Kumaonis say, “A single view of all nine corners of Naukuchiataal bestows Nirvana”. So when a long weekend was round the corner, we thought of trying our luck.
Naukuchiatal is one of the many lakes scattered near Nainital. Tourists mostly give these a fleeting visit as a day trip from Nainital. But these are better than crowded Nainital and many of these have KMVN properties around besides up scale hotels and resorts.
We had booked KMVN property situated right at the lake. The KMVN/TDC hotels always have one of the best locations. Most of the times, however, the rooms are in dire need of maintenance with leaking taps, peeling plaster, unclean bed-sheets, non-motivated staff. In general the rooms give a damp and decrepit look. It was same here, the bonus was spider-webs in the room.
The cost of the rooms was reasonable. Facing the front door of the ground floor room was a small-beautiful garden and adjoining it was Naukuchiatal as if it was part of the hotel property. Even with the shortcomings mentioned above the location of KMVN guest house and the tariff makes it a value for money. We relaxed for a while in the small garden. A few kids were swimming in the lake, jumping from a small platform, throwing & chasing a tire tube. This fascinated Rachit.
In evening, we strolled around the periphery of the lake. This leafy 3.5 km nature walk along the alluring azure-blue color, clean and tranquil lake meandered through the fragrance of spring blossoms and bird-songs. It was quite peaceful and we rarely crossed any tourist at that time.
Naukuchiatal is a holy lake. It is believed that Pandavas stayed around this lake during their agyatwas and bathed into it. Sometimes I wonder, so many places associated with Pandavas and their agyatwas and many a times these places are far from each other. How could this association be real!
In this puzzled state of mind, I got an answer looking at Rachit, who was busy throwing pebbles in the lake. The water bodies where he had thrown pebbles are numerous and far too scattered 🙂 One-day if people would discuss about water bodies where he had thrown pebbles, some of them would wonder “how” and in his case also “why” he threw pebbles in so many and so far away water bodies. I think one need grit, determination and religious fervor to follow his passion to achieve such feasts 🙂
“कौन कहता है की आसमान में छेद हो नही सकता,
एक पत्थर तो तबीयत से उछालो यारों.”
A crude translation, a stone thrown with conviction can create a hole even in sky. In Rachit’s case, his attempt, I guess, was to create a hole in the water.
On left side of the Lake, from KMVN guesthouse, a building hidden in green vegetation was visible. The building belonged to a high ranked retired officer – indeed a green and serene retirement.
The guest house is surrounded by thick greens. We strolled along the greens and came across a dhaba . We inquired about the possibility of hiring a local person to trek with us. A man who looked after water pump agreed to join us the next day.
When we were returning, a tourist bus came and all on board were allotted full thirty minutes to enjoy the lake and its surroundings. A young couple tried hard to get those perfect honeymoon shots with lake and the boats around. Once they got those special shots they decided to boat. It was too much for the tour operator. The couple wanted to have the perfect memories in the photo album as well as in their minds too – “बहुत नाइंसाफी है”. They were immediately told that the allotted time is about to be over and its time to return back. The expressions on their face and the whole situation looked funny. Though it had happened with most of us at some point of time. The problem with these sight-seeing trips is that the time allotted is so less that one gets down, have a look, click a few pictures and its time to return, there is no time to cherish the place.
Next day, after breakfast we were ready to trek. Our guide Prakash was a soft-spoken mild man in his late 40s. We immediately struck a chord. Wherever we go, we try to taste local vegetarian dishes. In Naukuchiatal all the menu cards were splashed with food with potato, onion and paneer. There were no local food items on menu. All food items were touristy Delhi food. Jaishree inquired from Prakash about indigenous local food.
After thinking for a while, Prakash told her about sabzi of Bichhu Ghaas. Bichhu is a plant which if touches skin causes continuous itching. He told that for the sabzi, tender and small leaves of Sisuna (Bichhu Ghaas) are picked. They are boiled in water and cooked till the leaves are free from their acidic content and become pulpy. The excess water is drained. Then the oil is heated in a thick-bottomed pan. First cumin is added and then the boiled Bichhu leaves are fried. Salt is added and it’s ready to be served hot. I sniffed, it smelt nice, alas the outcome was not a smile on my face, but a deep sigh. It is not possible to find it in restaurants; such dishes require elaborate preparations.
