A May 2000 trip
to Nainital by actonsteve
Quote: Set around a crater lake high in the Indian Himalaya, Nainital is a beautiful town. Built as a hillstation by the British Raj, and now used by Indian tourists, it provides a respite from the heat of the plains. If you are travelling through northern India, make time for Nainital.
Whether this is true or not there is no denying that Nainital is unbelievably beautiful and a magnetic draw for thousands of Indians particularly during the hot season when the temperatures down on the plains of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh may reach fifty degrees. The primary attraction of this resort is its cool climate, mountain views and holiday atmosphere.
It is the primary town in the region and trips to the Hindu pilgrimage sites of Gangotri and Kedanarth can be made from here. I have also included journals about the tiger-infested Corbett National Park and the town of Ramnager that can be visited from Nainital.
These bungalows are a legacy of the British Raj who originally built Nainital as a retreat from the heat of the plains. Some are dilapidated but most are charming if you can climb the steps to the slopes above Naini Lake. There the bungalows have been kept up with verandahs, bird tables and little English gardens.
The only way to enjoy Nainital is to walk.
The circumference of the lake takes about two hours at a leisurely pace. But your main obstacle will be getting to the hill station itself. It is set 1,938 feet up in the Himalaya and has no rail link. The nearest one is Ramnager or Kathgodam. There you will have to catch a bus (unless you have your own transport) up to the Hill station.
The twisting, mountainous roads up to Nainital are exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. And only a driver experienced with the Himalaya should attempt them. Those yellow buffers on the edge of the roads are there for a reason - people do go over the edge. But the scenery is spectacular (although the monsoon followed us up to Nainital) and you may get a chance to see wild monkeys in the sal forests lining the mountains.
Hotel | "Hotel Ashok (Nainital) & Hotel Everest (Ramnager)"
When we made the hard climb up to Nainital we arrived to find every accommodation in town fully booked out. It was coming to the end of the hot season and families were escaping the heat of the plains and the hill station was full to capacity. The only accommodation we could find was the Hotel Ashok which is on the road out of town.
Built on a slope overlooking a mass of hotels opposite this was a tricky place to stay while we waited for a gap in the monsoon. It was run by a couple of tough looking mountain men and I got a small room with bright blue decor and a sloping roof. A staircase was just outside the window and I was woken by tramping feet all night and the smell of urine drifted across from the corridor. Not the best place to stay but it was only for one night.
Ramnager is the town at the entrance to the tiger-filled Corbett National park. The town itself is a grimy, wet truckstop and most people just stay there until they get permits to visit Dhikala or to catch a bus west or east to the Nepalese border. Our choice of hotel - the Everest - was a good one. Just off the main drag it was run by a friendly ex-teacher and his boy. The rooms were cheap (200 rupees) and had private shower, air-conditioning, huge beds and geckoes climbing up the walls.
There were many travellers caught by the monsoon and waiting to see whether Corbett would re-open. We made friends with two Dutch backpackers, an Australian couple and a New Yorker who was on her fifth trip to India. We could sit outside on the balcony and drink ''Spread Eagle'' beers and talk about India. And as we were so close to Rishikesh the talk turned mystical and spiritual. It''s moments like these which make travelling worthwhile.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on June 26, 2001
Hotel Ashok & Hotel Everest (Ramnager)
Near main bus stand
After visiting Corbett we found that the monsoon increased in ferocity. We had an appointment to keep in Rishikesh over 400 miles away and decided to drive there in one go. The terrain between Corbett and Rishikesh, once you descend from the mountains, crosses the Gangetic plain which is as flat as a pancake. The problem being the run-off from the Himalayas which floods the plain like a tidal surge over sandflats. And we had to cross from one side to the other.
We first had to get out of Corbett National park and followed a bus as it crossed the flooded roads (see photo). But as we hit the flat terrain we saw that the country was taking more rain then it could handle. The paddyfields on either side of the road will filling to capacity and the water was sloshing from one paddyfield to the other blocking all traffic. Villagers would gather to watch cyclists brave the running water or simply roll up their trousers and wade across. Nut-brown children swam in the newly formed rivers and locals spread nets in the ditches to catch any fish that came their way.
