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July 2014

Days 4 & 5
Route taken: NH 87 E – Kausani – Someshwar – Pokhra – Ranikhet (near Army Golf Course)
Roads condition: Good, except for about a 2- 3 km stretch after Pokhra and 6-7 km on the Dwarahat road which is under repair
10.05 a.m.: On the 15th, after a hearty breakfast, we bid adieu to the staff of the Lodge and made our way towards Ranikhet via Someshwar. It was a cloudy day as had been the case all these days throughout the trip so far. But no rain, mercifully.
10.33 a.m.: We drove into Someshwar (about 12.4 km from Kausani) and manoeuvring our car through the busy market, we took a right turn from a crossroad manned by a policeman, who confirmed that we were on the right track. Following the route on NH 87, we continued for some time and then were awestruck at the sight that met our eyes.
Allow us to digress for a while and chew on some facts of life: life in a metro does have its bonuses and we often remind ourselves that we’re luckier than our counterparts in ‘lesser’ towns and cities where life can be difficult for want of basic amenities that we city slickers take for granted. But in all this daily grind that we call life, a part of our soul dies a little each day, leaving us thirsting for some respite every once in a while…only to rediscover it in places like the one we found ourselves in that day—Someshwar Valley. Green, green, green, and more green is all that we could see in any direction we looked! So much greenery that it hurt the eyes.

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It was sowing time and we could see groups of men and women planting new crops in their plots of land while school children wove their way to or from school between the fields. Clouds hung low over the mountains and valleys in the distance while we sped through this beautiful green valley towards Ranikhet, stopping ever so often to drink in the beauty and click pictures that would revive memories of these moments once we were back home.
The road was in good condition thus far till we reached a small place called Pokhra and about 1-2 kms after the busy market area, all of a sudden it got a bit bumpy. It was as if someone had purposely left out this stretch to punish the people in that area. But some time later, we realized that we’d probably taken a lesser road from some point, when we hit NH 87 E coming from Dwarahat which again was in excellent condition.

But this pleasure turned to irritation soon after as we hit a rough patch, which seemed never to end. We could see that work on that stretch was going on, but a new worry reared its head just then. The sound of the dislocated exhaust pipe resurfaced as the object that the mechanic at Kausani had placed for temporary relief proved to be just that—temporary.

12.23: Luckily for us, we weren’t too far away from Ranikhet then and soon we emerged at the junction where the roads meet near the Army Golf Course. The road to the right leads to the cantonment and Sadar Bazaar and the one to the left towards the golf course and Majkhali, where Vimoksha Valley resort is located. We called up the manager Manish who assured us that our cottage was ready and a short while later, we passed Woods Villa resort where we’d stayed the last time we were here and took the road going down on the left just off the main road a little short of Majkhali market.

Moments later the red and green rooftops of the cottages of the resort came into view. The cottages are spread out over the hillside overlooking a valley with a view of the Himalayas in the distance. The incline is rather steep but soon we were being shown into our ‘cottage’, which was designed along the lines of a Swiss log cabin with a suite downstairs and one upstairs complete with skylights to let in natural light.

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We decided to take it easy that day since we’d decided that this trip was going to be just for chilling out and vegetating. A simple hot vegetarian lunch was served and we went out for a leisurely walk to explore the area around. But if you lack exercise like we do, then that steep incline will prove quite a challenge. There’s a road on the right that leads to a small village further down the hill past some really pretty cottages, flats and private homes. We learnt later that most such houses and villas are investments made by people in Delhi.

Day 5 was a relaxed one as well, but the first thing we did was to get the exhaust pipe fixed. Someone guided us to a service station just beyond the toll near the golf course. They diagnosed and fixed the problem in almost no time, though we did feel they’d overcharged us…but then one can’t take chances in the hills, so we didn’t really mind. Moreover, our next leg of the trip depended on the problem being fixed or not. We’d have to go back earlier to Delhi if the problem couldn’t be fixed, but since it had been, we decided to go up to Mukteshwar before heading back home. A quick recce on the net, and we came up with a place to stay in—The Colonel’s Cottage. A call to the friendly lady owner, Anita, and bookings were confirmed. She said they were in Delhi but would be coming back in a day or two—in the meantime, their caretakers would make sure we would be comfortable.

On our way back from a drive through the cantonment and Sadar Bazar, we stopped at a quaint and charming little place called ‘The Café’ which sits on the road at Naini. On the lower level is the homestay ‘Valley View’ run by a retired army couple. We were the sole occupants at that hour and the moment we entered the little restaurant, it was like a step back in time when such places with a distinct English flavour were pretty common especially in hill stations. Done up in red and white, the personal touch was very evident in the objects d’art and curios that adorned the place. It was a lovely surprise to see dishes on the menu that one hadn’t expected in these parts. The open sandwiches were pretty yummy. They even keep homemade cakes, tarts and brownies (among other interesting stuff) for sale on the counter.

A gift shop, ‘Fine Things’ and another outlet offering locally-made stuff complete the package. Definitely a place we would like to stay in the next time we’re in these parts.

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Another lazy evening, an early dinner and we were already looking forward to the trip to Mukteshwar the next morning.