Trip to Kausani and Nainital with Almora on the way

Not your typical crowded hill station, Kausani in Uttrakhand is a fairly enjoyable place but only if looking at Nanda Devi, the 2nd highest peak in India, can give you the high. And if you have even slightest interest in photography, then waking up at 5 in the morning to watch and capture the Sun rising from the Himalayas is as breathtaking as anything can be.

And these two things made sure that my one night stay at Kausani was unforgettable. To this you add the drive from Gurgaon with stopover at Haldwani, Nainital and Almora and I had a blast for four days. It’s a different matter that 6-8 hours of driving with getting up early every day did take its toll. But after looking at the pictures I got to click, who is complaining.

How to reach Kausani?

In case you are planning a trip to Kausani from Delhi/Gurgaon, start early in the day and make Nainital your halt for the first night. Nainital in itself is a hugely popular tourist destination and perhaps the best and closest hill station from Delhi. So, be ready for traffic jams, parking woes, crowded places and yes, corrupt police too.

In Nainital, you can enjoy the boat ride in the lake, for the religious kind there is temple, a gurudwara and a mosque too. Do try the food at the market, there are some shops which serve really sumptuous food. And for the ones who like shopping, there are shops selling amazing and ahead of fashion clothes.

The next day, start at your comfort and drive down to Bhawali, from there take the route to Almora, then Kosi and you’ll be in Kausani, 6 hours tops. The road condition is more or less ok with the spectacular valley just before Kausani taking the cake.

We didn’t go into the Almora town and were happy to click some pictures only. You make take a call and spend some time there as well. I did hope that maybe my experience of last time would get repeated but there were no leopards on the road this time. There were some wild birds though and I did get to click their pictures.

Places to visit in Kausani

Nanda Devi is the star attraction

Like I said earlier, the key attraction in Kausani is the view of Nanda Devi. And don’t be surprised that every hotel (about 35) there offer a view of the peak and that’s their biggest and only selling point. Also, not all hotels are up to the mark, they are still making profit though.

In addition to Nanda Devi, there are so many peaks around it that you’ll be amazed. And surprisingly, to the naked eye, Nanda Devi doesn’t strike as the tallest of them all. But it surely is. Once you are there, take out your camera and start clicking. In case you are wondering what if you miss the sun rise, I think that should be least of your worries. The hotel staff will be banging on your doors at 5 in the morning.

Shiva temple in Baijnath is quite good

On your 2nd day of stay at Kausani, you can visit Shiva temple at Baijnath, about 17-18 km away. The 9-10th century temple is on a river bed and is a cool place to visit especially for the ones who love history and historical places.

While on your way to or way back from the temple, you may visit the Shawl making factory. The place is fairly interesting and you can see how shawls are made, you can buy some for you too. But one drawback is the price of the goods, that’s a little too much. But the entire system there points to the fact that it’s been tailor made to make more money out of tourists. But I guess that’s true of all tourist places.

And yes, there are some tea gardens that they say are good. But when I was there in end of June, I could see no such thing. But it could just be a case of bad timing.

Places to stay in Kausani

Like I was saying earlier, there are plenty of hotels though not all are of good standard. Ours was just OK types. The worse thing was, we booked the hotel using Agoda.com and they claimed we got a discount. But when I checked at the hotel, the ‘discounted price’ we paid was actually the actual price as well.

I guess in the entire journey from Gurgaon to Nainital to Kausani, the corrupt cop and the cheater Agoda.com were the only two low points. Otherwise, Kausani and of course Nainital are really good places for spending couple of days away from the heat of Delhi.

My site in number in 2014..

Crunchy numbers

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. My site was viewed about 9,400 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

The busiest day of the year was April 13th with 82 views. The most popular post that day was How to Get High Security Registration Plate for Your Car in Gurgaon.

In 2014, there were 24 new posts, growing the total archive to 62 posts.

Longest Streak: 2 days 3 October – 4 October

Best Day: Sunday with 12 posts total

Attractions in 2014

Where did you come from?

That’s 85 countries in all!

Most visitors came from India. The United States & Brazil were not far behind.

Who were you?

