By Nishi Pulugurtha
A road trip to the hills is always fun. With loved ones for company, it becomes greater fun. This July we began on a trip to a small hill station in the Garhwal hills, Lansdowne. Our journey began in the town of Roorkee in Uttarakhand. After a short break at a local dhaba for a delicious breakfast of alu parantha, pickle, and curd, we moved on. We took the bypass to circumvent Haridwar and its crowds and drove past sugarcane fields and the town of Kotdwar. Most tourists take a train from Delhi to Kotdwar and then drive up to Lansdowne. It takes about an hour to reach Landsdowne from Kotdwar.
Lansdowne is a cantonment in the Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand at an altitude of 1,706 mts above the sea level. Originally known as Kaludanda from the words ‘kalu’ (black) and ‘danda’ (hill), this town was later named after the Viceroy of India, Lord Lansdowne. Developed by the British for the training of recruits to the Garhwal Rifles regiment, today it is home to the command office of the Garhwal Rifles regiment of the Indian army. Unlike many other more popular hill stations of the region, Lansdowne is quiet, with not many tourists around.
As we enter the town, we are greeted with beautiful views of the hills, green and serene. The turns and twists of the road offer more and more beautiful vistas. A small stream gives us company for a while before disappearing behind a hill. Lansdowne is a small town; the centre of the town has a small market, a few shops, and restaurants. There are buildings and St. Mary’s Church, which date to colonial times in Lansdowne. We decide to stay at the GMVN guest house located at the highest point of Lansdowne, called Tip N Top. The resort is a beautiful one, with log huts that offer breathtaking views of the place.
After a quick, simple lunch, we set off to look around the place. Huge trees all around with mossy ferns entwining them, lovely small flowers on bushes here and there, small rocks jutting out, the roads winding up and down, small little bungalows tucked away in a corner of the road, the entire place has a lovely calmness and serenity about it. A small flight of steps cut into the hill leads us up to the highest point of Lansdowne, Tip N Top View Point. The entire viewpoint is paved and a railing has been constructed on the side of the hill. Benches have been laid out and a gazebo has been built here, too. However, all this does not hamper our delight in the view it offers. As we stand at the highest point and look around, we see verdant hills all around, huge moss laden trees, clouds move in and then clear away revealing the road below, where an occasional car passes by. A lone monkey comes out from behind the trees, moves onto the railing and runs off – it is almost as if time stands still here. As we sit down on the benches, soaking in the place, the gentle soothing breeze adds to our enjoyment of the place.
Among other places of interest in Lansdowne is the Military Musuem, called the Darwan Singh Sangralaya, which houses memorabilia associated with the Garhwal Rifles regiment. The huge Parade Ground lies close by. Bhulla Tal (lake) is another tourist destination. This is a man-made lake that offers boating facilities. The rain during our visit to the lake added surreality with the mist covering all. Built and managed by the army, the lake is surrounded by hills all around.
St. Mary’s Church is an old structure that is close by Tip N Top. Located by the side of the road, the Church is a stone building that has a charm of its own. As we walk around it, we see a small children’s park across the road behind the Church. A steady climb down takes us to the park, which is surrounded by huge pine trees reaching high up. With the sun rays gentling working its way through the trees and a delicate cold all around, the atmosphere is deliciously wonderful.
Lansdowne allows wonderful opportunities for walks amidst huge trees, almost all covered with moss, creating a strange look. Early in the morning, we notice a number of army trucks ferrying children to nearby schools. A long walk down the unpaved road, away from the main market, takes us past a small hamlet to a rock that is nestled upon a couple of other rocks. The locals refer to it as Bhim Pakora. As we walk down the road, enjoying the beautiful sights all along, a local woman on her way home guides us and volunteers information. It is said that the rock on the top can be moved with a finger – it will move but will fall. We could not check it out as it would require us to climb up a couple of rocks and none of us were willing to risk the climb.
We see local people cutting wood and carrying big bundles on their head, wearing a smile on their faces; small shops and a small bakery selling delicious biscuits, pastries, and buns. We stop at a small tea shop, where locals gather, for a hot cuppa, too. We take in the view of people selling vegetables and local produce; small houses with beautiful flowers hanging from the balcony; children walking from school; the wonderful views of the hills around; the verdant surroundings all around; the quietness; the clouds moving in and moving away to offer newer views of the place; the well maintained roads; the huge army buildings dotting the place; the small trails off the main roads; the rocks where one can just sit and savour the views; the complete silence at night; the moonlit night spreading a sense of mystery; the mist adding to the charm, and fireflies here and there.
Lansdowne is a wonderful place to relax and rejuvenate.
Dr. Nishi Pulugurtha is Associate Professor, Department of English, Brahmananda Keshab Chandra College, Kolkata. She is an academic with varied interests and writes on travel, too. Twitter: @nishipulu
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