Lansdowne & Khirsu

Lansdowne and Khirsu

Lansdowne is a cantonment town in Pauri Garhwal district in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Lansdowne was developed by the British and is till date the quietest hill station of India. This was my third visit to this place in September 2015 and like always the place was simply awesome.

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Lansdowne is one of the most popular hill stations of Garhwal region when it comes to weekend destination. Just 260 kilometres from Delhi, it becomes a great getaway option for people who look for peaceful environment. This pristine place is managed by the Garhwal Rifles and is very neat clean unlike other hill stations because of Army rules and discipline. At an elevation of 1700 metres, this place offers great weather and mesmerising sunrise views of the Himalayas.

Travelogue

Travel dates: 7,8,9,10 September 2015.

Route Taken:

Day 1 — Delhi-Meerut-Bijnor-Najibabad-Kotdwar-Lansdowne.

Day 2 — Lansdowne-Satpuli-Buwakhal-Khirsu.

Day 3 and 4 — Khirsu.

Day 5 – Khirsu-Pauri-Rishikesh

Day 6 – Rishikesh-Delhi

Places to see:

  • Tip-n-top
  • Bhullataal
  • Thandi Sadak
  • Regimental War Museum
  • Bhim Pakora
  • Santoshi Mata Temple
  • Tarkeshwar Mahadev Temple (Approx 35 kms from Lansdowne)
  • Jwalpa Devi Temple

To Stay:

There are several hotels in and around Lansdowne. Though GMVN Tip-N-Top has the best location. The irony being that it has the Worst Food!

To Eat:

Hotel Mayur Located at Gandhi Park Market.

Day 1: Lansdowne

Relax and Do Nothing

After a brief planning done for a small Getaway from Delhi, we decided to go for Lansdowne. The road to Lansdowne is very good and has lesser traffic once we cross Meerut, though crossing Meerut city is a Task! Try and leave Delhi as early as possible; so that you have chances of not wasting time in Uncivilized Traffic of Meerut. If you are on Meerut bypass by 7 am you have healthy chances of saving yourself from stressful traffic.

Once out of Meerut cantt. The road is state highway #119 connecting Meerut to Pauri. It’s a single road without any dividers and is a pleasure to drive. Yeh JO desh Hai Mera… AR Rehman is perfect setting with the surroundings.

Tip: You may stop at Monty Millions a nice Highway Resort on way to Bijnor on Meerapur crossing.

Majorly Rural and Agricultural Props are seen around everywhere, Bijnor, Najibabad and Kotdwar are small towns and have little traffic except around Railway Level Crossings. Once out of Kotdwara, The hilly Roads start and it is a welcome gesture, you will fall in love with the hill ever bending roads. The road to Lansdowne is very well maintained as it is maintained and used by Indian Army.

Lansdowne is a Cantt. Town in Pauri Garhwal region of Himalayas; Also the regimental centre of the brave Garhwal Regiment. (Veer Gharwlai The Slogan of Garhwal Regiment). Once you start approaching towards the Cantt. Of Lansdowne, you will experience a sudden change in the atmospheric surroundings. Lansdowne is surrounded by Oak and Rhododendron Trees. It is said that Lansdonwe was called Kaludanda before being named Lansdowne. Duding Monsoons the whole region appeared to look black (Kalu) due to oak and rhododendron trees surrounding this town, (danda meaning hill), Hence Kaludanda. Every car has to pay a daily Parking fees Of Rs 50 to enter Lansdowne Cantt. And Per head fees of Rs. 1 per head.

It takes 5 hours to cover 250 kilometers to Lansdowne from Delhi; upon reaching Lansdowne, We reached to our GMVN Guest House. The views of the Hills from this resort are simply amazing. Words are not sufficient to describe the beautifully colored Landscape Mixed with Clouds and sunlight perfectly hiding the snow covered Himalayan Peaks. One has to be very lucky to spot the snow-covered peaks during this time of the year. GMVN has the best of locations throughout Uttarakhand. They are very spacious and have big lawns with Perfect views. We had bookings for super deluxe cottages (Rs. 5000 per day). For refreshments we ordered to the room service; Tea and snacks were served on time. While in Lansdowne it’s a place to simply lay back and be easy. It’s a place to relax and do absolutely nothing! One can take long walks and also explore the hiking trails along the hills of Lansdowne. So one can take detours to nearby “Khal” i.e. a small village in hilly area. There are plentiful of Khals nearby.

