My dear friend Kataria’s younger daughter Naina decided to tie the knot on 20th Oct 2013 at Delhi. This also coincided with Dussera holidays and we decided to take a break from Bangalore and the routine work. Along with our very dear friends - Freddie and Pushpa, we planned to visit Jaisalmer, Corbette National Park, common friend’s summer get away in Ranikhet and so on. Finally we decided to enjoy the hospitality of the Indian Army at their Nainital ‘Holiday Home’. Indian Army maintains a number of HH in important tourist destinations all over India, to provide boarding and lodging to visiting defense personnel.
Delhi is very uniquely placed for an extended weekend getaway. There are a number of tourist places to visit within 8 to 10 hours drive.
Figure 1 – Early morning Delhi
We set sail from Delhi at 0630 in the comfort of Honda Civic and were able to beat the dreaded morning office traffic. We stopped at Bikanerwala for breakfast. I was very impressed with the restaurant and they are true to what they profess in their web site --“Bikanervala’s concept always has been to innovate and yet maintain the original flavour of traditional Indian food with primary focus on quality, hygiene and affordability”. The place is very clean and well managed. The food is very tasty and reasonably priced. To see their staff serving food with FSPG (Food Service Polyethene Gloves) was a very welcome sight. The toilets are clean.
The roads are in good order except for 7Km stretch between Suar and Bajpur, where it is nonexistent - 20 minutes of jolting and dust. The recommended route is Delhi – Rampur – Suar – Bajpur – Kaladungi – Nainital. The climb to the hills starts 35 Kms short of Nainital. After a brief stop for lunch at one of the many road side restaurants, we reached HH Nainital around 3PM. The restaurant displayed a very interesting menu card – Hot and Shower Soup, Chess Baryani, Veg Barger, Veg Chopasi amongst other items.
Figure 2 – Short of Nainital
Uttarkhand is a state located in the Northern part of India which is well known for its natural beauty, it was carved out of Himalayan and adjoining districts of Uttar-Pradesh (UP) on 09 November 2000, becoming the 27th state of the Republic of India. It’s sometimes called "Land of the Gods" (Dev Bhoomi) because of the presence of a multitude of Hindu pilgrimage spots. Uttarkhand is the combined region of Kedarkhand (present day Garhwal) and Manaskhand (present day Kumaon). Nainital and Ranikhet are integral part of Kumaon. Ranikhet is home to Kumaon Regimental Centre – KRC. The Kumaon Regiment is one of the most decorated regiment of the Indian Army. It has produced many heroes – prominent among them being Major Somnath Sharma (Posthumous), 4 Kumaon, Badgam, Kashmir, Indo-Pakistan War of 1947 and Major Shaitan Singh, (Posthumous), 13 Kumaon, Chushul, Ladakh, Sino-Indian War of 1962 both recipient of the Param Vir Chakra (Posthumous). Gen. KS Thimayya , General S M Shrinagesh and Gen. TN Raina of Kumaon Regiment occupy pride of place in the Indian Army.Their photographs welcome one and all to the Kumaon hills.
Nainital is a pleasant hill station located at an altitude of 6450ft.The town gets its name from a beautiful lake situated in the valley “Nani Lake”. The temperature hovered around 18 deg C during the day and 10 at night - an ideal setting for picnics, stroll and the like. The city is clean in spite of large number of tourist visiting during the Puja holidays. The conservancy staff is out early in the morning to sweep and tidy the place. During the peak hours the traffic does become messy due to narrow roads. The lake has been maintained well and the water is clear. The local administration should seriously consider banning ‘Horn’ in the mall area. Nainital is also home to few reputed schools – prominent among them being ‘Sherwood’ where my course mates John Siga and Kulbir Singh Aulakh learnt their nursery rhymes. I did not see any beggars –good.
Figure 3 – Holiday Home Nainital
Figure 4 – Push and Jai very thrilled
The HH is located on the mall overlooking the lake and the surrounding hills. The overall stay in HH was excellent – accommodation and food was top class.
Figure 5 – Naini Lake
Figure 6 – Another view of HH
Figure 7 – Typical Naini sky
The girls spent their time going for long walks on the mall and window shopping. Self and Ashok had some very serious business to attend – Golf. Early next morning we teed off from the ‘Raj Bhavan Golf Course’. The course winds its way like a Python amidst thick forest full of Kaphal, Sal, Oak, Pine, and Weeping Willow trees. It is a short par 61 course with the regulation 18 holes covering a distance of about 3.2 kms. It has combination of Greens and Browns. The course is extremely challenging – the fairways are narrow with trees on either side and located on the slope of the hill face. Tee off has to be very accurate and precise. It was a real boon to be playing with a pro like Ashok Dewan, who with decades of experience was able to guide a novice like me. In most cases you cannot see the pin, which is further complicated by layers of cloud masking the entire area. Holes 1 to 5 are down slope and 6 to 10 is located on the limited level area of the valley flat. The caddy politely and discretely cautioned us that 11 to 18 require more of stamina than golfing technique. The last 7 holes are uphill and one ends up panting and gasping for breath. Later on we were told that it’s not uncommon to find leopards on the course after dark. A unique and wonderful experience.
