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Touching the Himalayas

A visit to Munsyari, Choukori and Almora
(contd. From Mayavati visit)

After visiting Mayavati and carrying with us the spiritual aroma of the place, we went back to our guest house. The day passed off thinking of Mayavati only and enjoying the warm sun. As the sun set, slowly the sky became clear and thousands of starts and other planets could be seen. We spent about half an hour observing the night sky. I felt little remorse for not bringing the Telescope. The weather during the night was very pleasant at Lohaghat. Before we went for dinner we repacked our rucksacks for the next day’s trip to Pithoragarh keeping out only the essential things for the night and next morning. After finishing our dinner we again went out in the dark to watch the sky and we could locate some of the well-known planets like Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, Pole star and of course hundreds of unknown ones.

After having a quiet night of sleep, we were woken up early in the morning by the whistling of unknown birds followed by chirruping of numerous ones. Having finished my morning duties, I had a cup of tea while enjoying the morning sun. Krishna (wife) and Shivani (daughter) continued to sleep for one more hour before they too got ready for tea. I found the Lohaghat guest house of the KMVN where we stayed was not maintained properly. It’s location is good but due to lack of initiative on the part of the manager and staff it has a shabby look and does not attract quality tourists. It has enough space in front and back to have beautiful gardens. What it needed was proper maintenance.

As the time for departure was nearing, I felt a sense of separation from a near and dear ones. This place became our home for two days and the memoirs of it being added to our main hard disk. Sometimes I really wonder looking at life how it moves, grows, decays and dies sooner or later. But we all have that urge to prod on, to push ahead to achieve already set immediate goals of life.

After completing our breakfast, we sat on the lawn waiting for the car to arrive. It came around 9.30 a.m. half an hour before scheduled departure. It was a surprise indeed coming before time! So we had enough time to comfortably set our luggage in the car and clear our payments to the guest house and say good-bye to all who were with us for the last two days.

The drive to Pithoragarh was a lovely one but at times precarious. The curves, turns and the view of the river flowing much below the height we were travelling kept our mind occupied thinking of the natures marvel and how puny we human beings are before the mighty Himalayas. As we entered the Pithoragarh city limit, the view became the usual noisy market area and brought us down to the mundane world.

At Pithoragarh Guest house the room we were allotted was a very nice one for it’s wonderful view. We could see through the window the distant hills and the birds flying around. This guest house was little away from the crowd and that gave us a relief.The cool breeze that swept through our room added freshness to our tired body. Unfortunately, Krishna’s fever rose to a high pitch and she had to take complete rest. Myself and my daughter had to stealthily open the window now and then to enjoy the breeze and the panoramic view.

After lunch we just went out and sat in the sun for sometime. Myself and Shivani went into the forest area and enjoyed the breeze and collected a few pieces of dry bark of the deodar trees. After two hour’s rest we had tea sitting by the side of the window. Pithoragarh was just a stop for a day before we took up the grueling 145 km. travel to Munsyari by bus. However we could not explore some of the best locations in and around Pithoragarh due to Krishna’s illness which we all felt sorry for. May be some time in near future we will try to fill this gap.

There was little rain in the afternoon making the weather cold. In the evening I went to the market to enquire about the direct bus service to Munsyari. I met on the way a gentle man from the postal department who guided me to the bus stand. But the problem was no one could say the correct time when the bus would leave, some told 6.30 a.m. some 7.00 a.m. However, when we look at their simple life of the hilly people where exact time is not at a premium, they can afford to swing between half an hour or one hour. We, the city people, cannot afford that luxury.

As Krishna remained glued to the bed trying to cure herself through prayer, we watched the TV programme for sometime in a subdued volume and went for dinner around 8.30 p.m. Our programme was to leave next day early morning around 6 a.m. so we got our rucksacks ready for the next day’s travel. We slept well covering ourselves with blankets while the temperature outside continued to plummet. The beautiful sleep was interrupted by the alarm at 4.30 a.m. I wanted to sleep little more but the set program forced me to shake off my inertia and get ready for the travel onwards. With the morning cup of tea, the time for departure from the guest house arrived. We decided to take a walk downhill upto the bus stand. On our request a person from the guest house helped us with the luggage. The morning was wonderful. We enjoyed the walk. The only tragedy was that before we fell in love with the place we had to move out. But some more tragedy was awaiting us at the bus stop. To our dismay we found the bus had already left. We were frustrated. However, life has all these pitfalls but because of that we cannot accept defeat. We must get going.

