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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Offbeat holiday in Pangot, near Nainital


The time we spent in Kilbury was an experience out of the world! Not that we saw many exotic birds, but the feeling to be surrounded in wilderness itself gives you goosebumps. As we bid adieu to Kilbury, our driver Jitender ji drove us to Pangot with a surprise look.

Creasing his forehead, he hesitantly asked us if we were camping in Pangot. Getting a no in response, he said Pangot is a village and there is nothing to see. We could not agree more with him but who wants to miss the breathtaking view of the hills? We got off at CampMehi and descended the little slope.







What to see and do?
Well, as correctly said by Jitender ji, Pangot is a remote village surrounded by dense forests. Tourism has developed here of late due to some commercial activities like camping and trekking. Sadly, forests are being cut down to build camps, resorts and huts. Perhaps our coming generation may not see any forests here.    

Cheerful yellows!

  Soothing Green
Nature trails


Tourists go to Pangot to relax in nature. The private tour operators offer tent stay, bonfire, group activities, bird watching, trekking etc in their package deal. Pangot is a place to practically do nothing. Come here one weekend, breathe, unwind and go back home with a refreshed mind!

If you stay in Pangot, I recommend camp stay. The feel is adventurous and unique. A hotel stay is just another stay yeah? Stay in the tents and feel the forest in your sleeve! I am sure jungle animals stray into these places too! Dont intend to scare you, but yeah, that might just be another thrilling experience. Needless to mention, group of friends will enjoy a lot. 

Advisable carry mosquito repellent and torch with you for camp stay.   

Please do not trash in the forests. Remember you are educated responsible tourists!


Surrounding forest of Pangot
We took a round of the whole place, tents, walked on the nature trails, took pictures (ofcourse) and left from Pangot in less than forty minutes. It seemed the clouds were waiting for us to leave as the moment we crossed Kilbury forest, it started to pour. The already pleasant weather turned romantic. 

However rains ruin travelling plans most of the times. Braving the slippery roads and traffic, we took shelter in one of the restaurants in Bara Bazar and waited for almost an hour post lunch for rains to stop.

How to reach Pangot-
Pangot is roughly seven kilometers from Kilbury and seventeen from Nainital. Only private vehicles or taxis can ply on the roads. No public transport available here.

Caution- Roads are too narrow for bus/tempo traveler bus. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Nature's retreat - Kilbury Forest, Nainital

This was our second day of trip to Nainital. Continued from Day 1...

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. - John Muir

And this is exactly what we did! The idea of wandering in the wilderness excites hubby and me both. Avid nature lovers that we are! We had planned our second day in Nainital for trip to Kilbury and Pangot.

Located at ten kilometers from Nainital, Kilbury is a protected forest area spread over several acres of land. Kilbury sanctuary is home to numerous species of flora & fauna and also makes a great place for jungle trekking, bird watching and adventure.  




The day was cloudy, but that did not deter us from visiting the place. As our cab sped through the silent, unspoiled, unexplored roads, the cab driver narrated stories of wild animals often frequenting those routes. The thought of bumping into a wild animal in Kilbury, that too without a guide, scared us a bit but we carried on, leaving everything to our destiny.



The long drive ended right in front of the Kilbury Forest Guest House which was under renovation then. The officials would not have let us enter the forest if our driver wouldn't have convinced them. The shuffling of plant pots, scraping the moss from slippery pathway, transporting gravel and all renovation work made the place too noisy, killing our hopes to spot any bird that day.


               
                When cloudy in a minute
And sunny the next minute 


 The Sun played hide and seek, making the forest cloudy sometimes and clear the other times. We made our way into the forest keeping close to the forest rest house. The uneven ground covered with green grass and heaps of leaves had made all pits and holes invisible. We took each step very carefully, trying to be as noiseless as we could be. We literally walked like a tiger crouching in the grass eyeing its prey. Well, that reminded me of the story which my friend Swalay had narrated the previous day. And here goes the short scary story- A particular specie of leopard, known as Guldaar in Uttarakhand, often stray into the tourist spots. Once when he was at lover’s point, the jungle smelled strongly of burnt sack. He left the spot immediately sensing danger. News channels flashed later reportedly spotting a Guldaar in the same area near Lover’s Point.

