It is summers once again and I can’t help myself going back and remembering the times when, as kids we used to visit our Grandparents’ home for summer vacation.
My dad was working with an insurance company in a town known as Haldwani, in Uttarakhand. Haldwani is also known as “Gateway to Kumaon”, as this town is situated right at the foothills of the Shivalik ranges in Kumaon region and has the biggest Mandi in the region. This town has the last railway station enroute Kumaon region in Uttarakhand and has a buzzing transport industry too.
I was brought up here and every year during summer holidays we would pack our bags and head up to Ranikhet, a small Army Cantonment in Almora district of Kumaon. This was the place where my grand parents lived and though we didn’t have luxuries like Cable TV or a huge group of friends to play with, still I was always keen for the trip. Apart from getting chance to be pampered by my grand mother, the biggest reason for my enthusiasm was the fact that I would get a chance to go for some trek with my grand father and would also come to know of more details about horticulture from him. My grandfather was a well-travelled guy and had an acute interest and knowledge in horticulture. Our home was filled with all sorts of books about history of Kumaon region, botany, horticulture, etc.
Ranikhet is a very small cantonment town situated at an altitude of 6132 ft. between two mountain ridges, Ranikhet ridge and Chaubatia ridge. It’s a popular hill station and has a cool climate except winters, when it gets really cold.
We have a home with a substantial amount of land where my grandfather used to cultivate lots of stuff like Apples, Grapes, Apricot, Pear, Plum, Walnut, Saffron, Pumpkin, Tomato, Chilly, Corn, Potato, Malta, Sweet lime, Lemons etc. I used to love spending time with him in the field, learning a thing or two about crop cultivation. It was a wonderful feeling to climb up a Plum tree and eat plums or use a slingshot to bring down Pears from top of the tree. Eating Malta while sitting out in warm sun shine was another wonderful activity which I really miss now.
When we were not working in fields or lazing out in sun eating all sorts of freshly plucked fruits, we used to go out for some short trips around Ranikhet. Being a hilly region there are plenty of trails where you can trek to without bothering about the destination.
“Wake up Munnu! It’s 6 in the morning. Wake up!” I heard my mom yelling at me to get out of bed.
“No mummy. It’s only 6. Who wakes up at 6 in such cool climate?” I said and pulled up the blanket over my face.
“Hey, don’t you want to go with your dada for outing today?” asked my mom.
Outing was something, which was the most exciting part of our summer vacation, and I immediately threw my blanket away and woke up. After having a cup of tea and some breakfast, I went to my Dada’s (Grandfather) room and saw him enjoying his cup of tea with newspaper and smoking his pipe. I loved those rings which he used for form while smoking his pipe. After I insisted two or three times, he formed few rings and asked me to get ready quickly, as we were to head out for a trek to Hedakhan temple and Binsar.
Hedakhan is a temple of Haidakhan Baba (also known as Babaji or Guruji), approximately 4 Kms from Ranikhet. There is road route to the temple, however, since we wanted to trek, we went up to Cantonment School and from there we could see Haidakhan temple, right across in the mountain. As with any other trek, I insisted my Dada to take me through jungle instead of road route. The jungles in Ranikhet mostly constitute of Pine, Oak and Deodar tree. The smell from these jungles has a distinctive aroma and it’s just wonderful to stroll through them. We just went ahead towards the direction of the temple
through the cantonment area, followed by jungle and within an hour we were at Ranikhet Govt. College. From here, we took the road route and very soon we were at Chilyanaula, which is small village. This is the place where the temple is situated. The temple is frequently visited by foreigners and celebrities and thus is very well maintained. We sat there outside for sometime, enjoying the view of Himalayan peaks like Trishul, Panchachuli etc. while my Dada went on telling me about his trips to Roopkund, Pindari Glacier, base of Trishul peak, base of Nanda Devi etc. We had a cup of chai (tea) along with boiled eggs outside (the salt that they give with eggs here is fantabulous) and decided to head towards Tadikhet.
You can either retract your path towards Ranikhet or you can take a hike towards Ranikhet-Haldwani road via Chilayanaula road, and this will take you up to Thapla. Once you’ve reached Ranikhet-Haldwani road, you need to walk towards Haldwani and reach a place called Ganiyadoli. Once at Ganiyadoli, take the road towards Ramnagar via Tadikhet.
While walking towards Ganiyadoli we walked pass “Co-operative Drug Factory” and went there to take a look at different products which they sell. One of the good products is oil called “Panchgun”. This is a wonderful pain relief and massage oil. We bought couple of bottles and headed out to our journey ahead. Tadikhet is a small village enroute Ramnagar.
From Ganiyadoli, we took road ahead to Tadikhet and had an ice-cream there. From Tadikhet, we could have taken road route to Sauni and ahead to Binsar Mahadev, but my Dada suggested an alternate route amidst forests and we hiked to Kathalekh, followed by BadhanKhet towards Malla Dabhar. It’s a moderate hike and can be easily done in couple of hours. Once at Malla Dabhar, we decided to move down towards road way as we couldn’t figure out a way to Bisaona. So we walked down the hill to Sauni and walked on the road which goes towards Ramnagar.
After walking for around 45 minutes we reached a point where we could see the road towards Binsar Mahadev. At this point we left the road and walked on the road towards Bisaona. It’s a picturesque path as you walk with Pine tree laden forest on either side of road. After walking for about an hour we finally reached Binsar Mahadev. It’s one hell of a place for camping.
With lush green meadows surrounded by huge Cedar trees, it gives this place a wonderful aura. We quickly visited the temple. There is a small water tank also outside and it was fun to splash water as kids.
We had lunch at temple itself and strolled in the Ashram campus for half an hour or so, before leaving back for Ranikhet.