The alternative way to reach Munshyari was to take one of the jeeps that were lined up to take people to Thal. Thal is a half way on the way to Munsyari. From our experience we found these jeeps are not very comfortable for long drive. As the alternative was to take a car and that would be costly, we had to squeeze ourselves into the jeep although Krishna continued to grumble citing her ill health condition. The sitting condition was eased by paying for extra one seat giving Krishna enough elbow room to make herself comfortable.

The route from Pithoragarh to Thal was marvellous. The greenary all around kept our mind delighted in spite of frequent stoppage of the jeep to drop or to accommodate more passengers. Finally, we reached Thal and the driver took us up to the bus which we missed in the morning now awaiting to go to Munsyari. We were relieved to see the bus standing. We got very comfortable seats and enjoyed the drive .Although the road to Munsyari was very dangerous one, the number of water falls by way side refreshed our mind now and then. After sometime the clouds started gathering and it soon turned into a rain. The rains in the hills are usually vigorous one. This rain on the way continued till we reached our guest house at Munsyari. Fortunately, the guest house is situated just by the side of the road and by the time we got down from the bus the rain became a drizzle. Finally, the cosy room of the guest house gave us the necessary comfort and after our lunch we had a good rest.

Around 5 p.m. the sky became clear and the Panchauli peaks became visible. We could see it from our room itself. Outside it was quite cold and windy. However, after having a cup of tea I alone went out to have a walk with nature letting Shivani and Krishna rest. The weather outside was still very wet and water drops falling from the trees and creepers by the little touch of the wind. I took a long walk looking at the Panchauli. I observed with every step as if the mountain range was coming closer and the view getting clearer. I could see the bus stand where three buses were parked. I was told there is a direct bus even up to Delhi and in fact we met the driver next day when we went to the market. There were a few visitors here unlike Mussouri or Nainital where crowd is the norm. This place is suitable for people who want to enjoy nature exclusively. I stood for quite sometime looking at the icy peaks and the view was clear till almost 7.30 in the evening. I retraced my steps towards the guest house as the lights were being switched on. From the road above, the guest house and the small town looked very pretty. I was wearing a full sweater to cover myself and the temperature could be around 6 degree Celsius. In the night the temperature went down to 1 or 2 degree Celsius. Munsyari is situated at a height of 2135 meter above sea level. This is the last motorable destination in this region. From here trekking to Milam, Ralam and Namik glaciers starts. When I came back to the guest house room Shivani and Krishna had their tea and snacks and were just watching some TV programme. Later we went for dinner. After finishing our dinner we went out to see the sky but it was cloudy and we could see only a few stars and planet Jupiter only. Out side it was pitch dark and cold thus we had to rush back to our room to play it safe. The two rajai the guest house provided us were very heavy and not very clean as well. Krishna would invariably raise this issue every evening before going to bed. She also told me to lodge a complaint with the authorities about this.

Next morning Krishna was feeling better but Shivani continued to feel weak. After breakfast I alone went out to take a walk by the forest area. I came across a big guest house by name Zara Residency away from the main road. I believe hardly any guest comes there as it was looking deserted. There is a waterfall near this guest house. I went near the fall. It looked very dangerous, deep, secluded and surrounded by forest. I felt nature could also be terrible besides being beautiful. I stood there for a while thinking of nature’s other side; ruthless, dangerous and treacherous.

The weather in Munsyari was cloudy most of the time and it rained now and then. Generally in the hills you like sun shine but I enjoyed the cloudy weather too. I looked at the patches of clouds that ran fast across the sky and the bigger formation moved slowly, gracefully giving an illusion of permanency. After rains the sky became clear and the sun with bright rays turned everything fresh. There was another water fall very near to our guest house. I could hear the sound of falling water. I thought of visiting this water fall in the evening.

