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Published: January 17th 2010
"North India under fog blanket" , one headline in the Hindustan Times. I left UP and into Uttarakhand, through Tanakpur I travelled up mountain, and as I'd expected, once above 900m sea level I saw the welcoming sight, sunny and clear. This is the Kumaon region right next to the Nepal border. Champawat(@1650m) was the old capital of the Chand dynasty, but not much left from the ancient palace could be seen. But the ruins of the 14th century Baleshwar temple although looked un-appealing, but the stone sculptures and carving was amazing. The structure of the temple complex was the fusion of North India and Central India style, also combined with the Hoysalu and Chalukyan ingredients. All the shrines was composed with many statues, graphic designs and heavily reliefs, it was just...beautiful! A kilometre walked up the main road offered the view for the Himalayan range, and the sky was clear enough for me to caught up the sensation about snow cap mountain in mid-air, which I had missed quite often while in Nepal. But 19km north after Lohaghat, an ancient fort site provided a better mountain view option. The site of Banasu Fort on top of a small
hill at 1950m, you got a good view of Nanda Devi and the Panchachuli. Not much left of any sign of the fort building, although some of the citadel wall could still be seen. Champawat was a tiny town, but surprised many people here could speak english,"we just like to speak english",what an answer when I enquired about how come, anyway,.. it made thing far more easier, as for the last few days in India, even in a big city like Lucknow, English spoken people seem hard to find. Beside the locals were rather friendly, not much standard Indian style questioning. There was many candy and sweet shop here, one of the Kumaon speciality is Bal Mithal, condensed milk made into cube in brown colour, coated with small white sugar balls, I bet you already tasted the sweetness from the description, and indeed yes...it was so sweet and...hard! One cube was about enough for me! But I find another orange colour sweet on the counter, said it was made out of carrot, tasted like it but didn't feel like carrot , but it was good also with shreds dried condensed milk. There were many different candy in different colour here,
another one I tried was yellow with shred nuts, tasty, still...one for an item was good enough.
Bus Lucknow to Tanakpur Rs231.
Bus Tanakpur to Champawat Rs 67.
Bus Champawat to Lohaghat Rs15.
Slowly slowly the 5 years old sense of India came back bit by bit. The peeing wall was my favorite, as you actually could released yourself anywhere you want, and now they seem to built more open boxes around station area. Went further up to Pithoragarh(@1600m), and about 30km once passed the Abbot Mount view point, I saw one of the magnificent scene I'd ever seen. Wide open valley carpeted by thick layer sea of cloud, island of hilltops popped through within the sheet of white blanket, a tiny village on top surrounded by terrace fields, what a great touch to the picture, together with the wall of snow-capped mountains. I guessed I had never seen sea of cloud under snow capped mountain before! I seriously wished the bus would broke down right that moment so I could take some pictures. It was just so pretty especially the sun just rose up on the eastern end. No matter how much I had
travel, seem like there still many I hadn't seen I guessed. It all depending on how the Amighty up there played his hand!
Pithoragarh was known as "little Kashmir", since I will not visit Kashmir this time as the situation there wasn't stable at the moment, so I better took some atmosphere here. A town far more bigger than Champawat, with small streets criss-cross and full of shops. Again...some hilltop offered great view of the Himalayan, 7km by road to Chandak(@1900m),a view tower stood by roadside, but further up climbing a small hilltop behind the village was great for view as well, the whole Soar Valley of Pithoragarh. Then I figured out a trail from above which I could walked back to town. It was a nice and easy walked through couple of villages and green field, and I rekon it was no more than 4km as it took me less than an hour. Another walked 3km westward by road took me to Kapileshwar Mahadev, a cave temple dedicated to Shiva on top on a small hill, the town of Pithoragarh spread out underneath with the line of snow-capped peak on the background. Again...from above I could drawn my walking
route back to town easily, it made a pleasure round trip out here.
There was not much about food in town, but I did spot the momo sign and the steamed basket. Hadn't seen it since left Nepal.
Bus Champawat to Pithoragarh Rs70.
shared taxi to Chandak Rs10.
Tourist office location not far from bus stand. You could get free hand out leaflets for most of the tourist sites for Uttarkhand.
