For a very long time I had been hearing about this hill station Lansdowne. Not very far away from Delhi and as per some a must visit place to relax and escape from the city crowd.
This place is located almost 280KM from Gurgaon and seems an easy way to travel by car. So me and my wife decided to spend our long weekend in Lansdowne, this time I had not done enough research before fixing up for a tourist destination and that was a miss from my end for which we regret later.
Let me brief few things about this place. Lansdown is the home of the great Garwhal regiment and this goes back from the British era. The whole city is controlled by the army and they are doing a fantastic job by keeping the city clean and disciplined as plastic bags is banned and no one can booze openly. The whole city is not more than 3KM from one end to another but don’t keep any wrong expectations because most of the roads are steep vertically up or down. Lansdown is not a commercial hill station like Manali and Shimla, a handful of hotels and restaurants keep this place less crowded. I don’t think that there are more than 7-8 hotels and surprisingly most of the hotels have no kitchen and the guest have to be dependent on outside restaurant which is again in very less quantity. Almost all the times we have seen people waiting outside for their turn. The city has a small market which has all the hotels and restaurant. The market is located in the heart of the city and known as “Gandhi Chawk”.
We started our journey 5:00 AM early in the day when whole India celebrate the festival of Holi. As I expected the roads were deserted because of the festival and in the early hours there was no traffic at all. We have to cross Gaziabad, Merrut, Modinager, Muradnagar, Khatauli. I have done an intensive research on the route and thankfully the roads were all good.
The road from khatuali is covered with small villages, farmlands and dense tree lines on both sides of the road. In some places the trees on both sides covering the roads like an umbrella which seems very beautiful. Early morning sun rays are just awesome when filtered from dense trees, but the roads also had potholes on some areas so one must be very careful because it was mostly deserted and no one wants to stick there because of some car problem. After Kothdwar the real challenge begins, as I have to drive on hill roads and was tmy first time, yes I have some tips from internet that to drive slow and use the horn on every turn. I have estimated that the total distance was of 30KM upwards. On our way we have encountered some villagers who were blocking the way and charging money and most of them are women and children, I was lucky to dodge them. There is also a small toll 5km before the city which looks like locals collecting money in the name of toll tax, honestly it seems like that and I cross them without paying. Later I have realized that it was actually a Government toll LOL.
Finally we reached our destination before the expected time and the city is celebrating Holi. Here come the bad part our hotel is in the market and the road is downwards and too narrow, still I manage to take my car and called the owner. He told me that he is not in town and will send someone to take us to the hotel, but nobody came to this I had some heated argument but he had a good excuse for the festival. So we turn our car to Gandhi Chawk and waited there for an hour so that people will go home and we can walk towards our hotel. Under any circumstances I don’t want that the locals should pour colors or water on us. Around 12:30 things are slowing down and we decided to park our car and walk towards our hotel. Please remember that almost all the hotels have no parking facility and parking is available on Gandhi Chawk only that’s the whole reason after a day the whole place looks like a huge parking lot. We have one more surprise waiting in the hotel as the manager is missing from the front desk and we could not spot our name in the list. The staff was friendly and give us a vacant room till the time the manager is free with his own Holi celebrations, the room was small with the length of the bed not even 6Ft with one closet and a TV. Finally, after 1 hour the manager arrives with all sorts of color on his body we had booked a semi deluxe room, but the room was already occupied due to their mismanagement, but they have provided us the same room where we are resting and to my surprise it was a deluxe room, it could imagine that what will be a semi deluxe. The room was offered to us on the same price. We have not eaten much for 6 hours and here comes another setback the hotel has no kitchen and the market is closed so we have to wait for another 2 hours for one restaurant to open and as soon as they open their gates people just pour in. We had ordered for a veg thali.
We went back to our hotel and decided to cover Bhulla Tall and Tip in Top, well it was a wrong decision as Bhulla Tall was closed due to the festival but Tip-in Top was open. Please be advised that the Tip-in-top is located on a hilltop and the road was vertically steep, but many people do not want to track and take their car. Honestly I believe if young people can’t even walk to tat distance they must stay in their city. We are already dealing with a lot of pollution and I don’t know why most of the Delhi tourist with their fat belly can’t walk. We reach the top after half hour covering the beautiful road breathing fresh oxygen and clicking pictures the sound of birds is like music to the ears. The tie we reached it’s already evening and due to very low light I could not capture the desired images, we spent some time and the best part is my dog lover wife got a chance to meet with a friendly lab. Now it’s time to go down and we lost our way a bit, but an army man shows us the right way. I got to know that tip-in top is the best place to see sunrise so I decided to come back later around 5:30 to capture some good pictures.
We were damn tired, so the only thing we did after reaching the market is filled out stomach and fall into deep sleep as soon as we reached our hotel.
