Excited! We all left for a weekend trip to Mukteshwar to watch the snow in this icy period. I’m sure you can call us crazy. It was 5 a.m., as I recall, and everyone in the car was sleeping, except for Hitesh and me. It was cold and misty everywhere when we crossed Ramgarh. And the radio played a beautiful song- “Rooh Se Behti Hui Dhun Ye Ishare de, Kuch mere Raaz Tere Raaz Aawara Se, Kho Gaye hum Kahan, Rangon Sa ye Jahan.” And we silently led our way to Mutkeshwar, sensing the fresh air, and waiting to see the snow in the cold of December.
It was December last year, after the office, we five people myself, Utkarsh, Priyanka, Anubhuti & Hitesh decided on a weekend trip. The only reason was that Priyanka, Anubhuti & Hitesh has never seen snow, so we should have this best time to enjoy the snow. We had scheduled to leave after the office for Mukteshwar on Friday, and our reservations were also made. It was an 8hrs 15min drive approx 363 km, hence decided of minimum halts. We packed warm clothes, snacks, a bottle of waters & all set for our trip.
Why we chose Mukteshwar? It’s a wilderness paradise in Uttarakhand. A small townMukteshwar settled, at the top of the Kumaon Hills at an altitude of about 2287 metres above sea level. A perfect place to pause the chaos and noise of urban life, and take a trip to this magical land. An interesting legend behind the name Mukteshwar of the area is there- it is believed that Lord Shiva killed a demon king here and bestowed salvation upon him. At the top of the hills of Chauli ki Jali, there is a 350-year-old temple, Mutkeshwar temple. It is believed to be the location where the Pandavas sought salvation from Lord Shiva.
We were thrilled to explore all of that. I was more enthused by the magnificent views of the peaks of Kumaon Himalaya such as Chaukhamba, Nanda Devi and also the mighty mountains of Adi Nampha of Nepal which could be seen from Mukteshwar. But you never get what you want, and I get that a lot of the time. Due to the heavy snowfall, we were unable to pass through Bhowali and reach Mukteshwar. But I didn’t regret it; I could see snow all around twinkling like a million little sun rays. And we saw Hitesh & Priyanka, running out of the car and jumping onto the snow bed like toddlers. We tried to stop them as they may have a snow bite. But who cared since it was their first snow. Laughing, joking, they played.
It wasn’t my first snow, but I remember my first snow at Rothnag with my dad, where I held his finger and walked on the snowy track. Suddenly, I raised my eyes to the sky, and a bright light shone through my eyes, which brought me back to reality. I began to walk through the bumpy road where the cars were covered with snow some fresh brilliant like diamonds and other old covered with mud. And the cold air pricked my cheeks, so I moved my scarf to my face. If not Mukteshwar, Bhowali is also enticing.
Looking around me, I noticed a layer of white snow covering trees, land and houses. I was amazed to see how quiet everything seemed. The only sound I could hear was my crispy boots in the snow, laughter of my friends and car honks update us on the new company. The scent of wet pines made the air feel fresh and clean. It was eight in the morning, three hours flying in a second whip. We got together and drove to Bhowali, to find night accommodation, and cancelled our previous reservation at Mukteshwar.
As we drove down the hills, we saw a little tea stand. We stopped for a steaming cup of tea & Pahari maggie, and you cannot miss out. These are celestial moments, as the owner of the tea stand burned a few blocks of wood for us, to be warm. We just enjoyed our time and looked for accommodation.
At last found a nearby one- Nainital Homes Bamboo Cottages, Bhowali. Although Hitesh was upset because the location of the Mukteshwar property was beautiful, our bad luck due to the blocking of the road, we were not able to reach Mukteshwar.
It was 10 o’clock we arrived at our cottages, checked in, and ordered for breakfast. Other bad news awaited us, due to heavy snowfall, there was no electricity since yesterday. Phew! This trip couldn’t have gone any better, and we started laughing. We asked the owner to give us hot water for refreshment while they serve breakfast. And fortunately, they also gave us a few candles because electricity will take some time to come back. We all freshened up and got a hearty breakfast. Since we’ve been driving all night, exhausted, my folks were asleep in their beds.