Your most commented on post in 2014 was The Saas Bahu Soap Operas of America

These were your 5 most active commenters:

  • Manuj 2 comments
  • vishaw 1 comment
  • ashok 1 comment
  • Rajesh 1 comment

Highlights of 2014: As I blogged it

2014 was different, but I think every year is different. May be that’s why we all look forward to a new year and at the end of every year enjoy pondering over the year gone by. And I love doing it by taking a look back at what all I wrote about. And 2014 was definitely a year different than my years usually have been. And like always I had a rocking time doing what I enjoy thoroughly, writing.

Travelling vicariously

The one major change for me in 2014 was no travelling but I still made sure I wrote about it. In fact I had an amazing time ‘watching’ some absolutely fantastic places in Himachal Pradesh through my parents’ adventurous travels. This was an unchartered territory for me, writing basis someone else’s experiences and writing about one tour in two parts. I may not have been at those places, but I surely loved writing every single word.

As for my personal trips, I only reached till Mughal Gardens in Delhi and a trip to Tijara Ji.

Photograhy is the next love

In addition to writing, photography is my other passion, actually, it’s still at nascent stage but I enjoy it so much. And in 2014 I combined the two.

Moving from Cricket to Kabaddi

India’s sports fans had a transformation, and so did my writing. After IPL, PKL became the 2nd most watched sports in India and what a league it was. I have never twitted about a sport, and I did. My tweets have rarely been retweeted, and many on PKL were. And my two blogs on PKL helped quite a few fans stay updated on players and matches of PKL 2014 and helped them get some information on PKL 2015.

And like so many people all over the world, I did touch upon the FIFA World Cup.

Indian TV had the obvious and not so obvious shows

I had fun time writing about what goes on on the Indian television and well on the American television as well especially oh-so-similar crime dramas. And it was a great year for the Indian TV in some sense, after House MD debuted here and like a flash almost all seasons have been covered already, can you believe that?

What else was new for me?

Well, I wrote about food and I am sure I have helped many foodies looking for the best street food in Gurgaon and best south Indian food in Delhi. What many of you would have missed is my ideas for the car manufacturers in India and I am sure I can help them lower car prices with some simple tips.

Writers and their books

2014 had so much happening when it came to writers and their books. Kushwant Singh and Pran left us wanting for more and Sachin Tendulkar told us how he made sure is always ‘Played It My Way’. And I added my humble bits as well.

And the most important of them all

But for me the most important write up was the one on Stem Cell Banking. There are countless people in India who struggle to find the right information and I thought I may share what all I could gather and that what I did.

Abstract

And strangely enough I wrote about my urge to write. Well, and I am not sure how that went, I mean the article, not my urge. And then some.

Oops… All Content is GONE… I am struck between hosting platforms

Guys, apologies for the inconvenience. I recently changed the “host” of my website and now I am struck between data transfer.

It’s absolutely frustrating for me but it’s out of my hands now. My new “host – Hostgator” is ready to extend all the help but my old “host – GoDaddy” has disowned me completely.

It is going to torture me for couple of more days. Till then, bear with me. And I’ll be back, fully “reloaded.”

Andhra Bhawan Canteen – the best south Indian food in Delhi

Whether it’s what they serve or how the serve it or a combination of both, nevertheless, Andhra Bhawan canteen serves the best South Indian food in Delhi, arguably. I have been going there for as long as I have been in Delhi and that’s over 10 years now. And I have eaten South India food at quite a few places in Delhi and there are many which serve tasty food but no one can beat what they serve at the Andhra Bhawan canteen, and that’s for sure. And my recent visit on 21st June for dinner confirmed the same once again.

Served with affection and without wait – unlimited and best south Indian food in Delhi

And it’s not just the taste, when it comes to eating how you are served is also important. And that’s another great thing about the Andhra Pradesh Bhawan canteen. The moment you sit at your table, someone will right away get you your plate and papad and a few other things. And if you are eating a South India meal (thali) then soon will start the unlimited supply of south Indian delicacies; daal (pulses), sabzi (vegetables), chutni (well…), chawal (rice), poori/roti (hmm…), sambar, rasam, kheer or halwa (sweets). Ghee, aachar (pickle), and few other condiments are always there on your table. And everything that they serve is unlimited except the papad and I have always wondered why. Although when I went there tonight there was an exception to the rule – they didn’t mind serving extra papad to my friend’s 2.5 year old boy and he liked it a lot and so did we.

