The cool breeze touching your face, while the sun lends some warmth to your cold hand. Clouds floating like giant balloons, as the silence fills the remaining space in the universe. And you…you swim through it all to a place which promises the peace that you’ve been ever dreaming of…that’s what Gumkhal and Lansdowne gave me.
Have you ever felt that you are just tired? That you want to run away from the reality that is swallowing you; that you’re not in control…
Well, I have felt it, and if you haven’t, then I wonder what that feels like…
Honestly, I’m sure that everyone has a little bit of me in them; a little want for some magical escape; a daydream that keeps coming back to drench our soul in the want for something more than the mundane life that we are living, or so it seems mostly.
At the end of the day, what I have seen till now is people living with a hope for a better future; a vision that keeps them going.
This article is a monument of a very basic and much-awaited escape to the magical Gumkhal & Lansdowne that helped me going through this crazy world and changed my perception of some things in life.
The Beginning of the Beginning…
It was 28th February. My friend and I got a bus from Kashmiri Gate, Delhi. Although we were late, so was the bus. And then started our journey of 8 hours, from Delhi to Kotdwar, which is approximately 231-286 Km depending on the route taken. The travel was mostly smooth, and the eyes were yearning for the mountains, which took quite a while to unveil themselves.
The Arrival (28th February)
Gumkhal – A place I had no idea existed (just like many other).
Gumkhal was a pleasant surprise.
The silence filled my ears waxed with the noise of the city and helped me realise that there are places like this which still exist; places which demand us to forget our lives as if we have been born again.
The town allows us to enjoy the wondrous view of sunset and sunrise. The wind blows right to the soul and birds have a way of dancing from morning till evening. The roads are smooth and free from any mess of the city. A walk along it with a little stop on the side, and hundreds of trees standing proudly, make you want to stop the time, or should I say the time presents itself as being halted.
Its stillness was beautiful, and so was the view from the joint balcony of the hotel where we stayed – Hotel Sadbhavna.
- Being near the peak of the mountain, Gumkhal is around 12 Km away from Lansdowne, and 265 Km from Delhi. The nearby places include – Lansdowne, Bhairav Garhi Temple, Satpuli, Pauri, and many more.
The slow Sunrise (View from the hotel)
The layers of mountains.
The sun moving down the horizon
It was the day of Holika Dahan on 1st March and Holi on 2nd March 2018.
Being a Delhiite, I have seen Holi being a mess, with people coloured and wet (something I have distanced myself from). If you’ve seen Holi being celebrated in Delhi, then you know what I mean.
Holi at Gumkhal and Lansdowne was the most peaceful and safe Holi I have ever witnessed!!
At Lansdowne, on the day of Holika Dahan, I only saw some people using a little bit of colour and greeting others.
While at Gumkhal, most of the celebration that I saw or heard, on both the days, was the sound of a drum beating at a distance. As we sat outside on the couch in the balcony corridor, covered with blankets, we could hear some people singing at the distance with the drum beating in the background. It carried on till long after midnight, but it was nothing like the noisy sound of the cars honking and the loud music of some DJ. It was calm and faint and we could hear the joyful sound of the people.
And the Adventure Begins…
Day 1 (1st March 2018),
Lansdowne proved to be as we had heard of it – Peaceful.
An amazingly quiet and neat hill station of Pauri Garhwal, Lansdowne is well developed, clean and yet less crowded. Surrounded by oak and pine trees, it provides us with the fresh air, pleasant weather, and well-maintained roads to trek to various places.
Lansdowne is around 12 km from Gumkhal. We first got off the jeep at Gandhi Park, Lansdowne Market, and trekked to Bhulla Tal from there.
Some flowers above a shop to greet us at Lansdowne Market
Lansdowne has several places to visit, namely – Bhulla Tal (Lake), Tip N Top, St John’s Church, Trakeshwar Mahadev, Darwan Singh Museum, War Memorial Lansdowne, etc.
As we did not get the chance to visit all, I’ll share the ones we did see.