Days are Normal but nights are very cold here even in September, God! What happens here in winters? In Lansdowne there is nothing much to do so one can sit back, relax and do nothing. This is what we realized once we started looking for options on what to do! We decided to eat whatever we had brought from home, and stay in the hotel itself. Tea and snacks are exceptions; ordered every now and then. We had to get up early so slept on time.

Day 2: Sightseeing 

Today is a very fine day and our first morning in Lansdowne. It’s very chilly as we woke up at 6 in the morning. We had plans to see the sunrise and at 6 AM we were minutes away from the most beautiful phenomenon… The Sunrise!

The sun is very shy at the time of sunrise and slowly slowly like an Indian Bride, Moves towards the altar, the horizon. We rush towards the View Point, “Tip n top” just near our resort and we had been very lucky to spot the Snow covered Himalayan peaks. Though only for ten minutes, it’s an amazing sight. After clicking some photos, our golden chance was gone and clouds again covered the view of snow covered peaks. After this we came back to our room to take rest and have breakfast. Bread Toast and boiled eggs with tea… Our Standard breakfast while on vacations. Then we got fresh and ready. We had planned for Tarkeshwar Mahadev Temple some 36 kilometres away from Lansdowne and at a height of 1,800 m.

Tip: On way to the temple one may stop for refreshments at the Tiger café, it’s a nice place to relax and chill. Tea and snacks are tasty, we didn’t try food though. Here its very foggy and no sunlight. It looks very gloomy and doomy while it’s foggy.

Its little humid today maybe because of the rain last night. This makes travelling and specially driving in thin Himalayan roads a task. Road to Tarkeshwar is a single road throughout and with maximum width of 15 to 20 feet. Road gets narrower as we get closer to the temple. The place is known for its temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Surrounded by thick forests of cedar and pine, it is an ideal place for those who seek for beauty in nature and at the same time are Shiva followers too. During Shivratri, a special worship is held. The temple committee provides a small dharamshala for accommodation. It has minimal charges for night halts if visitors plan do so.

Lord Shiva is worshipped in various forms throughout Uttarakhand. Here in Tarkeshwar, the Hair or locks are worshipped; “Kesh” meaning Hair. The approach to the temple is through a very narrow road and no vehicles can go inside. After a brief visit to the temple we decided to head back towards Lansdowne.

We are back in lesser time and head straight towards the market to have lunch. This time we tried another restaurant – “Zaika” the food was decent and very fulfilling. Now we are free again. Ab kya karein? Kaludanda Café is a good option near Bhulla Taal for chilling out. One can enjoy boating here in the small man-made lake Bhulla Taal. The place has a café that offers various snacks from Chaat to Chinese. After this we head towards the GMVN resort and relax. The second day has come to an end. It’s 7:00 PM by now and its pitch dark outside. We are watching a movie in our room and order dinner in some time.

Dal, jeera aloo and chapaits along with green salad. The same dinner we order every time while we are in GMVNs. Dinner is served hot and tasty. The day has come to an end. And we sleep on time.

Day 3: Khirsu

Today we have plans for Khirsu some 91kms away. Khirsu can be reached from Lansdowne via Jaiharikhal or Deriya Khal. We take the Jaiharikhal route. For this there is a diversion right from the cantt. Itself , one doesn’t need to go out of the cantt. To Deriakhal.

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Jaiharikhal is a tiny hamlet of at the max twenty houses on the Kotdwar-Lansdowne road, but it can also be reached by a trek of about 2 hours from Lansdowne through the surrounding jungles. The route to Deoharikhal seems out of some fairy tale, jungles pass by and views come in; as you keep stumbling upon small vantage points throughout the route. Just ahead of Deoharikhal lies Jaiharikhal.

There is a small market place in Jaiharikhal and a small post office too. Basic facilities of Indian post can be availed through this post office, though only till 12:30 PM. Market place is generic to small Himalayan villages and only has basic commodities.

We posted a letter from the post office and not to my surprise there was no electricity in the area. So no speed post could be done.

