Oh!So pretty Uttrakhand!- Nainital & Ranikhet :)

From the plains we were now ready for our rocky adventure, two rounds of tea and munchies we were ready to jet set and go. I don’t think the cab driver was prepared for what was to come his way, 7 of us I guess were ok but then 15 pieces of luggage… konjam difficult to accommodate. RGV n J in the front with the driver, me, pati, Srags and D in the middle and Mite with the luggage right at the back! The gaddi was packed or more so to say we looked like sardines packed in a can.:)

With a steady drizzle, lush green nature and some warmth in the car we were off to Nainital. Initially it was all quiet as we were trying to find our comfort spot in an already packed car when our driver started small talk with us. It started with whether we saw the tiger, where we stayed, the weather in general, the weather at Nainital, does it usually rain in this season blah blah so on and so forth. The point being the small talk was not really small 😉 and then for some reason he decided he wanted to interact with the “Bhai saab joh peeche baithi hain” so mite became his bakra.

He wanted to know why mite wasn’t married, if he had a gf or not, did that gf leave him and go so on and so forth. I really don’t know how amused Mite was with the conversation but he seemed to be getting really annoyed and started giving it back to the driver. I was sure I wouldn’t remember the conversation verbatim and then there was no space also to pull out the pen and jot. The conversation provided ample laughs and kept us occupied while the mustard field, the occasional bullock cart, car heading towards Ramnagar and umpteen houses passed us by swiftly.

Soon enough, we reached the beginning of the ghat road and by then our Schumacher driver decided that we needed a Ferrari like experience and went zipping through most of those hairpin curves. Now you see, I am not a very hair pin curve/drive friendly person, I feel pukish, it kills my opportunity to do the ooo’s the aa’s and wow’s and with the horrible speed at which we were zipping away I was feeling queasy and I thought I would throw up any minute. So, when I realized that I couldn’t take it anymore we stopped so that I could throw up if I wanted to, the others could stretch, click a few snaps and RGV could get a few shots. Mite & Srags walked a few 100 meters down to get a bottle of water just in case I needed it… but the time they returned I just didn’t feel like throwing up! 😀 I decided the wisest thing to do will be to sit in the middle so that I wouldn’t feel too much of movement…seemed like a good decision but after a while D decided she needed a stop and threw up while I still didn’t. Nonetheless, whatever little I managed to see the drive up was just magnificent…lovely mountains, the fluffy –yummy cotton candy look alike clouds, cold breeze, tall trees and nature in all its glory was something that needs to be experienced.

By now the rains had picked up as we were getting closer to the destination. For the rest of the journey I decided to keep the eyes also shut and sleep while the others decided to play antakshari! Finally, a few rounds of antakshari and we were on Mall road inching closer to our place of stay KMNV tourist home and all I wanted to do was get out of the car, breathe the fresh air and enjoy the beautiful hill station. But then, nature had some different plans for us we stepped out into the rain and the cold wind sent shivers down our spine. The sweater and the monkey cap didn’t seem to serve the purpose and the climb to the guest house wasn’t easy either.

Now you see, being from Chennai we hardly have any winters and I always thought I was capable of taking the cold, but this time round I was to be proven wrong! The husband, I knew was gonna have a tough two days but then, it seemed the case with the others too. We finally managed to get our stuff, freezing selves and everything else into our rooms. The first thing that we did was warm our hands by the kutti heater in the room and throw open the curtains to only be pleasantly surprised by the view from the room! For a few seconds, I even forgot that I was literally shivering, what lay right in front of me was the beautiful Nani lake, clouds passing so low that you could reach out and touch them, lovely boats and beautiful houses/hotels and shops lining the surrounding hills. 🙂

Nani Lake view from the ropeway/cable car @Dolly Kabaria

It was 5 by the time we reached and a good 45 mins later and more layers of clothes, (1 thermal, 2 tee shirts, sweater, shawal & 2 pairs of socks) to brave the cold, we headed out to explore the quaint little town. There is something so fascinating and charming about these hill stations that walking down the small roads is absolutely romantic. The Nani Lake looked even more breath-taking and the lights from the houses that dotted the hills, made it a perfect postcard!

