It was a below average monsoon season in Gurgaon. Weather was really sultry! This gave birth to a random thought in TD’s mind and soon this thought got translated to a road trip – A trip to Lansdowne. Lansdowne is a lesser known tourist place but one of the most beautiful hill stations in Uttarakhand state of India and it’s indeed a heaven on earth especially during monsoons.
We did some quick groundwork through internet to make sure that it’s safe to drive during monsoons to Lansdowne. Landslides are quite common during monsoons in various parts of Uttarakhand. Hence we wanted to take the safest route possible with better road conditions. We planned to leave early in the morning so that we could reach well in time during the day itself. Tip: Also, there were not many options to stay in and around Lansdowne and hence a prior booking was recommended. We chose to stay in a hotel called Snow Cliff in Gumkhal village. TD did all preparations (re-fueling, tyre air pressure check, arrangement of towing rope and air pump, bought medicines, some snacks and stacked up water) the night before itself.
18-Jul-15 Day 1
We got up early in the morning around 5 am. The sleep God were happy as our 9 month old daughter was in deep sleep and we managed to complete all the last minutes chores in time. We left at 6:30 am from our home in Gurgaon. We decided to take the Delhi – Meerut – Bijnor – Najibabad – Kotdwara route a total of 276 kms.
At around 9 am we reached Modinagar which is a small town before Meerut city. Due to my wife’s prior experience at Jain Shikanji at Modinagar we stopped at this restaurant again. It was on the other side of the highway and we had to take a U-turn. It is famous snacking joint at NH58 but is very small restaurant and hence it is not easy to spot it. Tip: It is famous for various types of Pakodas and as its name suggested – Shikanji (traditional lemonade). After heavy snacking we were back on the highway towards Lansdowne. Soon we entered the Meerut city as we missed the bypass and hence had to navigate our way through the hustle bustle of the city. We lost sometime in doing this. We kept driving until we hit the Ganges barrage. The sight was scenic and we decided to stop and click few snaps. Until now the drive was comfortable as the roads were in pretty good condition. After the barrage we struck bad patchy road for about 5 kms. Soon we were back on smooth road again. We reached Kotdwara around 12 pm. Tip: We got the car tank re-fueled again as there were no fuel pumps in Lansdowne. As we were inching towards Lansdowne the drive became greener and scenic and the air got cooler. We were just awestruck by nature’s beauty. The drive, all the way to Lansdowne is mesmerizing and after every turn we were getting tempted to stop the car and take snaps. The roads were in great shape too as Lansdowne is an Army cantonment and the roads are maintained by the Indian Army.
We reached our Hotel around 1:30 pm which was actually not in Lansdowne. The hotel was about 12 kms away from Lansdowne in Gumkhal which made it very secluded and serene. There are no big hotels or resorts as thankfully Lansdowne is still not commercialized, so we were not expecting luxury and sophisticated facilities. But the Hotel did have hot water arrangements, limited options in the room service menu and safe parking. Tip: We booked a room on the second floor so that we could enjoy the best view. There are very few rooms in the hotel but all have a private balcony attached to the room. Don’t forget to carry insect repellent. After the check-in we decided to relax for the rest of the day. We ordered lunch from the hotels kitchen and after having lunch we dozed off.
We got up in the evening around 5 pm and decided to go for a small trek nearby. One more amazing thing about this place is that the weather changes dramatically every few minutes from sunny to cloudy to drizzle to windy to again sunny. We witnessed all this in a short span of a 1 hour trek. We enjoyed bird watching and managed to capture few snaps in my not so good digital camera. The trek helped us refresh our minds and filled us with positive energy we needed for our adventure the next day.
We enjoyed the scenic beauty from the balcony of our room as we sipped evening Masala tea. We planned to have an early dinner and sleep as we knew the next day was going to be a long one.
19-Jul-15 Day 2
It was a lovely surprise when we got up the next day, it was raining quite heavily, windy and we could see clouds moving fast over our room balcony. The valley was not visible at all due to heavy cloud cover. As we opened the balcony slider door and the main door of our room magic happened. The clouds entered our room from the balcony door and flew right through the room to exit from the main door turning the room to a freezer instantly. And this happened as the Hotel was right on the cliff with deep valleys on both sides. We enjoyed this for a while, but we had to shut down the doors as the downpour started to wet the room from inside. The brain acted fast and we quickly ordered Masala tea, Pakodas and Omelette to warm ourselves. We left the hotel to do the actual visit to Lansdowne town. Lansdowne is a small hill station and has limited tourist places.