There is no nearby Hill Station that u can hop to, Lansdowne is the nearest Hill Station besides Pauri and Khirsu.

Khirsu is A Hidden Gem.

Khirsu is a small hamlet and an upcoming destination as a hill station near the famous town Pauri in Gharwal region of Uttarakhand. Being here needs to have a different mindset. Yu need to immerse yourself deep into the natural surroundings and savor the beauty of the Mother nature. Khirsu is a lesser known place in Uttarakhand region as there are no connecting hill stations. The only famous hill towns being Lansdowne and Pauri. Both of these towns have lesser Commercial Prospects, So we as Nomadic Travelers’ always have to pack necessary confectionery (Biscuits Chocolates chips bread and butter jams etc) along with us.

Despite these cons there are pros also!

Pauri Garhwal has the most untouched and pristine surroundings. Unlike rest of Garhwal Pauri Garhwal has beauty in its own way. The creamy sloppy hills of Khirsu offer a panoramic view of the Snow covered peaks of the Central Himalayas. Because of its geographical location, it is secluded from many from commercial life, thus it does not attract a large number of tourists. Here one can get a clear view of many peaks of the Gangotri belt. Khirsu is located 19 km away from Pauri at an altitude of 1,700 meter and is a peaceful spot, free from pollution. Only the chirping of birds breaks the tranquility of the adjoining thick Oak and Deodar forests and apple orchards. The ancient temple of Ghandiyal Devta in the vicinity is well worth a visit. Accommodation is available at the GMVN Tourist Rest House and Forest Rest House.

Places to see:

Practically there is nothing to do here in Khirsu. One goes here to enjoy natural surroundings and rest.

  • Van Manoranjan Kendra
  • Khirsu – Garhwal Van Vibhag, Pauri
  • Machaan at the park
  • Visit the market in Khirsu
  • Go to Chaukhamba view point
  • Take panoramas of Chaukhamba Massif
  • Hathi Ghodi peak
  • Kandoliya Temple (Pauri)
  • Kyunkaleshwar Mahadev Temple (Pauri)
  • Visit the Horse shaped town (Pauri)

The nights are very cold here in Khirsu. It is advisable to carry woolens or jackets along. Days are warm. We reached Khirsu in about 3 hours from Lansdowne. It’s just 91 kilometres away but the bumpy stretches of the narrow and curvy roads add up to the time taken. Thankfully there were no traffic jams. GMVN Khirsu is a decent option to stay (and probably the only good option) for general public. The forest rest house is not open for general public. There is a long bureaucratic queue to pass if one wishes to stay here. Your application passes through the entire forest department before being processed and accepted. The location of both GMVN and FRH are excellewpid-20150909_060656.jpgnt.

The moment we reached GMVN, there is a sense of happiness among the staff. There was no one except us who had bookings here. The hotel was not booked for a long time now, the last check in being two weeks ago. The property is maintained well and the staff here is very helpful and courteous. Food; is exceptionally very good. There are not many accommodations to offer. There are 4 hutments with 2 rooms each and 8 rooms 4 on each floor.

We checked in our room and ordered tea and snacks. The simple things in life seem to be very pleasing. Just tea and pakoras taste heaven in such an environment. The beautiful setting of the view and fresh air add to the taste. In our homes we don’t get the same taste; even when we prepare much better stuff! While sipping tea, we noticed that the clouds were clearing. And within span of minutes, we could see the Chaukhamba Peak. Just ahead of us lays the beautiful and huge mountain. Chaukhamba.

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Seeing this beauty, I was determined to get up early morning to see the sunrise. So today after having tasty dinner we slept on time.

In the morning with complete focus we got up at 5:30 AM were treated with the nature’s beauty which I’ll never forget. I have seen sunrises before but not so phenomenal. Hills in five levels with the clouds settled between them leaving the Chaukhamba and the neighboring peaks alone to face the early sunrays. It created different colors all around. For next one hour we were mad clicking photographs and enjoying the inexplicable beauty.

Soon its time that we have now started to feel the chills of winter mornings. The air is very chilly and it’s turning unbearable by now. Without a cup of hot tea, one is not comfortable. Tea and boiled eggs are ordered with butter toast. Our standard breakfast again.

