A Magical Journey through the Himalayas

For a couple of weeks, you might have noticed the silence on my blog. This pause wasn’t due to a lack of inspiration but because I embarked on a remarkable journey through the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, India. Alongside my big brother, Rahul, and his friend, Unmesh, we set off on an adventure that would take us from the familiar landscapes of Chhattisgarh to the majestic Himalayan range.

Our journey began with a train ride from our home state to the bustling city of Delhi. The hustle and bustle of the capital was just the beginning of our adventure. We barely caught our connecting train to Kathgodam, the nearest railway station to our destination. Picture us dashing through the crowded platforms of Delhi, hearts pounding, with just minutes to spare before the train’s departure—a real-life action sequence!

From Kathgodam, we booked a taxi to Nainital, the first stop on our itinerary. As we ascended the winding roads, leaving behind the chaos of city life, we were greeted by the crisp, cool air and the serene beauty of the mountains. The journey itself was a delightful transition from the frenetic pace of urban life to the tranquil embrace of nature.

As I write this, I find myself immersed in the vibrant landscapes of Kumaon, where each day begins with the golden kiss of dawn over peaks and ends with the serene embrace of starlit skies. From the emerald lakes of Nainital to the tranquil forests of Binsar, every moment here is a lesson in harmony and holistic living.

In this post, I will be sharing my experiences and reflections from each destination we visited—Nainital, Mukteshwar, Almora, Kausani, Binsar, and Ranikhet. Join me as we traverse these enchanting places, uncovering stories and lessons along the way. Throughout this adventure, I will be compiling my experiences and reflections here, sharing with you the essence of what I discover in these sacred mountains.


Day 1: At Nainital

As dawn broke over the Kumaon hills, we found ourselves in Nainital, a jewel nestled in the Himalayan foothills. Our stay was at the Snow View Point, a place known for its breathtaking vistas. In winters, this spot is cloaked in a pristine blanket of snow, but our May visit revealed a different charm altogether. The panorama of the Naini Lake with the surrounding mountains was no less mesmerizing. The lush greenery and the serene lake created a picturesque setting that felt like stepping into a painting. Here’s a shot I took from the balcony:

That first morning in Nainital, as the sun’s rays gently kissed the lake’s surface, we felt an unexpected chill in the air. It was a stark contrast to our hometown in Chhattisgarh, where the thought of wearing warmer clothes in May would be laughable. Yet here, the crisp morning breeze made our sweaters not just a luxury but a necessity. The feeling of winter in summer was a refreshing reminder of nature’s contrasts.

Our day was filled with exploration. We started with a visit to the Naina Devi Temple, a spiritually enriching experience. Nestled by the lakeside, the temple exuded a sense of peace and reverence. We spent a quiet moment there, reflecting on the journey that had brought us to this serene place. The calm waters of the Naini Lake, the temple bells ringing softly in the background, and the gentle hum of prayers created a symphony of tranquility that resonated deeply within us.

Next, we headed to the Mall Road, the bustling heart of Nainital. The street was alive with activity, offering a vibrant blend of shops, eateries, and local vendors. We indulged in some shopping, picking up handcrafted souvenirs and local delicacies like scented candles which were a specialty. The aroma of street food filled the air, inviting us to taste the flavors of Nainital. Warm, freshly made momos and the ever-popular local chaat delighted our taste buds, each bite a celebration of the region’s culinary heritage.

Our journey continued to Snow View Point, a vantage point above the lake offering spectacular views of the Himalayan range. The sight of the snow-capped peaks was awe-inspiring, and nearby, we visited a bird sanctuary teeming with vibrant avian life. The tranquility and natural beauty of this spot provided a perfect backdrop for contemplation and connection with nature. But we knew that the view of the Himalayan range from our ahead destination would be far more superior as they were nested nearer to them, thus we decided to move to our next spot.

We visited the famous Suicide Point and Lover’s Point, both offering breathtaking views of the valley below. These spots, steeped in local lore and legend, added a touch of mystique to our adventure. While their names hint at darker tales, the views they offer are nothing short of spectacular, making them popular spots for photography and reflection.

One of the highlights of our day was enjoying a piping hot bowl of Mountain Maggi at a hillside café. There’s something about savoring this simple dish amidst the crisp mountain air that makes it an essential experience in Nainital. The warmth of the Maggi noodles contrasted perfectly with the cool surroundings, making it a memorable culinary delight.

We also sought some thrill and adventure by visiting a nearby adventure park, where we indulged in ziplining and go-karting. The adrenaline rush from these activities was exhilarating and added a layer of excitement to our serene explorations.

In the evening, we took a leisurely stroll along the Thandi Sadak (Cool Road), a scenic road that runs parallel to the Naini Lake. The cool breeze, the gentle lapping of the lake’s waters, and the rustling of leaves created a soothing ambiance. It was the perfect place to unwind and reflect on the day’s experiences.

The highlight of our stay in Nainital was the boat ride on Naini Lake. As we rowed around the full circumference of the lake, we couldn’t help but marvel at its cold blue waters, framed by mountains cloaked in mist. The reflections on the lake’s surface were like a mirror to the soul, inviting us to embrace stillness and introspection.

