As part of our awesome series #StorifiedTravel we bring you tales from Roshni’s diary as she travels through Uttarakhand with the Terrain Troopers.
While the drive till Haldwani was hot and humid, the weather took a sudden turn as soon as our car hit the hill roads. The pine trees gave way to a cool breeze and for some time everyone was stunned into silence, enjoying the ride. On the way, a short stop was made at a tea stall for a Chai and Pakoda break. The tea seller got chatty and recommended a visit to Kasaur Devi. Little did we know, that’s where we would be spending the night.
The drive to Almora took slightly longer since our driver wasn’t too familiar with the routes but we managed to make it in good time. Right at the entrance of Almora, the team of Terrain Troopers welcomes us with a ‘Khata’, a traditional cloth that is used to welcome travellers after long journeys.
We all proceeded uphill to Kasaur Devi, where we finally checked in to our hotel, ‘New Dolma’ after 12 long hours. Ah, the relief and to be able to stretch, finally!
When we sat down for dinner, all 9 of us, we realized this was going to be ours and Terrain troopers’ first ever expedition. A local wedding kept us entertained with its folk songs, while Sanjay narrated the local wedding ceremony customs. He gave us further insights into the history of Kasaur Devi and leopard sightings in the local market that upped the excitement quotient further.
After an informative session, we retired to our rooms and dreamt of all the excitement that lay ahead.
We were woken up by the beautiful sun rays entering in our rooms at 5:30 in the morning. After a mouth-watering breakfast of parathas and chai, we spent some time strolling and admiring the beauty of nature.
The owner of the hotel, Pan ShingKhampa bid us farewell with a ‘Khata’, this time, to mark an auspicious journey.
Now, began the interesting phase. The Scorpio was replaced with 3 Bullets and one Bolero. The riders took their seats, while I, with the rest, sat in the Bolero that trailed behind the bikes.
The first stop of the day was a local temple famous for its deity, “GoluDevtaChitai”, said to be one of Shiva’s incarnations. The legend goes that if you write your wish on a paper and it comes true, you have to buy a bell and tie it in the temple. Hence, on the way, we could see shops selling bells that fit into the palm of your hand to bells that were 3 feet long.
The halls and lanes of the temples are filled with chits and bells, and we were amused to see some people had made their wishes official by getting them stamped on stamp papers! A few troopers went ahead to pay their respect, while the rest of us stayed back in the courtyard to introspect and read some more wishes (Oh dear lord, forgive me) and photograph the monkeys roaming playing on the bars.
From there on, we proceeded to one of the holiest temples in the Kumaon district – Jageshwar temple. Located at an altitude of 1870 meters above sea level, this temple is situated between a dense forest of deciduous trees. Said to be made by the Pandavas, this temple was a resting place for Lord Shiva. Spread across the temple are ancient inscriptions that date back to as early as the 7th century AD. Also present is over 108 Shivlings, each in a unique temple like structure made especially for them. In the middle of the temple is a wishing pond, where devotees make a wish and throw a coin. How many wishes have come true though, that’s a question no one has an answer to!
We then proceeded to VridJageshwar (Old Jageshwar) where an old run down temple is situated right at the top of the hill. It is said that Lord Shiva rested here before he descended down to Jageshwar. The drive from Jageshwar to the Old Jageshwar and back was quite a pleasant one. Coniferous and deciduous trees lined up the roads while reddish fallen pines made a blanket across the turf making the view from every angle a perfect wallpaper.
On our descent from VridJageshwar, we stopped at a local shop for a traditional ‘Pahadi’ Lunch. Our lunch consisted of ‘Madhwa’ ki roti, this is a dark brown chapati made from finger millets served with ghee, along with ‘Bhatkejwala’ a vegetable preparation, Dal and Jholi (kadi). The meal also had Rice and Ugal( a porridge like preparation made from cashew nuts). Along with freshly cut vegetables, they also served us salt prepared pahadi style which is different since it has crushed coriander, ginger, garlic and chilli in it. While we sat down to gobble up this sumptuous meal, it began to pour, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. We got hold of a few umbrellas and devoured the hot, steaming meal in the cold rain.
The rest of the day was at our leisure and we cozied ourselves in our hotel rooms gearing up for the next destination.