Not far out of Ramnager we reached a town, Kandigah, that was completely flooded as the nearby river had burst its banks. The water reached above the doorsteps of the houses and villagers carried their belongings on their heads. Did we risk the village or go back the way we came? We decided to risk the village and called over a tractor that was dangling with farmworkers. For 200 rupees they agreed to tow us through the village. So we afixed a rope to our bumper and they pulled us through the cream-coloured water. Both Suresh, Phil and myself took off our socks, shoes and trousers because we had a feeling it was going to be a bumpy ride. We became anxious when the water reached as high as the windows. The the car started to leak and water came in through the sides we got nervous. We pulled our feet onto the seats just as water began to come up through the floor. Christ! Were we going to drown in this car!
But the tractor pulled us through and back onto solid ground. Then came the hard slog across the Gangetic plain to Haridwar and Rishikesh. Every hundred yards the bursting paddyfields spilled water across the road. Usually Suresh could just plough through splashing camel-carts and bicycle riders clutching umbrellas but about mid-day we met our final big obstacle. The road ahead was so flooded that it was impassable so a great queue of trucks, tongas, buffalo-carts and people blocked the way. Of course westerners sitting immobile in a car become noticeable and soon we were surrounded by mainly male villagers who chattered away and pointed at us. To our relief, Suresh came back and said there was a short-cut back there and a number of cars were taking it. We followed them into the backstreets of a small village and squeezed between the mud-huts followed by excited children. The short-cut consisted of taking a narrow road that was above the paddyfields and this we took with the farm-workers staring at us incredulously. But what happened to us next took some believing.
As Suresh ploughed along the trail a number of lumbering cows were slow to get out of the way. One got hit by the bumper and stumbled away lowing. This was bad enough but suddenly we felt a huge bang to the rear of the car. We turned around and saw a huge brahma bull had charged us. We could see its face as it backed up to have another go. The car wobbled but Suresh put his foot down and we screamed at him to get us out of here! This he did, and we were soon gratefuly back to the main road. Then we were on the road to Haridwar and the glorious sun came out to cheer up our day. Any thoughts of brahma bulls and flooding soon mentally filed away as pub stories that we would tell when we got home.
Attraction | "'Trying to spot a tiger..' - Corbett National Park"
The terrain encloses plains, rivers, jungle, lakes and vast acres of sal forest inhabited by the creatures of India. You may get to see tigers (although rare due to poaching), panthers, wild elephants, chital, pythons, wild boar, jackals, fish-eagles and a unique crocodile called a muggar. If you are travelling through northern Uttar Pradesh you would be mad not to stop in Corbett National Park.
The time of year is crucial as the park shuts down for the monsoon between June 15 and September 15 and roads in and out of the park become flooded. Every visitor to the Park has to obtain an entry permit (350 rupees for foreigners) as well as pay for costs and accomodation in the park. The only place to stay inside the park is Dhikala which is a fortified camp and getting there is difficult without your own transport. Once there they do dusk/dawn elephant rides into the park. The animals are far less peturbed by these pachyderms and you can get very close.
Unfortunately for us the monsoon came two weeks early and the park was shut for rain. We stayed around Ramnager for two days hoping for a break in the monsoon and when one did finally occur we booked a tour with one of the nearby agencies. For 700 rupees we got a jeep ride around the periphery of the park and our driver was a burly Sikh who would wear a piece of polythene over his turban to keep out the rain. He took us into the park and into the sal forests on a journey along the Kosi river. We passed rows and rows of red/brown teak trees and the Sikh driver was determined to give us a good time pointing out peahens and bulbul''s. But I was intrigued whether there were tigers or leopards in the forest and asked him whether he had seen any outside the reserve.
"Oh yes, many times", for he was a local boy, "one time out jogging a tigress and four cubs crossed in front of me. It was very early in the morning. Tigers and panthers regularly leave the forest and kill neighbourhood dogs and goats. And at harvest time herds of wild elephants cause great destruction in the paddyfields. They sometimes kill villagers but no retribution is made against them."
But all we saw was a jackal (see photo) who sat by the side of the road looking at us reflectively. And we could not go too deeply into the park as the roads were flooded so instead he drove us along the Kosi river to the Krishna temple. Once past the tea-shops and souvenir stalls there is a viewing platform for an impressive panorama. To my left were the Himalayan foothills swathed up to their pinnacles in forest and touched with cloud. The forests themselves rolled down to the wide,rushing Kosi river. In the middle of the torrent was a fingerlike rock, marooned by the rushing water around it. The triangular rock stood forty feet in the air and a set of steps ran up to a tiny temple at its peak. When the river is low pilgrims wade across to give offerings to their god - but the whole sight was magnificent (see photo).
We may not have seen any man-eaters in Corbett, but we did get a taste of the Indian wilderness, and it made us want to come back to India, and definitely come back to the Corbett NP.
Corbett National Park
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