The options are limited, but mouth-watering

If you are going for lunch or dinner, you’ll only get one option – South Indian meals, i.e., if you are vegetarian. Non- vegetarians also have the option of biryani and chicken. The advantage of more options is something non- vegetarians have always enjoyed and Andhra Bhawan canteen is no different. For breakfast you get the usual stuff; dosas, idilis and vada. I never went to have breakfast at Andhra Pradesh Bhawan canteen, but I am sure it’s very tasty too. What will delight you further is; it’s all very reasonably priced – just Rs 110/- for the vegetarian meals. In fact, as compared to others it’s cheaper. Only road side options can beat them in prices.

Though wait for table can be frustrating – the whole world goes there

Now while I am claiming that Andhra Bhawan canteen serves the best south Indian food in Delhi, I could be wrong too. What if I told you the place is so popular that on weekends the wait for the table can be so long that out of total frustration even a fan like me would go away without eating, would you buy it? Well, that’s how long the waiting period can be and that’s what I have done once. But those who are real fans find the solution too, and so did I.

When you plan to visit Andhra Pradesh Bhawan canteen over a weekend, go there well in advance. Since this is a “canteen”, they have strict timings during which they are open – see the pic for the timings (click here). So if the lunch starts at 1pm, reach by 12:30 latest. Once the clock hits 1, its total madness outside. It’s really hard to even get inside to get the coupon. They have plenty of folks to manage the crowd, but still if you are hungry, it’s agonizing to wait for your table.

And the place is popular among people from all walks of life and all countries who wawpid-img_20140621_214753361_hdrnt to eat the best south Indian food. You can be sure to find people from all over not just India but the world enjoying the best south Indian food in Delhi at the Andhra Bhawan canteen.

How to reach Andhra Pradesh Bhawan canteen and where to park?

Another good part is, Andhra Bhawan canteen is not too difficult to locate. You can take the Metro, get down at Patel Chowk and take an auto rickshaw from there, that’s one option. If you have your car, then also it’s easy to reach. Andhra Pradesh Bhawan canteen is on the Ashoka Road and is very close to India Gate – at the first round about on the Ashoka Road. In fact, you can enjoy your evening at India Gate and then have dinner at Andhra Bhawan canteen.

To find the location of Andhra Bhawan canteen, click here.

To find the directions to reach Andhra Pradesh Bhawan canteen, click here.

Parking at Andhra Pradesh Bhawan canteen is a little tricky in a way since there is no place ear marked for it. The common practice is to park on sides of the Jaswant Singh road. Everyone does that, I have been doing it and I think you can do that too. After all you have to enjoy the best south Indian food that is available in Delhi.

PS: Change of Name?

In light of the fact that state of Andhra Pradesh has now been bifurcated into two states, not sure which state will now have Andhra Bhawan as its state house in Delhi and subsequently the name of the place/canteen may change too. Hopefully the taste will remain the same. As for my recent visit, the house is still called Andhra Pradesh Bhawan and place Andhra Bhawan canteen.

 

 

Himachal Pradesh in Pictures

An uncontrollable, somewhat premature; “I-can’t-help-but-share-now” kind of an urge. Some memories, some pictures, some moments will just stay in your mind forever. Thankfully I had stolen, captured and saved some of those from Himachal Pradesh.

Not good camera work – not even decent, not worthwhile locales – just random, not a moment from the history – just pure and simple memory.

From my home town Bilaspur to Dharamshala, McLeodganj, Chamunda Devi, Manali, Palampur, Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti, here are some moments from my own life and time – Himachal Pradesh in pictures for you:

 

How Sony Television Fooled My Wife

Pretentious, that’s how it may sound but turns out it is plain truth. And I don’t watch TV, I mean who does nowadays. At least that’s what I thought. And then I met my wife.

Ok. Fact is also that there are as many TV channels as there are TV serials. Then there are those who actually watch these TV serials and watch them religiously. This is where my wife comes into picture.

Sony TV has been lucky in the past

Sony Television or SET or Sony Entertainment Television is just another TV channel or set of channels, rather more popular one to be honest. They have had their moments in the past, Kapil Sharma used to be with them before he made Comedy Nights with Kapil on Colors. CID is still growing strong and no one knows why. Their masterstroke is still Indian Premier League, even though that’s getting shadier and runs for a few weeks only.

Sony TV could have stayed lucky

Their bread and butter though would still be the TV serials which in spite of innumerable distractions may still end up making some good, regular and loyal viewership. My wife would be among the leaders there.  She vouches for some of the TV serials aired on Sony, well for sure vouched for till some hours ago until she was ‘fooled’, again; for the third time if I can count correctly and my memory stands by me.

