Sunday, September 19, 2010

Himalayan Paradise - Kausani

One of my fond childhood memories is a visit to a small town with breathtaking view of Himalayan range. The picture of Snow clad Himalayan peaks rising to caress the sky, clouds hovering over the valley below, changing colours of the sky is still fresh in my mind. I was quite excited to visit Kausani after around 25 years. Has the place been able to preserve the beauty I witnessed then, has it changed its colours with changing world... there were many such questions lingering in my mind.
We were a group of five driving an Alto. Cutting through the dense fog enjoying the fulness of nature we drove through Hapur, Joya, Rampur, Haldawani, Kathgodam and Bheemtal

Serene Saat taal:
We had time in hand so we decided to stay at Saat taal over night. Welcoming owner, Cordial staff and perfect location made Maple leaf resort a good option to stay. Quickly the staff got the rooms ready. We were informed that there were heavy rains from past few days. After settling down we decided to go out for evening walk. We were cautioned by Mr Lalit, the owner not to go far off as there may be some wild animals roaming around and its not safe. But we, the explorers, were looking for some adventure. We could easily make out that the woods are full of activity that we could only hear in the dark night. We thoroughly enjoyed our walk through the mysterious woods with night sounds of wolf howling, frogs croaking and crickets chirping

Lovely quiet morning is what we could ask for after a tiring day and an adventurous night. Nothing can be as refreshing as morning walk through the full bloomed nature. Took a walk around, clicked some best pictures of the trip and then resumed our journey to Kausani at around 7AM. Driving through beautiful valleys, water streams and tiny villages, we reached Kausani at around 2PM.

Kausani ...beyond the horizon
We were mesmerized to see the pristine beauty of the place. It hasn't changed at all... A small town untouched by the modernity. Except for a few more hotels here and there (architecture in sinc with the simplicity of the town), the place look almost as it looked some 25 years back.

 That time I remember there were just 2 probable places to stay - the Government guest house and the Gandhi Ashram. I wanted to stay at the rest house where we stayed those 25 years back. And we were lucky enough to get the permission to stay there. It being monsoons, we were the only guests and that made our stay even better. Care taker, Cook, Mali, Variety of birds, Insects, Monkeys, a Dog were sharing the place with us.

That evening was spent sipping hot coffee and gazing at the snow bound peaks playing hide and seek with clouds. We started identifying the peaks - Chaukhamba, Nandachunti, Trisol, Nanda Devi, Panchuli ranging from the height of 21 to 25 thousand feet. The sun rays reflecting from clouds were creating a drama of colors in the sky. Slowly the darkness took over and turned the beautiful evening into a quiet night. The valley below looked like God has sprinkled sparkle on a black sheet. Home cooked dinner followed by a session of sharing spooky experiences over a drink in the dark night completed our day.

Baijnath, Tea gardens and more...
We woke up to a fresh lazy morning with a cup of hot tea and mesmerising view of sun rise over Himalayas.

The first half of the day was spent roaming around the town, talking to locals, and exploring the place. There are many old buildings with red and green tin roofs that adds to the beauty of the place. Thabli devi, mother of 6, working as mali in the guest house gets Rs 1500 salary and walks down for 2 hrs to reach her workplace. Life is not easy for her and many others in the area. But people here know how to live with limited means and being content with it.

In the second half we planned a trip to the tea gardens nearby and Baijnath. We were guided by Thabli Devi. She took half day off to roam around with us and get a car ride. Exceited she was to sit in a car for the first time. It was a bright sunny day with soft clouds here and there.

Our first stop was Baijnath, 19kms from Kausani town. This old group of temples consisting of main shrine of Lord Shiv and 17 subsidiary shrines is build in Nagra Style in 12th century AD. The temple holds significance because, according to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva and Parvati were married at the confluence of River Gomati and Garur Ganga. Situated on the left bank of the Gomti River at an elevation of 1126 mts, the temples are constructed in stone. The temple is approached from the riverside by a flight of steps made of stones.

Driving through cheer and deodar trees our next stop was a local government school. It being a Saturday, school was closed. Slogans, a map of Uttarakhand and one of India and national anthem writen on the walls of the school... The place reminded me of my childhood days.

Then was the much talked about tea gardens and the tea factory The tea produced here is rich in flavor and of export quality. Kausani is the only place away from the traditional tea plantation areas in India that produce organic orthodox tea. This high-flavored tea is exported to many countries, including Australia, Germany, Korea and the US. Quite impressed we were. Picked up few packets of tea from an outlet just outside the factory.

Tempted to go... check out our trip in May 2013 here
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