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Lansdowne in a Jiffy!

For a solivagant like me, its hard to shun out the eleutheromania triggered when you see
energetic infectious vibrance in fellow backpackers while in your everyday metro ride to
office. It had been a while so I browsed and zeroed on in Lansdowne for my weekend
dose. Quick facts - Lansdowne, in an area of 6 km 2 is a small town nestling at an altitude
of 1700m in Pauri-Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. Originally known as Kalunanda after
Kalun(black) and Danda (hill) in local language, Lansdowne was founded and named after
then Viceroy of India, Lord Lansdowne. In 1887, this cantonment town was established by
the Britishers to cater for recruits training for the regiment of Garhwal rifles of Indian
On a Friday evening, I boarded a local bus from ISBT Kashmere Gate connecting Delhi to
Kotdwar (Rs 195). After roughly 6 hours of sitting upright and ocassional bobbing in my
seat, I reached Kotdwar at about 3 am. There was a refreshing chill in the air.!. There was
no local bus before 6 am and the usual transport,i.e. maxxi cabs start by 5am-so the locals
said. To try my luck I headed to the market and there was one maxxi cab which was to
leave in some time & being a shared cab it had to wait for passengers to fill up. Thankfully
there were some wanderers like me. My ride was set! Strangely the market place was
alight, it had been so since 2am; all shops were open The driver pointed me to the tea stall
with JANVAANI poster, which as per him serves the best tea around; it stood true to the
word. I bought some peanuts as well to kill the chill. After a while we set flight for
Lansdown at ~3.45 am and it took 1 hours to reach. I paid 70Rs for this trip. Theres a
public washroom if you want to relieve yourself. While having tea at a nearby stall which
had just opened up, I read my novel waiting for the sunrise. It was around 6 already. The
driver had told me of a place called Thandi Sadak(Def Land) near SBI atm, for the perfect
view. I reached there in a 15min walk. There is a big rock. I climbed on the top with the
valley beneath my feet, hills in front, clouds afloat and the sunrise getting warmed up. Sky
with different hues of blues and yellowish red slowly fusing in. Calling out crushs name
and when it reverberates, it feel great. Such calm, the exhileration and a feast for the eyes
makes you forget about the city chaos! There was the sun coming up and was glowing
above pretty soon. A view well enjoyed! Next thing I went to the market, got freshened up,
had a nice breakfast at Tipsy Caf. Then I left to visit the local attractions. I started with
Garhwal museum and spent a good one hour there, gazing at all military stuff on display,
various arms and ammunitons used during different battles the Garhwal regiment fought.
Felt goosebumps on reading the letters! Just in front of the museum, the cadres were
undergoing for some test. The museum is open from 8am-1pm for the public.
Next on my way I quickly wrapped up the churches - St John & St Mary in order. From
there on, I had two options either go for Tip n Top first or Bhulla Taal. I chose the former.
While going youll find three roads, the left one goes down to Bhulla lake, the right one
ascends to Tip n top, and the middle one to some Col. House. I reached Tip n Top in no
time and whoa! What a splendid view you have in front. The complete panaromic view of
the valley with the glistening Himalayas. This point was worth taking the toll. At Tip n Top
there is a GMVN guest house which costs anything between 800-1500 Rs. & you have to

book online or its luck you get room availiblity on the spot. Next I headed to Bhulla lake.
Its a small lake with a few ducks quacking in a corner. Apart from me there was a family
and a group of two guys at the lake. You can easily guess the popularity of the place. I did
boating with one of the guys, for a nominal charge of 50 Rs for a 20 min ride. After the
boating, I got myself something to eat at the caf there and then returned to the
Lansdowne market. Having visited all these places, you would have covered all of
Lansdowne in a semicircle. Haha.
It was 1 pm, & I thought of fixing my ride for Tarkeshwar Mandir before having lunch. The
temple is a good 40kms. There are ways to plan your way up-down.
1. Specific cab no. 248 goes straight to Tarkeshwar at about 12-1 pm and returns the
next morning at ~7-7.30am. It is the only cab that has Tarkeshwar written over it.
(shouldnt charge more than 90Rs). Confirm the details with other cab drivers and
take the contact of the concerned driver for coordination. Name is Vikram if I
remember correctly
2. From Lansdowne to Chaukhliyakhal (60Rs) available till 1pm and ~6km walk or if
you are lucky you can get a lift in private taxi. Shared cabs from ChaukhliyakhalLansdowne till 1 pm
3. Break journey from Lansdowne-Deriyakhal (10Rs); DeriyakhalChaukhliyakhal(60Rs) and same as above.
After having lunch at Tipsy Caf I got a cab straight to Chaukhliyakhal. I had myself a
window seat and off we went. I reached Chaukhliyakhal; the ride which should have been
an hour took 1 hours due to drivers personal endeavours. You can find staying options
at Sisaldi which is 15kms from Chaukhliyakhal, or at Tiger Resort which is ~10kms from
the temple, or cheap stays at Dhabkhal (ahead of Chaukhliyakhal) or best is the
Dharamshalas at the temple. Oh and yes there is a small village Gundalkhet at 2kms from
the temple where there are few cheap stays which might turn out adventurous. Reaching
Chaukhliyakhal, I saw two roads, one with a dwara leading to Dhabkhal and the other to
Tarkeshwar. I was in luck! The person who happened to be the sarpanch at a nearby
village was kind enough to give me lift on his Bullet till the temple. On the way to the
temple, youll again have the scenic views of the Himalayas but you might have to position
yourself dangerously to capture as the camera frame might be barred by tall trees. The
sarpanch dropped me at the entrance of the temple.
Beware! At the temple entrance you might find couple of beefy dogs staring at you for
food just in case you have something to offer. I didnt. The only thing that came out of my
pocket was my camera. The moment I readied myself for taking a picture they kind of
came running towards me. I stood still for a minute and pleaded a local guy bhaiya isko
please leke jao yahan se; I was scared as hell. More so when these canines tilt their head
and keep staring. I somehow saved my camera and not to forget myself! The temple was
still 15 min walk from the entrance. I kept heading for the temple keeping my eyes on the
trail, without looking elsewhere, knowing that the dog was constantly tiptoeing behind &
chanting bhagwan.