Bhulla Tal (Lake), our first stop, was very colourful. Although this manmade lake is not very big, the garden that surrounds it has a serene aura. There are trees, colourful plants, sheds with areas to sit and the sun smiling through the branches of the trees.
Being there is no less than a natural therapy. You can sit under the shed and let the place meditate its way into your heart, or you can do boating, or you can have a leisurely walk.
The entry (10am-5pm) is free but it costs 50/- for boating for adults. It is around 2.1 km walk from Gandhi Park, Lansdowne Market.
The colourful Bulla Tal
Our next stop was Tip N Top point, which, as the name suggests, is the top of the mountain. It takes a while to trek to the top, which is a nicely paved path with pine and oak trees to give you company. The top has a nice cafe and a resort just next to it. The point is a small area with a wooden fence which allows us to see from the mountains right next to it, to as far as the snow-capped Himalayan Range!! We spent 1-2 hours there, in which I was awestruck and continuously trying to figure how far I was able to see.
It is around 2.5 km in distance from Gandhi Park, Lansdowne Market, and the trek can be started just outside the entrance of Bhulla Tal, but I’m sure there is another way too.
It is one of the highest places in Lansdowne.
The mesmerising view from Tip N Top
En route to Tip N Top is a small church – St John’s Church. As the church is open only on Saturdays and Sundays, we could not see the interior, but it looked really intriguing from outside. The sight of it from a distance made me interested in going inside, but unfortunately, it was Thursday. I hope you get to see the interior. The outside of the church seems old and rugged and gives an impression of an ancient place (It was established in 1936).
En route to Tip N Top
A sneak peek of St John’s Church from a slope with some swings
Finding an ATM with money, at Gumkhal or Lansdowne, or at any of the area till Kotdwar, was a struggle for us. We roamed around Lansdowne and searched everywhere but could not find a single ATM which had cash. The same happened at Kotdwar.
If this was an effect of the festival time or not, is hard for me to tell. All we know is that getting the cash out at these places can be difficult.
So, it will be better to carry enough cash and have a working Paytm to avoid any kind of money related stress to a place you are going to de-stress yourself.
Day 2 (2nd March 2018),
Bhairav Garhi Temple was a bliss to the soul.
When we reached there – after a good trek for about an hour or so – the temple was deserted, with just a priest inside. You can only imagine the joy of that isolation accompanied with the calming view. Being at the top, the temple provides the view of all the other mountains from different angles, and the clouds appear quite close. The view, with the silence, the birds chirping, the bees buzzing near the trees, and the lack of population was tranquillity at its best for us.
After an hour or two – I don’t remember how much time we spend there. I guess the stillness took over time, just like that bee which appeared to be flying at the same spot making it appear that the time had stopped – a family with some children did make its way to the top and the kids fought over who won the trekking race by reaching first. It all seems a dream when I think of it now, with my childhood flashing in front of my eyes as I saw that family.
You can spend as much time as you want and rest your restless heart for a while by sitting under the wide sheds and enjoy the sanctity of the place.
I don’t promise that if you ever visit Bhairav Garhi, you won’t find anyone but the priest there, but hopefully, it would be less crowded than you expect.
And as much as I want everyone to go and see the wonderful place, I would never want it to become a crowded tourist place. That will murder its ever-drowning tranquillity.
Bhairav Garhi is situated in Kirtikhal, around 18 km away from Lansdowne, and 5 km from Gumkhal and then around 2 km of trek on a mostly well-paved path to the temple.
Although washroom was an issue, it did appear that the new ones were under construction.
En route to Bhairav Garhi
Eating chocolate under the shed
Inside the temple
A tone of sadness…
Amid all this beauty and perfection, my experience was not all gold; there were some shades of sadness as well. There was an incident that left me with many questions in my head.
It was 2nd March 2018, the day of Holi. The morning was beautiful, and we were ready to start the day. I was out on the balcony when I saw a big utensil fly out of the house which was situated a little low on the mountain. I wondered how they would get the utensil back!! Which was difficult due to the mountain slope.