Figure 8 – Hole No 1 downhill – no sight of the pin. – 18th pin on the right
Figure 9 – Freddie teeing off – Hole No 4 – between the gaps of pine – 12th pin in sight
Figure 10 – Tea after the 9th at Governors Pavilion - at the back
Figure 11 – Catching up on breath 13th Hole
Figure 12 – Talking about direction – waiting for the clouds to clear
Figure 13 – A fascinating sight
In the evening we dined at the exclusive ‘Boat House Club’ established 1890.The club is situated on the lake and provides a panoramic view of the lake and the adjoining hills. The drinks and food are reasonably priced and we spent an enjoyable evening gazing at the lake lights. Later, we took a cycle rickshaw home.
Ranikhet 16 Oct 2013
After a scrumptious ‘Puri and Bhagi’ breakfast we set out for Ranikhet. Hot P and B with pickle is the ideal choice for the mountains and cold weather. It has a remarkable ability to revitalize both the body and soul on a wintery morning. In the navy, every Monday morning was P and B. It takes around 2 hours to reach Ranikhet, which is 60 Kms from Nani. The drive is very picturesque and interesting. Basically, a military cantonment Ranikhet is situated at a height of 6200ft and the seat of “Kumaon Regimental Centre”. R is sparsely populated and more appealing to the eye than Nani.
The agenda was very simple – We play golf and the girls relax and study the nature around ‘R’ in greater detail. Once again the ‘Army Uppat Golf Course’ (9/18 holes) is set amidst green meadows and gentle slopes; together they give the course the required degree of challenge and complexity - rendering the game interesting and unpredictable.
Figure 14 – A tributary of Ganga – rather dry
Figure 15 – On the way to Ranikhet
Figure 16 – Photo op on the course
Figure 17 – Ever gentle slope with 4th and 5th Holes
Figure 18 – Freddie teeing off from the 6th hole – notice the ram rod straight left hand
Figure 19 – A distant view of the Golf Club
We then visited ‘Valley View’ Home stay for lunch. It is located on National Highway (NH) 87-E, between Ranikhet and Almora, near Majkhali and is about 6 km from Ranikhet Golf Course and 12 km from Ranikhet Market. Ashok and Push had visited this place on an earlier trip to R and very duly impressed with the overall ambiance it offered. The rooms and the ‘Café” overlook the amazing ‘Gagas River Valley’ and the Himalayas at a distance. The picture is really breath taking. The place is run by a retired army officer and his wife. A chilled glass of beer, hot pasta with tomato cheese sauce and grilled fish after a round of golf with good friends was the highlight of the day. The place is very elegantly decorated with a number of knick knacks and artifacts. A well maintained garden adds to the classy show the owners have painstakingly developed. The rooms are basic but clean and well appointed. All overlook the fascinating view of the valley and the mountains. Worth a stay and one is assured of ‘value for Money’
Figure 20 – Valley View Resort
Figure 21 – Gagas Valley View
Figure 22 – The Café
Figure 23 – Another view of the café
Figure 24 – Totally at home- cutting nails
Next morning we started very early and did a bit of BF in a ‘Dhaba’ enroute. After a couple of hot and mouth watering Aloo Parathas we reached outskirts of Delhi to be confronted by its swollen traffic.
Figure 25 – Savoring Parathas
Both Ashok and Pushpa share the task of driving. After a long haul, to chill out was a good idea – especially for A and P. We had a nice lunch at ‘Big Chill Café’ in Khan Market to celebrate Jayanti’s birthday. The walls are adorned with framed posters of yesteryear's classics like Casablanca, Russia with love and Hitchcock's Psycho. The look is retro and different.
Figure 26 – Different posters in the background on the wall
On 18th, Ashok and Push hosted a dinner to all the naval course mates visiting Delhi for the wedding. The evening was full of merriment, fun and frolic. Generous amount of Black Dog, Pushpa’s excellent fare and pleasant weather – all added up to make the evening very memorable.
Figure 27 – Lovely Balcony – Nair, Rags, Sameer, Bill and Keith.
Figure 28 – Good old friends- Rags, Keith and Snitch
Figure 29 – Gir with Jai and Nair
Figure 30 – Jai cutting the cake so lovingly ordered by Push and Freddie