So, after much awaiting and long desert of vacations, finally the day came when we will be leaving for our 5 day Uttrakhand trip. Why Uttrakhand, first because of its close proximity to Lucknow & 2nd Munsiyari was a long pending item on the list. With just 5 days in hand (that also 2 days went in to-and-fro from Lucknow) I knew it was going to be a stretch for older generation who were accompanying me. Neverthelss the trip was something which my wife & myself wanted to do at any cost after so much hard work then went into work in the lpast year. You know what!!
Planning: This is one aspect where we can outstand any else family easily. We do lot of planning...and I mean it..hell lot of planning. From mode of transport to road of transport, from type of accommodation to it's location, from places to visit to where our chai stop would be. We overdo it..Planning started more then a month back when leaves were finalized. We thought accommodation will not be a problem but then it was our pure assumption. Few calls to hotels/guest houses in Chaokori, Munsiyari shattered our vacation dreams. First time we came to know that Oct is Bangali month in Uttrakahnd. Lot of Bengali friends visit popular places there and there was NO accommodation. heard of European, Scandinavian season in Thailand but Bengali season was first of its kind. Some how we were able to get home stay at one of the locals place and we booked it immediately. Innova was booked as our chariot for the trip & I was supposed to drive till Haldwani only. Our itinerary was:
Day 1- Lucknow -to- Haldwani (Self Drive)
Day 1- Haldwani -to- Almora
Day 2- Amora to PatalBhuvneswar & Chaukori
Day3- Chaukori to Munsiyari
Day4- Chaukori to Almora, Dusherra celebration
Day5- Almora to Lucknow
Travel Buddies: Wife, Mother, Wife's parents & Kutkut (my 2 year old son)
We initially thought that all packing must be done prior so that everyone can have good sleep on Friday night & we can leave at 4am for Haldwani without sleepy eyes. But being in IT industry it cant be done. Partially because we don't have time but majorly because we can't perform without pressure. So as usual Friday (a day before trip starts) was very chaotic and we were up & awake till good midnight. We decided to delay the inauguration by 1 hr so that we can have at least 4 hour sleep.
Got up at 4am and finally managed to ouch everything inside thy trunk of our car & we were all happy face. Finally left our house around 5.15 to pick in-laws. Stiffed more luggage in the car ( don't ask me how much, you will fall off laughing) and finally I pressed speed towards Haldwani.
First click of the morning before starting from Lucknow.
It took us around 7.30 hours to reach Haldwani via Sitapur -> Bareilly Route. Expansion of this road is going on since last many years and you have constantly toggle between two sides of the road. Took a tea break at Maigalganj where we did our breakfast as well. Ride from Lko-Haldwani wasn't much happening except for these monkeys we met on the way. Pragun was really excited to see them so close.
We took a lunch break in Haldwani at bank guest house (courtesy Papa). We carried a small single stove burner with us this time so that chai banana will be a easy thing. Got chickpea curry & milk heated again over the stove. Had a good lunch and took some rest. Rented car was ready for our journey ahead and we shifted all luggage. I parked my car for next 4 days in the bank itself. Around 3pm we left for Almora. Remaining of this blog section will be on Almora.
Taking pic at the bank and reviving old memories: Papa
Few clicks at Guest house with happy faces...
Ready to hit the road again. Changing the ride.
Haldwani town is located at the foothills & one can easily get mountains view from anywhere. Distance from Haldwani to Almora is about 95 Kms and it takes around 3 hrs to 4 hrs to reach there. Take buffer time as you would definitely like to halt at below stops on the way:
- Garam Pani - If you like to buy local Kidney Beans which are really good. Also if you want to enjoy "Aaloo Gutkhe with Pahadi Raita" (Potato fries with curd) which is quite famous in this region.
- Kainchi Mandir - Famous temple of Neem Karoli Baba. Totally serene environment with lot of peace. We even inquired how to get enrolled in their ashram. Plus point is their Kala Chana (Bengal Gram) prasad which is awesome. You can also have snacks & Lemon water here which tastes equally good. More details here http://www.maharajji.com/Kainchi/kainchi-ashram.ht...
