It was that time of the year or shall I say end of the year when I make a family trip to Uttarakhand and this time it was Mukteshwar and Sattal along with Naukuchiatal and Bhimtal in Kumaon that was decided. The days were usual 19 December to 22 December 2013, just before the mad crowd of winter holidays captures these places and turn them into a view of fest or a shopping mall… What started being a large set of group, finally ended up with just two families of mine and Neeraj along with my brother in law who accompanied us to this escape to quiet Mukteshwar – Sattal 🙂 :)…
Day 1 | Delhi – Rampur – Haldwani – Bhowali – Mukteshwar
It was 5 AM in the morning that we left from my house near Dwarka, Delhi and we had plans to meet Neeraj at CISF Camp, Noida as he lives there. The drive was quick and easy and to our surprise there was no fog yet. We were at CISF camp in no time but as soon as we reached near it, a dense fog came up and killed the speed abruptly. Now, I missed the CISF Camp and crossed over the bridge where Neeraj asked me to wait. Soon he came in his black beast, the Scorpio and I met him for the first time there. We had intros of each other and families and off we were on NH24… The visibility was about 100 Odd Mtrs and speed had to be slow. After driving for an hour or so, we parked aside for a quick breakfast at Skylark Tourist Dhabha at Garhmukteshwar and then we drove non-stop.
Just as we crossed the toll of Moradabad, the fog started disappearing and speed was back to Normal. We bought some Guavas for the regular munching in car and so far so good. Aashish, a dear friend, had taken a route from Rampur to Suar to Baazpur to Kaladungi avoiding regular Tanda – Baazpur which is usually full of craters or deep potholes. To our luck, we did find the Rampur – Suar road but unfortunately I asked for directions of Nainital in the middle of it and someone diverted us back to Rampur – Rudrapur – Haldwani road diverting from it through a shortcut in a village 😥 😥 … I only realized it after hitting the highway back from which we diverted to avoid because Rampur – Haldwani was equally bad in road conditions. It was horrible to drive on those roads and progress was quite slow and frustrating…
The roads improved a bit as we entered Uttarakhand to some extent but then the usual traffic of Haldwani and pass through market in noon was equally frustrating up to Kathgodam Meanwhile, the junior started feeling nausea and threw out couple of times. After crossing Kathgodam, hills started and Mukteshwar was still about 75 odd KMs through the route of Jeolikote Well, here too we missed the route via Bhimtal from Kathgodam that is about 15 odd KMs shorter than Jeolikote. Hence, if you driving to Mukteshwar or Ramgarh or Almora, take the short route to Bhowali from Kathgodam via Bhimtal in case you do not want to go to Nainital. Those who want to go to Nainital, will have to go via Jeolikote only.
We were making decent progress but time to reach Mukteshwar appeared to be around 4 PM, almost 11 Hr into the drive with junior still not feeling well and his motion sickness increased with mountains drive :(… Finally, we crossed Bhowali and took the road to Ramgarh – Mukteshwar going up from there. The road coming from Kathgodam – Bhimtal route also merges here at Bhowali and the road to Almora also leads from Bhowali only. But, you need to take Ramgarh – Mukteshwar road and Mukteshwar is about 40 KMs from Bhowali with Ramgarh being about 24 odd KMs. The road was nice offering good views but as we reached near Ramgarh the junior threw out one more time and again just before Mukteshwar. It is always quite hard to see him like this but did not have a choice than to drive slow and somehow make it to Mukteshwar. We decided that from next time no matter what his doc says, we will give him motion sickness medicine as it becomes quite a torture for a young kid like him.
Anyways, Hemu at Oak Chalet Resort, the hotel we booked at Mukteshwar, was eagerly waiting for us to arrive and take late lunch he had prepared. Hemu was really nice and hospitable including all the other members and at Rs 1500-1700 per person per day including all meals and snacks was a nice deal considering the peace surrounding the Oak Chalet Resort. We parked our car in the parking of Somerset Lodge which is owned by Manoj only but lies on the road of Mukteshwar. From there, you start a walk to Oak Chalet where there is no road. It is good 15 – 20 minutes walk or hike and that is the USP of the place as it is far away from any noise whatsoever, secluded in a quite little place… So, for elderly people, it may not suit unless they are ready to hike this much and with luggage and kids as well it becomes a bit tough though Hemu and other guys really help in taking care of things and moving the luggage around.