We first went to the Darwan Singh Museum followed by Tip-N-Top view-point and the St. Mary’s Church. We spent about half an hour at each place.
There is also a lake called Bhulla Tal which we decided to skip as we did not find it very appealing from the images we had seen over internet. By 1 pm we were done with major sight-seeing. It was time to leave for Tarkeshwar Mahadev temple. This is something which TD waited for all the while.
Tarkeshwar Mahadev is only about 38 kms from Lansdowne however it takes time to go there as one has to drive entirely through mountains. Tip: Plan the trip to Tarkeshwar Mahadev in the first half. The drive was going to be one of the most adventurous part of this trip. The road was so narrow at some places that in case of a vehicle coming from the other end, one had to stop and give side to the other vehicle. The rule is, vehicle driving on the mountain’s side needs to give side to the vehicle on the valley side. Most of the time there is deep valley on one side of the road and rarely did it happen that there was valley on both sides. We encountered many water streams flowing on the road as we drove amid the dense forests of Uttarakhand. We saw an old gentleman waving his hand at us and asking for a ride till the next town. We asked him to accompany us. He told us stories about the nearby towns. He told us how difficult life is in the mountains and people have moved to cities for better lifestyle. He also mentioned with great pride that in all towns around Lansdowne, there were youngsters serving in the Indian army from almost every family.
We reached Tarkeshwar Mahadev temple at around 3 pm. The temple is heavily surrounded by many years old towering Deodar trees and hence the name. There is a small water stream flowing near the temple. The temple had a Shiv ling which was later replaced by idol of Shiv performing Tandev. The temple was clean, surroundings were quiet and imparted lot of tranquillity to the soul. After spending an hour we decided to leave as we wanted to reach hotel before it got dark.
We stopped around 4:30 pm to have late lunch in a small restaurant in one of the villages. The food was delicious and reminded us of the home cooked food. Quickly we were back on the zigzag road and at one point we encountered heavy rains and cloud cover, we could barely see anything as the visibility was only few meters. We decided to stop and watch if the weather conditions improved. After waiting for 10 minutes we decided to move as the weather was not improving. We switched on all lights of the vehicle including the fog lamps, kept honking and left the rest on God. We had moved only about a km after the first turn suddenly the weather became clearer as we were now on the other side of the mountain where there were no clouds, no rains and clear visibility. Just after few turns we were back on the side where it was raining and then again the visibility became poor. This phenomena kept happening as we took turns for next half an hour. During this time we drove at dead slow speed. We reached hotel around 6:30 pm and took a deep breath as we had reached back safely. The hotel staff did tell us that they used to organize bonfire in the evening but due to the rainy weather it was not being done. We relaxed at the hotel room for rest of the evening and ordered dinner around 9 pm from the hotels kitchen.
20-Jul-15 Day 3
We got up bit late around 9 am the next day. Quickly packed our luggage, had another session of Masala tea enjoying the scenic beauty from the balcony of our room and left the Hotel around 10:30 am. We drove back to Kotdwara-Najibabad and then sliced on to NH34 towards Haridwar. Haridwar was not initially in our planned itinerary and on request of my wife we decided to take this detour. GPS showed us 2 routes, first one was an all hilly drive via Satpuli-Shivpuri-Rishikesh and second via Kotdwara-Najibabad. We chose later as the first route was not in a good shape and the GPS showed us warning signs. The distance via the second route was about 100 kms and we covered it quickly. We reached Haridwar around 1 pm. We spent next 1 hour finding a good accommodation option.Tip: We wanted to stay at Har ki paudi so that we could walk down to the Ganga temple in the evening to witness the great Ganga Aarti. We managed to find a good bargain and a hotel at the right spot. The hotel had an exit directly on to the Ganga ghat. We rested in the hotel and as per plan went to the ghat around 7 pm in the evening. The ghat was filled completely and there was barely any place to even stand. We were lucky enough to find a right place from where we could view the Aarti. The Aarti was completed by 8 pm. After the Aarti we roamed around in the near by market and bought some pickles. Tip: We had some snacks – Kachodi Sabzi, Puri and Lassi at famous Mohan ji puri wale restaurant. We were back in hotel around 10 pm.
21-Jul-15 Day 4
The next day we left Hotel around 10 am and we were on our way back to Gurgaon. We took the route via Roorkee-Muzaffarnagar-Meerut. The distance was around 240 kms and we reached Gurgaon around 5 pm. We were happy to choose Lansdowne for a getaway, the trip rejuvenated us and left us filled with memories for a lifetime!