Swalay’s story was constantly at the back of my mind, which kept me alert all the time. The soothing weather did not comfort me, as my mind hovered over Guldaar and carnivores of its family. 



 
The forest land had downward slope, with no barriers or barbed wires in site. Seemed very less explored because we barely saw plastic pollution there. The rawness was enticing and we inched further, keeping an eye in all directions. 

There were no birds in sight, disappointing us even more. Our purpose of visiting Kilbury seemed defeated, when suddenly a bird coo-ed. We squinted at the thick tree tops but could see nothing.

This happened for many times but we held on patiently. Well, bird watching needs patience and we better not lose it. We vigilantly looked around and our joys knew no bounds on spotting a 
Rufous-bellied woodpecker bird. I pointed out in the direction of the bird while husband took pictures. In no time, I played the spotter and he the shooter. We made a great team! He clicked amazing pictures of the beautiful mountain birds.

Since he clicked all pictures, I did not want to steal the credit. All pictures by him are with his name.






We also spotted a bird whose name I do not know. Perhaps a black throat-ed bush tit



   
Amid the foggy trails, we observed nature blooming around us. Soaking in the pure air and looking at the greenery was sheer bliss. Husband clicked a bright bunch of jungle berries. Looked poisonous to me though. 




Husband in action 


                   
Deep in the woods 
An old boundary wall

As we called it a day and walked back, I suddenly saw something black, moving rapidly. The first thought that came to my mind was a kid of the construction workers at the rest house. The black something I assumed was the kid's head. But it turned out to be something else! The black object was the tip of an animal's tail. "Holy shit!" I shouted as I got goosebumps all over my body. The tail with black tip at the end was vertically up in the air. After the tail, the body of the animal appeared. To me it seemed a hybrid of fox and mongoose. The brown animal hopped on its hind legs looking around vigilantly. Soon I realized it was a pair of them.

"Shit shit shit, what are they!" I whispered in husband's ear who "stood still , staring at them. 
I looked down at the ground searching for a stick or stone in defense. I was very sure the animals would attack us and I was preparing myself it. My heart beat ten times faster. I was almost breathless with cold sweat running down my forehead. I was surprised to see husband standing really calm and composed.  

The first animal was followed by another and they hopped away, vanishing in the deep woods much to my relief. Woah! We later came to know those were called Jungle Cats

We were not prepared for such surprise for sure. "Weren't you scared"? I asked him, to which he replied "I wanted to take their pictures, but they were too quick." Gosh! Too adventurous he is at times. 

With a heart beating fast and an eventful day, we headed back to the rest house gate. Kilbury is superbly awesome place for every nature/adventure lover or photo enthusiasts. 

Advisable for readers-
-Wear good quality sports shoes for the jungle terrain and also in case you need to run away from a wild beast. (hehe kidding)
-Wear earthen or light colored clothes. This camouflages you in the trees and does not scare the birds.
-Please maintain silence. You do not want to scare the birds away. Husband  and I talked in hushed tone all the time in Kilbury!
-Have a whistle with you. It will be handy to alert the authority/guards in case of emergency as mobile phone don't get network in forests. 
-Wear full sleeves clothes, to avoid mosquito or insect bites. 
-No smoking please! Not good for the jungle or your lungs. You do not want to light up a sudden fire! 

Happy Kilbury guys. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ramp on Fire- Big Boy Toyz Hot Wheels



Big Boy Toyz extended its patronage to India Runway Week for the 3rd time in a row for the 7th Season, Winter Festival 2016. The Three Day Event was held at Thyagraj Stadium, New Delhi from 16th to 18th September 2016.