After returning to the guest house I had a good hot water bath. In the meantime Krishna had already set the menu for the lunch. We all went for the lunch. The dinning hall was quite full, a number of visitors were there. Shivani found two little naughty boys to play with. After finishing our lunch we went out in the sun and sat on chairs. I was just imagining Delhi at that time how hot it would be and here we are enjoying the sun! What a contrast in nature! Today was the 2nd day at Munsyari and our programme was to stay there for 3 days. Krishna took a few photographs here and there with Shivani keeping the Panchauli at the background. I just looked at the mountains, the sky and forest and a few people walking down to market and coming back and taking the narrow winding path up to the hill and vanishing behind trees and creepers. Just then the bus from Pithoragarh arrived and drove on in a serpentine way to the market area. This is the bus that we took from Thal. I must admire the driving skill of these hilly drivers, their skill in negotiating a blind curve, and giving side to another bus or car on a road which is just enough for a bus. These narrow roads are made out by cutting the hills from the side exposing the vehicle on one side deep gorges and the other the rocky mountains. The situation gets worse if it rains and in the hills it does rain quite often than not - rocks big or small may just fall by the force of torrential rain and the road becomes slippery. A little negligence on the part of the driver could take the vehicle headlong into the waiting deep gorges. We hear news almost everyday of accidents of these kinds. Life is so fragile! That is why also it is so beautiful like water drop on a lotus leaf.

On the morning of third day, I took a long walk along the road. I dipped my feet in two waterfalls on the way flowing from above making gurgling sound and heading towards down below. I enjoyed the coolness of the running water and played with it for a while. On this road a few vehicles pass through the number of which you can just count on your fingertips. So intrusion from the modern world was minimal. You can enjoy the sound of silence and now and then chirruping of birds. After walking about 3 km I sat under the shade of a tree looking at the gigantic Panchauli peaks. It was so divinely white and the cool breeze that was coming from the mountains was elixir indeed. I wondered at the splendor and the mystery that nature is. The memory of the golden moments is kept in the recesses of my heart and whenever I close my eyes I can still see them vividly. Time flew by without leaving any trace behind. Only the sun rose higher and the fire in the belly sounded alarm. On the advice of a passer by, I found a short cut through the forest area to our guest house. On the way, I saw a number of huts built in the middle of forest area and people living there. I imagined they must be enjoying nature to their heart’s content. As we city people look towards the holidays when we can spend a few days in junge retreat, these hilly people may be eagerly looking forward to go to city and see it’s extravaganza life style. Perhaps we all look for what we do not have and this keeps life moving forward. If we are to sum up what life is, it is acquiring things of comfort, accumulating money as a symbol of power and security, building selfish relationships. But what is the premium that we are paying - we move around selfish people and inwardly we all dislike each other and will enjoy hearing others misery. Our life is what we made it to be.

It took only 15 minutes to reach our guest house. After finishing my breakfast I went to look for Shivani and Krishna and I found them sitting in the PWD guest house lawn. This guest house in a secluded corner has a beautiful view of the mountains.

In the evening when Krishna and Shivani felt all right, we took a walk to the market place. Munsyari has a small market on both sides of the narrow road gradually descending. When you reach the end of the market you know much you have come down from the guest house. While we were just walking and looking at the shops, a little puppy came on our way and showed all kinds of skills to impress upon us perhaps to get something to eat. Shivani did give the puppy one or two biscuits. But once it finished eating the biscuits, it continued to nag. I had to scare it away because we did not want to take any chance with the street dogs. We bought some necessary articles and fruits. On the way back we could not see the puppy. Here we found the shop owners were not much interested in selling their articles. They seemed to be lazily happy as life goes on slowly here. On our way back we met a couple who were from Germany. We spoke to them for some time and came to know that they were at Munsyari only to join a trekking expedition.

