It was my parents’ 25th Anniversary (yep, silver jubilee and all) some time back. And we decided to spend it away from home. Once again, my parents spent ages ruminating over the options, and never deciding. So once again, I had to finally put my foot down and decide on a destination by myself.
Because we couldn’t get too many days off from work, the place had to be nearby, and had to provide some much-needed respite from the Delhi heat. So after much thought, I zeroed down upon the Queen of the Hills – Mussourie.
It was a good decision!
It was smoggy, so we didn’t get a perfect view of the mountain range around. However, the one day we decided to amble along the Mall road, it was sunny enough to give us all sunburn (we returned with red noses and foreheads).
All in all though, it was lovely. We stayed at the lovely Kasmanda Palace, which has beautiful English gardens, a restaurant deck which overlooks the valley, and old-world vintage decor inside the main building, which is fascinating to look at.
The trip was centred around admiring nature, relaxing in peaceful surroundings, and me trying out my new DSLR.
Kasmanda Palace (view from the restaurant deck)
Slightly smoggy views in the morning unfortunately (as in, it broke my heart, because I had been looking forward to some spectacular views)
The palace gardens are beautiful. Such a lot of flowers!
Still searching for the name of these flowers. But just look at those colours!
Swaying Himalayan Aster (according to my extensive research)
And what’s an English garden without a birdbath…
There’s a Magnolia tree in the garden too. And it was flowering. Win!
And for those of you who haven’t seen magnolia flowers before (just like I hadn’t before this trip), here’s how they look off the tree…
Surprisingly, more than the flowers, I was enchanted by a huge Maple tree. I even got a leaf home, as a souvenir and memorabilia of our time here.
This maple tree had me captivated
We took a half day trip outside Mussourie. We first went to Landour, which is famous for being the place where Ruskin Bond lives. I was very excited about going there. I imagined bumping into him somewhere, and discussing how much I liked his books.
Imagine my disappointment when the driver suddenly drove past a red building, with ‘Doma’s Inn’ written on it (surrounded by distinctly Tibetan paintings) and pointed out what looked like a side door, and said, “That’s where Ruskin Bond lives”.
And that was it. Before I could protest and ask the driver to stop, we had flown down the narrow road, leaving Bond’s house behind. The disappointment of not even being able to see Bond’s house properly, let alone him, was so much that I didn’t take any pictures in Landour at all. Oh well. I guess I’ll have to plan a stay at Doma’s Inn soon.
After Landour, we moved on to Dhanaulti. This wasn’t the first time we were going that way. My parents and I remember Dhanaulti as the place-we-were-on-our-way-to-but-our-car-broke-down (this happened at least 10 years back). So, though we knew about Dhanaulti and should have already visited it, had it not been for a very bad road 10 years back, this was the first time we actually went there.
The roads are a lot better now, I was told many times by my parents, who have a better recollection of what had happened the last time we were on that road than I did.
The place to visit in Dhanaulti, is the Eco Park. It’s supposed to be a peaceful place, but now has a variety of ‘adventure sports’ (kids hanging from harnesses and zipping down a line) and swings (in the shape of animals). I understand that children must be kept occupied in such a place where there is nothing to do, but it affects the serenity of the place. A lot.
It was only when we walked quite a distance into the forest, did we actually experience the stillness of the forest; the only sound was the incessant buzzing of cicadas (which are found in abundance here), and the occasional trilling whistle of some bird.
Deodar trees at the Dhanaulti Eco Park. Towering above us, I could tell why they were regarded as sacred by Indian sages. And below our feet, their needle-like leaves covered the forest floor
The fun part was when I had a long whistled conversation with a bird in the forest. When it whistled, I whistled back, and it replied back in turn. I was hoping it would show itself, because I could make out by the increasing volume of it’s whistle that it was coming closer, curious to find out whether I was some new bird who just did NOT know how to speak bird.
Sadly, it didn’t reveal itself. I only saw one bird which allowed me to photograph it…
This tiny little guy was the only one who posed long enough for me to get a photograph
Side note : I love ‘conversing’ with birds. And if you want to try, you just need to know how to whistle. When you hear a bird chirping, whistle back. In most cases, the bird will whistle back and keep replying every time you whistle. I did this with another bird in Mussourie too
So, back to Dhanaulti Eco Park…
Gorgeous flowers were in abundance. And interesting insects to boot
The Eco Park was lovely, and if we would have had more time, I would have loved to just sit on one of the many log seats in the forest, and enjoy the surroundings.
Yes, I’ve grown old.
Back from Dhanaulti, we enjoyed some time on the Mall road, went up to Gun Hill (so called because there used to be a canon on that hill, which was fired every hour of the day to tell the time. It was stopped because the canon ball once crashed through someone’s roof. I surmise the person wasn’t very happy about that) by cable car. Because of the smog, the view wasn’t as great as it should have been, but we did catch a bird’s eye view of our hotel!
See the bright red roof and turrets? That’s the Kasmanda Palace, the hotel where we were staying
A special mention to the night view of Mussourie. Spectacular!
Mussourie at night was as gorgeous as ever. Glittering and bright.
There’s still so much to explore in Mussourie. And so many other seasons to see it in. Now I kind of get why people go there multiple times. And as Ruskin Bond puts it…
“It is always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape.”
― Ruskin Bond (Rain in the Mountains : Notes from the Himalayas)
(All photographs belong to me. Please ask before sharing them anywhere.)