For me, going to the hills for even two days is enough. I’m always up to leave the home affairs and hit the train station and hop off someplace where we can recharge ourselves. It doesn’t have to be a luxurious hotel or a faraway land or an 18-hour flight. A five-hour train ride is enough. A secluded place, with a lovely place to stay at, and that’s enough for me.
Slow travelling. Talk to us about it. I and my husband like to completely unwind, chat with strangers staying around us, and soak in the local life as much as we can. Some people even call us lazy. But that’s our idea of a holiday. As for me, I’m an extremely chatty person. Love to listen to people, sometimes cut talks and share my stories. And if I do end up making a friend, it’s a bonus.
So, the day came. I had rolled our sweatshirts and thermals into a small trolley bag, packed a backpack with his kindle, my medicine kit and a small toiletry set. Not forgetting the berry mix, mufflers, and hand gloves.
Our train was at 6AM, and it was supposed to reach Kathgodam at 11AM. We had to literally run to catch it as we were running late. Once inside the train, we just sat back and enjoyed the Shatabdi food that was served us. There was a lot of fog, as the forecast went on the prior day. As for the view, I absolutely loved the trees in the fields, all lined up perfectly.
We were received by a car driver, who took us to Somerset Lodge, the place we had booked for our trip. It was a two-hour drive to this beautiful place, and though it was a bit cloudy, I liked the feel of the quiet place. Mukteshwar isn’t a commercial destination like Nainital or Bhimtal. People usually come here to see the Himalaya peaks, and get back to their hotels. Staying at the lodge and enjoying the nature was our only plan at the time.
I could clearly see the passion of Rajender Singh Mehra, who takes care of Somerset Lodge, for nature. There were beautiful creeper plants all about the place, and such beautiful succulents and flowers. And the people here credited him for this. It was January, and I wondered what the place would look like in spring.
So, there we were, relaxing in the garden area after having a scrumptious, homely meal. Took a nap in our room, which seemed like a family suite (there were three rooms attached in here with a bathroom). We paid for a basic room, by the way. In the evening, we went for a walk, and I loved the silence of the place. During dinnertime, the husband had a word with Vijay, who works for the lodge as well. He asked us to go to Bhalu Gaad Waterfalls during the first half of our next day.
Next morning, we had a delicious breakfast (people here can feed you like a mother; seriously!) and headed to the waterfalls with Goodwin, the driver. Giving us company was a very talented and interesting guy, Shashank Joshi. Shashank is a professional photographer and has been staying at Somerset for the last couple of months to capture nature and the mighty Himalayas. So, all four of us went to see the waterfall. There would be a bit of trekking required, informed Goodwin.
It was a 20-minute drive, and we reached the place. And just when we started walking inside the woods, I could feel a gush of wind welcoming us. I just turned my head up, and the sound of the wind took me by a surprise. Within a few minutes, I could hear birds chirping around us, and green fern leaves adorning our pathway. It was such a break from the city life.
Don’t go by the pictures of the waterfall that are available on the Internet. It’s all about the nature walk that you take to reach the waterfall. And I promise, it’s worth your time, and will leave you inspired. Take your parent or kid along; I saw old parents and little kids during the trek; cautiously walking on the pebbled path and crossing the beautiful little streams (we crossed two). I touched the clean water of one of the streams, and the cold water made me smile. My trip was already made, I happily told the husband.
The sight of Bhalu Gaad Waterfalls was beautiful. My husband regretted not getting a towel. “I would have loved taking a dip in the cold water,” he confessed. All four of us, took a place to sit around this waterfall, like many people around us. I just tried to soak in the feel of nature. Gosh, I cannot forget the experience, and I can still smell the fresh air of the forest even while writing this.
Later, we headed for Mukteshwar (our lodge was on its outskirts) for the Him Darshan. Again, the walk in the snow-laden road was amazing; it snowed before we came here. Now, I could feel the chilly air. The view of the snow peaks of the splendid Himalayas was beautiful. The peaks, however, were covered with tiny clouds, and we couldn’t get the full-fledge, clear view. Nevertheless, had it been snowing, even this sight wouldn’t be possible, I thought to myself.
While walking back, we went to the Mukti Dham temple. It was surreal to just visit this temple. Soon, we headed to the lodge for our lunch. It was 4PM, and we were starving! Our meal was simple yet delicious. Later in the evening, we went to the nearby shops and bought a few local goodies like apricot jam and plum chutney.
It gets really cold in Mukteshwar once the sun sets down. By 8PM the temperature had dipped into the negative and we were wondering what to do next. Luckily, we met a very interesting couple at the lodge, who have been coming regularly to the hills and now plan to settle permanently near Mukteshwar. We discussed a whole range of topics (food, marriage, Indian traditions, Shoojit Sircar) and didn’t even realize that it was already midnight!
So, next morning, we went back to the step farming area near the garden area. After a long breakfast (we sat on the stone stairs and lucky for us, our breakfast followed there), we had a chat with a few people around the place. Soaked in the sun, collected a few pebbles and dried leaves. Enjoyed the view of the green hills and the snow peaked mountains from the garden area. And I wished how all Sundays were like this.
All in all, it was a lovely weekend in Mukteshwar, and it was time for us to check out. And, as it goes without saying, we will knock the doors of Somerset Lodge in the future. But, it will definitely be spring.