The gentle lapping of the water against the boat, the occasional call of a distant bird, and the soft rustle of leaves created a symphony of stillness. In that moment, it felt as if time itself had paused.

In those moments of quiet on the lake, I found a profound lesson. Our time here was not just a visit to a beautiful town but a journey into a deeper understanding of calmness and serenity. The stillness of the water, undisturbed and serene, mirrored the calm that we often seek in our own lives. In our daily hustle, it’s easy to forget the importance of stillness, the need to pause and reflect. Just as the lake’s waters are calmed by the mountains that cradle it, our minds too can find peace when we allow ourselves to be still and present.

It reminded me that amid life’s chaos, we can always find a moment to breathe, reflect, and connect with our inner self. As we prepared to leave for our next destination, I carried with me the serene reflection of the Naini Lake, a reminder of the calm that lies within us all, waiting to be embraced.

As the sun set behind the mountains, painting the sky in hues of orange and pink, the town of Nainital buzzed with life, yet it maintained an aura of tranquility. The scene was enchanting. As twilight descended, the Mall Road came alive with twinkling lights, the aroma of local cuisine wafting through the air. We again indulged in a variety of dishes, from sweet corn to the delectable bal mithai, a local sweet that quickly became a favorite.

We spent a few hours sitting on a bench by the lake, admiring the beautiful scene. The twinkling lights reflected in the calm waters of the Naini Lake, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. Our day ended as Unmesh, my brother’s friend, realized the necessity of buying a warm jacket he hadn’t anticipated needing, but the evening chill was too much to bear.

This was just the beginning of our adventure. The lessons learned in Nainital would travel with us, guiding us through the rest of our journey in the Himalayan range. As we prepared to explore more of the enchanting Kumaon region, the serene reflections of Naini Lake and the vibrant experiences of the town lingered in our minds, promising more discoveries and insights to come.


Day 2: Ascending to Almora

Our second day began with the anticipation of new adventures as we set off for Almora, a picturesque town nestled in the Himalayas. The journey was nothing short of spectacular, with the changing landscapes unfolding before our eyes. As we ascended, the flora and fauna transformed, offering a visual treat of lush greenery and diverse wildlife. Our route took us through Mukteshwar, once a British cantonment, a charming hill station known for its scenic beauty and adventure sports. Located 52 km from Nainital, I’ve heard that it offers some of the most magnificent views of the Himalayan peaks.

Mukteshwar’s popularity stems from its breathtaking views of the Himalayan peaks and its serene environment. The town is a haven for nature lovers and thrill-seekers alike, providing a perfect backdrop for our day’s exploration. We made several stops along the way to capture the beauty of the landscape and to take some photos.

One of the highlights of our journey was the trek to Bhalu Gad Waterfalls. Although the water was not flowing during our visit, the trek itself was a delightful experience. The trail, surrounded by dense forests and the sounds of nature, was invigorating. Despite the lack of water, the natural beauty of the place was undeniable, and we enjoyed every moment of the trek.

Our journey continued with a visit to a Buddhist shrine nestled amidst the mountains. This shrine was a paradise, offering a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The tranquil ambiance and the spiritual energy of the place were captivating, providing a perfect spot for reflection and meditation.

Next, we headed to Chauli Ki Jali, a popular destination known for its stunning rock formations and panoramic views. The spot is renowned for its significance in local folklore, especially the belief that women who pass through the hole in the rock are blessed with fertility. The Shiv Mandir, located just above Chauli Ki Jali, added to the spiritual essence of the place. The temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is a revered site and offers a sense of peace and serenity.

At Chauli Ki Jali, we indulged in some local delicacies, enjoying freshly made bhajia and Maggi while taking in the breathtaking views. Although the zipline looked like an exciting adventure, it seemed too intimidating, and I decided to skip it. Instead, I opted to click a few pictures at the edge, capturing the awe-inspiring scenery.

As the day progressed, I had already decided that we would visit Zero Point to view the famous Himalayan peaks. But this was the moment I regretted my earlier decision. As I asked our driver to take us there, we learned that this time of the year, the forest department performs controlled fires in the mountains to prevent uncontrolled fires caused by people unknowingly, as pine trees catch fire too quickly. Consequently, the peaks were obscured by the fog.

Reflecting on our clear view of the peaks from Nainital, our driver mentioned that we were lucky to have seen them then, as it rained that night, clearing the view. However, now the peaks were shrouded in fog, and there was no chance of seeing them again. Despite my reluctance, this experience taught me a valuable lesson: to always appreciate what we can in the moment.

Towards the evening, we arrived at our Airbnb in Almora. The accommodation was cozy and welcoming, providing the perfect setting to unwind after a day of exploration. We had our dinner there with the house owner, a warm and hospitable person who shared stories about life in the mountains.

As we relaxed, we reflected on the day’s adventures and the encounters with local traditions and practices. One of the most memorable aspects of the day was the interaction with the local people. Their simple lifestyle and deep connection with nature were inspiring. We learned about their traditional practices and how they maintain health and wellness through natural means. These practices, passed down through generations, highlight the value of traditional knowledge in preserving well-being.