Sony TV fooled my wife

It all started some time back with Love Marriage, Arranged Marriage. Amita ka Amit added fuel to the fire. And today Je Le Zara was the last nail in the coffin. Can’t make heads and tails out of it? Let me explain:

Strike 1, Love Marriage, Arranged Marriage

I don’t know how good or bad Love Marriage, Arranged Marriage TV serial was but my wife would never miss any episode. The story to me never seemed to go anywhere but she would enjoy it much. And then one day Sony TV took it off air. No questions asked. No answers given. My wife was fooled for the first time.

Strike 2, Amita ka Amit

Then came Amita ka Amit. What a serial that was! I mean did you ever see it? Anyhow, after a while no one could figure out where it was headed. From what looked like an interesting marriage of an interesting pair in the start, it wandered into a child being borne who could not be initially, to his kidnapping to.. wait, the story is besides the point. The point is, Amita ka Amit ended one day, unannounced. My wife was fooled by Sony TV for the 2nd time. Her faith though was not shaken yet. She did feel as if a hole had been created in her daily life though.

Strike 3, Je Le Zara

Good days seemed to be coming back with Je Le Zara. My wife was happy. We even stopped having dinner between 9:30pm and 10pm because she could not miss even a single episode and I could not stand watching it for even 30 seconds. Life looked good. The story never-ending (i.e. random), a rather good sign suggesting it could not end soon. And then there was today’s episode. Bam. The story ended and so did the serial. Oh no. My wife fooled again, the 3rd time, and this time it shook her faith. Fact is she lost her faith in Sony TV.

When once bitten is twice shy, what happens to thrice bitten?

Now that’s a million dollar and billion rupees question. When it’s so hard to have loyal viewers why would Sony TV take these risks? Sony TV has fooled my wife not once but thrice. She has made up her mind, next target is Colors TV. Sony TV and its serials are now her past. Colors TV and its serial are her future. What she’ll watch there is something only she knows.

Personally, as a silent viewer, quiet sufferer and prime victim of her projected anger, my message to Sony TV is “shame on you” and to Colors TV is “here she comes”.

Tijara, a Jain temple dedicated to Tirthankar Chandraprabhu

Tijara temple is perhaps one of the most important and most visited Jain temples nearby Delhi. The Tijaraji temple is dedicated to the eighth Jain teerthankara, Chandraprabhu baghwan. Situated in Alwar district of Rajasthan, the temple is just over 100km from Delhi and about 75km from Gurgaon. The best part is, all you need is a car, just about 5 hours in a day and you can make a memorable pilgrimage to a beautiful and pious Jain temple.

The history and the importance of Tijara temple

The temple is dedicated to Chandra Prabhu baghwan and his idol is the principal deity of the temple. In the year 1956 the marvellous deity was recovered at the very spot where the temple stands today. This fact takes back the history of the Tijaraji temple, the idol and the place itself to hundreds of years.

The idol of teerthankara Chandra Prabhu is quite astonishing. You can say your prayers inside the temple. The architecture of the temple is very impressive and the entire complex is serene. The temple is revered by the Jains but you can easily find non-Jains who come to pray and many tourists too.

Just behind the main Tijaraji temple and part of the complex, there is another small temple which you should visit and say your prayers there too.

How to reach Tijara temple?

Reaching Tijara is fairly easy (click for directions) especially if you have a car and you live in or around Delhi. From Delhi or Gurgaon, take the NH8 towards Jaipur. Once you reach Dharuhera, leave the NH and take the left route to Alwar. Next main town you’ll cross is Bhiwadi which is also in Rajasthan. From there you’ll be taking a right. At the toll plaza tell them you are going till Tijara and you’ll be coming back – this way you’ll have to pay less money for toll. After that just keep driving straight till you reach a roundabout, from there you’ll be taking the left road – though the signages are there so you’ll not get confused. If you need to ask for directions, ask for Tijara and/or Alwar – the temple is on the road to Alwar.

After driving for a couple of kms, you’ll reach a small habitation and from there you need to take a left to the Tijaraji temple. This left cut can be missed, since it’s within buildings/shops and the signage, though it’s there, is smaller and a little higher and can be easily missed. My advice, drive slow, keep checking and maybe ask someone on the road for the Tijara temple when you reach this habitation.

