It was around 3 years back that we went to Naukuchiatal for a 4-day extended weekend jaunt. But with the memories still so vibrant (of some adventures as well as misadventures!) and the photos leaping out of my laptop every time I go back to my archives, I had to do a post of that trip!
My daughter (Pari) was almost 6 months old then but she was the most notorious kid when it came to zzzs She would sleep intermittently for a few hours at night and even then, would be least bothered about compensating during the day. With a full time day job (from home) and tackling the nights with an almost nocturnal kid, I needed a break for the sake of humanity! To restore my sanity…
Heading off to the hills seemed a perfect antidote to our stressed city life. We decided to do a family trip to Naukuchiatal by road. Chose to skip Nainital because peace was what we required then. Nainital gives Delhi a run for its money for the crowd and decibel levels.
Nau-kuchia-taal (nine-cornered-lake) is in the lake district of Nainital in the foothills of Kumaon (part of Uttarakhand in North India). The area surrounding Nainital is aptly called the ‘Lake District’ as there’s a generous sprinkling of lakes all over this region! As if nature had a shaker full of lakes and sprinkled on this green salald-like Kumaon region. (see info on how to reach etc at the bottom of this post)
From the eye (nain)-shaped Nainital to the interconnected 7 lakes of Sattal, from the nine-cornered Naukuchiataal to the biggest Bhimtal with an island in the centre, you can spot a lake in every nook and corner of this Himalayan land!
“The soul of a journey is liberty, perfect liberty – to think, feel, do just as one pleases”
The road journey from Delhi was very lively with we stopping over for frequent “dhabe ki chai” (tea), parathas, pakoras and photography (my bro and me). This meant that we had overstretched by at least a couple of hours.
So, after a 9-hour car journey – wherein, the last stretch meant negotiating treacherous gyrating curves , but devouring gorgeous views of the Himalayas, dealing with that repulsive motion sickness but inhaling moisture-laden purest of pure oxygen, we finally were there where we could see the heavenly view of the Sattal lake.
The Magic of Himalayas….
It was a celestial feeling! Avie (my hubby) and I held out Pari to the cool moisture-laden breeze to have her lungs filled with the air so fresh and pure.
We could see that even Pari felt exalted being surrounded by the greenest of green and dense oak and pine forests at an altitude of 1370 meters above sea level!
We stayed that evening at the http://www.kmvn.org guest house which wasn’t welcoming enough to say the least. However, it was only for a night and we managed. We decided to have a Kumaoni dinner in the nearby tiny market.
In the middle of 70 acres of Oak forests….
In the morning, we set off for Naukuchiatal. The kmvn guest house in Naukuchiatal was much better than Sattal’s but one look at the Lake View resort and we fell for it.
Built facing the Naukuchiatal Lake itself, the resort is set amidst 70 acres of dense Oak forests. The rooms offer a fascinating view of the lake and the surrounding nature. The forests around the resort are frequented by hundreds of migratory birds.
The resort’s architecture has a very open, spacious feel to it. Every room opens into the lush green slopes overseeing the lake. The rooms are aesthetically done and are filled with natural sunlight. The place exudes exotic fragrance and colours of the vibrant Rhodenderons, Himalayan Blue Poppy, the brilliant blue Bell flower, Balsam, Cobra Lily, blue Geraniums and many many unusual species of Himalayan flora.
And then…we rejoice in the ethereal beauty of the lake….
A few hops down the flight of stairs and we stood mesmerized before the shimmering waters of the huge Naukuchiatal lake. The tranquil blue waters were breathtakingly beautiful and held us spellbound!
We couldn’t wait to go knee deep and strip ourselves of all the weariness.
I feel that we beings have an innate desire to get intimate and bond with water in its natural form – be it river, stream, lake or sea! We let go of our adult controls and become child-like and fancy free at the sight of the blue waters!
The Naukuchiatal lake is considered the deepest amongst all the lakes in the Kumaon region. They say, it’s fed by an underlying spring. We were cautioned not to venture too far without guided help. We hopped on to a boat (Shikara) and all of us tried our hands at rowing. This was a pretty large boat and there were 5 of us, so it wasn’t easy…
‘Nirvana’ is here…!
The clouds were leaning over the lake waters for a glimpse of their own reflection while the mist was blinding their view. It was breathtakingly beautiful and a soulful feeling being in the lap of nature.