Big Boy Toyz, the name synonymous with setting new benchmarks & trends, has done it again and how!  The Fashion Shows have always been about glitz and glamour associated with Clothes & Accessories only, however for the first time, the Finale of IRW  by Riddhi and Sidhi which was an exclusive show co-hosted by Big Boy Toyz created sensation by bringing the Super Hot Wheels on the Ramp. Pumping a clear shot of adrenaline; three Supercars enticed the viewers with what is called Music to the Ears. As the Ferrari 458 Italia in sparkling Giallo Modena gaited gracefully on the Ramp, the crowd’s reaction was worth a watch. And if that was not enough, another Supercar- an Audi R8 ‘Spyder’ in Brilliant Red gave another shot of excitement. As the soft roof of the car slowly retracted, the audience could hear another set of V10s lighting up the Show. And this time, it was a Bianco Monocerus Lamborghini Gallardo ‘Spyder’ LP 560-4.


The company takes pride in being one of its kind that deals in super exotic cars in the country. They found IRW to be a perfect platform to show their support to the young and dynamic designers.

Jatin Ahuja, Founder & Managing Director, Big Boy Toyz said, “I am glad to be associated with IRW for the 3 rd time in a row for their 7th Season. IRW is a wonderful platform for the talented designers to showcase their creativity & Big Boy Toyz is equally pleased to extend the support to this amazing platform. We certainly look forward to keep encouraging the Skill to help them touch the Sky and Shine with pride on the Global Scale.”

Avinash Pathania, Founder IFFD said “We’re delighted to welcome Big Boy Toyz as our associate for third time in a row for the India Runway Week Winter Festive 2016. Fashion designers are masters of the use of color, proportion, and textiles, which are all very important elements of luxury cars which they are selling. ”

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Uttarakhand Diaries: The nine wonders within Nainital


Being one of the closest and easily accessible hill stations from Delhi, it was Nainital calling during the 3 days holidays in September. This was my second visit to Nainital since childhood after two decades! I was excited to refresh my memories and unwind in nature’s bliss.



We reached Haldwani at 6:30am after an overnight journey (Volvo left at 10:30pm) and hopped onto a local bus which reached Nainital at 8am. The sparkling water of the lake, pleasant breeze and a peaceful atmosphere felt so welcoming. Instead of hiring a cab, we agreed to walk to our hotel. We started the walk from Thandi Sadak with lake on right side and temples on left. It was tiring with heavy bag pack on each back, yet a mesmerizing view. A walk of three kilometers felt like thirty! Credit goes to our city life style. Only after we checked into our hotel (Treebo Cloud 7) we breathed relief. We were allowed an early check-in. Thanks to the no-rush-off-season.

We left for local sightseeing around 11 am. Unlike Jaipur, taxi drivers did not throng us. A friendly driver offered to tour us around in 500 INR. Ferrying to five sites in that amount was a fair deal and we hopped in.

What to see-
1. Eco Cave Park

I went inside perceiving this place to be a protected park or nature garden for visitors to relax. But this place turned out to be a beautiful spot for adventure. 


A flight of stairs takes you to an open space directing towards caves, labelled as Tiger Cave and Panther Cave. As the name suggests, these caves were the dwelling places of the big cats tiger and panther, now converted into tourist spots. 





The rocky slippery interiors are difficult to trek on. A dim bulb lights up only the entrance till you are in dark feeling the rocky walls. Trekking inside the cave can be uneasy if you have breathing problems or are scared of dark. Sunlight gushing through the exit might give you little relief. The feeling to walk through the dingy caves where these big carnivores crawled one gave me goosebumps.


















AdvisableWear sports shoes. Heels do not work here. Those suffering with ortho or breathing difficulties should avoid.



Apart from these caves, there is a little eating joint, a shed on raised platform, nature trails and an entertainment point for Bulls Ride. The noisy generator and thick smoke was disturbing, but that’s how tourism sustains I guess.

Entry to Eco Cave Park- Rs 10 each 


2. Lovers Point


Well, one can easily guess why is the placed named so. Romantic view of lake, forest and hills, where lovers can spend some quiet moments. Not very far from here is the point from where the lake appears in the shape of mango. To me it appeared in the shape of a kidney bean. Hehe.
Entry fees- None



3. Suicide Point

 You’d be swarmed by horse owners, renting horses for treks. Practically every hill station has a suicide point which are well of course guarded now and converted into tourist spots. Nainital’s suicide point has a breath-taking view of the hills and Sun.