At the small bus stop there were three buses parked. The timings for departure were 4.30 a.m., 5.30 a.m. and 6.30 a.m. Ours was the 6.30 a.m. one. As the bus takes the route closer to our guest house, we thought to board it at that point itself. But on the second thought it was decided to board it at the bus stop itself. There were two arguments in it’s favaour: firstly, the bus stop is at the lower end of the winding path and carrying our luggage would be easier than carrying it uphill to the stop nearer to our guest house; secondly, possibility of getting seats at the bus stop is more probable than getting seats at the guest house gate. This decision proved to be a wise one. That episode would come next.

We also met two Bengali couples and they too were going next day to Choukori, our destination too. But they seem to be not interested in continuing our conversation thus our meeting ended shortly. For going to the guest house we took a detour (Krishna was unwilling to take the long route as it was getting cold). However taking this detour was a right decision. We could see the Panchauli till the last ray of light before it was dark. Today being the last night at Munsyari we decided to watch the sky after dinner. Coming back to the room, I wrote down the expenses incurred till that day and watched TV programme for a while before it was time for dinner. At 8.30 p.m. we were ready for dinner and hungry too. It was like winter in Delhi with full sweater, shawl and shoes. It was comfortable inside the room but outside it was much colder. After finishing our dinner, we went out to watch the night sky. It was wonderful. The milky way was distinctly visible but broken in places. From my childhood I knew that the Milky Way is a long river like stretch full of stars across the sky but Krishna said that she saw milky way to be like that only. It was simply superb. Here again I felt the absence of the Telescope. The adjacent forest area was looking very dark and only the crickets were loudly blaring their monotonous tune. We could not stay outside more than half an hour as the blowing of chill wind continued after sporadic rains. We had to withdraw to our cosy room saying good bye to the “twinkle twinkle little stars how I wonder what you are!”

On the early morning of Wednesday we were to catch the bus from the stand. Our rucksacks were packed already and only a few things of daily necessities were added. We had a cup of tea and cleared the bill and thanked the staff for their services. As the road to the bus stop was downhill it was good morning walk. The bus was there but it was almost full. Fortunately, we could manage three seats and kept our rucksacks properly.

Saying good bye to Munsyari, we headed towards Thal on the way to Choukori. The stop nearer to our guest from where earlier we thought to board the bus, there were a number women waiting to board the bus. They entered with giggling sound and talking profusely with a charming laughter. They looked so simple and innocent and in comparison we understood what really we have lost in life – the simplicity. The morning was bright and sunny and the driver kept on cracking jokes with these women and their repartee was enjoyed by the passengers. After a while their destination came and they all got down like torrents making the bus quite empty. Immediately after their alighting, a small purse was found and they were called to collect it. They all came together like a bunch of fragrant flowers and giggled again before collecting the purse. The bus moved on and very soon we all got absorbed seeing the nature around. I forgot to tell you that two lady passengers boarded the bus, one with a puppy and another one with a goat. At a stop the lady with the goat got down. But naughty goat jumped out of the bus and hid underneath. Someone shouted saying ‘Bakri Andar Gayi’. So the bus could not start till some one could drive it out. Such funny incidents are the positive side of a bus journey in an otherwise troublesome one.