The rooms were nice, comfortable, spacious and quite cosy with big glass windows offering a beautiful landscape of the valley. Washrooms had hot running water and all modern fittings. The ambience of the room also felt good. You can see the beautiful sunrise, right out of the window and admire the colors falling in the valley from the top. There is a decent collection of books to read and a dedicated place for the bonfire. The dining room as well is nicely done and you feel nice to walk around or just bask in the sun in the small garden in front. Hemu and his gang cooked really nice and delicious food too which we really enjoyed all the times we had meals over there. So, all in all Oak Chalet is a very nice place to stay up there at Mukteshwar 🙂 🙂 … You can also read a detailed review by Aashish in DoW Community at the link: The Oak Chalet Resort, Mukteshwar
After the late lunch, we all just went to the rooms and relaxed a bit as Hemu setup the bonfire for us. Meanwhile me and Gaurav, went up to the car where Gaurav twisted his ankle and had a swollen foot in no time 😥 :cry:… He was in pain but we asked him to relax with one pain killer 🙁 … It was quite cold in the night in the month of December and we retired for the day after spending some time at the Bonfire and having dinner together. Rooms were cosy enough to not let us feel the cold outside, which meant a good night sleep. Gaurav also managed to sleep well and his feet felt good in the morning.
Day 2 | A Quite Morning in Mukteshwar
I woke up for sunrise, saw some clouds and sun hiding behind them, so slept immediately but later realized that I missed to take some vivid shots of sunrise which Neeraj captured 🙂 … This day, we had no plans than to just relax like anything till afternoon. Junior was enjoying now to the fullest and was running all around, playing with the cute little daughter of Neeraj and very well enjoying company of everyone. He tried his skills with badminton with everyone and there were lemon trees around. So, got some lemon and played with them too. It was so nice to be cut off from the world and enjoying the time with family, some special memories were being made there which will be cherished for a long long time. In afternoon, we decided to move to Sattal but before that we had to do DoW Causes at an Aanganwadi at Mukteshwar for which we had bought a lot of books and other stationary stuff.
However, when we reached, all the schools got closed by that time and there was no option to execute the causes. Unlike Ladakh, children here come from every nearby villages and as soon as the school close by 1 PM, they all leave for the day. In Ladakh or other remote villages, there is hardly children coming from different villages so it is easier there to organize children even on a holiday as they are from same village. It was hard luck for us but feelings were still the same. We decided to visit Chaulli ki Jaali and an old temple of Mukteshwar. After settling the bill, Hemu also accompanied us to these spots, special thanks to him.
A short note about Mukteshwar
Mukteshwar is situated at an altitude of 2286 Mtrs in the Nainital district, Kumaon of Uttarakhand. It is about 50 odd KMs from Nainital, 70 KMs odd from Haldwani and 340 KMs odd Delhi. Here, you can visit the 350 year old temple of Shiva, known as Mukteshwar Dham and just besides it there is a small walk to overhanging cliffs which are named Chaulli ki Jaali from where there is a heart pumping view of valley below… There are guides available but actually there is no need unless you are interested to know the details of the temple. According to the Wikipedia, Mukteshwar is the abode of a saint — Shri Mukteshwar Maharaj ji — who lived at the Top Cottage Temple where his samadhi is. One of his disciples, Swami Sanshudhanand ji, now stays there. The whole temple complex is a Tapovan and an ideal place for meditation.
Apart from that, all the lakes including Nainital, Naukuchiatal, Bhimtal, Sattal are in the vicinity and can be done as a day trip being Lake circuit from Mukteshwar or Ramgarh. Then, there is a Golu Devta Temple (Ghorakhal temple), which is famous for huge number of bells all over the temples and is also a good visit for the day.
We did our darshan at the temple of Mukteshwar and went to Chaulli ki Jaali to witness the hair raising fall from the top 😉 😉 … To be very frank only at the edge, with strong wind blowing my heart pumped a bit but then went calm. It was a feeling of like on top of everything, a great spot to watch some predators like Eagles dashing down the valley to catch their preys… Anyways, we had a quick Maggie which my son really enjoyed, got some coffee at the shack nearby. The coffee cost just Rs 10 but had a supreme homely frothy taste which comes from a coffee well beaten up. We thanked the guy serving it atop and went back to the car.
In front of the temple, we called up couple of guides who had little kids at their home and offered books and stationary we were carrying. They really thanked us from the bottom of their hearts which is a kind of gesture you live for… A similar feeling was shared when we gifted couple of blankets to Hemu as we dropped him back to hotel and drove to Sattal for staying in the evening for the day. These small yet extremely effective DoW Causes has helped me a lot in being connected with the people of Himalayas and spreading smiles up there in these Himalayan villages !!
The Journey ahead…
Have you ever been to Mukteshwar? How was your experience of it? Or are you planning some escape to a quite place in near future? Feel free to share your inputs in the comments below.