The Land of Lakes- Naukuchiatal and Nainital, Uttarakhand

In my very HUMBLE opinion, it’s really very hard to find a perfectly compatible travel-partner. Muni, on the other hand… Muni is my travel-soulmate. I can’t say much just yet, since we’ve just spent one tiny weekend together… But whatever little I saw of her that weekend… Our short trip to Naukuchiatal and Nainital was a perpetual high-five!

Muni is my cousin (well, actually, she’s my niece… But it’s easier to call her my cousin cause we’re the same age!). For most of our lives we had the occasional ‘hi-hello’ type relationship in which we met every few years. Sometime in 2010, though, she moved to my city, New Delhi, to study. Since that epic moment, our relationship evolved to a much more awesome one.

It was during one of her weekend visits to my house that we came across the Facebook page of this music festival called ‘Escape’. We both randomly got extremely excited about it, did a bunch of research, and decided to just take off. It was a spontaneous decision with no real reason or planning… We just wanted to go! In a couple of days, we had booked our return bus tickets and our 1-night accommodation and were ready to leave!!

We got onto the worst bus possible (I’ve written about it before… City Heart Travels. Ugh.I truly think we both survived it because we had each other), and at 6am, were dropped off in the middle of nowhere to try and make our way to Naukuchiatal.

A one-hour taxi ride worth Rs 700 took us to our destination. Thankfully, we arrived safe and sound (after hearing horror stories lately, I think we were pretty lucky). We had made arrangements with Camp Exile, and the owner, Pratish, came to pick us up from the street in his jeep.

Camp Exile was, as the name CLEARLY states… A camp. It had little tents of different shapes and sizes (we had booked a little dome tent for two, which had just enough space for us to lie in and, at the most, crawl around a little bit to fiddle with our bags.

See the little tent on the left? That was ours.

Then there was the dining ‘room’…

…some more tents…

…and plenty of, umm, wildlife…

The little place was absurdly charming. We had to walk a good half an hour to get to the main road. And this was the way…

‘Tal’ literally means lake. So Naukuchiatal was basically a lake city. Since we had a lot of time to kill before the festival started in the evening, we decided to walk around like mad-women (and this is why I say Muni is my travel-soulmate. NO ONE else would have agreed to walk with me all day in the crazy heat!)

We walked aaallllll day. And in the evening, we were SO exhausted, we decided not to go to the festival. Haha!

But, well, that would be an anti-climax. So, we did end up going…

I barely remember it. I was DEAD tired. Both of us were. We had walked easily over 10kms on the hilly roads, hitch-hiked a small distance (and felt mighty adventurous), and even visited another lake, Bhimtal, a long walk away while searching for an ATM.

And here you see the VERY sane Muni on a tree 🙂

Anyway, after coming back to the camp at around 2am, we had a WONDERFUL night. There was a bonfire, and a bunch of strangers sitting around. There was one guy with a guitar and a gorgeous voice, and we spent most of the night singing together. It was too dark to distinguish faces, but all of us bonded under the stars over the universal language of music… It was one of the most memorable nights of my life. Maybe not a big deal, but it was so simple, so nice. I don’t want to forget.

The next morning we decided we had seen most of what the little town had to offer and moved on to Nainital. This time, we used our brains, and instead of an expensive taxi, we squeezed into a share taxi (a Tata Sumo absolutely full of people) and paid Rs 40 each to travel pretty much the same route we had taken the previous morning as well.

I had visited Nainital manyyy years ago with my family. I think I was 6 or 7 at the time. Nostalgia washed over me as every memory came rushing back. Nothing had changed. Nothing. And I mean that in a good way.

Nainital is beautiful.

Again, Muni and I walked all over like absolute nut-cases (and this time we had our backpacks, unlike the previous day). We planned to take the rope-way and go to the top of the hill. But, of course, unfortunately, the rope-way had crossed its passenger capacity for the day. Since we both REALLY wanted to go to the top (and also had many hours free), we decided to walk up.

Walking up was… Hard. It was a looooong walk, quite steep, and there were a lot of monkeys on the way (I was absolutely terrified). Halfway up, we met this nice lady who told us exactly which direction to take at each fork in the road so we don’t meet vehicular traffic or dead-ends.

The walk to the top was well worth it…

When we came back down, I remembered this movie theater I had gone to the last time I was in Nainital. My family had been walking around, and it had suddenly started raining madly. We had rushed into the nearest building, which happened to be the theater, and just watched an extremely silly movie so that we wouldn’t have to stand around like doofuses waiting for the rain to stop.

We found the theater, but also found that it had closed down several years ago 😦

Some more walking around happened…

And then it finally started getting close to the time of our return bus. But since this was the epic City Heart Travels… The bus was over two hours late. There was, naturally, no information, and all the passengers kept asking one another if we had missed the bus. Ugh, how I hate that company!!!

Anyway, on a happier note…

The last coffee…

…and the last view of Nainital…

What a wonderful trip. Someday I will travel with Muni again 🙂

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4 responses to “The Land of Lakes- Naukuchiatal and Nainital, Uttarakhand

  1. You are lucky because it’s really hard to find someone with whom you can travel as selfishly as you’d have done if you were solo! I like to read about your super long walking trips at new places… I do that a lot (often with a rucksack on my back and a knapsack in front of me). And about the part where you were thinking of not going to the fest… I’ve had a similar experience… but eventually I went because that would be an anti-climax 😛

  2. Manka…. Love u a lot n miss u a lot… Plsss come back early… Will go for those super walks again… Miss u a lot.. This is a great piece of writing 😀

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