Our host shared an intriguing story about the local community’s relationship with the environment. He spoke of an ancient tradition called “Van Panchayat,” a community-led forest management system that has been practiced in the region for centuries. The villagers collectively take responsibility for protecting and managing their forest resources, ensuring that the ecosystem remains balanced and sustainable.

He narrated how, during the harsh winters, the community would come together to gather firewood, ensuring that no single family bore the burden alone. This practice not only provided warmth but also strengthened the bonds within the community. The locals also harvested herbs and plants known for their medicinal properties, using them to treat common ailments and maintain overall health. This deep-rooted knowledge of Ayurveda and natural remedies has been a cornerstone of their wellness practices for generations.

One incident that stood out was the story of a villager named Kamla Devi, an elderly woman known for her expertise in herbal medicine. She had once treated a severe case of pneumonia in a young child using a concoction made from locally sourced herbs. Her remedy, combined with her unwavering faith in nature’s healing powers, had saved the child’s life. Kamla Devi’s story was a testament to the profound wisdom that resides in these mountains and the importance of preserving such knowledge.

As we sat by the warm fireplace, listening to these stories, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of respect for the mountain lifestyle and the resilience of the people who call this place home. Their ability to live in harmony with nature, drawing strength and sustenance from it, was truly inspiring.

Tomorrow, we will explore the charm of Almora and the natural beauty of Binsar. With the lessons of Nainital and the stories of Almora’s locals in our hearts, we look forward to another day of discovery and connection with the Himalayan spirit.


Day 3: Exploring Almora and Binsar on 2 Wheels

The morning began in serene beauty. I found myself outside our room, nestled in the embrace of the scenic view with a cup of steaming tea in hand. As the first rays of sunlight kissed the peaks, I delved into Robin Sharma’s latest book, “The Wealth Money Cannot Buy.” The peaceful ambiance of Almora provided the perfect backdrop for this enlightening read.

Robin Sharma’s words resonated deeply with me, especially as I sat amidst nature’s splendor. In his book, he explores the essence of life, dividing it into various aspects, each crucial for a balanced and fulfilling existence. He emphasizes that true wealth is not measured by monetary gains but by the richness of our experiences, relationships, and inner peace. Sitting there, surrounded by the majestic Himalayas, I couldn’t agree more. The breathtaking views and the tranquility of the hills underscored Sharma’s lessons, making them all the more poignant.

One of the key lessons that struck me was the importance of embracing simplicity and finding joy in the present moment—values that the hilly lifestyle epitomizes. Here, life moves at a different pace, one that allows for reflection and a genuine connection with oneself and nature. It’s a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of city life, where material wealth often overshadows the simple, yet profound, joys of living.

Inspired and invigorated, we decided to explore Almora and Binsar on two wheels. We rented two scooties and set off, eager to discover the hidden gems of these towns. Binsar, just 15 kilometers from Almora, was our first destination. The ride itself was a treat, with winding roads offering stunning vistas at every turn.

In Binsar, we visited the wildlife sanctuary, a haven for nature enthusiasts. The sanctuary is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, and we were lucky enough to spot some exotic birds and deer. The air was filled with the sounds of nature, creating a symphony that was both soothing and exhilarating.

Our journey also took us to various temples, each with its own unique charm and historical significance. While we missed out on the clear views of the Himalayan peaks due to the fog, the beauty of the surroundings more than made up for it. The peaks we did see stood majestically, a reminder of the grandeur that lay beyond the mist.

In the afternoon, we stopped for an appetizing meal. I and Unmesh savored a delicious plate of veg biryani, rich with aromatic spices and perfectly cooked vegetables. My brother, on the other hand, opted for a traditional thali—a wholesome meal that included rice, chapati, dal, vegetables, curd, and a sweet dish. It was affordable and filled with every essential food item, offering a taste of the local cuisine in its entirety.

After lunch, we headed to the Kasar Devi Temple in Almora, one of the three magnetic points in the world (the others being Machu Picchu in Peru and Stonehenge in England). The vibrations at Kasar Devi were unlike anything I had experienced before. The energy was palpable, and the three of us took the opportunity to meditate there, soaking in the tranquility.

Kasar Devi Temple, named after the local deity Kasar Devi, has long been a place of spiritual significance. The temple is perched on a hilltop, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding valley and the distant Himalayan peaks. Its serene environment and mystical energy have made it a favored destination for seekers of peace and enlightenment.

What sets Kasar Devi apart is its location within the Van Allen Belt, a zone known for its high geomagnetic field. This unique magnetic field is believed to have profound effects on the human body and mind, enhancing meditation and spiritual practices. It’s no wonder that this spot has attracted a host of spiritual seekers, mystics, and sages over the centuries.

One of the most notable visitors to Kasar Devi was Swami Vivekananda, the revered Indian monk and philosopher. In the late 19th century, Swami Vivekananda visited this temple and spent a significant amount of time meditating here. He was deeply moved by the powerful spiritual energy of the place. It is said that during his meditation, he experienced profound states of consciousness, which influenced his thoughts and teachings. His time at Kasar Devi played a crucial role in shaping his spiritual philosophy and vision for a better world.