Nani Lake and the lights doting the hills credits @Mitesh Shah

By now since the majority of us had under-estimated how cold it would be, we made short pit stops at the stores to buy ourselves gloves, and other essentials. By this time RGV decided he needed ear muff and a muffler to complete his look, and vola! red ear muffs and a red muffler is what he added to his colourful personality . Now this was the perfect spot for RGV to shoot he would hide himself in the dark corners and pop out suddenly if u stopped walking, didn’t hold hands, he would sit on the sidewalks and shoot every passerby till he got a new perspective .
Dinner, was at a restaurant called New Sher-e-Punjab and we fed our hungry stomachs soup, rotis, butter chicken, dal, and topped it off with garm garm Gulab Jamuns which was such a welcome relief! 🙂 Since everything had almost shut down by the time we finished dinner, we headed back to our hotel & to the warmth of our rooms. A round of cards, a few rounds of Pictionary with the India cards, we were ready to hit the sack.

We woke up the next morning with Srags telling us that there was fresh snowfall and we could see it from the balcony. Forcing myself to leave the comfort of my warm bed I got out to only realizing I had a blocked nose and bad cough but then for the view and the experience of an actual hill station it was all worth it. The thrill of seeing fresh snow fall on those tall pine trees in the distance was marvelous and for first time snow experience I was totally floored!

Snow capped mountains credits @Mitesh Shah

Our plan for the day was to head to Ranikhet and our Tata Winger would meet us outside the hotel. After b’fast which included parathas, omelets, tea and coffee (our staple menu) we were good to go and all the while going through my b’fast I decided to eat less to avoid nausea from hitting. Over the happy banter at the table RGV suddenly quipped “Even if Angelina Jolie has been around I wouldn’t have done anything, that’s how freaking cold it was! 😛 that’s how cold it was. The rain gods kept the blessings coming, so with the only umbrella and raincoat between us we piled up into the van and off we went. A few minutes down the road the sights that lay to our sides were breath-takingly beautiful!

Enroute to Ranikhet

Absorbed by the sights and sounds on the long road to Ranikhet we took ample breaks for photographs and also for chai where D, Mite, Srags and RGV sir of course took pictures and couple shots and of nature in abundance! 😛

a fresh brew and some snacks! :), enroute to Nanital

And as we wound up the road the air became crisp, fresher, the clouds, trees and mountains oh so lovely it looked, like out of a painting! 🙂

the clouds, the trees and the mountains:picture perfect @Mitesh Shah

de ghumake enroute to Ranikhet, @ MiteshShah

Ranikhet or the Queen’s Meadow gets its name from a small legend “that it was in this lovely hill station that Raja Sudhardev won the heart of, Rani Padmini, who subsequently chose the area for her stay, thus the place getting its name, Ranikhet.” Now a cantonment town home to the Kumaoan & Naga regiment. The colours red, green and yellow take prominence in the town, motivating quotes and images of army men adorned the town reminding you of the rich legacy that region has. By now we were on Mall Road (seems like every hill station has one) and our guide took us to the tweeds and shawls factory, a quiet little church on a little hilltop converted into a place where lovely shawls were bring woven. Ranikhet Tweed and Shawl Factory is run by the Kumaon Regiment to help the widows of jawans injured in battle as mean of livelihood. We hung around there a bit, the shutterbugs clicked nonstop and the rest of us just observed the lovely colours being woven.

