I was first introduced to the Himalayas when I was five on my first trip to Darjeeling. My parents were moderately good travellers and almost on every vacation we travelled far or near. My father always had an interesting choice of places, so before I attained my teen age, I knew the mountain, the plateau, the sea shore and plain land. Though it was ‘love at first sight with the Himalayas in Darjeeling but love did not bring me to the Himalayas every year. It took me another two decades to really fall for the majestic mountain range when I visited Kedarnath- Badrinath in the autumn of 2009 with parents. Since then almost every year, I make a sojourn to the abode of Lord Shiva.
Last winter (November 2013), I made a trip to Mussouri, Landour, Dhanolti and discovered an abandoned but historically significant place called the ‘Everest Survey point’ few km away from the main town of Mussouri. We were seven in number and took a car from Delhi to Mussouri via Dehradun. The national highway from New Delhi to Dehradun is a beautiful drive crossing the national metropolis through the small towns of Uttar Pradesh entering the foothills of Uttarakhand. We crossed the cantonment town of Roorkee, stopped at dhabas, had hot cup of tea with north Indian pakoras and few camera shutters were always on for photographs. One can imagine how foggy it was when we entered the plains of Uttarakhand, so gradually when the sun was up in the sky with his golden smile, it was such a delight to see a glimpse of the snow capped Shivalik. The towns in remote India still carry the legacy of fairy tale princely states. Early morning one can see how a place wakes up for a busy day. Vehicles of various shapes and sizes carrying a larger part of the city’s population are visible on the road. The shops are opening up and the bullock carts on the road strolling merrily through the crowd.
We briefly stopped at a friend’s place at the heart of the city and had refreshments after a long drive. He has a beautiful house overlooking the hills in Mussouri from his terrace. Finally around 11, we reached Camel Back Road, Mussouri. We checked into a hotel near the bus stop overlooking the gorgeous Doon valley. I think the child in us comes out when we go out of home with friends. Mussouri, the queen of Sivalik offers a lot to the tourists. One of those is the ‘Gun Hill’ at the hilltop. The ropeway ride to the ‘Gun Hill’ was full of excitement. One never knows whether one’s vertigo would panic him or one would just charge up to look around the beautiful view that engulfs it from various angles. The Gun Hill is a panorama of Mussouri. The vast open space in the Gun Hill offers a wonderful panoramic view of Mussouri. But by the time, we reached the clouds were trailing all over and it started drizzling. The wind was chilling and the fresh droplets were caressing my skin softly. But nothing probably can deter enthusiastic travellers from enjoying. Gun hill is the second highest point in Mussouri and has a funny and an interesting history. It is believed that a big gun was fired every afternoon from that point to help the residents know the time. But Gun Hill’s chief attraction is the beautiful panorama of the distant ranges of Bunderpunch, Pithwara and the Gangotri and nothing can beat the bird’s eye view of the Doon valley. It started raining and became colder and colder.
The Camel Back Road till Library, the heart of the Mussouri town is a long but tireless walk through the shops, restaurants, cafes, post office and lovely hill villas turned into hotels. At a certain point after crossing the Gun Hill cable car station, there is a place which overlooks the beautiful Doon valley. It’s a wonderful spot for the photo lovers. The library is the heart of the town with busy traffic, tourists hovering around, stalls, cafes, temples and a ‘rendezvous’ of tourists.
The next morning, I got up early for a walk. The road next to the hotel meanders down and then again goes up till the famous ‘Wynberg Allen’ school. The road is stiff but the weather was beautifully pleasant after a moderately good shower the previous night with a bright sun shine. I had to be back to my hotel fast and after a quick breakfast, we all headed towards Landour.