The Parking, the Food and the Bazaar

Once you have taken the left, rest is easy. The Tijaraji temple is now only about 100m and make sure you park your car inside the covered area. There are stairs to the temple from this area on its right far off corner (behind the stage) and the place where you should eat is also right there on the left far off corner – temple stairs and eating area are exactly opposite to reach other.

Parking is free. The food that is served there is simple, unlimited, fantastic and reasonably priced. Before you eat, you’ll need to buy a coupon which is available within the temple complex. Make sure to check the timings they have mentioned for the food, lunch is not available after 1pm.

If you are keen on shopping or you have missed the food, there is a small bazaar on the other side of the temple. I can’t comment on food served in restaurants there since during both my visits I ate in temple – that food for me is too good to be missed. About shopping, check out the papads there, it’s a speciality.

All the Makings of a Memorable trip

If you were to trust my experiences of visits to the Tijara temple, I have been there twice, you can be sure your trip will have all the things needed to make it a memorable one. The drive will be exciting since the road is nice for most part and the traffic jams, if happen, are horrible. The accompanying things like parking and food are taken care of. And most important of all, Tijaraji temple is a place of pilgrimage you should visit at least once.

Suggestions of a Car Driver: How Can Car Manufacturers Lower Car Prices in India

I never thought, leave aside thinking; not even dreamed, forget about dreaming; not once hoped, set aside hope; this should be beyond all this. While driving in the mad traffic on the roads of Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida and Faridabad –  not saying NCR since the ‘Region’ has long extended beyond these more popular and recognizable cities, I came up with some unsolicited suggestions for the car manufacturers in India on how to save cost, hence lower car prices for the Indian buyer. In a season of new sedan models, auto transmission in hatchback, and a few newer options in lower segment – this could be a threat as well as opportunity.

First the confession

Before I run into any kind of trouble for making not just unsolicited but wacky and some highly debatable suggestions, I think I ought to start off by confessing that post what I suggest I may be construed as cynical, wrong, stupid, a few other things and all of  these and not particularly in any order. So I confess at the start, ‘guilty as charged’. Nonetheless:

Then the suggestion

Considering the car manufacturers have to keep the cost and hence the price in check through too many things like new technology, rising and varied customer needs and demands, size/dimensions and what not vis-à-vis excise duties, it is my duty neither to burden them with too many suggestions nor suggest anything exclusively to only one of them. After all everyone should gather equal wisdom and profits too.

Suggestion 1: Remove the left-right indicator

Each car has the left-right indicator functionality which means cost of lever to operate it; cost of two indicators next to headlights in front, two indicators next to back-light, two on either side fenders; cost of bulbs, casing and wiring; etc. Now when you are driving in and around Delhi you realize it soon enough that only indicator that the driver in the car next to you uses is the one in his/her head and that can be premeditated or last minute, in either case you’ll never know about it till he/she starts turning the steering wheel and the car starts to follow its master obediently. For you it’s all like ‘magic’.

So the car manufacturers should take note that the indicators they have fitted are rarely used and if at all used, most drivers use them at the last moment – couple of seconds after turning the steering wheel. The cost and hence price we have to pay for these indicators is a waste of money.

Suggestion 2: Why the low and high beam in headlights?

I read or heard (maybe both) that the Motor Vehicles Act mandates that drivers should use the low beam only at all times during the night and the high beam is only for the purposes like overtaking, and few other indications. My experience and I am sure of most in Delhi tells otherwise. Drivers strictly use the high beam at all the times during night, period. The only exception I have seen is while I am driving at low beam and get blinded by the high beam of the car coming towards me, I use my high beam and the 1 in 10 drivers – mostly of a car whose headlights lie lower than my car’s and hence gets blinded in return when I use high beam, makes an exception and turns to low beam for a while.

But good thing is – any smart car manufacturer would save money by removing this functionality and the smartest ancillary manufacturer would make the first move to make the best of ‘untapped market’ of single beam kits. The main purpose of this suggestion, like all others, is to make cars cheaper for the customers and I hope car manufacturers will pass this benefit on accordingly.

Suggestion 3: Power brake can be done away with

Power brake was supposed to be a good thing, you apply it and the car stops immediately. Well, that sounds good, after all it makes sure the driver controls the car. However, when the car ahead of you stops with no notification, indication or logic – right in the middle of the road and that too in bumper-to-bumper traffic, your car only ends up banging the said car in front. End result is a fight, a traffic jam and a trip to workshop not necessarily in this same order.