As we are savoring upon the mere-breakfast, the Chaukhamba Massif plays hide and seek with the help of clouds coming and settling here and there, again vanishing in thin air. This goes on for hours and hours of the daytime, light plays its magic side by side. Rays of sun make a beautiful scenery every minute. This is the gem of Khirsu. One has to experience the impeccable beauty the nature has to offer.

As the day progresses it gets hot. This means it’s time to get indoors and sleep. We get up at lunch, the attending staff is waiting for the order. They make a tasty lunch on special demand, they prepare Fresh Lime Soda. LOL .. it’s a delicacy in such a place! After lunch we proceed to the market and see the wonders of the hill market place. The market ends before it starts. Hardly 8-10 shops around on both sides. Basic commodities, groceries and veggies are sold in the same shop; the barber in the barber shop is also the insurance agent, tea vend is the local news exchange, the samosa shop is the barber shop in other place and footwear store is also the stationery items shop. There are two Jewellery shops too!

The busiest of ’em all was the post office!

We returned with lots of fun seeing the locals in their daily chores. It’s very close to the GMVN guest house since Khirsu is a small village. We reached our room in no time.

We had plans for Khirsu market again next morning. Since the postal services were open for a limited time only.

Evenings have their different set of colors. Chaukhamba and the neighboring peaks of the Gangotri belt provide the perfect setting for the perfect sunsets. The rays of light of the sun setting produce various geometrical lines all around and it’s very beautiful to see those lines.

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Day has come to an end and it’s time for evening tea. The dinner is too followed in some time just like yesterday.

Day 4: Himalayas, Pauri, Rishikesh

Its 5:30 AM and a today is a very beautiful morning indeed. Today we tried to do something different as we climbed to the terrace of the main building to see better views. Since there are trees and plants in the garden, they obstruct the full panorama. The roof of the main reception building gave un-interrupted views of the Snow covered peaks. It’s a tough climb up there to the terrace of the main building but it’s worth the effort. You may have excellent views of the Himalayas. It’s time to order breakfast so we order Morning tea and have a quick breakfast. Later at 10 AM parantha and curd are ordered.

Today it’s our last day in Khirsu and we have to make the most of it. As mom and dad packed bags, I had ample time exploring the property. While exploring and taking photos, I stumbled upon a giant beetle. It was an enormous mountain bug. I haven’t seen anything of these sorts ever in my life; it was big enough to scare me. Scary “Big Black Beetle” and thankfully dead.

There is a small path way leading to the village downhill just nest to the boundary wall of the property. As we see down towards the valley, I noticed that there is a water hole. A water hole is a man made depression in which water collects. Here in this case it is made by the forest department; especially this one is regularly used to drink water by wild animals, the leopards.

The region of Garhwal especially from Lansdowne to Pauri is an excellent Leopard territory. Whenever one is coming late in the night there is a 50:50 chance that one may spot a leopard near the road. Here too in Khirsu, while on the road to Khirsu from Pauri, there is a spot where there are many trees and it is very dense area of the forest, here people have 90% chance to spot a leopard during summer months during day time.

Also talking about the water hole near the GMVN guest house, the locals are used to leopards near them everywhere. They have adapted to the lifestyle of the Himalayas and don’t interfere in the “Leopard’s Business”. The leopards are spotted daily near this water hole during winter months. No interference in leopard’s life means that leopard spares the humans. Leopards are very shy creatures and never cross ways with humans during day and also during night don’t come near well lit areas. It just ignores humans but there are cases of conflict in the past.

Luck didn’t favor us in this leopard territory, we didn’t spot any Leopards.

Its 12:00 noon and time that we checkout.

On our way back we stopped at the market to post our letter at the post office, and also at Yuvraj Jewellers, in the main market to buy some silver jewellery. A brief stop also at the post office to post a letter.

“Post office Khirsu” pin #246147

This is the busiest place of the Khirsu market. People from nearby villages flock here in numbers to check their savings balances and deposit or withdraw funds. Also occasionally to send letters.

We asked the postmaster to give us stamps and envelopes. He didn’t have any envelope! So we bought an envelope from the stationery shop and affixed a stamp of Rs 5. The main task before posting the letter was to write one; so papa wrote a letter. Finally a letter was posted.

