It was as if we had ascended above the clouds and had entered the holy territory. Below us, we could see the white carpet engulf the entire valley to our left. I was not sure, if I jump onto the carpet, whether I will land on the cloudy wisps or fall to my death to the bottom of the valley.
This was the Sun god’s territory. Our car had taken an offshoot of the road between Kathgodam and Kausani so as to be able to visit the Sun temple in Almora district of Uttarakhand ( altitude 2116m). After boarding the taxi car at Kathgodam at 5 a.m., we had travelled on the beautiful stretch of the road that would take us to Kausani. After a bit of effort spent in convincing the driver to take us to this 800 years old temple and wasting a little more time in finding the correct bifurcation, we found ourselves on the kacchha road that was climbing up the mountain towards Katarmal Sun Temple.
Built around the 13th century by a medieval king Katramalla of the Katyuri dynasy, this temple is one of the biggest in the Kumaon region. The old Sun God is the main deity of the temple. Idols of Shiva-Parvati and Lakshmi-Narayana are also found in this temple. There are about 45 miniature shrines build around a central larger shrine. Nestled among the mountains, with a cloud filled valley as its courtyard, this temple indeed seems to be at a location suitable for gods. I busied myself clicking its pictures from various angles. The hilly village around the temple is dirty and garbage filled though. May be things will be better once the tar road that’s under construction is complete.
The driver had started to get a little restless as he was of the opinion that this slight detour was unnecessary and was delaying our journey to Kausani. So we got back in the car and resumed the drive. The road was lined by green trees on both sides and may be because of the off season, ours was the only car on the road, for quite some time. Enjoying photography breaks, we covered the rest of the distance in another couple of hours and landed at Kausani.
Smallish place that Kausani is, it was not difficult to find the government (KMVN) run Trishul guest house, located across the valley from the majestic Trishul peak. I would recommend this guest house to everyone who would ask me about accommodation in Kausani because of the panoramic views of the Himalayan range that one can enjoy from here. One sees an entire series of peaks along the horizon. Tall, beautiful peaks which go by the names of Chaukhamba, Neelkanth, Trishul, Mrigthuni, Nandadevi, Nandaghunti, Nandadevi East, Nanda Kot and Panchahuli from left to right. It’s an enchanting view.
Situated in Bageshwar district, Kausani is one of the very few places in India from where one can enjoy a view of 3o0 km-wide panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range. The place has a magic about it and the snow capped peaks keep you spell bound. We reached the place around 11.30 a.m. and were lucky enough to get a clear sky and hence the entire view. Within an hour, clouds had arrived and the peaks decided to make themselves scarce. Waking up early in the morning on the next day, to experience the sight of sun rays falling on the peaks did not bear any fruits as it was raining that time. But that one view which I had luckily obtained right after reaching Kausani has got etched in my mind, more so because one can see a lot of these same peaks from Auli near Joshimath and I remember being mesmerized by that sight almost 12-13 years ago when I was at Auli! The names of the peaks remind me of my childhood memories of trekking in the Himalayas and my dreams for the future.
Kausani is a paradise for someone who likes taking walks in a hill-town located in the lap of nature. After reaching Kausani and having a wholesome lunch in the guest house, we made a move to a nearby place named Baijnath, famous as the location of Baijnath temple. To quote wikipedia, “Dedicated to SivaVaidyanatha, the Lord of Physicians, the Baijnath temple is actually a temples’ complex built by the Katyuri kings with the idols of Shiva, Ganesh, Parvati, Chandika, Kuber, Surya and Brahma.” It is situated on the banks of river Gomti, at an altitde of 1126m. Built by Katyuri dynasty in 12th century, the temple has quite a religious and historical importance. The temple is similar to Katarmal Sun temple in terms of the architectural style in which a large central shrine is surrounded by miniature temple shrines.
Although I found the temple premises to be peaceful and enjoyed spending few silent minutes just sitting on a bench inside the temple complex, the part of town outside the temple is not really clean and neat. One would imagine that the area around such a beautiful monument would be developed aesthetically. But that’s not the case, as can be said of many places in India. Alas.
While on the way back from Baijnath to Kausani, we stopped by for a cup of lemon tea on one of the roadside restaurants. The cool air, beautiful surrounding and a warm cup of yellow colored lemon tea felt great and got me even more closer to my idea of spending a luxury holiday with family. Mountain dogs were around every place we went to and they were the most friendly lot I had ever met in my life.
Next on our lazy itinerary was a visit to Anasakti ashram where Mahatma Gandhi spent some of his days. It houses some very rare and interesting photographs of Gandhiji as also his handwritten letters. Clicking inside the ashram was forbidden although some of the photos were so rare and interesting that i was almost tempted to break the rules!
By this time, the evening was upon us. But we were left short of enjoying the Himalayan sunset as the black clouds started to bring rains with them. We entered the guest house and started to get warm and cozy for the rest of the evening. A staff member at the guest house offered to sell us some firewood for a small bonfire in front of our room in the guest house yard. We happily took the offer and accepted her help while lighting the fire when it was dark. Having dinner in the biting Uttarakhand cold while sitting around a hot, burning fire, was one of the memorable highlights of this trip!
Next morning saw us depart from Kausani early in the day, so that we could reach our next destination – Nainital – in time. It had started raining again in the night and the rain was relentless. We passed Ranikhet on the way and at that point, decided to alter our plans a little bit. We decided to visit Naujuchiatal first, before landing in Nainital. Our driver was all against it and kept saying that it wont be very different from Naini lake and that visiting it is not worth the time we would spend getting there. But we kept on insisting that he take us there in any case. So we took a bifurcation before Nainital and drove towards Naukuchiatal. Bhimtal was on the same way and we had a cursory look towards it without stopping by its shores. There was nothing much unusual about the lake and we wanted to save some time. But the lake was true to its name. It was, really big and expansive.
Naukuchiatal, lake with 9 corners, is the deepest of all the lakes in Nainital. It was surrounded by green hills and had a trail going along its perimeter. We did not have much time before dark. So we wandered down the trail only for a bit, before returning to the car and resuming our journey towards Nainital. I wouldn’t really recommend Naukuchiatal as a must see visit around Nanital. But it’s a nice place to go to, if one has time.
It was still raining by the time we reached Nainital and settled in our hotel room in the Tallital area. Fog had completely hidden Naini lake and it was only some time later that it began to clear up a little. I had some friends in Nainital, whom I wanted to visit. So we got ready and went out for a walk on the mall road. This was my parents’ first trip to Nainital and I was enjoying showing them around on the basis of my memories from previous visits to this beautiful hill town. Since the rain gods were still in power, there was not much we could do that evening and we returned to the hotel after a customary walk and some shopping.
The next day was booked for a hike to Cheena peak but the powers that be were not with us. It kept raining madly. We were under house arrest! I actually like it when it is raining madly. Getting inside a cozy blanket with a book in hand and looking at the rain outside the window time and again, was perfectly in line with my leisure holiday ideas so far. We spent the entire day inside the hotel like this, only peeping out in the balcony in between to enjoy the view. We did have lunch in the market -delicious mutton momos – and met my friends on the way, but that was all that we did out of doors. At 5 p.m., time was up and we said our goodbyes to this tiny town.
Black, wet roads, droplets on the window panes, foggy views and green hills around on all sides – these were my takeaways from this trip. They would keep me in good spirits for a while at least, before I start longing for the mountains again and land myself in Kashmir! More on that, in my next post!