then thank you, Hotel Kanara, I am not visiting you again neither going to recommend anyone to do the same.
It was raining heavily whole day when we reached Bhimtal. The staff did promised for changing the rooms by next day but still we weren’t comfortable enough to roam around leaving the valuables in the room when it was wide open to everyone to loot. But same time, we had not much options either as it was a short trip of 3 days only and each day of it was paid for so called “Deluxe room”.
Anyway, we moved out of hotel to check out Bhimtal and have some food (with valuables kept in car than the hotel room). The rain was there to ensure that no boating for us, not much of snaps could have been taken in that kind of weather.
As you can see, some brave hearts still were peddling boats even in rains.
We chosen Rituraj Restaurant for the dinner, which came out to be a nice one going by the taste of food. Nothing out of world, but just what was needed at the moment. After spending a while in walking around and then driving slowly over the scenic hill, we were back to the room to take rest.
Once first impressions about the hotel started wearing off, then we were back to appreciate the location at least. There was a this scenic Vikas Bhawan adjacent to the hotel, which walked in the evening as there was no other place to go due to continuous rains.
The rest of night was spent in watching movies and resting only while hoping that next day would be a little better weather wise as was being suggested by weather forecast as well.
Day two : Trip to Nainital and High Altitude Zoo
While day one was washed out due to rains, we didn’t had much hopes from next day as well because when we woke up, it was still raining and it seems that it rained entire night as well. While trying with camera zoom on birds, I was also waiting for response by Hotel about change of room, which was supposed to come by 12PM if not before. But the same time, I was to take call that what’s priority, the room or the trip for which we came hundreds kms away from home.
Finally decision was taken in favor of the trip and we left for Nainital by some 0900 hrs.
This waterfall was in the early route and was reminding us of a scene we recently saw over news channels about a boy sliding into water currents.
There been occasion landslide places as well, which were clear at the moment.
As it was already late, so there was no point of hurrying towards Nainital so we been moving causally over hill route enjoying it’s charm.
Kiddo was having a fun time in this while and that was all that would have mattered for us.
The issue with tourists as I mentioned earlier remains with their pathetic sense about the parking and apathy towards other vehicle complying on the roads. Before roughly 2-3 kms before Nainital, we came across this impromptu waterfall being created at a place which had ample space fortunately to provide opportunity of fun to tourists. But any place becomes limited when number of persons utilizing it become considerably higher. I had parked my car at a distance from this place and maintaining as much possible space left of the road but it wasn’t the case for others who had parked even their buses in kind of middle of road to block both side vehicles. Within mins, the jam started growing and I was getting worried for my car.
So, once the SUV in front of me started moving, I moved my car as well behind it and through some hassles due to impatient drives trying top barge in, I finally came into the queue moving towards Nainital. Kind of narrow roads and still people parking their cars on side of roads was beyond my understanding at that moment, but later on finding the parking issues, I came to know that why it was so.
Apparently there was enough space in the college campus which doubles up as parking but administration wasn’t using it but diverting the vehicles towards Sukhatal, which was written as 200m ahead. Trust me, it wasn’t 200m at all but some 1-2 kms. It was hard to understand the logic of Nainital Administration to impose high green tax to save the environment and then diverting the traffic unnecessarily to upwards causing not only troubles to tourists but harm to environment as well which could have been avoided if more space of college ground was utilized at rush days like these holidays were. The colleges were closed anyway.
After much hassles, we managed to reach Sukhatal, which was a lake that gets created during Mansoons only. Don’t know one should call it lake or not.
Anyway, the Govt parking which costs you Rs 115/- was typical Govt one. The person in-charge of it didn’t allowed us at first place saying there is no place left but after continuous insisting as I didn’t wanted to park outside, he allowed me to check if there is any place where my vehicle can be accommodated. I finally managed a place behind a broken car which was possible kept idle since weeks there.
After parking the car, it was time to move towards lake which was kind of unending journey due to tiring stretch and also kiddo with us. There was a cave garden at the place, we parked the car, but as I was aware of the fact that its no fun during Mansoon, I decided to skip it. Over the Mall road, I spotted the above parking and was wondering that how Hotel guests manage to move their car out if needed for some short trip?