4 hours bus ride and over couple of valley I arrived at Almora(@1650m), another favourite hill station for tourist, of course now wasn't the season, so didn't see any other holiday-makers. But it doesn't mean it was deserted. Just like any other town I had came through in Uttarakhand so far, they are very similar, town built on the ridge spread with huge market area, leading up from the bus stand on the main road. The Lala bazar in Almora ran across the length of it ridge more than a kilometre with a slat stone path, it was busy till well after dark, luckily it was a traffic free zone, not even motorbike, that made the strolled easier, but still...street vendors occupied many flooring,
kids running around, with dogs and occasional cows traversing, you need some attention while navigating in the market. The town was spread out on both sides of the ridge like a terrace, with secondary lanes on different level, I really like this kind of town where I could totally lost myself walking up and down, you never knew where it leading you to. There were still old houses in within the multi-coloured block of building from the colonial-era, even the chimney had many different shape. The closest distant where you could catch the snow mountain view was 2km out along the road to Bright End Corner, said you could see the sun rise and set on the same place. That was about the longest walked while in Almora as I just wanted to rest and relax here, but I'd probably forgot the up down in the market, the distance could added up to a big number. Restaurants were plenty here, and I decided to loosen up my budget, just tried whatever that caught my eye. So...tandori chicken was standard , the Chicken Mungal was great, I asked for something not spicy and the man suggested this. Mild curry favour with
a splash of coconut milk, cooked with almonds and nut, and tiny shreds of dried fruits, I almost drank all the sauce! Butter chicken was also good, dark curry slightly spicy strong in ginger favour, and it was quite similar to the masala chicken . For snack there was many pokara, kind of tempura style fried vegetables , but I like the tikeya, potato with onion cake size like a gold medal. Peanut was good in Kumaon region, almost 100% are eatable, not like in China or in Nepal, you got many bad peanut in a pack, here vendor heated the peanuts with sand on the street, good to held a warm pack of peanut in the winter night. An interesting museum in town, I didn't mean the contents inside was interesting ,beside I had no idea as I hadn't been inside. I mean the way they operated, I went there this morning ,find out it would open at 10:30, only 15 mins to wait, so I took a cup of tea then went back. The main gate was opened but the door still locked. All the office on the second floor were empty as everyone were up on the
roof drink tea, as I saw them chatting by the balcony, they saw me stand and waited until 11, but still no one came and open the museum. I didn't understood but as it will be close at 4, so I just went for a walk in town and came back again after lunch at 12:00. Yeah...the door finally opened, but...the house keeper stop me right there(she was one of those stand on the roof earlier looking down at me)"no electricity "she told me. So...mean useless to go inside as it was too dark. When asked her what time electricity come back, "after 4" was the answer, so...mean you couldn't really visited the museum as it will be closed at 4:30! I wondered if anyone ever had the chance to visited it. And why they not just put up a sign "closed", and I would took it lightly as there really not much too see there anyway, but now it wasted my time to came here two times. The strangest was they open the door but stopped you inside! Another sense of India, mean... Doesn't made sense!
Bus Pithoragarh to Almora Rs103.
There must be
something wrong with me, I wasn't excited with the snow mountains scene. Even facing the expanded view in Kausani(@1750m), it was by far the most completed and un-obscured 300km wide snow mountain view on this route. And you could see it painlessly, almost every hotel got at least a bit of the sight, and many got the full frontal for every rooms they got. It was great but...I just not excited. Was it too much travelling? Was I tired of travel? or just the whole week in Kumaon was drifting through similar scene? Beside...I wasn't even excited about writing, no passion . I got bored while revised my dairy, it was just bland! What was wrong? guessed I should switched to another region quick.
The tiny village of Kausani was nice, but beside the splendid view, there wasn't much to do. I did walked around the hillside, cut through small trail down the main road to reached the tea estate, catching different angle of the mountain view. Tea wasn't in season so there wasn't any procedure for view,only the coolness of the machines stood inside. It wasn't anything special anyway unless you'd never visited a tea factory before. Again...beautiful sunset
reflected golden gloss on the icy top, simply beautiful !
Bus Almora to Kausani Rs45.
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