Living in a metro city calls for occasional escapades from the hustle, bustle and jostle of daily life. In such a not-so-frequent occasion, I set for Nainital in this fall-winter. While I have always felt a mystical attraction for the silent hills, this journey had much more to offer and was special in many counts. Even today when in this idle winter afternoon, I sit in my balcony; the vivid images of the lingering horizon beyond the silent hills, serenity and stillness of lake and the magical sensation of mountains shrouded in mysterious mists come alive in front of my eyes, as if for an invitation for another rendezvous.
Nainital is situated around 270 k.m north of Delhi in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. The nearest railway station is in Kathgodam, around 35 k.m from Nainital. While, one can travel by train to Kathgodam and then hire private car (either personally or on sharing basis) to reach Nainital, I opted for overnight Volvo bus. Leaving from Anand Vihar, it was a smooth journey on the National Highway 24, except for some occasional stops. The pitching dark outside, as soon as we left NCR (The National Capital Region) had left me with no option but to try to have a nap on my already inclined seat. Though the excitement to unravel the mystery of mountains and hop around on the lap of nature after a long and uninterrupted life in Delhi, did not allow me to sleep, except for few minutes. It was around 5 in the morning, the bus stopped near a few road side tea stalls for a 10 minutes break. Though, I dint have any intention to have tea so early in the morning, I got down to have a sneak peek of the place. Hilly roads had already started with an upward inclination. No sound can be heard except the one coming from the unruly tourists chattering over their morning tea, breaking the code of conduct of the nature. I was well able to perceive what was in waiting from the serenity of the surrounding, the view of the approaching forest and the straight hills those can be seen in every direction you can look in. The bus started after some 15 minutes. Nainital is 30 kilometers from here, which means one and half hour in this hilly single road that goes upward and upward with the frequent scary loops and wild turns. It must be a literally uphill task for the drivers. Gradually, the light of the day started breaking in, making it clearer to see the places around. At this point, one can already see straight and high hills at one side and the deep gorges on the other. With the roads continuously going up, with the scary turns and loops, when even a slightest of imbalance can lead to a fall from this height into the stony gorges… an inevitable death. The feeling itself was enough to give a chill in the spine. What made it worse were the road-side signboards in literally every 100 meter which were continuously letting the drivers know “when you are driving, someone is waiting for your safe returns”.
After around 90 minutes of going through the unique feeling of awe, mixed with a fear and excitement, numerous turns and a near falling-over-the-gorge moment later our bus reached the coveted destination. A sigh of relief, from the view of seemingly sparse human dwellings….Next was what you must expect on arrival at any tourist place in India, a bunch of hotel agents awaiting and competing with one another to capture the biggest pie of tourists. I had the hotel room booked beforehand. A phone call and a few minutes later the hotel cab came for a pick up. It was a just decent hotel on the zoo road. While on the way to the hotel, I was already very much experiencing the serenity Nainital had to provide me, the exhaustion of an overnight bus journey was continuously coercing me to reach to the hotel room and take a tight nap. When I was in my senses again, it was 10:30 in the morning. Now it was time to explore Nainital, the time to indulge vociferously gorging the scenic beauty of Nainital, with my metro-lived-green-starved eyes. The entire hill station is situated surrounding the Naini Lake, which has a long mythological connection which dates back to the age of Mahabharata. A walk along the lake-side mall road is an experience to cherish for many years.