As it was second trip of ours to Nainital, this time we were decided for Zoo and Cheena Peak. Due to lack of time, Cheena Peak wasn’t possible now so we moved towards Zoo. It was long long wait for each shuttle as crowd tends to follow crowd. We would have waited at least an hour or more to get tickets and finally sit into shuttle and then there was a high inclination trekking to the zoo even after that.
The zoo is sure not for those who can’t manage the trekking as there was no alternative arrangements for such people. No ponies or any other way around. Though I seen one i10 and some other vehicles reached up to the last point as well, don’t know how, but it was not allowed officially.
Even though a tough trekking, it was all worth paying the visit to zoo. After spending a quality time there, we headed back towards lake.
The lake was much crowded than usual and look like boating pattern was also changed a bit. Rather than full lake visit, now lake was divided into three zones sort of boats were complying into that one only. On inquiring they said, if whole lake then three time rent would be required. I didn’t felt it right but there was no choice either. We heard that there was hours long queue for boating till this hour and it was little light only now as tourists headed for lunch.
Boating in Nainital lake has it’s own charm every time you visit but after completing the journey now, I feel that money spent in Naukuchiatal lake is better worth than this one. Kiddo was not ready to leave the boat once she touched the water from own hands and was insisting to stay, but it had to end eventually.
It was already 1700 hrs and we were dead tired by now. It was time for lunch when we come across the another bummer. The time interval 1700 hrs-1900 hrs is the particular period when Nainital Restaurants in general close their operations for public for cleaning etc. Same time, I knew the fact that Mall Road would be closed for Vehicles by late evening, so we didn’t had enough time to stay either.
We managed to find a hotel for Aaloo-Paneer Parathas and once done with that, it was time for tough upward walk towards the parking lot in front of Cave Garden. The rains from last day had their effects visible even now and there was heavy water current at places. The drive back from the place and then crossing through Mall road wasn’t going to be easy either. It would have taken more than an hour when we finally managed to come out of Mall road and headed back to Bhimtal.
Kind of first full time night hill drive had its own fun though we been such tired that couldn’t go for a walk towards Bhimtal in night as I had planned earlier otherwise it would have been even more fun if clear sky.
The day two of the trip has been ended and the next target was Mukteshwar on day next provided the weather god favor us.
Day Three: The dream ride to Mukteshwar
I seriously think that this trip would have been called as wasted only if this particular day three wasn’t in itinerary. The heavy crowd, traffic hassles and Parking nightmare means I couldn’t have thought of going back to Nainital again even if I had time, even if I desperately wanted to go back again. I wanted to visit Cheena Peak, I wanted to go for Ropeway ride, I seriously wanted to have a calm walk on Thandi Sadak on the other side of lake along with a trip to the Naina Devi Temple, but nothing of that looked possible considering the kind of nightmare we went through yesterday for parking only.
Anyway… today we were to move towards Mukteshwar, the highest place, I would ever have visited by my own car. Contrary to the way I travel, I had very little idea that which kind of roads there or if Landslides on the way. But we were in for a very pleasant surprise once we crossed Bhowali and moved towards Ramgarh.
Early morning weather and light conditions, scenic roads and greenery all around, one has to drive up on those roads to believe what kind of fun it was. Check out the videos given below to experience the drive.
We took a few stops in between to enjoy the view, though nothing longer as target was to reach Mukteshwar as early as possible and deal with if any road conditions in between (luckily there wasn’t any).
The tea break was taken at the place where the sign board was showing Mukteshwar 6kms ahead. The road quality had change post that. On narrower side and not that kind of tarred – painted as it was till now. Though still nothing sort of bad.
In the way, we spotted three boys on a bike with UP number and was thinking that how they managed to drive till this point without being caught by traffic police. Later on, we actually met them as well over Chaul Ki Jaili, where they told that they were caught and challenged by traffic police indeed. But still I didn’t got the answer that why they planned the trip like this at first place.
It was 0750 hrs when we managed to reach Mukteshwar while we started driving from Bhimtal by some 0530 hrs. Now it was time to relax and enjoy the scenic and calm views all around which were in total contrast to Nainital or Bhimtal or the places we passed through in this while.
We first thought to walk towards the temple and then Chaul Ki Jaili, when we suddenly came across the view of snow peaks all of sudden. I knew very well that the view would come and go, so it was decided to first check out the view and then Chaul Ki Jaili can be visited later on.
