The plan was made in seconds. Last week Gayatri said that she has never been to Nainital and would love to see it. So, we thought why to wait for such a simple thing. It was decided that we will go to Nainital on Saturday and Sunday. But I had already been to Nainital before, so I pushed for adding Mukteshwar in the itinerary. I knew it would put a bit of stress on us as we will have to travel a bit too much for two days. Nevertheless, Mukteshwar was added in the travel route. I was hoping to see snow-capped Himalayas from Mukteshwar; although I was aware that clouds rule in the mountains. Most of the time I have been to mountains, I could not see snow cliffs due to mist and clouds. Last time I was in Lansdowne, but mist stayed like a wall between me and mountains.
For this trip, we booked a hotel in Bhimtal. It suited me as I always prefer to stay away from crowded center-of-tourist-attraction places. Earlier also when I visited Nainital in 2012, I stayed in Pangot instead of Nainital.
I woke up at 3:00am on Friday night. I had already packed my small bag and camera last evening. I freshened up, picked my backpack and reached Gayatri-Anand’s place. We had decided to take this journey in their Maruti Vagon-R. We had contracted a professional driver to drive us into the hills. Gayatri, Anand, their cute child Pakhi and I began the journey from Mehrauli at around 4:00am. Anand was driving as we were to meet our driver near Rashtrapati Bhawan. Durgesh, our driver, was found waiting for us and he promptly took control of the steering wheel. It was still dark when we began journey to exit Delhi.
We took the route of NH 24 (Delhi > Ghaziabad > Hapur > Garhmukteshwar > Rampur) and then we turned on to NH 87 (Rampur > Rudrapur > Haldwani > Kathgodam > Bhimtal).
Our first stop was at a tea stall in Hapur. We got out of car, stretched our legs and enjoyed hot steaming tea in earthen cups. Although I had woken up at 3:00am but still I was not feeling sleepy. By now, sun was up and it was time for me to train my camera on the world around me. I took out my camera, loaded it with freshly charged A4 batteries and began clicking.
After having tea we decided not to stop for next 3-4 hours as we wanted to reach Bhimtal as early as possible. Road condition all the way up to Bhimtal is pretty good. We only had to slow down in Rampur and Rudrapur as we passed through inhabited areas. Later we realized that it would be better if you take Rampur bypass road right after Kosi overbridge. This bypass would be about 20 kilometers longer but you’ll go at higher speed.
We stopped at a dhaba just before Haldwani at around 11:00am to have breakfast. We ordered stuffed parathas and tea. After eating and resting for a half an hour we were again on the road. Elevation into the hills began after Kathgodam. If you are traveling by train, Kathgodam is the last station. From here you can catch taxis or buses to reach hill stations like Nainital, Almora, Ranikhet, Mukteshwar etc. Durgesh drove uphill slowly and that saved us from that nasty feeling of dizziness and nausea.
We checked in the Hotel Lake Inn at around 1:00pm.
Our lake facing room provided a beautiful view of the lake. Not many boats were there in the lake at that time.
We rested for a while and then went to the Bhimtal lake. Activities like boating and kayaking are available in Bhimtal. They charge about Rs. 250 for boating. You can also go for paragliding for Rs. 700. Gayatri, Anand and Pakhi went for a 20 minutes boat ride. As we felt hungry, we ate pizza from a local pizza joint at Bhimtal. It was delicious!
At around 4:00pm we again got into our car to go to Nainital. On the way, we saw clouds were forming in the hills. The views were stunning but the same clouds were threatening to come heavily down on us. As it was peak season and that too a Saturday; Nainital was full of tourists. So much so that as we approached Nainital, we got stuck in a huge traffic jam. All the traffic was stalled for up to 5 kilometers. In that jam, we kept on moving towards Nainital at a snail’s pace in hope of visiting Mall Road.
But all of a sudden rain and hails began to drum our car’s roof. We were stuck in the traffic for about 2 hours. Now seeing heavy rain, we decided to turn back to Bhimtal. We drove on spiraling road through thick rain. It was dangerous but Durgesh was skillful. We reached our hotel in Bhimtal only to find that all power supply was gone due to storm. Hotel staff was trying to bring up the backup generator. Soon the generator worked and we went into our room. Weather was now really cold due to rain and strong wind. I got into my blanket and immediately fell asleep.
Next morning we woke up at 6:30am. We wanted to leave the hotel by 7:30am to resume our journey. We wanted to go to Mukteshwar and then to Nainital before heading back to Delhi. Breakfast was included in our hotel reservation but the hotel staff said that they will be able to provide proper breakfast only at 8:00am. They said that they could offer only tea and sandwich before that. We accepted, ate sandwiches and again hopped into the car.
Mukteshwar is about 40 kilometers from Bhimtal. The road is in pristine condition and very scenic.
On the way, we stopped several times to appreciate views, take photos and also for a quick bite. We reached Mukteshwar temple at 11:30am. The temple is located at a height of about 2100 meters from sea level.
Main attractions in Mukteshwar are the temple and Chauli Ki Jali. I could not go at either of these places as the path was not easy for my crutches. Gayatri and Anand went to the temple. Chauli Ki Jali is just 200 meters ahead of the temple and the way to Chauli Ki Jali goed through the temple. Chauli Ki Jali are overhanging rocks that provide very beautiful view of the valley below. You can also do rock climbing and rapping at this site.
At 1:00pm we turned back and came downhill towards Nainital. We reached Nainital at 3:00pm but as the fate had it, we again could not see Nainital! The place was overly crowded with tourists and it sounded like a war-zone. There were vehicles everywhere, parking lots were full, people were shouting at each other, drivers were confused as to where to park and where to go… it was flooded with madness. I just did not like it. We dropped the plan of visiting Mall Road, Naina Devi temple and the lake. The simple reason was that there was no hope of finding a place to park our car. We missed Nainital even in the second attempt! Some other day probably! So, we got out of the lake area and headed on the way to Kathgodam.
Gayatri and Anand were feeling dizzy due to travel in mountains. They slept for a while. I was not affected by dizziness so I enjoyed the whole route. We landed in Kathgodam at around 5:00pm and continued our journey towards Delhi. This time we took the Rampur bypass road and it saved us at least an hour.
We were dog-tired by the time we reached home at 12:00am. It was a trip that should have been one day longer, but we were happy to be able to go to all the places and still report in our respective offices on Monday morning!