The temple has since become a beacon for travelers and spiritual enthusiasts from around the globe. Many come here to experience the same tranquility and spiritual upliftment that Vivekananda and other luminaries once did. The area around the temple is dotted with small ashrams and retreat centers, further emphasizing its role as a spiritual hub.

As we meditated at Kasar Devi, I could feel the energy flowing through me, grounding me and opening my mind to new levels of awareness. The gentle hum of the wind and the rustling of leaves created a natural symphony that complemented the serene atmosphere. It was as if the very air was charged with a divine presence, inviting us to delve deeper into our inner selves.

The significance of Kasar Devi extends beyond its spiritual allure. The temple and its surroundings are also a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the region. The architecture of the temple, with its simple yet profound design, reflects the timeless traditions of the Kumaon region. The local legends and stories associated with Kasar Devi add to its mystique, making it a place where history and spirituality converge.

We spent several hours at Kasar Devi, meditating and absorbing the peaceful ambiance. One striking memory was of a foreigner we saw meditating on a cliff when we arrived. Hours later, as we prepared to leave, he was still there, in the same posture, seemingly in a state of profound peace. His presence was a testament to the temple’s powerful, liberating vibrations. I resisted the urge to disturb him, respecting his solitary communion with the place.

Later, I learned that Almora, and particularly Kasar Devi, has a rich history of attracting foreigners, many of whom have chosen to make it their permanent home. The spiritual allure and the serene environment have captivated hearts from around the world, creating a unique blend of cultures and traditions. The influx of spiritual seekers from different parts of the globe has also fostered a community that values harmony, introspection, and the pursuit of higher truths.

Our next stop was the Konark Sun Temple, one of the two ancient temples dedicated to the Sun God in India. The drive to the temple was nothing short of magical. The scenery, paired with my favorite Lofi songs playing in the background, made for a dreamlike journey. The temple itself was a soothing sanctuary, its ancient walls whispering stories of times gone by. We spent a good amount of time there, absorbing the peaceful ambiance and marveling at the intricate architecture.

As evening approached, we headed back to our stay, mindful of the need to return the scooters we had borrowed. The ride back was filled with reflections on the day’s adventures and the deep sense of fulfillment that comes from exploring such a rich and vibrant region.


Day 4: Embracing the Mini Switzerland of India in Kausani

Mahatma Gandhi bestowed Kausani with the name “Mini Switzerland of India,” a title that perfectly captures its essence. Renowned for its panoramic views of the Himalayan peaks and its lush, floral landscapes, Kausani offers a breathtaking tapestry of natural beauty that rivals the famed Swiss countryside.

As we booked our cab and headed towards Kausani, it became clear why this picturesque hill station earned its nickname. Unlike our previous destinations where mountains stood stark against mountains, here we were enveloped in plains and meadows adorned with vibrant flowers reaching up to the sky. Roadside trees showcased exotic purple, pink, and orange blossoms, creating a mesmerizing tapestry of colors.

Our first stop was our stay in Kausani to drop off our luggage. We were warmly welcomed by the caretaker, a kind lady who treated us like her own children. After a 55-kilometer drive on winding hilly roads that felt more like 80-85 kilometers, we were ready to freshen up and begin our exploration.

Our first destination was Mahatma Gandhi’s Ashram, renowned for offering the best views of the Himalayas in Kausani. Unfortunately, the persistent fog obscured the majestic peaks. Despite this, the ashram itself was fascinating, filled with detailed accounts of Gandhi’s life, and maintained impeccably. The peaceful ambiance of the ashram provided a perfect setting for reflection.

By afternoon, we were ready for our meal. We tried a unique local juice made from the barash flower, found only in the mountains. Its sweet and refreshing taste made me ponder the potential for this natural drink to replace the artificial sugar-laden colas found in cities. Along with our meal, the juice was a delightful highlight, underscoring the benefits of local and natural products.

Our next stops included the tea gardens and a shawl factory, both integral to the cultural fabric of Kausani. The tea gardens stretched out in lush, green waves, and the shawl factory showcased the intricate craftsmanship that the region is known for. I bought a few for my parents. However, we decided to skip the famous Rudradhari Waterfalls since the 1.5-kilometer trek would have led to an empty waterfall.

Instead, we ventured 20 kilometers further to visit the Bageshwar, a city where Bagnath Temple is located on the banks of Gomati river. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is visited by devotees in large numbers all year round but witnesses a whopping footfall during the annual Shivratri festival.

Legend says that the Hindu Lord Shiva Visited the Bageshwar Mahadev Temple in the form of Bagh (Tiger) when a sage lived here who is named as “Sage Markandeya.” Therefore, this Shiva temple is specifically popular and has been named after this divine incident. The river flowed gracefully beside the temple, enhancing the tranquility of the visit.

The temple complex was a blend of ancient architecture and natural beauty, with the sacred river flowing gently alongside it. The sound of the water provided a soothing background, adding to the spiritual ambiance of the place.

We started our visit with a darshan of Lord Shiva, offering our prayers and seeking blessings. The temple was adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures depicting various deities and mythological scenes, each telling a story from the rich tapestry of Hindu mythology. The sanctum sanctorum, where the Shiva Linga was placed, radiated a profound sense of peace and divinity.