Chruch, nw the tweeds & shawl factory, Ranikhet

Ranikhet Tweeds & Shawl Factory @ MiteshShah

perfect blend of colours, Ranikhet

walk in the clouds 🙂 @ MiteshShah

When asked where else we could go our guide rattled off the regular tourist spots( we had absolutely no interest in going there) but the one that deserves mention here is the Ranikhet Golf Ground a lovely golf course the gentle hills rolling by the place was a charm. Most of us we sure our guide wouldn’t have seen a bunch of nut cases like us we didn’t wanna do the touristy stuff, the temples, churches nothing…we just did the trip our way, RGV made the couples walk, sit on a bench, hold hands while he managed to capture the shots in his already dying camera.

oh sigh!Ranikhet 🙂 @ Mitesh Shah

By now we were way past lunch time and the last thing we wanted was not getting food and having to go back hungry. All of us settled down and RGV found a plug point to charge his battery, fueling up time for the battery also.

Down the hills back to Nainital, Ranikhet

A pill to fight the nausea downhill we set off, and before I knew it I was fast asleep and so was most of us except for RGV who saw the fog descending and the drive looked like a nightmare with low visibility.

By 6:30 or so we reached Nainital and we decided to explore town and help ourselves to some Momo’s at the market place or whatever we could lay our hands on. The rains hadn’t stopped and to continue walking we needed to buy ourselves an umbrella, the husband and I go around looking at umbrella’s and settle on a nice kallan koda (the long ones that can be used as a walking stick).

The Husband @his blue umbrella!:)

The moment we opened it and walked a few meters, it just stopped raining! Just imagine you pay up 200 bucks and there it had to stop raining! A small stop at a candle shop that sold candles in various shapes and sizes had us engaged for a good 15 mins as we picked stuff for ourselves and RGV for his many ahem… friends! 😀

The best part about having food at a hill station is when you completely enjoy warm food. The hot soups, steaming momos and even a glass of warm water can be such a welcome relief to the biting cold. Stomachs full we slowly decided to walk back to the hotel, stopping by those shops selling wonderful kick-knacks .RGV bought some of those wood carvings, stoles/shawals etc to be gifted and Mite got me a lovely muffler as a b’dy gift: D

D & Srags walked up ahead while the rest of us did our shopping and clicked a few pictures of the lovely night light that dotted the town of Nainital. Me, hubby, rgv & J decided to walk back while the three of them took pictures. The next thing I remember of the rest of the night is that I had curled up to sleep giving instructions to the husband to wake me up when everyone returned so that we could gather for some fun, which I was not made privy to as I had fallen fast asleep.

……. (Some portions have been left out coz this is a public blog) 😛

The next morning yet again I woke up to the wonderful sight of snowfall and this time it was falling right off our roof after melting… 🙂 It was a lazy morning as we decided to sleep in a little longer and then pack up and vacate as we were leaving by 5 pm that evening. So explore Nainital was mission for the day. So the itinerary included cable car ride, the high court that we spotted on our way to Nainital and maybe the zoo. So after our staple b’fast we took cycle rickshaws (yayaya my first time on one) to the end of the road for the cable car ride. We got our tickets valid for one hour on the top on the lovely snow capped mountains with a good view of the Himalayas.

the excitement at seeing snow for the 1st time 🙂

Now the excitement of seeing snow was just exhilarating RGV & the José family were seeing snow for the first time so you can imagine the excitement: P

snow, snow, snow, and loads more snow!:), Nainital

Actually there was nothing much to do on the top of the hill so we posed for D & RGV, threw a few snowballs at each other and decided to look around for things that could possible interest us! On the way down Mite &D found some kids playing football as subjects for photography while J &RGV took a few shots at the balloons with a gun.

child's play,check out their footwear @Mitesh Shah

The man & his trusted friend 🙂 , Nainital

We made our way back to wait for our cable car, D and Mite came back and told us that D almost had a heart attack coz the view finder of her very hep camera just came off right into her hands! So you can imagine an otherwise very brave D was almost in tears. Somehow she managed to put it back and she was back in business 🙂 After we had a good laugh over this by then moi did something that you could say only I could manage and that is…Mite handed me his camera and me not wanting to drop it put it around my neck…just that I hung it upside down 😀 I was such a million dollar sight.