I wonder what enticed people to commit suicide? The uneven roads and rocky terrain do not feel much comfortable to walk on, but the last point is worth all the efforts. 
Entry fees- None

                                                 4. Snow View

Telescopic cameras are planted at this place for visitors to see Himalayas and China Peak. They sell to you view of hills which tower the China border and various corners of Himalayas. 


Seriously, I never feel like paying them just for the view of mountains, which may not be even visible in clouds. Personally, I would like to visit the place instead. The guides promote the view of “Palankhet”, the place which gained popularity in Bollywood hit “Raja Hindustani”. 


Part cloudy that day, Sun literally paid hide and seek with us. Nevertheless, the surrounding tall mountains were surreal, refreshing and beyond words. 
Entry Fees- None, Only charge for telescopic camera  


5. Bara Pathar

Is a trekking spot and a trekking school as well. We had nothing to do here and moved on to the next point. Book your advanced slots if you wish to trek or learn rappelling/trekking.


6. Khurpa Taal view

This lake is known to change seven colors. Only god knows how! We could not spot anything as clouds blanketed the whole area. Yet we got good photo opportunity.



7. Sukha Taal

This is the dry lake where we did not stop. There was nothing in the dry lake bed to look at.

8. Mall Road

Post a late lunch and quick nap at hotel, we headed back to the market place where we saw the visited Mehrotras house of wax, the oldest candle house in Nainital. The shop has beautiful , innovative and a huge variety of candles which make lovely giftables or showpieces.



At Shiva Restaurant we gorged on crunchy tikka with choley and cutneys. This was the best tikki snack plate I had in years! 

Strolling from the market place, we moved further to witness the Nanda Devi festival. The rush, the well-lit colorful stalls, the cultural dancers on the streets, everything gave us an adrenaline rush. The dancers decked up in cultural costumes belong to the Choliya sect. They celebrate by dancing to the tunes of their cultural instruments and take rounds of the town. 





The Nanda Devi fair held each year, sees thousands of vendors setting up their stalls for a week, selling everything from toys & utensils to home furnishing & imitation jewellery. The entire place is decorated with lights amid tight security deployed during the crazy fair rush. 




9. Naina Devi Temple

Visiting the Naina Devi or Nanda Devi temple is a must visit in Nainital, especially during the Nanda Devi festival time. I was at loss of words on entering the temple premises. The aura makes you feel so positive and energetic! 



                                                    




As the sun sets behind the hills, the bright colorful lights enliven the temple grounds against the glittering waters of the lake in the backdrop. And needless to mention the evening aarti is not be missed. As the temple bells echo in the air with an unmatched energy, the head pujari takes a round of the whole temple with the divine aarti. 


 
Prasad was distributed to all devotees post the aarti and we left as clean pious souls. Ah, too philosophical was it?

There is a mosque few meters away from the temple, and the religions have co-existed peacefully all these years. We headed opposite to the mosque to meet Swalay, who hails from Nainital and guided me for this trip. So glad to have met him and we chatted for more than an hour, discussing Indian tourism, politics, history- geography of Nainital and what not. 

Gupshup &selfie with Swalay
After dinner and a box of sweets from Mamu's Sweet Shop, we called it a day, preparing ourselves for the next day adventure in Kilbury and Pangot. 

Advisable- Baal mithai (a specialty sweet from hills), coconut burfi and chocolate burfi are the ones to die for!

How to reach Nainital-
Nainital is at distance of 297 km from Delhi.
The only railway line closest to Nainital is the terminating station at Kathgodam  which is 24 km before the hill station. Hire a taxi or local bus for further journey to Nainital.

Well connected by roads, Volvo buses terminate at Haldwani which is 30 km from Nainital. You can book Volvo from https://utconline.uk.gov.in/  . For onward journey you can hop onto a local bus to reach Nainital.

AC coaches reach Nainital directly. However run by private operators, they are often not trust worthy.


Advisable to take a train from Delhi to Kathgodam and continue the further journey in a cab or bus. Uncomfortable Volvo, wretched state of Anand Vihar bus stop and poor condition of road might prove to be a harrowing experience, hence spoiling your vacation even before it begins.