After paying our respects, we spent some time exploring the temple grounds. The courtyard was filled with devotees, their voices mingling in chants and hymns that reverberated through the air.

We then walked down to the riverbank, where we saw people feeding the fish in the clear waters. The river, considered holy by the devotees, is believed to wash away sins and purify the soul. Watching the large, beautiful fishes, some weighing around 10 kilograms, swim gracefully was a serene and calming experience. Their scales shimmered under the sunlight, creating a captivating display of nature’s beauty. The sight of the big, healthy fishes thriving in the sacred river added to the tranquility of our visit.

As night fell, we returned to our stay, where our motherly caretaker had prepared a delicious dinner for us. After dining, we decided to visit the Starscapes Observatory, conveniently within walking distance. But as we stepped out of our room, we were greeted by a breathtaking sight—lights twinkling downhill like stars had descended upon the mountains. The view from our balcony was nothing short of magical, a scene I am thrilled to share with you here.

Awestruck, we made our way to the observatory, enjoying a post-meal walk under the blanket of stars. Despite the foggy night, we managed to glimpse a few constellations, planets, and of course, the moon. The observatory experience was both educational and inspiring, providing a closer look at the wonders of the night sky.

Tomorrow, we will leave for our final stop on our Kumaon trip, Ranikhet. Each moment in Kausani has been a testament to the beauty and tranquility that nature offers, and the lessons it imparts. From the vibrant blossoms to the serene ashram, from the sweet Barash juice to the spiritual aura of Bageshwar Dham, this day has enriched our journey profoundly. As we rest tonight, the lights of Kausani shining like stars will be a cherished memory, guiding us to our next adventure.


Day 5 & 6: A Homely Feel in Ranikhet

After a long and eventful day in Kausani, we slept for a solid 9-10 hours, waking up refreshed and ready for our next adventure. Our caretaker, ever so helpful, had arranged a cab for us at a bargain price, much cheaper than our previous rides. We were thrilled about the good deal but towards the end of the day realized that not all bargains are worth it.

We started off nicely, but about 30 kilometers into the journey, I was struck with severe motion sickness. The rest of the trip became a hassle, and we decided to head straight to our hotel for some rest. We were staying at a homestay called “Musafir Cafe.” I didn’t pay much attention to the details of the place initially, rushing straight to my room to rest and recover from the nausea. After resting for a while, we ventured out for lunch. Despite feeling unwell, the simple meal of Parathas (Indian flatbread) with Mixed Vegetable Sabzi did wonders. I quickly felt normal again, proving that sometimes a good meal is all you need to bounce back.

Our first destination for the day was the Apple Garden. The experience was enchanting. Tiny flowers covered the entire landscape, with roses and lilies adding splashes of color amidst the lush greenery. The apple-bearing trees were within reach, making it feel like we had stepped into paradise. The journey to the garden itself was a blessing, with dense forests surrounding us. On our way, we passed by the path to the Sunset Point, which was on my checklist, but for now, we focused on the Apple Garden.

At the garden, we met some locals and learned about apple cultivation. Although the apples weren’t ripe enough to taste, it was fascinating to hear about the growing process and the challenges faced by the farmers. The locals were friendly and welcoming, sharing their stories and traditions with us.

On our way back, we visited the Jhula Devi Temple which was on the way. This temple, known for its numerous hanging bells, is believed to fulfill the wishes of devotees. Each bell represents a wish granted, and the sound of the bells ringing in the breeze created a serene and spiritual atmosphere. The temple, dedicated to Goddess Durga, holds a special place in the hearts of the locals, who frequently visit to offer their prayers.

After visiting the temple, we asked our driver about our next destination. To our dismay, he informed us that his time was up and he would be dropping us back at the hotel. It was only 5 PM, and we had planned to visit several more spots, including the second largest golf ground in India, the Sunset Point, and the Haidakhan Babaji Temple. Despite offering to pay extra, the driver insisted that he only worked until 5 PM. My brother was understandably angry, but I realized it was more a case of miscommunication than a scam. The cab owner hadn’t informed the driver of our extended plans, and the driver had to return to Kausani. His reasoning was also valid that such a low price can’t make up for his time and fuel.

Disheartened, we returned to our stay. However, upon reviewing our checklist, I found that one of the places we wanted to visit was right in our locality—Chaubatia. In the evening, we noticed a single bench going down from our stay, surrounded by pine trees that looked soothing and aesthetic. Instead of returning to our rooms, we decided to head straight to the bench to embrace what was left of the day. We clicked a few photos during the golden hour, which turned out great, lightening our mood. We decided to make use of our time and have some local snacks.

We returned to the homestay to drop off our backpacks and were greeted by a lovely lady, Deepaji, whom I had overlooked earlier due to my sickness. She served us masala tea and listened to our day’s mishap. She assured us not to worry, as her husband was a cab driver and she could arrange a ride to the Sunset Point. She urged us to go, stating it was a once-in-a-while event we wouldn’t want to miss, especially since the sky was clear.

We skipped our snack plan and got ready. Deepa accompanied us to the top of the hill where her husband, Neerajji, was waiting. She brought along her three dogs—one black, big, and furry, one German Shepherd, and one Pomeranian. It was a common sight in the Kumaon region to see people walking their dogs in the evening, adding to the charming vibe.