Though snow peaks been visible through the trees but as I had read many a blogs about the area, I knew that there a Govt property from where one can get the unhindered view of peaks and entire landscape. Asked a few around and I was directed toward the place which was not far away.
Though it was written on the gate that entry not allowed but that was possibly for vehicles and the view was enough for us to ignore that warning. A family from Lucknow was staying there nowadays who were looking for some land to buy in Mukteshwar. Govt must have allowed sale of land in recent as I seen many lands available for sale nowadays since an year.
This is the particular KMVN guest house which was privileged to the heavenly view which become even more scenic in winter times. Don’t know about the roads in those time though.
Once done with Snow peaks, it was time to move towards Chaul Ki Jaili. As per sign board, it was showing another route from the KMVN Guest house other than the one main one which goes from the temple itself. We were needed to ask a few before entering on the route as it was almost non-existent route by looks.
The place was sure fun and one can spend hours and hours there if coming with group. Lots of interesting views and many more things to explore but we had to head back as well considering the fact that temperature was now soaring towards higher side than usual.
We drove a little down to find some of the restaurant and finally settled down for this one to take tea and maggie\ omelets etc. The time was around 1115 hrs then. The decision came as a blessing later on when after finishing the meals etc, we found out about the view point on back of the restaurant.
We started driving back by some 1145 hrs around and would have stopped at a few places to enjoy impromptu waterfalls.
One more stop was taken for eating some corns. Don’t know what’s the relation of corns with Nainital area.
We even spotted a view point with top view of Bhimtal while coming down from Mukteshwar.
Rather than heading to hotel, we decided to visit Naukuchiatal Lake, which was a fine decision. The route even through narrow and not much scenic, but was short. Somewhere around 4-5kms.
The kind of roads and width can be guessed by the above video.
Rather than boats, Shikaras were dominating this lake. Rates might be on the same side as Naini Lake but the the boating was much more fun than Naini lake, thanks to scenic view, much lesser crowd and bigger lake.
More than us, the kiddo was having a lot of fun there.
Done with boating, it was time to have lunch and we chosen the nearby KMVN Guest House building. Trust me what a food it was. Govt institution might have their share of issues but they offer many a benefits as well. One of them was excellent food at nominal cost at this place. Both of us would have been billed at around 350 rs for non-veg food, which was nowhere on higher side by any scale provided the scenic place we sat and the hygiene which was maintained there.
By 1630 hrs around, we left the place and moved towards Bhimtal (The last video narrates the drive back). Many been boating here as well but considering the charges, it was pointless to go for another boating when we have had our share of fun at another lake just an hour back.
We also visited the other side of the lake for the drainage system for Bhimtal lake, even though it wasn’t allowed to go down to check out the things from close distance.
It was the most satisfying day of the trip so far which we enjoyed at fullest. By 1740 hrs, it was the time call for curtains and we entered back into the hotel to spend rest of the day there only as Pooja wasn’t ready for a night walk over hills as Kiddo was asleep.
Day 4: The time to say Good Bye to hills
I had the last day off and we could have driven to Ranikhet etc, but final decision was in favor to head back to home to avoid tourist rush heading back to Delhi/ NCR by last evening of holidays and when we were to head back then why not as early as possible. We left the hotel by 0530 hrs around.
Its not like that the drive back was of any lesser worth. The sunrise and panoramic view of hills.
We also came across this temple few kms before Haldwani I guess.
There was this lake behind the temple though I wasn’t able to find any reference in Google maps for the same. Must be some temporary one formed due to Mansoon.
We reached back home by some 1440 hrs, which was very late going by the distance but might be justified due to messy behavior of UP people on highways and many a stops which we took in between.
We took three stops in between for tea, snacks and lunch, places as shown in above pictures. Would like to place a special mention for the place where we did the lunch, Moga Tourist Dhaba. Even though we been looking for traditional Dhabas but finally made a stop here. Clean washrooms, AC hall for lunch and surprisingly genuine rates, the place definitely looked royal from outside and inside but didn’t cost a fortune to us as we doubted initially.
The final drive stats for return drive been as mentioned above. Doesn’t look that impressive, but neither were the roads and traffic. The following is the Odometer reading which was reset after leaving Ghaziabad on day one means add roughly 50kms in it.
The trip was over and I was thanking to God that this time it was over without any negative incident (barring the hotel part).