But then came some other things flying out of the house. It was then I realised that a couple had gotten into a fight and the man was throwing things out of the house and shouting. There were 3 kids on the roof of that house, staring downwards. It continued until the man left the house in anger.
After this, we left for Bhairav Garhi…
But I wondered; still wonder…what impact that would have left on the kids?
I wonder…what that women must be feeling? And what that man would have gone through to reach a state like that?
All I know is that it has left an impact on me; something that will be hard for me to forget. And this is not because it was an uncommon event to take place, but because it is too common. We are surrounded by fights and arguments and wars and all the pain, hurt and frustration building up in the dissatisfied human beings.
Day 3 (3rd March 2018),
Dangleshwar Mahadev, Satpuli, Pauri Garhwal
This was basically the last day that we had in Uttarakhand. We were supposed to leave the next day.
We went to Dangleshwar Mahadev temple because of a river named Purvi Nayar. Being able to see a river always feels refreshing; hence we made our way to Satpuli. Although the river was not heavy flowing, there was still enough water for us to sit nearby and enjoy.
The water is very clean and there is a beautiful small pool right outside the temple. It looks quite colourful due to the clear water and the multicoloured stones all around the place.
We went into the temple by crossing the river stream but did not spend much time inside because some people were working there.
Satpuli is around 20 km away from Gumkhal and 30 km from Lansdowne, situated at the bank of the Purvi Nayar.
So, we spent the last day of ours next to the water and trying to search a perfect purple stone for myself as a souvenir, which did not happen, so I had to be content with something less than perfect.
The stream of river Purvi Nayar and the colourful stones
And we half-heartedly wrapped up…
Day 4 (4th March 2018),
We packed our bags and left Gumkhal after an early morning stroll. The problem we faced was again the lack of cash due to which we had to use the help of a friend to pay for us.
The Dawn of 4th March
Leaving that place was as difficult as easy it was to go there. And as we were waiting for our friend to make the payment, we came across one last interesting thought to process.
Superstition – Myth or Reality
Being an Indian I have been exposed to multiple strong beliefs of various kinds but have been fortunate enough to mostly have a choice to believe them or not.
Our visit to Bhairav Garhi was just a matter of chance, with no previously existing plan. But we never knew how much respect that temple carried in the hearts of the people there. We came to know about this strong belief system when we came across an incident that happened very close to us, although we did not witness it.
On the morning of 4th March, the day we were to leave for Delhi, the caretaker of the hotel told us that earlier that morning, the family staying in the room next to us was about to slide off the edge of the mountain while backing up their car; a lot of help was called to save them. Thankfully they were fine and left safely.
Getting to know about the accident was scary enough, but what was interesting was how easily the person telling us about this, glided towards telling us that the Temple is one of the several Seethipeeth, which means it is basically one of the several sacred religious temples and exceptionally respected.
And with this glide of information, the incident was very easily connected to the temple and to the fact that this family went to visit Bhairav Garhi but came halfway back. Their lack of determination was unknowingly seen as disrespectful, inauspicious, and probably the reason for this dangerous incident.
I do not know if this is true. I have no idea if the possible accident was the Gods getting offended or just an accident waiting to happen. But this makes me think about what goes in our mind, is it Faith? Fear? Or Love?
Religion, being a very delicate topic, makes it even more mysterious, leaving us with many questions which are hard to answer.
Until Next Time…
Being back in the city was difficult after the peaceful escape.
The sunlight still hits my face in the same manner, and the wind is still talking to me; although a little weaker than before.
But the nights…the nights have changed. They have become more distant, as if they call me from far away, from a place that belongs to a dream. It says that the place I’m in, is not where nights are and that this place makes them look lifeless.
This feeling is mostly the post-trip hollowness that comes haunting after we realise that we are back to where we started, although things are never the same.
But this won’t be stopping us; it would keep us going; keep us inspiring…
To a new place, for a new experience, and a new adventure…
See you…until next time…