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A Birthday Celebration in Nainital

This year my birthday falls on a weekend, so we are going out of town to celebrate. My husband votes for his favorite destination, Saat Taal. I give in a little half heartedly since our last trip was also to Saat Taal. Then while browsing for accommodation online, I notice that the KMVN guesthouse at Snow View, Nainital has a room available. Without much hesitation, I immediately make the booking.

How We Get There

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Nainital is about 300 Kms from Delhi. We pile up in a Qualis around midnight on Friday and reach Nainital around 7:00 in the morning. Snow View is on the top of a hill overlooking the Naini Lake. Although the motor road goes all the way up to Snow View Heritage rest house, we decide to go via the Ropeway or Cable Car as my sister is not feeling too great after the hour long drive on the twisty curvy hill roads. The Ropeway starts around 8:00. To pass the waiting time, we have coffee and oily burgers at one of the all-in-one stalls near the football ground. Before we know it, it’s after 8:00 so we move to the point where the Ropeway starts. Since we are staying at the rest house , the Ropeway ride is complementary for us.

Where We Stay

On the Window Ledge at Snow View

Snow View Heritage, situated at a height of 2270 meters, is a four-room Raj bungalow. The rooms are large and spacious with attached dining and dressing area. The interiors are done almost entirely in wood. Our room has broad, comfortable window ledges where you can relax with a book while enjoying the view. There is even a beautiful fireplace. We get two extra beds put in to accommodate my sister’s family, who had joined us at the last minute. But so large is the room that it still doesn’t get cramped. The food is good and priced reasonably. On the right of the guesthouse are small eating joints, selling a variety of food ranging from fresh fruit juice to greasy chowmien. There are also the mandatory curio and get-photographed-in-ethnic-dress shops, which mark all North Indian tourist locations. On the left of guesthouse is a mini adventure park. complete with “Free Fall,” go-karting, and crazy cars.

What We Do

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We have only one day and one night with us so we try to make the most of it. After a quick breakfast at one of the stalls, punctuated by the kids demanding money to try out various games, we move to the adventure park. The games are primarily meant for kids aged 6 to 12. As both the kids are in this age group, they have a wonderful time driving crazy cars, riding bikes that go round and round, and shooting balloons with a rifle. After they have spent enough “10 Rs” notes, we move down the road to a small temple. Near the temple are a few “View Points” from where you get a glimpse of the Northern Himalayan ranges. Binoculars are provided for just Rs 5. On a clear day, you can see Nanda Devi, the second highest mountain in India. Further down the road lie the ruins of a large house, supposedly existing since the time of British Raj. The villagers now use the cracked and crumbling walls to dry cow dung cakes.

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From the plot of land in front of the ruins, we get a breathtaking view of the complete Naini lake. We come here several times during the day. At one point, we count around 100 boats lazily drifting along the length of the lake. This point is quite peaceful as few tourists coming in the cable car venture here. Only the villagers and the few people staying in the guesthouse usually come here. The road continues to other viewpoints and then later moves on to Kilbury. We meet an old British couple, nearly in their 70s, planning to walk to Dorothy’s Seat and then down to the lake. Their energy leaves us slightly envious and embarrassed. We return to the guesthouse for a little rest and recuperation. In the evening, we again go for short walks. By now, the cable car has stopped, the crowds have departed, and there is complete peace.

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Late at night, amid a few drinks, I cut my birthday cake, which my husband has miraculously arranged for from a bakery on the Mall road. After dinner, we go for a last walk. One of the stall owners has stayed back to serve us ice creams (again a proof of my husband’s persuasive powers). At this is time, the wind is chilly and I devour my chocolate ice cream with chattering teeth.

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, we are ready to go back. However, we must have a two hour gap between breakfast and the nauseous downhill drive till Kaladoongi. We elect to spend this time shopping at the Tibetan Market on the Nainital grounds, which offers great imported cosmetics at very reasonable prices. So, we pack our backs, say our goodbyes and head for the ropeway for the final ride.

Categories: Travel Tales

Leena T Pandey

I have been reading voraciously since the age of five when I first discovered the joys of reading. I would lap up anything in print. Unrolling an emptied newspaper cone with one hand, stuffing roasted peanuts in my mouth with the other, all the while devouring the printed content on the cone with my eyes, was one of my first experiences in hedonistic pleasure.
In fact, sometimes I feel that I am on an adventurous journey through the secret dreamworld of other people's imaginations, interspersed with occasional visits to my own life to attend events like graduation, first job, marriage, and so on.
As a true-blue reader, I think I am uniquely qualified to comment on and critique other people's works of labour. I can tell exactly what puts the average reader to sleep, what sets their pulse racing, and what has them salivating for more.

Write to me at leenatpandey@gmail.com.

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