Waiting for spring! :), Nainital

The rest of the day passed by pretty quickly, we walked up Mall road to take pictures of the high court which ultimately only Mite managed to take.

clock tower, Nainital @ Mitesh Shah

By then hunger struck and we decided to head back and look up the Lonely Planet for where to eat, so we trekked back downhill this time poor Srags walked all the way almost till our hotel only to find the bistro closed as it opens only when its season. We settled for a light lunch of momos, sandwiches, chopsuey to keep us going till we boarded our train that evening. The rest of the afternoon and early evening was spent sitting at CCD clicking pictures of the sleepy hill-station crowd, refueling on coffee and just resting our tired legs.

From CCD, Nainital @ Mitesh Shah

By 5pm our drive had come to pick us up and transport us to Kathgodam to catch our train to Delhi. The drive to Kathgodam was equally splendid. We were extremely tired, one of all the walking, two of being extremely cold even with the many layers of clothes. Only the music from D’s phone played in the background, while each one of us drifted off into our own sweet world of memories. As we got closer to the station a lovely full moon rose in the sky, its glow lighting up the quiet hills on the way.

Light round of snacks and a long wait at the station, the Kathgodam Express rolled into the platform and we settled down for the night, our tired bodies more than happy to oblige!

PS. thanks D & mite for sharing the pictures!:)

Shikari Shambu’s and Jim Corbett National Park :)

I am back after a wonderful 10 day trip to the north. The whole week preceding the trip was hectic with all the shopping for the yatra, turning 26 and winding up work for the 10 day bliss. There we were with our bags packed, travelling from different parts of the country to Delhi… our common meeting place for the great Indian Yatra.

The 1st leg of the journey was the Old Delhi station where me and S waited for the others to come with our luggage and theirs too coz moi decided to go shopping and meet up with a friend while we had half the day left in Delhi. Before I proceed any further I need to introduce my dear friends the two photographers D and Mite, D’s hubby and my darling hubby’s ex-roomie Srags, Krishna aka RGV, my bro in law RGV’s assistant J, my hubby darling S and moi!

The Old Delhi station was like any other big city station; sea of humanity, long queues that can drive you mad and people who are extremely RUDE! We had to go past a long line for the security check with people trying to push their way through. Between all this they had a baggage screening counter for which all u needed to do was go and stand somewhere close to the line and u will get pushed right through:P… all I remember is throwing my bag in and running to the other side only to find RGV in a heated argument with the lone security guard manning the screening counter… pelting abuses at him in English for throwing his laptop bag down.. and there on and on he went till the guard looked up and told him “Sir Hindi mein baat karo!” and there stood RGV taken aback and considering he was still pissed he resumed with whatever little he knew in Hindi :).

On reaching the platform was when we saw the number of luggage that each if us carried, 15 pieces and 7 of us! 🙂 and that is how it was gonna be for the next few days at any point everyone is to count the luggage and people lest something or someone got left behind! 😀

The train was as usual late and we whiled away time on an already overcrowded platform. There was ample scope for self entertainment with the police trying to make sure that people were in and not hanging out of an already overcrowded train, a wife making her husband comfortable on the platform and pressing his head and putting him to sleep :).After successful 45 mins of killing time, Ranikhet Express arrives on the platform right behind us… yes yes there was prior announcement so all we had to do was turn pick our bags and dash for the compartment:) .

Once comfortably settled the excitement began to slowly settle in… discussions ranged from whether we would see the tiger, RGV’s fluorescent Chaddi (shorts), photography D clicked a few pictures also 😀 and general tp stuff…we were extremely tired to be discussing anything else for the night with people slowly making themselves comfortable and catching some sleep for the Jim Corbett adventure! 🙂
Ramnagar/ Jim Corbett National Park: We woke up next morning as the train pulled into the Ramnagar the station… first impression it looked something straight out of Sholay…deserted!! for a min you would imagine a dacoit to jump down from his/ her horse 😀 and go off with u 🙂 For 5 am in the morning I do have a wild imagination:P The station was pretty small but well maintained and as we walked out we were extremely excited to see our ride waiting for us, two Maruti Gypsy’s . For us the journey is also as important as the destination itself, hence we knew that nobody was gonna miss a chance to make the most of it 🙂 Thrilled to bits we piled up the luggage and off we went into the jungle the cold breeze waking us up &.

