Kumaon Sojourn

Kumaon Sojourn: Almora

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.Explore. Dream. Discover.” ———- Mark Twain

“Buddy can I use your laundry room downstairs for a while? I need to quiet place for a few minutes to record my voice. I have to email it to a studio urgently.” I asked the reception guy at the Rainbow Guest House & Restaurant, situated amidst the pine trees on the outskirts of Almora in Uttrakhand.

“Ahh what!”  Perplexed, the reception guy asked.

“Can I use your spare laundry room for ten minutes to do some work on my laptop? I need a quiet place.” I asked again, rephrasing the question.

“Oh! ya ya, sure. Go ahead.” He replied happily.

Thanking him, I went downstairs in a small quiet laundry room and did my work in flat ten minutes. Mohsin, my biker buddy and dear friend, was, meanwhile, fiddling with his phone waiting for me outside.

Greatful I am to the Almighty for the kind of work (read– no work, all play) I do; for I can record my voice from any silent room and mail it to the studios in Mumbai. Being a voice over artist I can travel and work with little or no distractions (and I hardly work for half an hr at a stretch).

Niptaa bhi aaye tum”  you’ve done your work? A feeling of love and admiration was reflecting in Mohsin’s face as he asked me. He has always been my well-wisher and a good friend who is straightforward and speaks truth whether one likes it or not.

Both of us were traveling to Almora and beyond from Bhowali (near Nainital) on a Royal Enfiled; it was an unplanned trip.

Bhowali is a small town some fifteen kms from Nainital on the way to Almora.  Me and my travel buddy had landed a day before from Delhi and Lucknow respectively in Bhowali.  Nainital, the cliche hilly tourist spot, was packed to its capacity due to a busy extended weekend on occasion of Dussehra and Gandhi Jayanti. And we had no intention of going there. Crowded hill stations and regular touristy places are never on my travel list.

Luckily for us, we found a nice budget guest house-cum-restaurant on the outskirts of Bhowali. Orjun uncle, the owner of Elaichi Restaurant, had set it up last year. Despite being a new property, it was well maintained; the delicious food is the highlight of the stay there.

bhowali overlooking bheemtal valley

                                         (Bhowali)

elaichi cafe and guest house

(Elaichi Restaurant and guest house)     

BOWALI HOTEL

                (View from our room in Bhowali)

After a day of sightseeing in and around Bhowali, we headed to Almora early next morning.
Streaks of sunbeams trickling through the trees; fresh mountain air; and the thundering Royal Enfield meandering its way in the beautiful, almost traffic-free road was a delight.

In about 15 minutes we reached Kainchi. Its famous for Kainchi Ashram of Baba Neem Karoli.  Also known to followers as Maharaj-ji, he is known outside India for being the guru of a number of Americans who travelled to India in the 1960s and 1970s.

Steve Jobs (founder of Apple Inc.), along with his friend Dan Kottke, traveled to India in 1973 to meet Neem Karoli Baba, but arrived after the guru died in September of that year. Hollywood actress Julia Roberts was also influenced by Neem Karoli Baba. A picture of him drew Julia Roberts to Hinduism.

kainchi

                     Kainchi Dham  

baba neem karoli

          Baba Neem Karoli with his disciples in 1960’s/early 70’s

 

Riding pillion on the Royal Enfield, I clicked many pictures of the pristine route and shot some videos on the move, before stopping at Kakrighat. It was an instant decision to stop here; there was some mystical thing about this place that prompted us to spend some time here on the banks of Koshi river. I was engulfed with tranquility and calmness of the place. I was at peace with myself.

kakrighat-en route to almora

 (Kakrighat: on the way to almora)

kakri ghat

(Kakrighat: on the way to almora)

 

selfie at kakrighat

(A Selfie at Kakrighat )

Coincidently, after the tour was over, I came across an article mentioning the importance of this place.

During period of 1890 swami Vivekananda meditated under a Pipal tree at this place during his travel to Himalayas.

We reached just outside Almora in about 3 hrs from Bhowali, with couple of more stoppages in between for clicking pictures and having some snacks

.IMG_20141008_093917

  • ( Just before entering Almora: 
  • the bus in the pic going to Almora; the route on the left is towards Kausani )

After a sumptuous maggie noodles break, and a short stopover at a petrol pump in Almora, we headed straight to, Kasar Devi temple, located in a hilltop some 8 km away from Almora town.

A few meters on the approach to the temple is the Cranks Ridge or Hippie’s Hill.

Who would think Danish mystic Alfred Sorensen, musician Bob Dylan, pioneers of the Hippie Movement and Swami Vivekananda would have anything in common? No actually they don’t. They just all fell in love with the same quaint village nestled in the beautiful Kumaon hills. Kasar Devi is an enigma of sorts. Unimpressive at first sight, impossible to forget by the time you have finished your trip. I’d often wondered what it was that attracted a saint in search of peace, a musician looking for inspiration and a bunch of people looking for a high to the same place?

 

All through the last century, the ridge was a haunt for bohemian artists, writers and spiritual seekers (including notable western Tibetan Buddhists), Lama Anagarika Govinda resided here for a while and was visited by Anandamayi Ma. In the 1960s and 1970s, luminaries of the counter-culture, including Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens made pilgrimages to the ridge. Others such as Allen Ginsberg and Robert Thurman also spent months and years here. Thurman, the Buddhist scholar, who spent six months with his wife Nena von Schlebrügge here, came with their 3-year-old daughter Uma Thurman in 1971.
Ah well, so much for history.

———– source: siddharth sen (blogger)

CRANKS RIDGE

       (Crank’s Ridge or Hippie’s hill — as seen from Kasar Devi temple)

We had a nice time trekking in the hippie’s hill and areas around.

trek at cranks ridge

                           (Running amidst the pines)

trek at cranks 2

         (A trek through the pines)

Kasara Devi Temple:

This 2000 yr old temple of goddess Durga, initially in the form of a natural cave, was given a temple form in 1948. It finds mention in Skanda Puran.

Swami Vivekananda visited Kasar Devi in 1890s, and meditated here.

kasar devi temple            \

 

KASARA DEVI

             (Kasar Devi Temple)

 sitting on rock at kasar

(Sitting on a nearby rock at Kasar Devi overlooking Hawalbag Valley)

 

Hours flew by at this mystical place; there was something in the air.

( Thunderclap Newman “Something in the air” 1969 )

 


ALMORA AND BEYOND….to be continued