Some interesting information on Lansdowne and tourist attractions (Source – Internet):
Lansdowne is a small hill-station in Pauri-Garhwal District of the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. Described by some as the gates to the heavenly abode that is the Himalayas, Lansdowne is also one of the most unusual hill stations in India. Far from the crowded, overdeveloped and noisy places that most of the popular hill stations of the north have become, Lansdowne has retained its quiet and serenity thanks to the presence of the local Army Cantonment Board which manages and regulates the development in the town. The town is named after Lord Lansdowne the then Viceroy of India who visited the place in 1884. The town has two churches made in the pre independence era although only one St. James is functional. The town also has a major Hindu Temple. The town is located at an average altitude of 1700 metres above the sea level and has cold winters, cool summers and wet and foggy rainy season. It experiences snowfall during winter months. From the snow view-point on a clear day one can view great Himalayan peaks like Chaukhamba etc. The town has several Pre Independence era bunglows, some of them in good shape. The connectivity is good as the roads maintained by the army. The hill station itself is administered by the cantonment board of the Indian army therefore is cleaner, much less commercialized and in good shape although your mobile phones/wireless net may not work unless BSNL.
Darwan Singh Museum – A historical defence museum named after first Victoria Cross holder from Garhwal Rifles Darwan Singh Negi, Darwan Singh Museum contains rarest collection of Garhwal Rifles. Located near the Parade Ground in Lansdowne, Pauri Garhwal. Darwan Singh Museum was inaugurated in 1983. Darwan Singh Museum is a nicely decorated two storey museum having numerous details about the origin and achievements of the Garhwal Rifles of the Indian army. Visitors can see a wide collection of arms, old uniforms, rarest photographs of army generals, patriots in various wars, certificated and citations signed by the British royalty. Inside the museum photography and kids below 10 years not allowed. Tourist can also visit a beautiful flower garden outside the museum which consists at least 10-12 varieties of rose.
St Mary’s Church – A Catholic Church of historical importance, St. Mary’s Church is located near Tip N Top Point in Lansdowne. In 1895, St. Mary’s Church was constructed by Col. A.H.B Hume of the Royal Engineers. Historian as well as normal visitors like to visit this jewel. St Mary’s Church adds to the charm and tranquility of the surrounding. An old world charm can be seen here, but after 1947 preaching at the church was stopped due to deterioration. The Garhwal Rifles Regimental Centre takes charges to convert the Church. Now its is a small museum, showcasing old pictures and stories of the pre-independence era. This museum also houses the audio-visual displays of the history of the Lansdowne and Garhwal Regiment.
Tarkeshwar Mahadev Temple – A secluded, unspoilt but full with holy faith of Lord Shiva devotees, Tarkeshwar Mahadev Temple is a fine example of “Why Lord Shiva called as Bhole Nath. Located at some 1800 meters at a distance of 38 km from Lansdowne. Tarkeshwar Mahadev Temple is surrounded by Deodar trees and tranquil atmosphere which also favours it as a best meditation place for sages from a long time. Tarkeshwar Mahadev is a temple of deep faith and devotion to the Lord Shiva. As per the legends, Tarkasur was a demon who meditated and worshiped Lord Shiva at this location for a boon. Happy with Tarkasur immense devotion and worship, Lord Shiva gave him a boon of immortality as per Tarkasur request except Lord Shiva’s son. Satisfied with the thought that Lord Shiva follows Vairagya (Detachment from earthy things and emotions), Tarkasur accepts Lord Shiva boon condition of immortality. Tarkasur started evil by killing saints and destroy peaceful environment on earth. Saints and sages asked for help from Lord Shiva. Disturbed by wrong doings of Tarkasur, Lord Shiva married with Parvati and Kartikeya was born. Kartikeya soon killed Tarkasur but at the time of death Tarkasur makes prayer to Lord Shiva and asked for pardon. Mahadev then attached his name to the temple where Tarkasur meditated once and gave him boon to be prayed in Kalyug also. That place named as Tarkeshwar Mahadev. Earlier there was a Shivling present at the Tarkeshwar Mahadev temple, but now a Lord Shiva idol performing tandava is worshiped. This Lord Shiva idol was discovered few years ago at the same place where Shivling was present. An Ashram and Dharmashala is present at the temple. With prior information of visit in advance, one can stay and breakfast, lunch and dinner can be served as per Ashram rules at the Dharamshala. On the day of Mahashivratri, Tarkeshwar Mahadev temple becomes full of devotees came from far away places. Many devotees believed that Lord shiva is still there and is in deep sleep. Thousands of bells encircled the temple which are offered by the devotees.
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