Neerajji introduced himself and we took off to the Sunset Point, located on the same route we visited earlier. Along the way, he explained why Ranikhet is called Ranikhet. A queen once visited the place and loved it so much that she came every year, earning it the name “Rani ki Khet” (Queen’s Meadow), later known as Ranikhet. He also shared insights about the flora and fauna of the area and how Ranikhet is a major Kumaon Army site with old British-era buildings still standing.

We reached the Sunset Point just in time. From there, we could see Mukteshwar’s Chauli Ki Jali and Nainital’s mountains and fields below. Neerajji pointed out the highest peaks of the region, providing a breathtaking view. On our way back, he took us to a local herbal wholesale store where we found a variety of products, including my recent favorite, Barash juice. The shopkeeper was kind enough to let us taste various items, from pickles to juices to spiced amla, each delicious.

Each of which was so delicious that if I could I would have bought them all with me, but I had limited space thus I and my brother sufficed with a bottle of barash juice and 6 boxes of spiced amla (4 salty and 2 sweet) which is exceptionally healthy. Unmesh decided to have a bottle of juice as well as a jackfruit pickle and 2 boxes of amla. As we left for our stay, Mr. Neeraj decided to make us taste the authentic Kaumonic dishes that he had Deepaji prepare for us as we headed back.

With time in hand, Neerajji took us on a safari-like journey through a dense forest, leaving the main roads and opting for a barren path that went through the deep forest. In Ranikhet, people avoid traveling at night due to the presence of tigers and other wildlife. He told us that if we got lucky, we might see some. We saw a few rabbits, which Neeraj said indicated the presence of tigers nearby. Although we didn’t spot any tigers, the experience was thrilling and unforgettable.

Upon returning, we saw smoke rising from the locality. Deepaji was already there, looking concerned. A fire had broken out downhill, likely ignited by a careless person. I understood why the forest department often uses controlled fires to prevent such incidents from spreading uncontrollably. When left unchecked, these fires can engulf entire localities.

Neerajji immediately took charge, instructing Deepaji and us to return to the homestay while he called the firefighters to get the situation under control. With swift action, the fire was soon managed, preventing any major damage. We were relieved and grateful.

As the chaos settled, Deepaji prepared a delicious dinner for us, including traditional Kumaoni raita, chapatis, sabji, pickles, and more. The meal was comforting and flavorful, a perfect end to a rather tumultuous day. We savored every bite, appreciating the homely feel and the warm hospitality. After dinner, we went to sleep, feeling content and safe.

The next morning marked the end of our trip. Surprisingly, the day turned out wonderfully, a stark contrast to the previous day’s misfortune, all thanks to the kind couple. Deepaji made us a hearty breakfast of Aloo Paratha (potato-stuffed flatbreads) with Bhang Ki Chutney and curd.

While the breakfast was being prepared, Neerajji suggested we visit the Haidakhan Babaji Temple, which was both on our checklist and within walking distance. We soaked in the serene morning ambiance and felt a deep sense of peace as we approached the temple.

The Haidakhan Babaji Temple, also known as Haidakhan Vishwamahadham, is dedicated to the revered Haidakhan Babaji, a legendary figure believed to be a Mahavatar—a great incarnation who has existed throughout the ages to guide humanity. Haidakhan Babaji is mentioned in the famous spiritual book “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramhansa Yogananda, where he is recognized as a timeless yogi with extraordinary powers and a mission to awaken spiritual consciousness.

Situated in the picturesque Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, the temple is nestled amidst lush greenery and the soothing sounds of the nearby river Gautami Ganga, which enhances the spiritual ambiance. The temple complex is a serene retreat, attracting devotees and spiritual seekers from around the world.

Haidakhan Babaji’s teachings emphasize simplicity, truth, love, and service to humanity. He advocated for the practice of karma yoga (selfless service) and bhakti yoga (devotion). His presence in the temple is said to be powerful, and many devotees have reported experiencing profound peace and transformation during their visits.

As we entered the temple, the atmosphere was charged with spirituality. Devotees were engaged in prayers and chanting, their voices blending harmoniously with the sounds of nature. The main shrine housed the idol of Haidakhan Babaji, radiating a calm and benevolent aura. We joined the devotees in offering prayers and spent some time in quiet meditation.

The temple complex also features various smaller shrines dedicated to Hindu deities and a beautiful garden where one can sit and reflect. The teachings of Haidakhan Babaji are inscribed on plaques throughout the temple, offering wisdom and guidance to visitors.

One notable feature of the temple is the sacred Dhuni, a continuously burning fire that symbolizes purity and the eternal presence of the divine. Devotees believe that offering prayers at the Dhuni brings blessings and fulfillment of their wishes.

Our visit to the Haidakhan Babaji Temple was a profoundly enriching experience. The serene surroundings, coupled with the deep spiritual energy of the place, offered a perfect start to our day. As we walked back to our homestay, we felt a renewed sense of peace and clarity, carrying with us the teachings and blessings of Haidakhan Babaji.