But I decided to walk around; there were four cabins and an area for the campfire. The property was located in a quiet location, where the forest was hazel brown with tall pines and deodar trees, and the fields were parsley green with dewdrops shimmering over it. The sound of chirping birds filled the air, and the dense pillow-shaped clouds slowly rolled through the sky. And the frosty winter was stifling the world with its icy breath.
There were other rooms too, but at the backend. And as I walked the lawn, my wheezy, wind-filled lungs were belching out steam. My hand was cold, despite the jersey and the shawls that covered me completely. I walked up to the reception and asked about this area and the places we can go to.
The person sitting at the front desk told me that this hamlet attracts travellers to camping, picnic and trekking activities in general. Lush greenery and panoramic views, fruits, and snow-covered hills is another part that draws travellers to Bhowali. He even confirmed that Bhowali is also known as the Fruit Paradise, as apples, apricots or pears are cultivated here. Quite! interesting.
Later, I went to bed since my body did not allow me to walk further. When we woke up it was noon, we ordered for lunch. After lunch, we all went to Golu Devta Temple in Ghorakhal, which is located on a hill above a military school. It was founded in 1966 in the Ghorakhal area of the Nawab of Rampur. As we entered might see billions of bells, of all sizes, maybe seen hanging over the premises of the temple, with piles of letters pinned to these bells.
My friends were surprised to see the temple, but I offered my prayers because I have already visited the temple of Golu Devta in Chitai. Golu Devta is the presiding deity in the hills of Kumaon, famed as the God of justice. While making a good tour of the temple, I could see Lake Bhimtal from the temple, and the view was amazing.
The evening unfolded around the campfire, with good music and food. We slept early, as we were still wary of the long road.
The following morning, we drove to Nainital. Upon reaching, we went down the street to the Mall and got our car parked. Then made it to Machan for breakfast, and ordered a variety of platters for ourselves. After a lavish breakfast, we walked along the road to the Mall.
The Mall road runs parallel to Lake Naini, connecting the two ends of the hill city, is the principal commercial, food and cultural centre of the wonder that is Nainital.
From there, the view of the mountains covered with large pines and the snow at the top is spectacular. We also made some purchases for wool products.
We also visited the temple of Naina Devi, considered and worshipped as one of the fifty-one Shakti Peeths. The divine presiding over the Naina Devi Temple is Maa Naina Devi or Mata Sati. It is believed to have been built where the eyes of the goddess Sati fell upon the Earth. We offered our prayers and spent a while in the serenity of the temple.
We had planned to visit Bhimtal & Nakuchiyatal, but due to time limitations, we had to skip. Then we only got hot chocolate and cookies from a roadside stall. After leaving the mall road, we went to Tiffin Top also popularly called Dorothy’s Seat. One obtains a complete view of the city of Nainital and its surrounding hills in the Kumaon region of this place. Adventure activities, including rappelling and rock climbing, are also offered.
We are all happy because our primary motivation was to look at the snow. It’s been taken care of. We tossed our purchases into the car and started our way to Gurgaon. Although we stopped on the Ramgargh road to take some photos, as the tall trees, the luscious smell of the forest, the sun through the leaves was perfect to be caught in the lens.
On my way back, I thought, we need to “Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to share, not things to show.”
How to Reach
Nainital has no direct airborne connectivity. The closest airport is Indira Gandhi International Airport. Private cabs in Delhi can be rented to reach Nainital.
The Kathgodham Railway Station, about 34 km away, is the closest to Nainital. Numerous trains link Nainital with Delhi and Dehradun. Can hire a private cab or shared taxi for Nainital.
Nainital has excellent road connectivity with many cities and small towns of northern India. There is a daily bus service for Nainital from Delhi and Kathgodam. Buses such as Volvo, AC and non-AC are available on the course. Boarding a night bus from Delhi is the most practical way to get to Nainital. However, you can drive yourself or book a taxi.