Now we are heading towards Rishikesh Town via Pauri. The road otherwise is via Srinagar but due to landslides and floods prevalent in the area earlier, the roads were in a very bad condition. The locals advised us to take the route to Rishikesh from Pauri. The horse shaped town of Pauri is visible even during the day time depicting the shape of a horse. During the night the horse shape is very clearly visible.

Clouds play hide and seek every now and then and the mountains are visible from a very few vantage points. But the scenery is very crisp. Road from Pauri to Rishikesh is like travelling along Spanish hill side. Meadows and small hills appear, this is because you are on the hilltop at many points.

The altitude descends with every mile travelled. The distance of 115 kilometres from Pauri can be travelled in 3 hours. We had bookings in the Vanprastha Ashram for the night, so we took left on the highway after Shivpuri towards Swargashram. It’s a very good road as one can see the whole of the Rishikesh town from the road itself.

It is known as the pilgrimage town and regarded as one of the holiest places to Hindus. Hindu sages and saints have visited Rishikesh since ancient times to meditate in search of higher knowledge. Swargashram is on the eastern ghats of the Ganges and daily aarti is performed at Triveni Ghat. Right nest to where we were living @ Vanprastha Ashram. Some of the biggest aashrams are located on this side of the ganges, vis Gita Bhawan (1, 2, 3 and 4), Parmarth niketan, and Vanprastha Ashram.

Over the years, Rishikesh has established its name as the yoga capital of the world. From all over the world and serious yoga students come here to learn asanas and kriyas of yoga that will help them lead a healthy life. People also come to Rishikesh for weekend adventure tours mainly River Rafting and Camping.

But we were here for neither of them; we were here to spend some leisure time before we were back home. Being here in Rishikesh also needs a different mindset, you need to calm yourself and immerse yourself into devotion for Holy Ganga. It is more tourist friendly than other nearby cities as it sees a lot of foreign tourists. Accordingly the facilities are in place. There are many a things one can do if you are in Rishikesh for 1 night and 2 days.

Things to do:

  • Visit Neelkanth Mahadev Temple
  • Visit the Tryambakeshwar temple, tallest in Rishikesh
  • Do speed boating in Ganga near Laxman Jhoola
  • Visit Laxman Jhoola and nearby souvenir shops
  • Eat breakfast and lunch at Chotiwala Restaurant
  • Walk around long lanes between Ramjhoola and Laxman Jhoola( Swargashram )
  • Do divine activities, Donating biscuits and food to poor.
  • Brief visit to Goa Beach
  • Have coffee or snacks at German Bakery
  • Attend Ganga Aarti at Triveni Ghat
  • Have dinner at the Ashram Canteen.

And yes, all of this can be done in the same day!

Upon reaching the swargashram we headed straight to our ashram. At the help desk, two elderly men were there to attend, seemed that they themselves needed help.. LOL… we had a word with them earlier this morning and a guy HardwariLal, was kind enough to give us a room for two days one night. Total fare was approx 1150 for 3 nights. Any visitor is given room for minimum 3 nights and maximum 3 months. People especially elderly come here to relax and enjoy their second innings of life.

Days are very peaceful and nights are quieter too. There is not much hustle and bustle here. The Rishikesh town is flocked by foreign tourists all round the year. During September, it’s off season here too! Not many Indian tourists and pilgrims, mostly foreigners are seen here.

We checked in our rooms and what an accommodation it was. We got two bedroom apartment with attached bathrooms, a dining area and balconies.

We quickly catch some sleep and reach out for the market afterwards.

Chotiwala restaurant is nearby and the best option there. After savoring lunch, we proceed towards Lakshman Jhoola area. This area gives true feel of modernity. This area has the maximum concentration of foreign tourists. Accordingly there are many cafes and restaurants serving international cuisines. There is a German Bakery where we had French croissants and cup of tea.

While we had tea and snacks, sun is setting and we enjoy the scenery. Also the balcony of German Bakery offers a good vantage point to click photographs. One can click panoramic photos of the Ganges from here.

Spending some time here at the bakery we decided to take a walk towards the Goa Beach.

Its 15 min walk from the bakery.

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