I guess the good old brakes were better perhaps and cheaper surely. The car manufacturers should do the needful.

Suggestion 4: Seat belts are a hindrance and a nuisance

I know I know. Seat belts are for safety, a must. And a fan and supporter of Formula 1 (seat belt was first used there and it’s innovations like this which presumably justify millions of dollars spent on F1 cars), I am definitely in. But to my understanding these seat belts or safety belts (a name which is more appropriate and I propose should only be used going forward) are useful only when actually used. Providing them can’t and will not serve the purpose till drivers and passengers use this.

But that’s not what you see while driving in and around Delhi. At times we can’t really blame the people also after all how can someone who is driving a car with a child in his/her lap wear the seat belt, it’s so uncomfortable. Same is true for the passenger sitting in the seat next to the driver, after all he/she also has a child in the lap and if he/she wears the seat belt, he/she’ll feel ashamed that the child being held in the hands has no seat belts. And we can surely not expect two persons sitting on the single front seat to wear the seat belt which is meant for one person only – I guess that is totally the fault of the car manufacturer. My reluctant advice to car manufacturers is to not waste money on seat belts anymore.

Suggestion 5: Driving seat and each foot paddle must be height and/or length adjustable

How are our 12 to 14 year old kids supposed to drive a car when the driver’s seat and the foot paddles have not been designed appropriately? Before giving any suggestion here I want an answer from the car manufacturers first. Don’t they know our kids have the birth right to start driving car when they feel like, age no bar? Thank God the parents, schools and now play schools (have to include them esp. when talking about Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida and Faridabad since the next generation is learning everything there only) still teach A for Apple, B for Ball and C for Cat and not A for Accelerator, B for Brake and C for Clutch.

My suggestion to the car manufacturers is to make the height of driving seat adjustable in all cars – I know quite a few cars offers this but that’s usually in higher and costlier models and that’s biasing. They should make lengths of the three foot paddles adjustable too in all cars. And while they are at it, the steering wheel and other related paraphernalia should also be customized keeping the needs of our 14 year old drivers in mind. This suggestion may not look like a cost saver but trust me it will be.

And Lastly the conclusion

We the Indians are not particularly very fond of following rules and regulations or abiding by the law especially when no one is watching and clearly when these don’t suit us. Driving without license, no pollution checks or better the ‘Gurgaon PUC – certificate of perfect non-polluting vehicle with no real test ’, driving in the lonely (wrong) lane – one in which no one is giving you company in fact every other vehicle seems to be against you and is coming towards you; I won’t go into offering any suggestions related to these after all there is nothing our car manufacturers can do about these issues that can help lower costs. There will have to be some other time for taking these up, today it’s only about 5 suggestions and that’s surely a start.

Gangolihat – Hat Kalika temple, Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave, all in the heart of Himalayas

Incredible beauty, caves as old as the earth itself with links to Ramayana and Mahabharata, a temple of the designated goddess of a regiment of Indian army and chosen by Adi Guru Sankaracharya: my road trip to Gangolihat at 1,760 metres in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand proved to be an ideal way to end 2013. The 500 km 3 day amazing road trip with wife and in-laws was a great driving adventure with the close on-the-road encounter with leopard being the cherry on the cake.

Reaching and staying at Gangolihat

For me the journey started first from Gurgaon and was likely to end at Haldwani after 300km drive, considering we were visiting my in-laws but better sense prevailed well in time and we decided to visit Gangolihat, the hill town my in-laws and their ancestors actually belong to. The 200km drive (Click for route) from Haldwani to Gangolihat was something that excited me immediately and a quick Google search revealed so many outstanding interesting places there that I could not wait to be there to see and visit each one of them.

To make it easier for you in case you plan to visit Gangolihat, from Gurgaon/Delhi take NH 24 through Moradabad (bypass), enjoy meals at Gajraula, cross Rampur and Rudrapur (expect potholes for 20km), start uphill journey from Haldwani/Kathgodam, take the Bhimtal route, reach Almora after approx 80 km from Haldwani (just under 400km from Gurgaon, close to 11hours) and maybe stay there for the night. Next day take the Badechhina – Sheraghat route, take right from Raiagar and after 20km you would have reached Gangolihat after close to 5 hours of drive from Almora and that too through the snake like route. In Gangolihat there are few good options for stay, my advice get your rooms reserved in advance at the KMVN tourist rest house (click for more), it’s cheap and very nice place to stay.

