It sure must have been a good omen when I reached Kathgodam in the wee hours of the morning. After all I was aiming to spend a long summer exploring all parts of Kumaon. The station was spic and span and the green mountains in the distance seemed happy to receive me. As soon as I walked out of Kathgodam station, the grand entrance building made me stop and click some photographs. There were lots of shared taxis waiting to take passengers to various places and I got into a small alto headed to Nainital.
The clouds had poured down the night before, the driver said that a hailstorm also happened earlier. There was a chill in the air and when our small car turned past a sharp bend, I felt at home. I remember sharing the same on twitter while on the road itself. It was a nice welcome, the shared taxi felt like a much more comfortable way of travel than a local bus. Within no time, we had arrived in Nainital and I was quite pleased by the first look of the pretty Naini Lake.
I had found a cheap place to stay near the Zoo and walked endlessly around Nainital to fall in love with this tranquil hill station.
Some of my favourite memories of Nainital as I roll back the years…
It had been a lovely day roaming around the lake and observing the worldly affairs when I had an abrupt realisation of not having eaten anything since morning. The moment was ripe for me to step inside the warm interiors of this charming eatery and as they say ‘The rest was history!’.
Delicious food, mouthwatering desserts and a slow easy going vibe with pretty cast iron chairs. I became a Sakley’s fan for life and made sure to go to the New Delhi Sakley’s when it opened!
Boat House Club
I had passed by this quaint looking building many times, but I did not know the significance of it until I chose to walk to the entrance door. An elderly gentleman told me about the history of this place that was built in 1890 on the landslide affected region of Nainital. It is said to have been a favourite with the British who established it as the second oldest club of India.
Entry is also allowed to non-members on payment of a small fee. Evenings on the Boat House Club are said to be legendary with a chić wooden bar and the classy gentry brings back a whiff of the charm of the Raj Era.
The name Nainital itself is based upon this unmistakeable lake across which the town is located. It is called Naini Lake and is the centre of all activity in Nainital. The water has shades of green and blue depending on the skies. My eyes were transfixed on the variety of boats floating on the lake and the happiness a boat ride resulted among the kids.
As I was solo, the thought of a boat ride didn’t come to my mind then! (Although I might just try it this time!) The green hills on all sides of the lake come alive during late afternoon. There are even boats shaped as Shikaras to give the Kashmiri feel of Dal Lake! (ha ha). There’s a mythological story attached to the lake.
Strawberry, mulberry and ‘kaafal’
For me, a big charm of the mountains in the summers is the fact that tasty fruits and berries shall be available, and Nainital sure has quite a collection. There are bright red luscious looking strawberries, pitch black mulberries and tangy little kaafal in small baskets that are sold by wandering vendors.
You can enjoy these delights for as little as 50 Rupees on the Mall Road, near the Boat Club, the Naina Devi Temple and Tibetan Market.
Naina Devi Temple
For a temple this famous, I had never imagined the Naina Devi Temple to be so pretty and almost without crowds. It has an enviable location of being on the banks of the Naini lake. I was drawn by the sound of bells and ended up at this lovely red coloured temple.
The greenery is fascinating and the temple bells made me stay a long time. It remains one of my best memories of the time spent in Nainital.
Twinkling lights on the lake
After the evening was spent on a hillock near Nainital, soaking in the sights from afar and marvelling at the valleys, it was time to return to Nainital. I remember going to the Capitol Cinema on the side of the lake and drinking coffee while the weather had turned chilly. The hot steam from the coffee cup dissipated and on show were the flickering lights of Nainital reflecting in the waters of the tranquil lake.
It was magic. Another activity that greatly interested me in Nainital was walking on the periphery of the lake and coming across a mosque, Gurudwara and temples on the walk.
With a better quality dslr camera then (Now I have a D7000), I might have been able to take better photographs. But the memory is priceless and the words came easily when I tried to make this post. That is how it is with relaxed holidays, when one isn’t running from one place to another.
I was to later slow travel across Kumaon for around 2 months to make this one of my longest journeys.
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