The road that goes towards Landour is a typically stiff meandering way which looks undriveable. The driver efficiently passed through the busy population on the small road with shops, bazaar and often had to give space to another car coming from the opposite way. Finally we reached the Sister bazaar in Landour. Landour has still retained its old charm gracefully. St. Paul’s church, a Gothic architecture stands at one corner of the road. After the hustle-bustle of the Camel Back Road in Mussouri town, Landour would guarantee you peace and serenity. The sister bazaar consists of few shops and tea stalls. The view of the mountain range and valleys encrypt among the gigantic eucalyptus and the pine ridge all over. The local residents of Landour are always with a smile, ready to answer your queries and the only helping hand in finding your place. Landour has an interesting British and American history. After defeating the Gurkhas from Maharaja Tehri Garhwal , the British established a Shooting lodge and the place was discovered an ideal for building sanatorium and cantonment. The ‘Woodstock’ school was established in 1840 by the British and gradually the Presbyterian America missionaries took charge of the institution.
I stole a moment for myself from my travel team and took a walk keeping the St. Paul’s church on the left towards the Woodstock school, passing by and stopping over a timeless bungalow now turned into a classic heritage hotel, ‘The Rokeby Manor’. At the entrance one can read the interesting history of the manor house which dates takes back to 1840s linking names like Nobel Prize winning author Rudyard Kipling. The property once belonged to a Frederick ‘Pahari’ Wilson, an unusual adventurer and philanthropist who married a Garhwali lady, settled here and introduced apple and harvesting timbre to the Himalayas. He was the model of Kipling’s novel ‘The man who would be King’. A cup of coffee with cookies and a moment in the balcony of the ‘Manor’ house would add a unique flavour in your Landour trip.
Walking past the manor house, one road goes straight to the Lal Tibba. The road is a long, steep walk through the alpine woods on both sides in a completely deserted zone. In this lonely walk, I scarcely discovered anybody. The cool breeze of the tall alpine trees, the murmuring of the trees, passing by ‘Parsonage’, the residence of actor Victor Banerjee takes you to a different world. The ‘Lal Tibba’ is the highest point of Mussouri.
Our next destination was ‘Dhanaulti’. Located within 25 km from Mussouri, Dhanaulti is a beautiful Himalayan town amidst the pine, rhododendron and cidar trees with Nature Park and mind captivating snow capped peaks. The road to Dhanaulti from Mussouri with several mountain bends plays your view, glimpses of mountain, valley, forest and snow capped ranges. Dhanaulti is a place for meditation. The Eco Park is maintained by the Forest Department of Uttarakhand. A walk through the Eco Park up the hill top gives you to be alone with the nature for some time. The deodar, pine, eucalyptus, cedar trees welcomes you with cool breeze. It’s a perfect place to be submerged by nature all around, watching the snow capped ranges, valleys and remote villages and a solitude which the place can only offer you.
Our last day visit was like the icing on the cake. We visited George Everest’s known as the Survey or the Everest point. It was a discovery which thrilled me and my friends. The team members of the Trigonometrical Survey comprising both Indians and British under the direction of George Everest made the accurate maps of the Himalaya and calculated the mountain ranges. World’s highest mountain peak was measured from here by one of the brilliant team members, Radhanath Sikdar in 1865. The Survey or the Everest point is around 7 km from the Library Bazaar of Mussouri town. The road that follows on the left side of the Libray till the Survey point is not an easy drive. One crosses several bunglows owned by the once wealthy princely states like Kapurthala, Jhind and through the small hilly slums. We left the car at one point and decided to walk to this historic site. Fortunately we got a bright sunny weather all through and walking through the Himlayan woods with rarely cactus and mountain flowers brings you to a different world.
The Survey Point is a vast expansive land with green meadows with Everest’s main bungalow and few more dilapidated buildings scattered. It looks like a final destination of all mountain lovers who would love to climb up and down, roll down the meadow and scream to their highest pitch or can just simply gaze at the vast expanse of land with the majestic view of the snow capped mountains. Survey Point gives you a sense joy which one gets after some achievement. It is also the best place in entire Mussouri region to have a gorgeous view of the Himalayan range. A clear view of Bandarpunch peak I and II, Kalnag, Kedarnath, Chaukhamba and Gangotrimakes you think why the Trigonometric Survey team chose it as the ideal spot for them. Hundreds of Tibetan flags are festooned on the left side of the house. As the clouds caress you, and the flags fluttering in the high breeze, one can sit down and look at the endless chain of valleys and mountain juxtaposed between the timeless time of the past and the present.