We reached Thal around 12 O’clock and enquired for the way to Choukori. In the meantime, we bought a few fruits to work as breakfast. As advised by people there, we crossed the river and hired a jeep going to Choukori at a cost of Rs. 300/- The drive was through beautiful and quiet jungle path and after an hour we reached our guest house. Choukori situated at a height of 2010 m One can view the snow clad peaks of Chaukhamba, Trishul, Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot and Panchchuli in their pristine glory. The most wonderful thing we noticed was that from the point where the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) guest house is located there were no higher mountain in all the four sides thus the view of the Himalayan range was quite clear. After occupying our room, we refreshed ourselves and wanted to have badly a cup of tea. In front of the guest house there were few chairs kept for the guests to sit and enjoy the scenic beauty of the place. Tea was ordered and I sat on one of the chairs kept there. There was a family from Kolkata, Mr. Guha who was already seated there. I introduced myself to him and he came and sat beside me. The talk continued till all the members of both the families joined and without our knowing we became friends. After having lunch together, we retired to our respective room for a siesta. Around 4 p.m. there was heavy clouds over casting the sky and very soon it started raining. Rains in the hill is very heavy unlike we experience in Delhi. It was already cold before rain and after rain it became colder and it remained cloudy. The evening was windy and chilly, raining now and then, sitting outside for long time was not possible. However with the help of a German made Binacular which was brought by Mr.Guha’s daughter we could see icy ranges at close quarter. Taking advantage of a brief lull in the rain, I took a walk, while others preferred to be in the guest house, around and saw a few shops but there were no customers. Choukori having a wonderful climate and a beautiful location, I could not understand why many tourists do not come to this place. Of course we enjoyed immensely the secluded location and it’s beautiful weather and the company of Mr.Guha’s family. After dinner with Mr. Guha’s family I looked at the sky in case it was clear. But the sky was still clouded and only few twinkling stars could be seen. Mr. Guha and his family were slated to leave next morning and consequently they had to leave our company for packing their luggage for the morning trip. We too went to our room and I got busy writing account while Shivani picked up her story book and Krishna thought it to be wise to have rest.

I got up very early in the morning the next day to see the snowy mountains just before the sun rises. Here the sun rises from behind the mountain ranges, it does have the spectacular view like Kanchanjangha. After my tea I took a walk up to the tea garden with a guest and when I came back Mr. Guha, his wife and daughter were ready to leave. I felt sad to leave their company and they too felt the same way. But time does not stop for relationship to build up when the destiny is otherwise. After finishing our bath & breakfast, we sat in the sun enjoying the warmth of it while Shivani played around watching birds, plants and other interesting things of nature. After some time we decided to go to a nearby abandoned tea estate as it looked very inviting to pay a visit. On the way we found there were a number of goats grazing and Shivani wanted to catch the little ones. It was a good play for her. After reaching the estate we found a big tea manufacturing unit but in a dilapidated condition where the goats had their residence. The place was so desolate and away from human habitation that it looked like an ideal home for beings of other world. At the backyard of the building there was residential area. I presumed that was used as residence for the people who were administering the tea estate and the manufacturing unit. The views of the mountains from here were fabulous. We sat there for sometime watching the forest area and wondered why such a beautiful place remained abandoned for so long!

On the way back we took a different path which led us to our guest house from the rear side. After a long time we felt so close to nature walking along the winding muddy path and touching the bushes and smelling jungle flowers, it was back to nature in all it’s rustic dimension. When we reached our guest house we were hungry and straightway went to the dinning hall for lunch. Of course, we washed our hands properly before we took our food. After lunch we again sat outside watching the mountain range and sometimes the tea estate we just visited. In the meantime clouds were gathering once again and it again rained for an hour after we had gone to our room to have cat’s nap.

Around 8.30 p.m. we went to the Dinning hall for our dinner. I was anxious to see the night sky in Choukori as I read Choukori’s night sky offers millions of stars for visitors those who care to look at it. As soon as our dinner was over, I went out to see the condition of the sky. There were few patches of light clouds in the sky but very soon they vanished leaving the whole sky free. I informed Shivani and Krishna that it was a wonderful sight to see. We went out in the dark and lo ! what a wonderful sight it was. The sky was full of stars, a million? Perhaps, there was more than that. It was so fabulous that we stood still for a while seeing the awesome view. There were many clusters of stars like a banquet of flowers and the milky way was so clear that we could see the galaxies illuminating it’s surrounding areas. As Choukori is at a height of 2010 meter the Berinag is down below we could see the lighting of that area looking like a sky below with stars. The chill wind kept on hammering us and before long we had to come away to our room to take shelter from the cold wind. Before going to bed, I set the alarm at 5.00 a.m. next day early morning. Very soon we were in the lap of sleep while the chill wind continued to blow with a shrill whistling sound the whole night.