We stopped at Sun Bird guest house and settled on the bed and the chairs in the room while the offices at Corbett opened to take necessary permission to enter the jungle. I comfortably made space on the corner of the bed and decided to sleep while the others sat around yapped, tried to catch some sleep and munch on the goodies in the bag packed by Srag’s mom! 🙂

Model one at the SunBird guest House- Ramnagar

The husband sat right behind me and decided to do some channel surfing and entertain the crowd and he decided the best thing for us to watch would be the Grammy Awards. And mind you they were extremely painful with god knows what they were trying to sing :). By then dawn had broken and we decided to step out and walk up to the nearest tea shop and settle our rumbling stomachs to hot cups of tea, aloo parathas and omelets.

Now in the distance we noticed that RGV sir had begun shooting. Initially we thought he was just capturing the sights and sounds of the sleepy village town only to realize he was busy trying to capture shots that could be used for “Chal Diye” a song from Coke Studio. So his first model was J who kept walking this side that side and everywhere possible: P then me and hubby also walked hand in hand like any romantic couple…adding to the 1st few shots and thus was born RGV! 🙂

Sati Breakfast- order on request- Ramnagar

The b’fast didn’t take long to disappear we polished it off and trust me that was one of the best b’fast that we had in a long time: D and after some general tp with the children waiting to catch their school bus, we got ready to head to the government office to get the necessary permits for the stay and safari.

the little children-waiting for their school bus 🙂

another set who willingly posed for Mite 🙂

Finally after the long wait & with a slight drizzle, the modern age Shikari Shambu’s set off on the trail of the elusive tiger which we knew was gonna be one hell of a task spotting coz for one we were visiting off-season two it was raining. We stayed at Gairal the guest house was about an hour and a half away from the main entrance of Corbett. The drive was brilliant lush greenery, beautiful views, birds chirping and the Ramganga’s crystal clear water making its way through the scenic forest.

The woods are lovely dark and deep.Jim Corbett National Park

We reached the government guest house a cozy place on the banks of Kosi. The rooms had the bare minimum, were decently well maintained and anyways we knew we wouldn’t be needing more. Considering it was almost lunch time and we were hungry as always we decided to freshen up, feast on the yummy lunch and head out for the 1st round of the safari 😀 the Shikari Shambu’s set out with the cameras to shoot the wildlife… (No no we didn’t plan on doing a Salman Khan: P) some trees, birds, the river, mountains and most importantly the tiger if we spotted him.

our Gypsy and D at work 🙂

Now the jungle rules during the safari are quite simple, no making noise, no deos or perfumes, no smoking, no flashy clothes that will disturb the environment. Following this to the tee was our RGV sir he wore military colored clothes so that even if the tiger comes he won’t be visible 😀 Our driver had already told us that since it’s raining spotting animals would be konjam difficult. But all was not lost and we had a relatively successful evening spotting deers – Sambhar, spotted deer, barking deer and wild boars. The husband managed to dose off right through the safari… be it any mode of transport I just dnt understand how he can fall asleep !! 😛

RGV @work the many angles n perspectives

It was just amazing how beautiful the entire place was… you would not feel like saying a word to each other all you would wanna do is breathe in the fresh air, admire the nature, the beautiful animals in the natural habitat.

Spotted Deer..Jim Corbett National Park

Crocodile Point

Papa Sambhar 🙂 Jim Corbett National Park

Highlight of the day..pug mark 🙂

Our drive almost came to an end at around 5:30 pm coz we were required to head back to the guest house by dusk. D and Mite got some amazing shots of the beautiful animals and RGV sir got many shots from different angles high, low and pan and had his subjects walk up down and round and round! :P.
The Shikari’s didn’t get to meet the elusive tiger but we managed to spot a day old pug mark… content that probably day 2 we might get luckier and the beautiful cat might just give us his darshan.Dinner, rounds of antakshari (nt too loud) by the candle light we were ready to crash as we had to leave the next day early in the morning if we had to catch the elephant safari.

