We counted the number of bags. Ten. I let out an involuntary groan. My brother pointed to a picture of Aamir Khan posing for Ghajini and remarked that if we carried so many bags, we would have a physique like him by the end of our trip!
Durga Puja had just started and we were all in a festive mood. It was the first time we were going on a trip during the Pujas. After a long discussion, we had settled on Nainital. My mausa, mausi and cousin had come over from Jamshedpur. We were all really excited and raring to go.
We were to leave at 5:30 the next morning. In our excitement, we didn’t sleep the whole night, which meant most of our journey the next day was spent napping. Two Toyota Innova’s were hired for this purpose. The distance of 277 kms from New Delhi to Nainital was covered in approximately 8 hours, owing mainly to the lengthy stoppages for breakfast and lunch. By the time we reached Nainital, we felt tired, despite all the
The first thing that caught our sight when we entered Nainital was the lake. A cool gush of wind blew on our faces as we took in the spectacular sight. The sun was just setting and its last rays fell on the hills surrounding us. All our tiredness was washed away in an instant. We made our way to Hotel Chevron Fairhavens, our abode for the next two days. It is located on a hill at Mallital, the southern end of the lake. The hotel is built in an antique style, with wooden paneling. The rooms are big and clean, and a good bargain for a moderate fee of Rs.2600 per day.
Since it was already evening and too late to go anywhere, we spent our time walking along the street surrounding the lake, aptly named Thandi Sadak. We welcomed the warmth of the hotel after returning. After feasting on a dinner of butter chicken, shahi paneer and butter naan, we turned in for the night.
It was maha-ashtami the next day, and we all woke up early to offer our prayers at the Naina Devi Mandir. It was understandably crowded there, with people queuing up to seek blessings. The sun was completely overhead by the time we were ready to go sightseeing. We had planned to go on the famous ropeway, which started from Mallital and went up all the way to Snow View peak. We were promised full view of snow-capped mountains and it made us all the more eager to go.
On our way to the ropeway, we were pleasantly surprised to find a skating rink. People of all ages were trying their best to don the skating shoes while loud music played in the background. My brother, cousin and I decided to join in the fun. The next half an hour was spent trying to stay on our feet, which proved futile. It was truly a “down to earth” experience.
Finally, we reached the ropeway. The cable car had enough space to contain all nine of us. On our way up, we looked on as the city of Nainital grew smaller and smaller below us. We tried, in vain, to locate our hotel among the cluster of buildings dotting the city. The cable car came to a halt after an exhilarating ten-minute ride.
We stepped out to find ourselves in a small amusement park. There were various rides intended for small children and hundreds of them queued up for a ride. What caught our attention was the shooting game. Numerous plastic bottles hung from trees at variable distances and we had to try and hit them by firing a gun. While we tried our best to keep a steady hand, it had started to get cloudy and misty. Fearing that we may not be able to see the peaks, we rushed over to the snow-view point.
Lo and Behold! For right in front of our eyes was a sight so breathtaking that I could have stood there looking at it forever. We all stood there for fifteen minutes in silence, fully taking in the view and registering it in our memory. The entire Nanda Devi range was visible. We could also make out the Trishul Peaks. When we finally tore our eyes away from the peaks, a different feeling registered in our minds – hunger.
We stopped to eat at a fast food counter and found out that the prices were atrociously high. A one-litre bottle of mineral water was priced at Rs.30! Since we had no other option, we had to shed some weight off our wallets. We decided to trek our way down to the city. It turned out to be a difficult task and, a few cuts and bruises later, we landed on the Mall Road, feeling hungry all over again.
The evening was much more relaxing. We went for a boat ride on the lake. After we had stopped splashing water on each other, we were possessed by the peace and serenity of the lake. The sound of silence was overwhelming, interspersed with the rhythmic lapping of oars against the water. We disembarked after an hour, feeling quite refreshed. We decided to explore the famous Mall Road. The road is crowded with numerous tiny shops, mostly selling decorative candles. We shopped for a while and, after a long day, returned to our hotel, feeling satisfied with the day’s escapades.
We woke up the next morning to the last day of our trip. We left Nainital around 10 in the morning, wishing that our visit hadn’t been so brief. Seated comfortably in our faithful Innova’s, we started our downward journey. We had planned to pay a visit to Naukuchiatal, a lake named so due to its nine corners. It was a 30 kms drive down from Nainital and fell in our path to New Delhi.
On our way to Naukuchiatal, we stopped at Cave Gardens. Our elasticity was tested to the limit as we crawled through the dark caves with narrow, winding paths. The most challenging was the Porcupine Cave, where we literally had to crawl like a porcupine inside. Our next stop was a waterfall in the middle of nowhere. Off came our shoes, and soon we were standing on the waterfall, feeling the rush of water tickle our feet.
Naukuchiatal was almost as big as Nainital. We had our lunch at a lake-side resort. Post lunch, we spent some time sitting on the banks of the lake, chatting. We realized that this was the first time in our trip that we had a chance to talk this much. Indeed, time had passed too quickly. Our initial ten bags had now become twelve due to all the shopping at Mall Road.
By 4pm, we had bid farewell to the hills and reached the plains. The familiar hustle and bustle greeted us and broke our reverie. We started playing dumb-charades and Antakshari to keep our spirits up. After running out of movies and songs, we fell silent, each of us reminiscing about the short, but really enjoyable trip. By the time we reached New Delhi, we had already started planning our next trip to Nainital.
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