We negotiated the periphery (4 kms) of the lake to catch a glimpse of the Himalayan birds, butterflies etc, we ventured right in the middle to hang our feet and splash, we parked the boat at the edge of a jutting rock trying to count the 9 corners, which we could.
The legends have it that whoever manages to view all nine corners of this lake in one glance, attains ‘Nirvana’. Now, we could not manage this but the whole experience of being so close to the pristine waters was nothing less than ‘Nirvana’!
My brother and I spotted a Kingfisher miles above us and we kept everyone else mediating on the boat while we tried to capture it to the best of our ability.
The resort had a private access to the lake which meant that we never missed an opportunity to hop away and go knee deep, or just sit there, or trek along the periphery of the lake. Fishing here is a great stress buster for many but then we coming from a very vegetarian mindset stayed away from this activity!
Engulfed in spiritual peace…
Just looking at the vast expanse of the blue waters and the dense greens surrounding it gave me a euphoric feeling. I felt so much at peace with myself. It was as if I had discovered a new life and me.
Here, I felt the joy of being alone and yet felt connected with some supreme power. I felt the power and bliss of motherhood. I had left the physical as well the mental chaos behind me. This is the magic of the Himalayas…..
Trekking through the glorious greens…
The next day and the day after that, we trekked through the dense oak and pine forests, explored the nearby village with wooden roof huts, caught glimpses of wild Himalayan birds, spotted exotic flora (some poisonous ones too) and fauna and also did some horse riding.
The Monsoon rains (it was August) being in full glory, we couldn’t do paragliding, which is another adventure activity one can enjoy in Naukuchiatal.
But….something else was in store…!
The day we had to return, it had been raining like there’s no tomorrow. We delayed our departure by a couple of hours but the rains were in no mood to stop or even become less intense. We could not have postponed to next morning as all of us had bosses to answer to! So, however much we were shocked at our decision later on and even to date, at that point, we decided to go ahead. The return journey through the Himalayan curves is something that we will remember, with goose pimples, forever!
The fury of monsoons…
We had gone a few miles ahead when we could sense there was more than just rain pelting at our car roof. The high ridges all along the road were being mobilized due to incessant rains and the debris were crashing and falling. My brother, who was at the wheels, was keeping a brave front, maneuvering the curves and now trying to duck the debris.
But this was just the beginning. A few meters down and some boulders came almost crashing in. Our hearts leapt out! While we avoided yelling and cursing (except for some occasional uncontrollable shrieks) so that the person who was driving could stay calm, there was a deathly look on everyone’s face. We also considered returning or parking somewhere, but roads behind had fallen apart and there was not a sign of human dwelling.
A thin line between life and….
My bro kept moving ahead with gusto. And then, the coup de grace. The curve ahead was almost hanging precariously! A large part of the road had been smashed by a boulder and due to the impact, that already narrow bend had its outside curve completely chopped off.. That meant that if we tried to negotiate that hacked weak curve, chances were it would refuse to take the weight and the car would go crashing down the ridge – more than 1300 meters deep into the dense thick forest!
We had to decide and fast! All we ladies got off the car so we would cross the curve and get on the other side. Once we crossed one by one, the debris pelting on our heads, I with a 6 month old in arms – my brother and hubby were now left in the car facing the moment of their lives, for their lives. We were praying in our hearts… Those few seconds, we were frozen to death. And then they were there on our side of the road. There wasn’t much time to rejoice. We still had our fingers crossed. God only knew what would ensue next….
But thankfully, we had crossed that vulnerable stretch. After an hour or so, at the Kathgodam rail head, we stopped for some refreshments and to catch our breath!
Where Next in the Himalayas?
It was a vacation that both dreams as well as nightmares are made of! But today, I wish to remember only the soul stirring beauty of the magnificent Himalayas with much fondness.
I am fortunate to live only a few hours’ drive from such angelic beauty of nature. The Valley of flowers is my next dream destination in the Garhwal hills of the Himalayan range. I hope I can experience it soon and come back and share wth you all…
Some facts and how to reach Naukuchiatal:
- Nearest Rail head: Kathgodam (online booking can be done here: http://www.irctc.co.in)
- Distance from Kathgodam – 25 Kms
- Trains: Ranikhet express from Delhi
Places around Naukuchiatal:
- Pandegaon: Only 4 kms from The Lake Resort is the ‘take off” point for Paragliding
- Bhimtal: 4 kms
- Nanital: 22 kms
Some relevant related links:
Some more related pics from my bro’s (Manish Jaju) flickr photostream:
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