The alarm rang and it was time for me to get up. I let Shivani and Krishna continue to sleep. I thought of calling them after finishing my morning duties. Around 5.30 a.m. I called Krishna for getting up. She was already awake. I did a few exercises to trim the body. Shivani got up around 6 a.m. by 6.15 we had our morning tea and by 6.30 a.m., we were ready to leave. The sun was already up in the horizon spreading enjoyable warmth. After clearing our dues, we were at the gate at 6.35 a.m. and waited for the bus. It came after 10 minutes. Although the bus was crowded, we had boarded it with a hope that after Berinag we would be awarded with nice seats. Krishna was furious for not getting a good seat. She said, “Don’t pay now, let them first give us good seats then pay.” I said, “don’t lose your temper. If you travel in bus you have to put up with certain inconveniences. Do not worry. Everything will be settled.” As the travel continued the cool breeze sweeping across the bus brought down the temperature inside and a good seat brought down the temper of Krishna to a normal one. It was a long journey. We were dropped at the Almora bus stop, not the one which could have been nearer to our guest house but the one which is far off, about 5 km. from it. It was relatively hot during mid day and we were tired of traveling. We wanted to reach our guest house as soon as possible. We had to hire a car to take us to Holiday home (our guest house) at an exorbitant rate of Rs. 200/- for five 5 km!

Anyway, the guest house was good and we immediately felt at home with it’s long corridor and quiet ambience. A cup of tea came as a refreshing one. This guest house is on the Mall road and has a beautiful view of the city and distant mountains. Almora is situated at a height of 1646 m above sea level. There is a Rly. reservation counter at the guest house itself. This helps visitors to buy instant Rly ticket or cancell/postpone if the program is changed. We met one Mr. Ashthana who advised us to see the Nivedita Kutir next to our guest house. After tea we walked to the Nivedita Kutir, the place where under a Deodar Tree Swami Vivekananda blessed Sister Nivedita. The place has been maintained quite neatly but unfortunately it has been turned into a guest house. Remembering that Swamiji was here once (in fact Swami Vivekananda visited Almora three times) thrilled us. We looked here and there but could not see a soul around. Deciding to come once again, we walked back to our guest house. After a refreshing bath we had our lunch and sat for a while on the lawn. A well laid out garden has been maintained here and we enjoyed seeing the honeybees and other honey sucking birds coming over there and enjoying their trip to this place. It was 3 p.m. and we went to room for a rest.

Around 5 p.m. we had a cup of tea. We were also told by the guest house people to visit the Ramakrishna Mission which is near Bright end corner, a place famous for the Himalayan view. We took a walk and found out the Ramakrishna Mission just below the Bright end corner. The main temple is quite down the hill and it is a quiet and neat place. We sat for a while in the prayer room and enjoyed the spiritual atmosphere there. We also attended the prayer and devotional session. It was an experience into the higher realm of consciousness. Swamiji there offered us Prasad and we took it with respect and devotion. After putting our contribution into the donation box, we took leave of swami ji’s/ Brahmacharis and walked up to the main road. We also saw a library by name ‘Turiyananda Library’ and the timings were 11.00 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. We thought of coming next day to see this library.

We walked back and taking the same route we reached the market area. In the market Shivani and krishna wanted to buy Almora’s famous ‘Bal Methai’, fruits and other articles. There was another sweet prepared of khoya and covered with a green leaf tasted very good. After finishing our shopping, we were returning to our guest house around 8.30 p.m, there was a book store and Shivani wanted a story book to read. I chose the book ‘Malgudi days’ by K R Narayan and Shivani was happy to find this book. Here walking in a cool weather is a delight as vehicles were few and less crowd on the road.

After dinner we retired to our room and watched TV programme for a while before going to bed.

Next morning we had some washing to do. By breakfast time around 9 a.m. we finished washing and bathing and came down to the dinning hall. After having our breakfast, we took a walk up to the Brightend Corner and had tea. Shivani had a cup of coffee. It is a nice place for a break. We walked down to the library and waited for it’s opening but did not open. We took a few snaps here before coming back to the guest house.

Leaving Krishna and Shivani at the guest house, I took a walk to the Bazar to visit the house where Swami Vivekananda stayed for a month at the house of Lala Badri Sah. This place is next to Raghunath Temple. There is a plaque announcing Swamiji’s stay at that house during his itinerary days in the Himalayas in August, 1890. I knocked at the door and a lady’s voice asked, “who are you?”