Few minutes into the road, the dog was bored and it was all me. The complete area is
covered in the canopy of tall Deodar trees. A family was heading back with a white tilak
(consecration/investiture) on their forehead. I was hoping there would be some crowd. In
fact once I reached the temple, I found the place completely desolated in the midst of the
forest. It felt like one of the Wrong Turn movies setup. Not a single sound apart from
leaves screeching, wind whistling and the birds flapping wings. In that silence I could
have even heard a breathing but no! Not an ounce of a decibel. I called out numerous
times bhaiya, koi hai but no response. I checked out a couple dharamshalas but all
were locked. Was it only me there, I thought to myself. But then how come I saw a family a
while ago. A pandit must be around. After loitering for around 30 min, and shouting from
possible angles and altitudes, a person finally called out! He was the purohit. Imagine the
sigh of relief! He offered me tea. Sitting out, taking in the essence of the forestry
surrounding while sipping the refreshing cup of tea, it felt so good, relaxing. Am I
becoming nemophilisht? I took a quick look of the temple complex and clicked few
pictures. The purohit called out for boys(helpers) who take care of the guests. I was
shown to a dormitory room & settled in. I did some office work on my laptop. By 7.30pm
dinner was prepared; it was tasty but I ate light. You can take vegetables of your liking to
be cooked. About the cab 248, I had asked the purohit to confirm whether it would be
available the next morning. The purohit talked to the guy & had my ride fixed. The cab
was to be available from Gundalkhet. Before sleeping, I paid 300Rs for the complete
service of tea, staying & dinner. Theres 1000Rs room also if you want to splurge
I got up at 6, got ready in a jiffy & reached just about time by 7.20am at Gundalkhet and I
was happy to see the cab parked there. But was shocked when I met the driver; he said he
wont go till Lansdowne. Infact he was rather audacious enough to charge me 150Rs for
5kms till Chaukhliyakhal. Bhaad me ja BC!. I walked and walked and with my music player
time just passed by and I even had complete freedom to soak in the beautiful views of the
mountains and valley in my path. I reached Chaukhliyal in an hour and while I waited for
my return transport, had a nice cup of tea at the stall there. A few minutes of waiting and
a maxxi cab arrived from dhabkhal going towards deriyakhal. I reached deriyakhal by 11.
From there another cab till Lansdowne took another half hour. I had now two more points
left bhim pakora and hawaghar. I was quite excited to visit hawaghar as not much has
been written about it on the net and the only pic I found had me going. I first picked up
Bhim pakora and asked the locals about the directions. Bhim pakora is a mere 3 kms walk
from the Lansdowne market. The track to bhim pakora is pathetic and would probably
remind Delhites of dump houes maintained by SPML. Most of the track was covered by
Pigs!Litter!Smell! all around. Anyways somehow I had endured all this and reached the
famous Bhim Pakora. Its nothing but a pile of stones stacked together. Legend has it
that the Pandavas of Mahabharat epic once stayed there during their exile and Bhim, a
superhuman, for his own fun time played this game of balancing stones on top of each
other. Ha! (Just made that up)
Yes you can move the top stone even with your little finger but you cannot MOVE the
stone even with the push of your both hands. So there I was done with another tourist

attraction of Lansdowne. I headed back and went straight for Lunch again at Tipsy Caf.
Try their stuffed parantha and chicken curry. You wont be disappointed.
Now only Hawaghar remained. I had gathered my info that it lies on route to Jairikhal so I
took a cab going towards Jairikhal and got off at the so called hawaghar. To my shock
there was nothing as such that I had thought of when I had searched for hawaghar in
google which was something like this.

With the URL -

And when I had followed the URL the site had this very image and there was only itinerary
about Lansdowne. So I had thought. But was highly dissapointed to see not even close to
anything like this and even when I showed this picture to a few locals they replied they
have been livng for the past 25 years and there is no such place in or around Lansdowne.
All I got to see was shacks of a concrete slab on top of four columns and nothing else.
Rumour has it that drunkards come here at night to have their little party. The driver who
had dropped me off here had even jokingly said that bhaiya yahan bohot hawa behti hai,
isliye shayad ise hawaghar kehte hain. God bless him! So that was all of my weekend that
came to an end in such a manner. Near Hawaghar there was a forest trail that looked
interesting but owing to shortage of time and feeling annoyed, I didnt pursue it. Maybe
next time. Who knows, it might lead to real hawaghar. I was done by the afternoon
2.30pm and I didnt want to wait for my 9.40 pm train so I took a cab till kotdwara and
boarded a bus to Delhi. Meanwhile I had enquired about a bhairon mandir which is 20kms
cab ride from Lansdowne with marketplace called gumkhal at 14kms and from there
another 6-7kms to the temple foot & then 2.5kms ascent on foot.. Complete view of
Lansdowne city is visible from there. You spiritual people out there, should go for it!
An appeal if you do find something remotely close to the picture I have put up of
Hawaghar please do post some real pictures and give a detailed description of how to

On a totally unrelerated note Just the next weekend after Lansdowne I traveled to
Kolkata in Sealdah Duronto. If you are in that train and the train is getting delayed in the
afternoon which it probably will, they might serve you Veg Biryani in lunch. DONT EAT
Thank You!. And Happy Safe - Healthy traveling. Lots of foot trails to cover!

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