Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lesser Known Himalayan Destinations Part 2 - Kausani

The Trishul and Nanda Devi Massifs from Kausani with The Forest in the Foreground.
On the Road to Kausani.

Delhi is a lovely city and its denizens would rather live here than in any other megacity. The fact remains, however, that with about 22 million inhabitants and about 3.5 million vehicles, the city is crowded. At times, the eternal crowds, constant cacophony, pollution and the dust storms sweeping in from the Rajasthan desert can drive a saint to distraction, leave alone mere mortals, the author being counted as one such mortal.

Kausani, with Baijnath visible in the Valley.

Luckily, there are solutions at hand, Delhi is within easy reach of the Himalayas and there are many hill stations within 6 to 8 hours driving time. In the summers, however, going to the popular hill resorts means just exchanging a crowded, noisy city for a crowded, noisy, polluted hill town. Seasoned travelers, therefore, head for lesser known hill stations, which are both beautiful and serene. Kausani is one such hidden gem.

'Chicken'! My b***s are bigger than yours!. 

Last summer one decided to get away from Delhi for a few days and set course for Kausani. The highway to Moradabad was sheer madness with fearless drivers playing ‘Chicken’ with each other.

The Chevron Resort, Kausani.

This is a very popular game in India and involves two vehicles approaching each other at high speed while overtaking another vehicle. The aim is to see who has the bigger b***s, and would hold his line, forcing the other one to swerve at the last moment, with every chance of hitting another vehicle. This duelling, and the fact that many drivers have b***s of the same size, along with very small brains, is one of the reasons that we Indians are the proud holders of the world record for the maximum number of annual road deaths per thousand vehicles. In this we beat the Chinese, who come in second place. It is reported that the Indian Olympic Committee wants this sport to be included in the Olympic Games.
Rudradhari Falls En-route, Kausani.

Opting for discretion over valour, we passed Corbett National Park, bypassed the popular but crowded hill station of Nainital and arrived at Kausani after a slow scenic drive of 9 hours. The hotel in Kausani, run by Chevron Hotels was a beautiful cottage with about 12 rooms, set in a lovely garden, with panoramic views of the Trishul and Nanda Devi range. A welcome cup of hot tea with ‘Pakodas’, Indian style fritters, comprising a variety of vegetables coated in a spicy chick pea batter and deep fried, sheer bliss. 

An evening view of the Snowcapped Himalayas. 

We watched the sun go down, started on our sun-downers. All the cares of the city started receding in direct proportion to the reduction in the level of the bottle. A simple hot meal and we retired, tired but happy.             

Alpine Forests at Kausani.

The Trishul Massif as seen from Kausani.
Kausani is a lovely, green hill station, surrounded by thick pine and deodar forests. 
One of its primary claims to fame is that Mahatma Gandhi spent many months in the town and was so enamored of the beauty, forests and streams of the area, that he described it as the ‘Switzerland of India’. This may be somewhat of a hyperbole, but can be attributed to the great man having spent less than a week in Switzerland. His disciples set up the Anashakti Ashram in Kausani, which does good work to this day. Kausani’s other claim to fame is that it was home to Sumitra Nandan Pant one of modern Hindi Literature's great poets. There is a small museum dedicated to him.         

The Nanda Devi Peak.
To the author, Kausani’s attraction is its unrivaled view of the Trishul and Nanda Devi massifs, the quiet walks in the wooded forests, lovely vistas of mountains, forests, tea gardens and rivers. The friendly Kumauni People who always greet you with a smile and the general unhurried pace of life. One can spend hours gazing at over 250 km stretch of snow covered mountains, on any clear morning or evening.

Baijnath Temple Complex.
The one thing that one misses in most small hill stations is the presence of any sort of restaurant serving local food. In most such places the visitor is limited to eating in one’s hotel, which offer a limited but adequate menu. A request to the chef may result in some local delicacy being prepared, but it’s a bit of a hit or miss.  

Temporal Temple and Eternal Mountains in Juxtaposition!.
 There are many excursions from Kausani. Bageshwar with its ancient Baijnath Temple Complex is about 16 km away. Pretty mountain towns like Binsar and Chaukori. 

Almora and Nainital, too, are within easy reach but are crowded and polluted, especially Almora

Approach to the Nanda Devi Biodiversity Reserve.
The Nanda Devi biodiversity reserve is also easily accessible from Kausani and it is possible to access the Pindari Glacier via Bageshwar. 

The Pindari Glacier trek for 6 days is one of the easiest glacier treks in the Himalayas. 

The Road to Nanda Devi

The authorities are now limiting the number of the people admitted to these reserves as the influx of humans were causing irreparable damage to the delicate flora and fauna of the area.

Approach to The Pindari Glacier
It is quite easy to reach the outer limit of the biodiversity reserve on a day trip, which would suffice for most travellers as not everyone can spend 5 to 6 days trekking. A short visit of the 'Lick and Promise' style, was all that this author had time for.  

Tea Gardens.
River, Fields, Forests, Hills & Homes.
There are some old tea gardens at Kausani. Over the years these gardens had almost become defunct due to reduced production and un-remunerative prices. These old China tea bushes are now being revived thanks to some entrepreneurs from Kolkata and the rise in demand of these flavourful, high grown, organic teas. The tasting house at the tea garden is a 
nice place to sample and buy these excellent orthodox teas.

The Lovely Bhimtal Lake.
Relaxed and content, we set out on the return journey. The road journey to Delhi is about 400 km, but it may be wise to stop enroute overnight to break it up into two manageable parts. 
We stopped over at the scenic Bhimtal Lake, to savour the mountains for another night. Leaving Bhimtal next morning and studiously avoiding being inveigled into playing ‘Chicken’ on the road, we returned to the bright lights of Delhi, already planning our next trip to the mountains.

A  Dramatic  Telephoto  View of The Trishul and Panchauli Peaks and Subsidiary Ranges.