Day 2 started quiet gloomy coz it poured the previous night and there was a steady drizzle so we decided to checkout from the guest house and head to Dhikala.RGV was busy shooting through the hole in wall 😀 one of his many perspectives:) On the way to Dhikala we managed to spot a herd of elephants some with huge tusks and a baby elephant all happily grazing away and also spotted some animals we had seen earlier.
Now Dhihaka is one of the most popular spots in Corbett; located at the edge of the broad Patli Dun valley through which the Ramganga flows in numerous channels.

Happy Jumbo enroute to Dhikala

Baby Sambhar..check out the pose 😛

Dhikala offers an uninterrupted panoramic view of the valley, with the Kanda ridge in the backdrop and overlooks Dhikala chaur (one of the largest remaining grasslands of the Park) and Phulai chaur. By the time we reached Dhikala it was already 10 am and being extra unlucky we never got to ride the elephant due to the rains. The men had interesting sights awaiting them when they reached, a bunch of girls were staying at the guest house who added to the scenery. 🙂

An important activity if visiting Dhikhala is a safari through the grasslands. With two guides one each in the respective jeeps the safari had now begun. The drive through the grasslands was beautiful and we were hoping against hopes that the big cat graces us with his darshan. Our guide explained and helped us in spotting the lovely birds, peacocks, langurs, barking deer, and deer with beautiful velvet antlers, vultures and all you could wonder was there is so much to marvel at & imagine how much time god would have invested in creating these creatures. 🙂

D, Srags, Mite and RGV had a lovely time clicking away in the shutterbug haven while I made a mental note to plan an African safari :p .The tiger remained elusive and with heavy hearts made our way back to the base. The first jeep returned with us ie.the couples with the other jeep nowhere in sight.

langur@ Dhikala

Clint Eastwood as named by Mite @Dhikala

A melancholy song on a winter morning@ Dhikala

Waiting..Vultures @Dhikala

Mama Sambhar

While we waited the bunch of girls we had seen during b’fast were getting ready to leave and being young girls they were generating a lot of interest around. It had started drizzling & heading for cover we chanced upon an interesting & absolutely entertaining chat…not like we were listening just we caught two words from the conversation “he felted himself ya”! There that just did it…the four of us burst out into peals of laughter wondering if these chicks had any idea what they were saying!:P If we thought that was bad the next one blew us off our feet it went something like this “Khan Bhaiya come come…please come bhaiya! 😛 now you can imagine our expressions & the direction of our thoughts “Bhaiya bhi bolte ho aur come bhi waah waah 😀 ya perverts I knw :! 😀

After all this we realized that the second jeep and the people never returned, we decided to wait for a bit and even assumed that they might have found the tiger and RGV sir might be directing it :P. A good hour later we were getting worried and sent our driver with a guide to search for these guys while we waited it out. Again no luck now even our search party seemed missing and finally another half hour later everyone returned. They just got caught in admiring nature and climbing to the view points that they lost track of time 🙂 we were just glad that they returned and had a good time. So finally after paying the guides we were ready to head back to the main entrance and from there to Ramnagar for Nanital.

Epitome of grace and Poise @Dhikala

It started pouring heavily and we bid our final goodbye to Jim Corbett where the next driver and our ride waiting to take us to Nanital. The Shikari Shambu’s did not get to see the tiger but we did get to shoot some lovely pictures, discover that we had the potential to act though RGV thought we were lousy modaaalas 😛 and be one with nature! there aint anything more fulfilling than this 🙂

P.S.these pics have been contributed by Mite..and you are by all means allowed to enjoy but kindly refrain from copying them 🙂 should u need them kindly mail me or leave a comment.. 🙂 and all credits/praises for the pics will duly given to the photographer