Up in the Himalayan Foothills

Trip Start May 01, 2010
1
80
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Trip End Apr 30, 2011


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Where I stayed

Flag of India  , Uttarakhand,
Monday, March 28, 2011

For our last ten days in India we decided to head up into the Himalayan foothills so from Agra we travelled north to Delhi from where we caught a train further north to a little end of the line town called Kathgodam. We arrived at Kathgodam at 11pm and found a budget guesthouse with cockroaches aplenty to bed down for the night. Early the next morning we took a taxi which drove up and up into the forest clad mountains to the town of Nainital, located at 1900 metres.

Founded by the British who were reminded of the Lake District, Nainital is set around a green lake in a steep sided, densely forested valley. A popular holiday resort for people from Delhi, the town itself is crowded and hectic with the constant sound of beeping vehicles. However, a network of walking trials in the surrounding hills, which are for the most part empty of anyone, takes you into a tranquil, peaceful world where the only sound is that of birds.

We did two long treks during our time here. For the first one we climbed steeply out of town up to a viewpoint called Snow View. Situated at 2270 metres we were able to look out across a series of ridges to distant snow covered Himalayan peaks. Unfortunately, the air was hazy preventing us from taking any decent photos. From Snow View we continued along a ridge and then up higher still to Cheena Peak at 2600 metres. We walked through bird-filled forests of oaks and pines and didn’t see another soul. At the top we had great views of Nainital far below us. From here we weren’t sure which path to take and ended up going off track and scrambling down through the woodland where we saw a couple of deer. It was so quiet we thought we might run into a Himalayan black bear! After an hour or so we found the right path which took us down to a small temple from where we headed back down into town.

Our second trek took us up the other side of the valley to Tiffin Top. Instead of following the main path which was fairly busy with Indian holiday makers being lead along on horses, we kept to the smaller paths where we were alone in the oak forest. Again we saw a number of small brightly coloured birds. We wandered around up here for hours reluctant to return to the busy town below.

Another day we visited Nainital Zoo where a number of high altitude species are kept. The trip started off well. We saw some beautiful pheasants with striking plumage, a number of different deer species, Himalayan black bears and leopards. The enclosures were of a fair size (they could always be bigger) and contained lots of natural vegetation. As the zoo became busier things started to annoy us. Firstly we appeared to be of more interest to the Indian visitors than the animals. While we were looking at the animals there would be a group of Indians staring intently at us instead. Then at the leopard enclosure a teenage girl started making horrible faces at them. This same girl then started feeding sweets to the deer. The final straw came when we were walking back down the hill past the bear enclosure. A big group had gathered around this bear which had its back to them. They were all shouting at it and throwing stones to try to make it turn around. I lost it at this point and started screaming at them asking what did they think they were doing to which I received looks of bemusement and someone said it wasn’t time for the bear to be sleeping! Looking back, I wish both me and Tom had been more restrained in our communication but we were both really angry by this point. Suffice to say we left the zoo sharpish fearing being chased by an angry mob!

It’s a shame that the zoo incident has clouded our experience in Nainital. Coming from the UK where animals are generally treated with respect, it’s difficult when faced with the realities of how they are treated in much of the world. Overall, however, our time in Nainital has been wonderful and the days we spent trekking were some of the best we have had in India.

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