As the rickety old tempo climbed the potholed road flanked with blue pine trees, all swaying towards one side – almost seeming like they were bowing their heads. The happy talkative driver went on to explain why the river on the other side was called Khoh. I could see the river form big and small waterfalls along the way. The skies were clear, the sun bright. Looking up at it from dirty patchy window made my eyes squint. The rays tingled on my skin because of the sudden dip in temperature. Approaching an altitude of 1800 meters above sea level is bound to do that to anyone. I had taken the Kotdwar Express from Delhi and from there on made my way to Lansdowne in a typical Indian tempo. Lansdowne is a small and quaint cantonment of the Garhwal Rifles based in the state of Uttaranchal. There’s not much commercial activity out there. All one has is a tiny laidback Army market branching off into tinier lanes and lots of nature to bond with.
I was staying at a small resort called Fairydale. I wonder if I can even call it a resort, a hotel would be more appropriate perhaps. Located in the heart of the town, it is a very convenient option to stay at even if you do not have a car. Made by the British in 1912, it can accommodate not more than 25 people at once. It is a typical hill hotel with small cottages, tall oak trees surrounding it complementing to a lovely view of the mountains. And yes, it has a hotel dog! Fat Pluto was the cutest thing around. Fairydale had minimal services but the staff was humble and very hospitable. My cottage had an ill shaped but largish balcony where sunrise and sunset was a breathtaking experience.
Waking up to the sound of cadets marching right at the crack of dawn made me feel a part of some war scene. It was an unusual feeling though. I wanted to sympathise with those who join the military and spend years waking every morning and preparing for something that will either happen tomorrow or never in their lifetime. My thoughts were broken when a long tailed shrike whooped past me. Two, three, four, I saw at least ten of them there together, flying from tree to tree. I felt closer to nature than ever before.
Out of the two days I spent there, I visited a lake made by the Jawaans of the Garhwal Rifles, called Bhulla Taal which is nothing more than a regular tourist site. I reached there when the cotton-like clouds were playing hide and seek on the surface of the water. It was truly a spectacle! Walking through the winding lanes my next stop was another popular site called Tip-n-Top, from where you can see the crest of the mighty Himalayas. I sat there, had lots of chai and admired the mesmerizing snow clad peaks glistening in the bleak sun. I have never known why, but the chai consumption automatically rises in hill stations. Lastly, there was also a rustic pretty church that goes by the name of St. Mary’s that I visited. Solace, solitude and untouched beauty are all that you will find there.
A warning for those looking at Lansdowne as a place bubbling with activity – NO, is the answer. It is a place where silence is to be heard, a place where you have to enjoy every bit of doing nothing. We living in the metros are so used to multi-tasking all the time that it kind of gets hard to actually do nothing and enjoy it. Listen to the wind to gushing through the Deodars, observe a butterfly, go for aimless walks, get refreshed by the scenic splendour and see the skies change colours. The more you stay in Lansdowne, the more you will be bewitched by its beauty. At one point, you would end up thinking of planning your retirement there. Or at least I did!