The next day we planned to cover Bhulla Tall and War Museum. We decided to reach bhulla tall early to avoid huge crowds as it was expected due to the long weekend. The place is not big and the time we reached there is only a handful of tourist so I got plenty of time clicking pictures. The pace got a small man-made lake with lots of ducks and boating is only allowed with life jackets, we skip the boating because the lake is very small instead I spent most of the time clicking. They also have a small area for Rabbits, hamsters and Pigeons. We spent almost 2 hours and it was getting crowded and there was not left to experience. They also have a small restaurant with basic food items alike chaat, idli dosa etc. From that place we again started walking towards Gandhi Chowk to have our lunch. The war museum is 1 K: M from Gandhi Chowk. Photography is probated inside the building but again some Delhi tourist has no respect and did take pictures from their phone. The museum will give us the entire history of Garhwal regiment and their bravery starting from 1st world war and every wall speak for their gallantry. I saw the famous German machine gun MG42 for the first time. The museum also contains the initial maps of Lansdown , pictures of our fallen heroes , generals and their medals. To my surprise, I learned that the regiment plays a vital role in the all wars and conflict. Among the fallen Heroes I spotted a name “Jaswant Singh Rawat” I remember my dad narrating me the story of this Hero who alone killed 300 Chinese dogs in the indo china war source (http://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/the-heroic-story-of-jaswant-singh-the-man-who-saved-arunachal-pradesh-from-the-chinese-army-247929.html) .
I think it was an honor to visit there and experienced the brave history of Grahwal Regiment. The war memorial was opposite to the museum, but before taking pictures I took permission from an office and he told me that I can take pictures from a distance but the main gate is closed for visitors and I think it’s a good decision for that sacred place as most of the tourists will be interested in clicking stupid selfies instead of giving respect to our Heroes, I will not be surprised if they also drop empty cups and food packets. I did manage to click some pictures from my 300 MM Nikkor from a distance.
For the last day we planned that I alone will go to Tip-in top early morning and later will visit tarkeshwar temple. We decide to hire a cab instead of me driving as the distance is almost 40Km and roads are narrower.
|Fauna at Bhulla Tall|
As planned next day I woke up at 5:00 am and started my walk towards Tip-in top, this time it was not easy as I have to reach as early as possible and my heart rate was maximum due to tracking upwards. Fortunately, I bought a mineral water from the market and it helps me to keep hydrated. I am glad that I was the first one to reach. As expected the sun was about to rise and I started setting up my Nikon with the best mood with my new Nikkor 300MM lens. I don’t remember when was the last time I saw a sunrise so red and nothing in this world can be so good watching a sunrise from a hill top. The red sun was hiding behind clouds and it seems like she is a new bride not ready to show her beautiful face. As there was no one there I managed to click some good images. After spending almost 1 hour I turned down to the hotel and somehow discovered a very small route down but at the same time it was very steep so have to be very careful. On reaching hotel we decided that I will take some rest and then will move out from breakfast and Tarkeshwar. We again went to the cab owner to confirm our booking he not only confirm our cabs but also told us that there were two more girls who want to hire a cab and we can split the fare. In breakfast we had stuff paratha and paneer paratha and I realize later that it was not a very good decision while someone is planning for a trip in hilly area.
The cab was on time and also our two companions. It was an indica with a very friendly driver as he is pro in his Job, the narrow turns seems like a piece of cake for him. But he was driving fast which scare the shit out of me also after some time I realize the problems in my stomach and feels like vomiting. Somehow I was responsible because I had a very heavy breakfast and I was very uncomfortable. We covered the whole 40Km in an hour’s time. Tarkeshwar temple is situated in middle of the forest and everyone has to walk the final 1 KM. That last 1Km distance was not easy and it is not advisable not to take old people as I have seen many people struggling. The whole 1Km was either upwards or downwards. After a walk of 15 minutes we finally reached to the temple complex which is worth all the travel. The temple is surrounded with a thick forest with a small ground filled with lush green grass. There are three bells on the mail entry gate and I was surprised to see a long column of bells surrounding the left side, than I came to know that as per the tradition many visitors devote bells. We did our prayers and again we encountered some tourists who are taking selfies inside the temple premises. There is also a very old tree inside which symbolize the “Trishul” of lord Shiva legend says that anyone who prays below that tree and if a single leaf or a small branch fell then the person is blessed by the GOD. The open area besides the temple is a huge and good place to relax for some time. We also spot our two Co passengers who have no interest in the temple may be because they are Christens, it was really very awkward as they were just there to visit the place, well anyways it was their decision. After spending an hour and clicking some images we started our way up.
The parking space for cars is very less so it is another reason to travel by a cab. On our way back the driver asked that whether I have kept the toll receipt but I never had any. He told us that they will again stop you on our way back and the best way to avoid huge toll charges is to tell them you have missed the receipt and came only a day back, they will only charge 50. I came to know from our driver in Lansdown even after paying the toll one has to pay charges for everyday at the time of return. In that way I would have ended up paying almost Rs.250, so the best way to tell them that you have missed the receipt and came only yesterday. After returning to our hotel I decide to get as much sleep possible because somewhere I knew in the back of my mind that our return drive will not be easy.
It took almost 7 hours to come back, 2 hours more than expected. We were stuck in two places Modinagar and Muradnagar . It was a very tiring drive back home as I was completely exhausted.
My advice to people going to Lansdowne that start at 5:00 AM no matter you are going or coming back. If you want to chill in the weekend then this is the best place near Delhi NCR but 1 and a half day is more than enough.One last important advise that please fill up your car petrol/ diesel tank, there are no petrol pumps in Lansdown.