Welcome 2013 – amidst nature’s bounty!

It is good to be at that stage in life when people’s expectations from you are waning and your  expectations of yourself are elastic. And, without  New Year resolutions, there is  neither the stress to reach some of those targets (which are always unachievable) nor the disappointments in the inevitable failures!! So I am learning to take life as it comes and consider each new year as a bonus – 2012 definitely was!! And to bid 2012 goodbye and welcome 2013 we had a short break in the Kumaon Himalayas.

Aadyaa has been repeatedly asking for a trip to snowy realms, driven by her exposure to the snowy landscapes of fairy tales. A dear friend has a cottage at Ramgarh, to which she has been inviting me for the last couple of years. So, we decided to use the cottage for a short getaway, all the while keeping the expectations of the children regarding the snow, on a low key. We only assured them of views of the snow capped peaks, which are always wonderful during the cloudless sunny days of winter.

Reaching these parts from Delhi has become easier with the daily (except Thursday) Shatabdi to Kathgodam. The only flip side for us living in Gurgaon, was the 6.15 AM departure from Anand Vihar in NOIDA. But the kids were up and ready by 4.30 and the cab got us to the station in an hour. After a 6 hr train ride and a lunch halt at Kathgodam’s Udipi outlet, we did the 45 Km to Ramgarh (6000ft elevation) in less than 2 hrs. This was a wonderful drive, through Bheemtaal (where we stopped to stock up on essential groceries and veggies) and Bhiwali and the last stretch between Bhiwali and Ramgarh is particularly lovely as the sorrounding  mountain sides on this stretch have a good tree cover and not a lot of construction. It gave us a glimpse of what we would be enjoying in the days ahead.

Aneeka  Orchards, our home for 4 days, has a beautiful, well equipped cottage,  including a full time cook plus care taker. The area is not very touristy, and since this is not the real tourist season, there was little traffic and few outsiders like ourselves. The weather stayed perfect, with sunny warm days and cold nights. One night was cold enough for the little water channels to freeze. We walked, sighted  birds, befriended locals, enjoyed the clean air and pristine sorroundings by day. We even sighted a group of wild fowl crossing the road on our dusk time return from Nainital. Mukta and I did the stiff climb from the cottage to Malla Ramgarh, the local market to restock our supplies. The samosa and chhole of Girishji, which had been recommended by a friend of Mukta, was tasted and enjoyed.

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Aneeka Cottage

The highlight for the kids was, however,  breaking the small patches of ice on the roads on early morning walks. After sunset, we snuggled under the comforters to do puzzles, play games, read and watch Aadyaa draw/color and Udai make a whole air force of paper planes. The amount of walking the children did was impressive, and there was no clamor for TV. Of course. the iPad did provide occasional diversion. The phone signals were decent and so we were not totally isolated from the world….. and so felt happy to be away from the cold and fog of NCR.

Nights were cold enough to ice over
Nights were cold enough to ice over

On New Year’s eve, we made a short trip to Mukteshwar to see the view of the Himalayan peaks – and  it was an unbelievably clear day. You get the most amazing panoramic view of the range stretching from the Garhwal ranges to the far East, including Neelkant, Chaukhamba, Nanda Kot, Nanda Devi, Nanda Devi East, Trishul and Pancha Chuli. One cannot really have the full of the sight, but we had to tear ourselves away. We visited the local temple and on the walk, sighted a small patch of frozen snow, left in a shaded grove from the snowfall of 14th December. The children insisted on walking down to it and Aadyaa was thrilled to have her wish to see snow fulfilled!! Of course, there was no chance of keeping awake till midnight in the cold, and so the new year stole in during our sound slumber.

The Greater Himalayan Range - view from Mukteshwar
The Greater Himalayan Range – view from Mukteshwar
Enjoying the (?) snow
Enjoying the (?) snow

 

On New Year’s day we made a trip to Nainital, and did the usual Mall crawl and boating. Although less crowded than on my only previous visit, which was in the peak of summer, it had a fair share of New Year holiday revellers. The boating could have also have been in Bheemtaal, but we made the Nainital trip, because friends of the children were also visiting their Naihaal (maternal grandparent’s house).

Naini Lake on New Year's day
Naini Lake on New Year’s day

The trip back was uneventful, and we were lucky that the fog situation had improved enough for the Sahatabdi to leave Kathgodam in time and get us back in time – to the smog and traffic of Delhi. All in all,  it was a great weekend (though we all missed Rahul) – the kids had a feel of the mountains and what nature has to offer and the adults  recharged their souls. For me nothing can do that like the Himalayas (the seashore being the only competitor)!

Having welcomed the New Year amidst nature’s bounty, I look forward to the surprises that the year may throw up.

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