3rd March 2015
One of the many good things that has happened to me during this IN THE CAR ON THE CAR trip, is the habit of getting up early in the morning. When I got up in Gwaldam that day it was still dark and as usual I found a tea shop open. After two cups of tea with bun, I went walking in the narrow lanes of Gwaldam.
The dawn was breaking. The darkness of the night was giving way to white of the day I barely walked a hundred yards when I saw this stunning visual. Snow clad Himalayas range was visible in its full glory and the view of trishul peak was absolutely a treat. I was spell bound for a moment.
It was such a joy watching this magnificent mountain, standing alone and tall in the sky. It peaked through a bough of scattered clouds. The entire range with clouds and green valley in the foreground was a visual delight.
I kept on walking and the view got better and better. Following the best view trail I walked down into a village from where I guessed the view would be even better. Suddenly a pup started barking and I found myself walking in the compound of someone’s a home. A lady with a fair complexion and kumaoni features came out from the house and asked me if I needed something.
On knowing that I was just following the view of Himalayas, she advised me to climb the stairs of her home to the roof from where the view of the range was even better. She was absolutely right the view from the roof of the house was amazing. I clicked few pictures and walked back to Gwaldam bazaar.
When came back, I found tubeless tire of my car flat. I tried pumping air into the flat tire with the help of electronic pump but to me surprise it was not functioning properly. Luckily there was a puncture shop in Gwaldam and it was about to open for the day.
Unlike mechanics of the city he took his own time and fixed the tire puncture with leisure. The working style of the mechanic was in tune with the leisurely pace of the mountain life.
The road from Gwaldam to Baijnath was absolute beauty. It was a newly laid tarmac with tall pine forest on one side and hills on the other. There was a nice water crossing on the way. I utilized the opportunity to bathe and wash my Lalpari.
Archaeological Survey of India protected,12th century, Shiva temple, Baijnath is situated near the road, on the way to Kausani and on the banks of river Gomti. Immediately outside the temple complex there lies a lake full of fish, the golden Mahseer.The surroundings are beautiful as is the entire valley around Baijnath.
I parked the car near the entrance and walked down around hundred meters on well paved path leading to the temple. Unlike many other temples, I found the temple complex very neat, clean and peaceful.
Instead of going ahead towards Bageshwar/Chaukori, I took excursion to Kausani to see if there was anything of interest to me. Again, the road from Baijnath to Kausani was beautiful with scent of pine trees for the company throughout. There was a beautiful tea garden on the way as well. Kausani is famous for its scenic splendour and spectacular 300 km-wide panoramic view of peaks like Trishul, Nanda Devi and Panchachuli.
The famous range was totally covered with thick blanket of clouds that day and nothing was visible. I stopped at a nicely located restaurant for tea and within few minutes the sky became even darker. It started raining like cats and dogs followed by shower of hails. Within few minutes the entire road and my Lalpari was covered with those big white balls and the entire look changed into white.
The rain and hail shower stopped and I drove back to Baijnath. From Baijnath I turned right towards Bageshwar. The landscape changed from pine forest and mountains to lush green valleys and gurgling rivers. I noticed many people walking and on bikes, wearing white dress and caps. I learnt that this was special dress for celebrating kumaoni holi festival.
Bageshwar seemed a bustling town with a big bazaar and many sub lanes. I refilled my supplies and got the electronic pump repaired which was essential for this kind of trip. I went to see famous,15th century, Bagnath temple situated at the confluence of Gomati and Sarayu rivers. The temple is again an ASI protected site. I walked down to the river and saw many lively ghats, number of temples and a ghat for burning human bodies.
Evening was setting in and the road ahead was new for me. I was not sure where I was going to spend the night. Though Bageshwar seemed right place for night stay but it was too early to call it a day. So instead of spending the night at Bageshwar decided to drive further towards Chaukori.
It became dark pretty soon. Chaukori was still some distance away. The road was lonely but beautiful. The lights illuminating from the villages perched on the slopes of mountains around were presently a charming sight. I was little apprehensive though. The road near Chaukori became very narrow. I saw few closed shops on the road but continued driving, hoping Chaukori to be a big town with big bazaar, hotels and eating joints.
A little later I realised that Chaukori was left behind. I turned back and found one dhaba open in addition to KMVN TRH (Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam, Tourist Rest House). The only open dhaba was about to close as the owner was waiting for one guest who had ordered food.
I went inside the TRH compound and asked the manager if I could park my car in the parking compound and sleep inside the car. The manager allowed me on the condition that I will have to take meals from the restaurant of TRH. This was good for me. There were many cars already parked in the parking compound. I noticed few taxis too. Smiling, I thought, I have a company here too, second time on this trip.
TRH Chaukori looked very charming. It seemed to be very popular and was full even in off season. Later, in the dining hall I noticed many people with big cameras and few from West Bengal. Dinner was simple, tasty and well served.
Trying sleeping INSIDE THE CAR parked in the open compound of TRH, Chaukori, I remembered how my good friend Mr Geet Pal Makkar had once narrated his fascinating biking tale of this place around 10 years ago.That was the first time I heard about this place. Its interesting how these seemingly insignificant incidents take so deep root in our mind.
For the last few days I had been experimenting and enjoying sleeping inside the car. But that day in Chaukori I was feeling little embarrassed. I have travelled quite a lot and have stayed in many good hotels and resorts including many of KMVN and GMVN TRHs. That day when I saw others dinning and walking with friends and families, I felt a little low and questioned myself as to why I was sleeping in the car and not in the cozy room of the rest house.
May be I still have a long way to go when I really grow up!!!