I’m finally on a longer vacation than the usual hectic weekend getaways. I have been waiting for this ever since I started my own blog. I must confess that writing and sharing the same over the blog has encouraged and inspired me to travel more and more. Earlier I only dreamt of travelling but those dreams normally succumbed to various work pressures and also to laziness on my part to some extent. But this journey aims to change all of it for once and all.
Although, initially I had many places in mind like Leh-Laddakh, Kullu Manali etc. but then I realized why not to start from my own home state-Uttarakhand also known as Dev Bhoomi (Land of Gods). Secondly, apart from few gleaming tourist destinations Uttarakhand is still unexplored and untouched unlike the neighbour Himanchal Pradesh.
Apart from this I did not finalized anything and left it on the spontaneity when I would actually take the trip.
A Distant View of Kausani
While lying on the bed two days back I just recalled the name Kausani from one of the conversation long time back and the next moment I was packing my bags for Kausani not even knowing in which corner of Uttarakhand it was. Neither, I knew which course my journey would be taking from Kausani- I left all decisions on spontaneity. Next day, I gathered all the required information to reach Kausani and the same night I was on a bus heading to Haldwani. I travelled for 12 hours non-stop from Delhi-Haldwani- Kausani to finally reach the starting point of my journey.
Kausani, a small town tucked amidst the dense pine and deodar trees offering splendid view of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks from various viewpoints across the hill. Unfortunately, due to foggy weather conditions, I could not have a glimpse of white Himalayan peaks in spite of doing everything possible. But I’m not disheartened as it’s just a start and I will have my view in due course. Further, this small hill town offers serenity and calmness which every city dweller seeks for. Another thing which makes it a perfect retreat is the fact that it’s still not pinned strongly on the tourist map and thus not overly crowded.
The Famous Tea Gardens
Even though I reached well in time in Kausani, I did not hurry like other tourist to cover everything as soon as possible. I leisurely rested for couples of hours, took small jaunts across the market and lonely roads, interacted with the locals, tried food at various joints and again retreated back to the guest house for some more rest. I guess that’s why I would prefer to call myself as “traveller” rather than “tourist”. During my interactions with the locals, I got to know the about the tea gardens for which this hill town is famous. It’s also termed as the “Darjeeling of Uttarakhand”. The light and friendly interactions with the locals helped me finalizing the itinerary for the next day.
Next morning, I woke up slightly shivering to have a glimpse of sunrise. There was negligible noise on the roads except for children strolling up to their schools. The fresh cold breeze on one hand and warms rays of rising sun on the other hand were the perfectly complementing each other. I might have witnessed sunrise on hills numerous times but every time it manages to run a candid feeling through my veins and so was this time.
The sun rose higher into the skies and I went for sleep for couple of more hours. Then I woke up when the friendly lodge owner came to the room to ask for tea. Thereafter, I quickly freshened up and set strolling on the hill roads. I headed to the famous tea gardens of the town on foot. I inquired the locals for the directions and at last found my way down the hill through the village. While ambling through the village, I saw their traditional dwellings built from stone and mud.
The traditional hill house is similar to duplex house with living on the upper one and the place for kitchen and the cattle (locally called ‘goht’). The upper rooms are interconnected through small windows so that doors are not required to be opened during night. All these resurrected the childhood memories when I used to go to my native village during summer holidays. When I saw these people, it appeared as if nothing has changed since then.
As I walked further, I saw few sheep grazing over the mountain while their owner (a traditionally dressed pahari lady) sat peacefully nearby. I sauntered further, I saw local ladies working in their terraced field and all of them shied away when I tried to click them. I would have missed all this if I had taken the wheel and I patted myself for my decision.
A Local Dwelling
After an hours walk, I finally reached the tea gardens of the Uttaranchal Tea Co. (P) Ltd. This is the oldest running tea factory of Uttaranchal and the only one in the area. Above the factory were the long streaks of tea plants spanned over few acres of terraced fields. I sat below a tree among the tea plants in silence to observe the fabulous view of hills in front and also to catch some breathe. Later, I walked down into the factory to learn more about the journey of these teas leafs to cups. But I was informed that due to some issues relating to pricing, the work was temporarily stopped, however, one of the factory worked was kind enough to show me machines and how all the process works. He too was quite worried about the future of factory as livelihood of many workers depends on it. I left the factory premises wishing good luck to worker which was at most I could do.
Some of the Items used by Sumitranandan Pant
From the tea factory, I went to small one room shawl emporium across the road only to find few hand knitting machines with no workers although the shop above it was selling the same. I rambled to few more adjacent shops where many organic products made from the local produce such as plum and apricot jams, wild honey, pickles and other cosmetic items were being sold. I kept myself at bay from these items as I’m on tight budget.
House of Famous Poet Sumitranandan Pant
I roamed around the tea garden for some more time and then again walked backed to my room for some more rest. In the evening, I again went for stroll through this small town. While walking on the roads, I read a sign board showing way to the museum of the renowned Hindi writer and poet Pandit Sumitra Nandan Pant. His paternal home near the main market is now turned into a small museum with some of his pictures, letters and the table and chair where he used to write. The museum normally lies vacant as most of tourists are even unaware who Pandit Sumitra Nandan Pant was.
The Beautiful Forest Rest House
After giving due regards to this eminent Hindi poet and writer, I headed to the Forest Rest House (FRH) located amid the dense pine and deodar forest. The road to the FRH is hidden below the pale brown dry pine leafs giving it a slippery touch and a retro look. As you go deeper into the woods, the echoes of the jungle take the leap and it gives a feeling of being lost. But soon you will see the stunning FRH originally constructed by the British to complement their lavish lifestyle. The beautiful sloped roof tops, the lovely gardens with different flowers and the attractive classic styled rooms make it best place in the town.
Gandhi Ji’s Anashakti Ashram
Since, I could spend the night there; I decided to spend some time in the garden. Soon, I was joined by the caretaker who enquired my whereabouts. I inquired the caretaker if I was missing anything and he told me about the Anashakti Ashram which had skipped my mind. The ashram more popularly known as the Gandhi Ashram is the place where Mahatma Gandhi wrote the Anashakti treatise. I proceeded to the Ashram quickly as it was already starting to get dark.
I reached the Ashram well in time and first thing I noticed were the monkeys. Although monkeys are usually chased by the locals and their pets but once they are in Ashram precincts, nobody dares to touch them.
The Ashram has several prayer halls, one library and all the boarders are required to strictly attend morning and evening prayers. Besides this, it also has a perfect view point towards the Himalayas making it one of the best spot to see sunrise and catch the glimpse of Himalayas. The Ashram also has Sarla Behn Museum which unfortunately was closed till the time I reached.
I spent rest of my evening in the Ashram- attending the evening prayer, sitting on the bench gazing at the Gandhi statue, watching the monkeys jump, and thinking of my next halt.