We started trekking towards the right side of the hotel. It was an easy trek with its sky-line dominated by pine-trees and the ground carpeted with blue nail-sized flowers among which sprung suddenly a few clown shaped flowers bursting in laughter.
After a while, we moved towards the mountain with thick vegetation. We crossed step farms, and houses almost at the top of the mountain. What a beautiful place to live! What about the daily up-down even for small requirements? People from hills are used to of such hardships and they don’t really mind it – a small price for a beautiful living and an effective way to keep oneself fit :). Potable water and electricity are supplied even at these heights. The area around these houses was neat and clean, decorated with flowering plants.
Naukuchiatal is a paradise for bird watchers. At that time, we were not serious bird watchers. However, even then birds attracted both Jaishree and me. Around those houses we were able to shot this “Verditer Flycatcher” and it was a moment of triumph.
We continued trekking towards the dense jungle. It turned out to be a Bhool-Bhulaiyaa. The vegetation in that part was so dense that even Prakash, who had not trekked on these mountains for quite sometime, was not able to find pagdandi (Walkway) used by wood pickers and shepherds to go to the top. Steep slopes, thick vegetation and thorny plants were continuously obstructing us. Prakash was encouraging us that once we would reach the top, it would be flat there and we could enjoy the beautiful views of the lake and the valley from there. I started to slip. It was happening often even while we were ascending. We decided not to proceed further as descending would be even more difficult. In the beginning when I fell it hurt, after 3-4 times it stopped hurting. I wonder, does people with slippery feet develop Fauladi Bums? 🙂
We moved away from dense part towards step farms on the other side, pushing the dancing and swaying wheat pods, mesmerized by its beauty. Jaishree stopped in between, plucked the wheat pods and explained to Rachit how wheat pods grow and how he gets his favourite chapattis.
On the way, we met a middle-aged woman who was rushing down to bring something from a ration shop in the valley. After seeing us she stopped and started to talk and enquire about us. While talking, she completely forgot that she had to rush otherwise the ration shop would close. Suddenly she heard a call from her mother-in-law and it was funny to see her remembering it, rushing down almost running. How important are mother-in-laws to make things work 🙂
Towards the end, we noticed an under construction school building. We were surprised to see such a grand school. Prakash explained, because of the new rules, construction of hotels around the lake is not allowed. The builder mafia has found the work around. They have started to construct grand schools, which could be later on converted to big hotels. Unfortunately, one just needs a will and he can find numerous ways to break the rules.
We traveled complete 360 degree around the Lake. The trekking increased our memories of beautiful Naukuchiatal manifolds. There are very less man-made things that can be as delightful as the nature. Beautiful monuments, work of art, sculptors, we can enjoy any or all of these for some time but not forever. On the contrary, nature is like a baby, having a beauty of dew drop and is always a delight to watch.
With a Pisces kid and the beautiful Naukuchiatal in such easy access, it was time to do boating. We hired a pedal-boat and Rachit took control of steering the boat, taking us closer to the submerged trees, touching its stems. He had to take care of not letting the boat get too close to the shore, as the lake could be shallow there and we had to avoid the chances of getting stuck. When we were far from shore, we were kept engaged by a diving water-bird; it was fun guessing from where it would emerge from after the dive. It was evening time, the birds were returning in flocks; setting sun’s redness was leaving mark on water and also on our faces. The biggest impact was on our mind where these memories would remain etched for long.
Though we could not find that point to view all the nine corners and missed Nirvana, still we didn’t carry any grudge. The weekend was well spent and it was time to return.
In the train we met a couple. For last seventeen years, every summer they were travelling to Nainital for vacations. They asked us is Naukuchiatal a beautiful place? I guess this article will provide an answer to all interested.