We returned just in time to enjoy the delicious breakfast prepared by Deepaji—Aloo Paratha (potato-stuffed flatbreads) with Bhang Ki Chutney (Another local dish) and curd. The meal was hearty and satisfying, perfectly complementing the spiritual nourishment we had received at the temple.

Neerajji arranged a taxi to take us back to Kathgodam, an 85-kilometer trip from where we would return to Delhi. We clicked a few pics together and Neerajji and Deepaji invited us back in winter to have the best view of the Himalayas which is visible from their homestay.

On our way back, we decided to visit the Kainchi Dham of Neem Karoli Baba, a famous temple we had unknowingly missed earlier.

Kainchi Dham, nestled in the Kumaon hills, is a revered ashram and temple dedicated to the renowned Hindu guru, Neem Karoli Baba who was believed to be an incarnation of Lord Hanuman. This sacred place holds significant spiritual importance and has attracted devotees from all over the world, including notable figures like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, who have credited their visits to this temple as life-changing experiences.

The ashram was established by Neem Karoli Baba in the 1960s and has since become a center of spiritual learning and devotion. The name “Kainchi” refers to the two sharp hairpin bends (or “scissors”) on the road leading to the temple. The serene environment, surrounded by lush greenery and the soothing sounds of the river flowing nearby, creates a perfect setting for meditation and reflection.

When we arrived, the temple was crowded with devotees, all eager to pay their respects and seek blessings. Despite the throngs of people, the atmosphere was peaceful and filled with a palpable sense of devotion. The temple complex is beautifully maintained, with colorful flowers adorning the pathways and the scent of incense wafting through the air.

Inside the temple, the main shrine houses the idol of Neem Karoli Baba, where devotees offer prayers and seek his blessings. The ashram also features several smaller shrines dedicated to various Hindu deities. The entire place resonates with spiritual energy, making it a profound experience for all who visit.

We spent some time exploring the ashram, absorbing the tranquility and reflecting on the teachings of Neem Karoli Baba. The visit was a fitting end to our journey, leaving us with a sense of peace and spiritual fulfillment.

After our visit to Kainchi Dham, our driver dropped us at the railway station. As we waited for our train back to Delhi, we reflected on the memorable experiences and the kind people who made our trip so special. Despite the mishaps, our time in Ranikhet turned out to be a wonderful chapter in our Kumaon adventure. The hospitality, the breathtaking scenery, and the rich cultural heritage of the region made this journey truly unforgettable.


Day 7: Delhi Sight-Seeing

As we descended from the cool, serene heights of the Kumaon region into the bustling plains of Delhi, we were greeted by an immediate and stark contrast. The temperature soared, and the air was thick with the notorious Delhi heat. It is often said that a day in Delhi is equivalent to smoking ten cigarettes due to the pollution, and these assumptions have always painted a grim picture in my mind. My first experience in Delhi, rushing to catch our train to Kathgodam, had been anything but pleasant, reinforcing these notions.

However, this time, my perspective on Delhi began to change. As our cab maneuvered through the wide, tree-lined avenues, I noticed a surprising amount of greenery. Despite the infamous pollution, the city was relatively clean, and the people we interacted with were kind and welcoming. The heat wave was taxing, especially after our refreshing stint in the mountains, but we were determined to make the most of our day in the capital.

Our first stop was India Gate, the iconic war memorial standing tall in the heart of the city. Built-in memory of the Indian soldiers who died in World War I, India Gate is a majestic structure that exudes a sense of pride and solemnity. The surrounding lawns were bustling with families enjoying picnics and children flying kites. Despite the heat, the atmosphere was lively and patriotic. We walked around, taking in the inscriptions on the monument and the eternal flame of the Amar Jawan Jyoti, honoring the unknown soldiers.

Next, we visited the Red Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a symbol of India’s rich history and architectural prowess. The massive red sandstone walls enclosed a complex of palaces, halls, and beautiful gardens. As we explored the fort, we marveled at the intricate Mughal architecture and the grandeur of structures like the Diwan-i-Aam (Hall of Public Audience) and the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience). The historical significance of the fort, once the main residence of the Mughal emperors, added depth to our visit.

Our journey then took us to the Lotus Temple, a Bahá’í House of Worship known for its stunning architecture. Shaped like a lotus flower, the temple is a masterpiece of modern design, with 27 marble-clad petals forming the structure. The serene ambiance inside the temple offered a stark contrast to the bustling city outside. We spent some time in silent contemplation, appreciating the inclusive philosophy of the Bahá’í faith that welcomes people of all religions.

We also made our way to Rashtrapati Bhawan, the official residence of the President of India. This grand building, with its imposing architecture and well-manicured Mughal Gardens, showcases the blend of Indian and European architectural styles. Although we couldn’t enter the premises, we admired its majestic façade from the gates and imagined the significant decisions made within its walls.

Our final major stop was the Kutub Minar, one of the largest and most famous mosques in India. Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the mosque’s grand scale and architectural beauty were awe-inspiring. We climbed the narrow steps of one of the minarets, which offered a panoramic view of Old Delhi. The bustling market below, with its narrow lanes and vibrant shops, was a stark reminder of the city’s dynamic spirit.

