Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Day 3 and 4 - Kumaon and I - Kausani and Baijnath

Left the Yogoda Ashram at around 10.30 am with the blessings of Swamiji and Dograji.  We didn’t forget to say goodbye to the lady who had served us her food last evening. We made a point to visit her every time we visit Dwarahat (Isn’t that obvious considering her tea shop was just next to Yogoda Ashram?) So we were again in the dense forestations of pines, on the same road to Dunagiri but this time detouring (???) to Kausani.
In this trip, I had deeply thought about the distances we had to cover from one point to another. Since we suffered from extreme lethargy in our last two trips (Himachal and Rajasthan) due to long distances to be covered, I had planned Kumaon trip in this way that we should be on the road for minimal time. However, this strategy burnt a hole in my pocket as I had the cab at my disposal for the whole journey. And I paid for 250 kms even on the day we didn’t travel. J
The Binta Villege, Near Someshwar, Bageshwar
 A paltry 50 km distance from Dwarahat to Kausani was a child’d play but the first half was boring. And suddenly, out of nowhere, we were face-to-face with one of the most beautiful villages we have ever seen in our lives. Binta, situated atop plains on the hills is a sheer treat to eyes.  Two and three storied scattered houses generally painted with white and doors & windows painted with blue amongst the greenery on the hills almost pushed me to inquire if any house is available for sale. J. Excellent grey tarmac going through the fluorescent green paddy fields was worth clicking numerous photographs. We did it.
Moved on and reached Someshwar, just half an hour before we reached Kausani. The air was slightly cooler. Uttarakahnd was actually on fire this summer. Unbelievable heat everywhere. So Kausani was a slight breather. Our accommodation, Krishna Mountain View was located at a very strategic place in Kausani town, next to Anasakti Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi. Krishna is the smartest hotel in Kausani with all its rooms providing brilliant unhindered views of Kumaon Himalaya including peaks like Nandadevi, Trishul, Panchachuli and Dangathal. We were not so lucky there being in the month of June. The clouds and smoke from the jungle had blocked the view. Sob L
Krishna Mountain View, Kausani
After a sumptuous lunch at Krishna’s restaurant (I guess that is one good multicuisine restaurant you can find in Kausani), we took a nap (ahh lovely days!) The evening was even cooler and we decided to take a walk in the woods leading to the hills. It was a nice hearty walk filling my lungs with sufficient quota of fresh air from the mountains.
Anasakti Ashram in Kausani was established by Mahtama Gandhi and he zeroed down on Kausani as the ideal location for his practice of anasakti. Anasakti is the practice detaching yourself from all kinds of cravings and clinging. I can now talk with some understanding as I myself is a vipassana mediatator. And I can vouch for Kausani (and who am I to do this when Mahatma Gandhi finalized the place, but I can still vouch for it). Anita attended the evening prayer at the ashram while I decided to keep on staring at the West where the Sun was setting.
After the prayer, we met a very interesting couple from Lucknow who were on their honeymoon and had arrived Kausani the same day from Nainital. We had a very nice conversation over tea and snacks for long time and also accompanied them to their hotel. So simple and so happy they were! Recall Rajesh Khanna’s dialogue from the movie ‘Bawarchi’ – “It is so simple to be happy but it is so difficult to be simple!” Wish to see them again if I happen to travel to lucknow one day. Oh yes, the latest issue of Outlook Traveller covers appetizing trails of Lucknow in detail. Nice Read! (Feb 2013)
We woke up next morning with little hope accumulated throughout the night in our eyes to see the Himalayan snow peaks. And I got in the balcony….ahhh…disappointment….all smoke, fog and clouds…no Himalaya peaks! But still it was a beautiful morning.  Krishna’s beautiful garden was beckoning with some nice blooms. But a breakfast in garden is not a good idea. You will be intimidated by the macaques who will snatch your food.
Workers in the Tea Garden, Kausani
After a sumptuous breakfast of Aloo Ke Gutke and Fried Puris (the Kumaoni Specialty), we set out for a little excursion in and around Kausani. The first destination was the tea gardens on the outskirts of Kausani. The Kumaoni Tea has its own aroma and taste and should not be mixed with milk. We spent some time with the workers in the tea garden plucking the tea leaves. We even treated them with cold drinks and snacks and they were mighty happy. They said that no tourist even cares to talk to them properly. It just felt as if we had taken this Kumaon trip for good wishes and how amazingly we were getting them!

Baijnath Temple Complex
The next stop was the Baijnath Temple Complex near Bageshwar. A beautiful temple complex situated on the banks of the Gomti River, dedicated to Shiva. We reached this place when Sun was at zenith. The heat was simply unbearable. Nothing eventful here except the story of the strange round stone. The legend is that exactly 9 males with their index fingers giving support to the stone while continuously chanting nau nau (nine, nine in Hindi) can easily lift the stone. Otherwise, the stone is immovable. Strange but true! And I experienced that. Initially, we were 8 males and tried to lift the stone together but it didn’t move and the 9th guy came and whoa…we effortlessly lifted it to our eye level. Anita captured that in a HD video clip. J
Buransh (Rhododendron Juice)
The scorching heat dented our plans to explore Bagshwar and we decided to turn back to Kausani. We came back to the tea garden and had a bellyful of lunch as it was late and reaching Krishna for lunch was bad option. So settled in a breezy restaurant overlooking the valley near the tea gardens. After a good lunch, it was washed down by the refreshing ruby red drink, Buransh, made of the beautiful red rhododendron flowers. Not exactly sweet but slightly tart, this juice is supposed to be very good for the heart (and since my heart is big, it is needed! J  
After finishing our lunch, we headed towards the main chowk (square) in Kausani contemplating some impulsive shopping. So an entry in a garments shop made us buy some woolens (although it was scorching outside..this is true impulsive shopping)  And voila….I bought a bottle of Buransh, the red rhododendron juice from the same shop (this is impulsive selling now…I mean a garment shop keeping buransh bottles ready…GREAT!). We decided to walk towards our hotel and turned out to be a slightly tiring decision till we reached the shadows of the mighty eucalyptus trees near Anasakti Ashram. The walk from there was pleasant though.
Kausani is such a small town that you are almost done with everything in less than 12 hours.  We had all the evening available to us. We decided to skip the prayer at Anasakti Ashram and tried our skill at table tennis in the hotel. As the dusk started to fall, the whole atmosphere gets magical. We were sitting in the balcony of our room appreciating the cool air and the foggy valley in front of us, with of course steaming hot cups of tea and delicious samosas. This is life, otherwise you just breathe! (Now common…look at the options…either to attend the Evening Prayer at Anasakti Ashram or sit in the balcony enjoying chai and samosa.. J)
In the old times (say some 2000 years ago), it was considered that the only way to be WISE is to TRAVEL across the world. I bet if any book can beat it!
In the onward journey, we probably had the best stay till date spending 4 nights in the Binsar Sanctuary near Almora in an eco resort (meaning no electricity), The Binsar Retreat. Have already penned down my thoughts in an earlier blog and link to it is as follows. I insist that you should read it and visit Binsar once in your lifetime. J
The Binsar Retreat, Binsar, Almora


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