Hat Kalika temple at Gangolihat

Hat Kalika temple is one of the two most impressive and popular places of interest in Gangolihat, the other one being Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave. This is a temple located just a km from the local market and is dedicated to the goddess Kalika Mata. Adi Guru Sankaracharya chose this temple for installation of Mahakali Shaktipeeth, which makes it not only one of the most revered places for the Hindus but also over hundreds of year old (12th century). And that’s not all, this temple holds a special place for the Kumaun Regiment of the Indian army– a fact that is too hard to miss when you visit the Hat Kalika temple. There are like a dozen gates which announce this special relationship.Hat Kalika

The Hat Kalika temple deity itself is amazing. We were very lucky when we visited as we got plenty of time to do puja there to our satisfaction and the pujari allowed me to click pics of the deity. The whole experience of being in the temple surrounded by deodar trees and inhabited by naughty monkeys was memorable. And it was after a long time I visited a temple where animal sacrifice is still a common practice.

Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave at Gangolihat

Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave is the other most important place to visit when you are at Gangolihat in addition to Hat Kalika temple. This limestone cave at about 14 km from Gangolihat is as outstanding as anything can be. Its history, the fact it is supposed to be as old as the earth itself and the legends about links to Ramayana and Mahabharata and historical proofs of visit by Adi Shankaracharya in 1191 AD make it a must see place.

For me the visit to the over 150m long and scary 90 feet deep Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave was a mix of geographical excursion and religious journey, both at the same time. The mix of limestone formations and religious significance was quite amazing. At first I could not muster enough courage to enter the cave – it’s a 30-40feet drop through a very narrow cave opening but once I started going down it only got more exciting. And once you reach the bottom, the cave suddenly becomes bigger with some spectacular formations all around.

It’s a pity that you are not allowed to take your cameras and cell phones inside the Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave thanks to some stupid and greedy priest who stole a priceless idol some years ago. It would have been a great experience to capture the inside of the cave in my camera but that was not supposed to happen.

The incredible beauty of Gangolihat

And in the middle of this, what you won’t miss is the incredible beauty of the place. There are snow clad Himalayas all around. If you have time visit nearby places, you can even have a look at the Nanda Devi – the 7,816 m second highest mountain in India, something I wanted to but could not find time to visit.

The rich traditions and folklore of Gangolihat

There are plenty of things that you as a regular tourist may miss out in Gangolihat but since this is the native place of my in-laws, I had that privilege, well almost. Every family/clan here has its own traditions and way of life, e.g. they have a family deity which is revered highly and is only worshiped by the family members. I being the son-in-law could not be part of the worship and my wife on account of being married has also lost that privilege now.

Moreover, you may not get to see the fruit orchards from close range if you are a regular tourist. I got the chance to see one owned by one of our relatives in Gangolihat and it was an experience in itself to pluck the oranges from the tree and relish them there and then. The taste of those juicy oranges was just splendid.

And if you are the luckiest of them all

The best part of the trip, the rarest for sure, was kept for the last. As we reached Almora on our way back from Gangolihat, a wild leopard was waiting for us to make our trip as extraordinary as it could have got. We took a 2 min halt at about 6:50pm to click the pictures of the Almora town and got out of the car. While we did so we didn’t know there was a leopard within 10-15 meter of the spot we were standing at.

When we restarted the journey, we took a right turn and came to a spot which was exactly below the spot where we had got down and took a few pictures of Almora and there it was, the leopard right in front of our car in the middle of the road. It was our bad luck that by the time I could take out my camera and “shoot” the wild animal, it was long gone and all we had left was the memory of those 4-5 seconds. I could not believe my luck – it was the second such leopard sighting for me in a 2013, the first one was in my home town in Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh. That time the leopard we met on the road was younger, may be 2 years old, and I could capture it in my mobile camera. I had my DSLR this time but the time was not sufficient, it was dark and the leopard was in real hurry. It was still spectacular nonetheless.

To summarize

If you are a sucker for road trips and hill stations which are not crowded with tourists, Gangolihat with its Hat Kalika temple and Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave, is more than a great destination. Since you will be travelling to a fairly far off place, it may make sense to spend more time in Almora, visit Ranikhet and also add Nanital and Bhimtal to your itinerary. Overall, you can be sure of a memorable trip.