Our final major stop in Delhi was the iconic Qutub Minar, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. As we approached this towering monument, the sheer height and intricate carvings left us in awe. Standing at 73 meters, Qutub Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world and a testament to the architectural brilliance of ancient India. The lush green gardens surrounding the minar provided a serene backdrop, making it a perfect place for reflection. The history and grandeur of Qutub Minar were a fitting conclusion to our enriching journey through the cultural tapestry of Delhi.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we had to miss a few notable spots like the Jama Masjid, Humayun’s Tomb, and Jantar Mantar.

Our visit to Delhi was brief, it was eye-opening. The city, often criticized for its pollution and heat, revealed a side of itself that was green, vibrant, and rich in culture and history. The people we met were warm and hospitable, adding to the positive experience. Despite the taxing heat, we managed to visit some of the city’s iconic landmarks, each telling a story of India’s glorious past.

And no trip to Delhi would be complete without indulging in its famous street food. Amidst our sightseeing, we took time to savor some of the most popular Indian snacks, celebrated all over the world.

Our first stop was for Chole Bhature, a beloved North Indian dish. The fluffy, deep-fried Bhature (bread) paired perfectly with the spicy, tangy chickpea curry (Chole). The rich flavors, combined with the coolness of pickled onions and a squeeze of lemon, created a blissful explosion of taste in our mouths. The dish was filling and satisfying, making it a perfect start to our culinary journey.

Next, we tried the authentic Pani Puri, also known as Golgappa in North India. This street food is a delightful blend of flavors and textures. The crisp puris were filled with spicy tamarind water, mashed potatoes, and chickpeas. The burst of tangy, spicy water, as we bit into the puris, was a refreshing contrast to the heat outside. It was a fun and interactive eating experience, and we couldn’t resist going back for seconds.

We also indulged in Aloo Tikki Chaat, a popular North Indian snack. The Aloo Tikki, or potato patty, was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It was served with a medley of tangy tamarind chutney, spicy green chutney, yogurt, and topped with fresh coriander and crunchy sev. Each bite was a delightful mix of flavors—sweet, spicy, tangy, and savory—all coming together harmoniously.

Our day in Delhi concluded our journey through the Kumaon region and beyond, leaving us with a tapestry of memories from the mountains to the bustling capital. The contrast between the serene, cool hills and the vibrant, hot plains of Delhi enriched our travel experience, providing a deeper understanding of India’s diverse landscapes and cultural heritage. As we boarded our train back to Chhattisgarh, we carried with us not just souvenirs, but a renewed appreciation for the incredible journey we had embarked upon.


Back at Home

As I sit in the familiar setting of my room, surrounded by the comforting sights and sounds of home, I reflect on our journey through the Kumaon region. The vibrant memories of our travels, from the heights of the Himalayan foothills to the bustling streets of Delhi, play like a cherished movie reel in my mind.

We began our adventure with the hope of witnessing the majestic Himalayan peaks, only to be thwarted by fog. Yet, this perceived disappointment led us to discover a deeper beauty—the beauty of acceptance and living in the moment. It taught us that sometimes, the journey itself holds more treasures than the destination.

The simplicity of life in the hills was a stark contrast to the complexity of city living. The locals, with their unwavering connection to nature and tradition, showed us the true meaning of contentment. Their lives, though devoid of modern luxuries, were rich in joy and serenity. They reminded us that happiness often resides in the simplest of things—a warm meal, a serene landscape, and genuine human connection.

The mishaps along the way, like the barely missed train and our encounter with the uncooperative driver in Ranikhet, were not just inconveniences but integral parts of our adventure. These challenges tested our patience and adaptability, ultimately making our journey more memorable. They highlighted the unpredictable nature of travel, where every turn offers a lesson and every obstacle a new perspective.

The hospitality we experienced, especially from the Aunty at Kausani who treated us as her children to Deepaji and Neerajji, was a testament to the kindness of strangers. Their warmth and generosity turned what could have been a disappointing day into an unforgettable one. They reminded us that, no matter where we go, it is the people we meet who leave the most lasting impressions.

To all the readers, I encourage you to embark on your own journeys. Travel is the best experience you can invest in, offering returns that far exceed any material possession. Each adventure, whether smooth or rocky, teaches you something invaluable about the world and yourself.

Travel opens your eyes to new cultures, broadens your horizons, and deepens your appreciation for life. It challenges your perceptions, pushes your boundaries, and fosters a sense of wonder and curiosity. Every place you visit, and every person you meet, adds a unique chapter to the story of your life.

As the renowned author and traveler Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” Each journey holds the potential to transform you, break down barriers, and build bridges of understanding and empathy.

In the words of Saint Augustine, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” So, dear reader, I urge you to turn the page and embark on your own adventure. Embrace the unknown, cherish the journey, and let the world teach you its boundless lessons.

Travel is not just about visiting new places; it’s about discovering new perspectives, experiencing the richness of life, and understanding that, despite our differences, we are all connected by our shared humanity. So pack your bags, set forth, and let the world be your greatest teacher.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories too. Have you visited Kumaon or a place that left you equally enchanted? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.

Let’s keep the spirit of adventure alive and inspire each other to explore the beauty of our world. May your journeys be filled with wonder, wisdom, and countless stories to share. Happy travels!

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