I said, “I am a visitor from Delhi and would like to see Swamiji’s room.”

She said, “you may come in”.

The staircase was so narrow and dark that only one person could climb at a time with difficulty. The building was very old possibly more than 140 years. Fortunately, the lady took me to two rooms where Swamiji’s photographs were kept and some glasses were also preserved. There was one stick and a pair of wooden slipper supposed to have been used by Swamiji. I enjoyed immensely my 15 minutes stay there and felt as if Swamiji were there.

We also visited once again the Nivedita Kutir, next to KMVN guest house. We took a number of snaps here. There were two tall trees, under one tree Swamiji blessesd sister Nivedita. In this Kutir, Nivedita and other western disciples stayed during their visit to Almora.

In the evening we went to the market to enquire about the buses to Kathgodam. There were many but 3.30 p.m. a semi deluxe was slated for. So we planned to catch that bus on 23rd June, 2006 but it turned out to be very uncomfortable.

I had a cup of tea at a stall and Krishna bought some sweets. We took a long walk up to our guest house. Here walking in cool breeze along the road with few vehicles passing by is a nice experience. As the evening was approaching we could see the habitations below lighting up their homes. It was like a Diwali night when people decorate their houses with lamps and candles. The guest house where we stayed is a big structure with a garden in front.

After resting for a while we went for dinner. To day being the last night at Almora in this trip, we wanted to see the night sky. For some time there was electricity failure in the whole area and that gave us a good view of the night sky at Almora, not as fabulous as Choukori or Munsyari. However it was satisfying for a while. We planned to leave our guest house next day around 2 p.m. after having lunch at around 1 p.m. and visit the Nivediata Kutir once again before heading for the bus stand. The night was little warm and we needed the fan just for a while before the temperature became pleasant. After writing my expenses for the day, I too retired to bed.

As the dawn broke the darkness of the night accompanied by a bright sun shine, the last day at Almora began. After our breakfast we went out for a walk and saw an outlet selling Shawls just above our guest house. Krishna had a good time finding a few Shawls of her choice while Shivani and myself gave our suggestions as to colour etc. After sitting on the lawn for some time we went back to our room and had bath etc. before going in for lunch. We packed our rucksacks for the journey to Kathgodam.

After lunch we cleared the dues and also bought one small box full of ‘Uttaranchal Tea’ for our use. Keeping our luggage at the reception we once again visited the Nivedita Kutir and enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere there. There was no one to be seen in that house. Some more photographs were taken here too. As it was time for us to leave for the bus stand we had to go back to the guest house to collect our luggage and walked down to the bus stand.

At the bus stand it was quite warm and uncomfortable and moreover we had to wait for tickets. At the ticket counter we were told that people bound for Lucknow will be given tickets first and if anything remaining then only we will be issued ticket up to Kathgodam. Krishna wanted to hire a car but I only suggested to take a bus in stead not knowing how uncomfortable it would be! Finally we got our seats at the rear side of the bus and that was the beginning of our most uncomfortable journey during this trip. That afternoon was quite hot and as we were descending to a lower heights, the cool temperature of the hills was turning into warm weather.

When we reached Kathgodam, it was around 6.30 p.m. The weather here was so humid that we wanted to have a bath and refresh ourselves. We found the KMVN guest house and surprisingly one of the guests who stayed with us at the Almora guest house was there. On request he offered us his suit fitted with AC for use about one hour. It was a great relief for us. We all had nice showers and changed our clothes and sat with them for a while before we went for dinner at the dinning hall. The food was made within half an hour as we had to catch our train at 8.30 p.m. Somehow the temperature seemed very uncomfortable for us in spite of our having had a good bath. It was perhaps for coming down from such a height and that too in summer month made this difference in temperature. However, we got our birth and very soon the train started.

The night was not very comfortable in the train but we managed to have some sleep and reached Delhi station early in the morning. We got a cab and within half an hour we were at the residence and we were welcomed back by our House owner. This was for a nice change.

Thus ending another trip to Uttaranchal.