Photography is not allowed inside the temple.
As I was not driving now & we started the climbing mountains as well, my mind finally stuck vacation. I took my camera out and started clicking random picks. One of the best thing with Kumaon region is it's lush green forests. This is the main difference between it & Garhwal region as well. In Kumaon you will find green pastures, dense forests everywhere. It sooth your eyes a lot.
We decided to skip Garam Pani for now and will have a halt there while return. Next stop for us was Kainchi Mandir, another serene and quite place.
Pragun enjoying at the temple. There is a small stream which flows below this bridge and it had many fishes. Pragun was really happy to spot few of them.
Right-> Father & Son waiting for their Lemon water eagerly. When it finally came it was awesome. Whenever here, ask for big lemons which are local to mountains here and they have better tasting juice.
We spent around 30 mins here and everyone got a good break here. We drove for couple of hours to reach our final destination of the day, Almora. Though I visited Almora one time earlier as well for a short period but instantly I fall in love with this place. It sits at around ~5400 ft altitude and has good weather all the year around mostly. One must carry enough clothes to keep themselves warm in the mornings & night. Almora also has a rich cultural heritage like famous Dusshera celebrations, week long holi celebrations. It also has unique cuisines as well like Tathwani, Chudkani, Ghot ki daal, Bhaange ki chutni, Pahadi badi, Baal mithai, Singhaudi etc etc. List is quite long but one thing is sure that you will love this place for one or other reason.
Our accommodation in Almora was Hotel Savoy. It is a budget accommodation but well nicely put up wrt comfort, room size, cleanliness & off course amazing view. Go for rooms on first floor if looking forward to stay here. You may also get discount if you can talk it out.
As day was pretty long we had dinner and then went to bed after playing some Ludo :-) Night view from Hotel.
Next morning we woke up to zero view surroundings as dense fog covered whole valley. It was pretty cold as well but my brave family decided to take a stroll around the hotel. On mountains you can notice very bright colors everywhere especially in the flora & fauna.
Dense fog of the morning cleared within hours & we had bright sunny day with clear sky. We were ready to leave for Chaukori which is ~125 Kms from Almora. We had a 2 day stay there and were scheduled to return back to Almora on Dusshera day.
Time for Family pic before starting for Chaukori & Patal Bhuvneshwar.
There are 2 popular tourist destinations in Almora, one is local zoo and another is Chitai Lord Golu's Temple.
Well zoo is quite small but in mountains moderation is the name of the game. Pragun was really happy to see tiger there. If you are short on time you can miss this spot.
Forgot to introduce our travel buddy till yet who was in-charge of our ride. Meet Vicky, our companion and driver for the whole trip. An awesome person, who never says no for anything. During our trip he was working for someone else but just got his phone 2 days back that he purchased his own 2nd hand Innova.
Golu Devta's Mandir in Chitai is the most popular temple in Almora and has a huge following. Normally all people visit there when they travel by & needless to say temple has lot of stories attached to it. 2 things very peculiar & interesting here.
1) Lot of bells of all sizes and shapes. Whenever devotee's get their wish fulfilled, they tie a bell here. It's a custom.
2) Lot of letters tied all around the temple by devotees. Custom is to write your problem/wish into a letter on the name of Lord Golu and he will read them & solve all problems.
Take care of your belongings as there are many Monkey's here you can enjoy on your prasad & food. Ok, fast forward 2 days later when we able to reach back to Almora from Chaukori just in time to see some Dusshera celebrations.
Dushera as we know if the festival when Lord Ram killed evil Ravan. It is day when Indians celebrate win of Good over evil by burning effigy of Ravan. In Almora, all society make different effigy of Ravan and his family & then they take out a parade through city. One winner is selected and his team gets some prize and then all effigies are burned together in a large park. Usually this event is also marked by the presence of politicians & eminent people. All together it was a totally different experience to witness such parade. Since we were tired we didn't went to park to see fireworks.
Pragun was very happy to see all this celebrations & was dancing all the time. With such nice memories we ended our Almora trip. An awesome place and a life time experience.