It was the epic summer of 2015 and I had come to Haldwani for the third time, trying to return to Jaipur. I had slow travelled to almost all parts of Kumaon over the last two months and predictably the heat of Haldwani had resulted in me turning back to cooler climes the first two times. This time I came from Bhimtal and was walking inside the bus stand.
Check : Aimless Wanderings in Almora
I finally pen down this story for my blog after having unsuccessfully pitched it to many travel magazines and websites who are looking for interesting ideas!
A plethora of carts sold some of the biggest peaches I’d ever seen. I instantly asked one vendor where the peaches came from? He replied Ramgarh. My non-existent plans changed right there and next moment I found myself in a bus. In my hurry I had gotten into a Rampur (Uttar Pradesh, of the Rampuri knife fame!) bound bus instead of Ramgarh. The matter was resolved quickly and within a few minutes I was swinging on a stool in the small mini-bus heading to Ramgarh.
I didn’t know how to respond when the conductor asked ‘Talla Ramgarh’ or ‘Malla Ramgarh’. He then tells me Talla is the lower part and Malla is the upper part of Ramgarh. I ask to be dropped at Malla Ramgarh, hoping that the bus will reach by 5 pm and I’ll have ample tough to figure out a stay option. The Ramgarh-Mukteshwar is known to be a tourist favourite and given Kumaon’s limited infrastructure for backpackers, I was hoping to find a reasonable way to stay.
There’s a shabby room in the basement of a eatery, I don’t like it and keep walking on the road. The locals have told me that KMVN Ramgarh is right on the next bend on the road. As luck would have it, they have a neat and clean 8 bed dormitory. Evening brings a steady cool breeze, my mind is at peace. The staff helps me with a custom designed thali for dinner even though it does not exist on the menu.
Next morning I go for a walk trying to find orchards; a chance encounter with the owner of a hotel nearby results in an invitation to their breakfast table. Coincidentally, his name is Shubham too and that is an ice-breaker among us. Most hotel owners and locals own fruit orchards in Ramgarh and I am sent close to Talla Ramgarh with a helper.
Plump peaches hang on the branches, this feels like a dream. I gobble a handful and ask where are my favourite apricots? We walk a little and end up at an apricot orchard now. The best part of the cloudy afternoon is spent feasting on these yellow beauties. I’m warned time and again that my stomach might get upset with the mindless binging. In the village I learn that Ramgarh is the supplier of all these fruits across India; even as far as Bombay!
Check : Rustic Luxury in the Himalayas
Fruits are packed in wooden boxes and are transported in medium sized vehicles. Peaches, plums, pears, apricots and cherries orchards abound for acres together in Ramgarh and are fully ripe by around end of May to mid June. When the villagers ask me if I want fruits to eat in the evening, I greedily say yes.
Predictably, the excess eating of apricots doesn’t agree with my stomach and I wail in pain next morning. Yet, the lure of the sweet and juicy apricots is so much, that end up at Shubham’s place in time for breakfast next morning and dive into more apricots. In another life, I was in Turtuk in the cold cold winter of Ladakh and savoured the famous dried apricots for much needed warmth.
What started as a fantasy ends up being an obsession.
The funny thing is that among other visits to the usual sights in Ramgarh and nearby towns and temples, I kept up with my newfound love for fresh fruits from the trees and nearly ended up spending the rest of my life in Ramgarh. Sanity prevailed after 5-6 days, my stomach was in even more horrible shape and I decided it was time to let go of the apricots.
I distributed them among KMVN’s staff who promptly gave it to the kids of the guests who were visiting!
Also read : The Shimla of Old : Life at Chapslee
Practical Facts :
Spectacular views of the great Himalayan peaks of Nanda Devi and Trishul welcome the visitor to Ramgarh. The jungles around Ramgarh are of great interest for bird watching enthusiasts.