What happens when a bunch of 50 year olds (or thereabout) who have known each other for over half their lives, get together at a beautiful place in the mountains? They magically transform into their 25 year old versions!
That’s precisely what happened when about 30 of our IIT Kanpur batch mates got together at Naukuchiatal – a beautiful lake in the Uttarakhand mountains.
The outing was planned months in advance by email, and the more enterprising members of the group had arranged for the venue and accommodation. People came from everywhere – mostly all over India, but we also had at least one member from abroad. Spread over 3 days, some stayed only for part of the time, and in some cases they traveled longer than they stayed. But nobody doubted that it was well worth the effort!
In my case, I traveled from Mumbai – along with Tushar who came from Kolhapur.
We decided to take the train – Rajdhani Express from Mumbai to New Delhi
Traveling by train after a long time, I realized how much more fun it is as compared to flying cooped up in a tin can
At Delhi we picked up Prashant Sagar who had flown in from Coimbatore, and we drove together in a cab to Naukuchiatal
While stopping for a tea break at Rampur, we notice this really cool electric rikshaw. Priced at a decent 85k, it can run about 80-90 km in one charge and has a max speed of 22 kmph. For more info, check www.saeraelectricauto.com
Except for a small bad patch between Rampur and Haldwani, the roads were quite good all the way from New Delhi to Naukuchiatal
After Haldwani, we started climbing into the mountains, and the views of the hills with clouds hovering over them was a welcome sight
We reached Naukuchiatal in 8.5 hours from New Delhi. The accommodation was in the KMVN Rest House, ideally located just next to the lake
The gardens were in full bloom, with flowers of all shapes, sizes and colors
To do justice to the beauty of the place, we ventured out for a walk around the lake.
With Dhanajay Mohan – a leading naturalist and senior forest officer as our guide, we learned about many plant and bird species
The lake has lots of options for boating and conoeing. A small floating jetty provides access for passengers to get on and off the boats
After breakfast, we went for a day trip to Mukteshwar, which is about 50 km up from Naukuchiatal. The road climbs uphill all the way, and one can see the change in vegetation as the altitude rises.
We took frequent breaks to admire the scene and the crisp cold mountain breeze
Mukteshwar is at an altitude of 2286 meters (7500 feet), and gets its name from a 350 year old temple of Shiva known as Mukteshwar Dham, situated atop the highest point in the town, on the campus of the Veterinary Research Institute
We walked down the treelined streets of the well maintained campus of the Veternirary Research Institute
Until 1893 Mukteshwar was known for its shrines and temple before it was selected for serum production to protect animals from cattle plague. On the recommendation of the Cattle Plague Commission, the Imperial Bacteriological Laboratory had its genesis on December 9, 1889 at Pune and relocated to Mukteshwar in 1893
One of our batch mates – Kanwar Singh’s father actually served here many years back, so the visit had a special significance
We headed back after some hot tea, and were rewarded with some fabulous views of the hills
On the way back, we stopped by at the “Bada” Hanuman Mandir, paying our respects to the giant statue of Lord Hanuman
After we got back to Naukuchiatal, it was time for some boating in one of the colorful Shikara boats
Rowing a shikara is not as easy as it looks. Getting the balance of the two oars so that the boat maintains a single direction takes some practice – so I ended up making a few circles before I got the hang of it
The views of the lake from the boat were truly amazing! The lake was brimming with water from the recent deluge, and the trees along the coast skimmed the water to form a beautiful symmetry in the reflection
This small gate leading to the lake from a house hidden behind the bamboo trees looks picture perfect!
As it got dark, we gathered around in a circle and talked late into the night
The next morning it was already time to leave – too short a visit but lots of fun!
We got together for a last morning tea served on the verandah overlooking the lake
A last look at the serene lake before we get back to our busy lives in the city
After saying our good byes to everyone, we set off back to New Delhi
On the way back to Delhi, our cab broke down, and just would not start. It was raining heavily and we thought we would miss our train. Thankfully, Prashant’s quick thinking led us to call Sanjay Taneja who was also traveling to Delhi in his car. They happened to be just a few kilometers ahead of us, and they were kind enough to return and pick us up. What a close call!
Though this was a very short holiday, it was a special occasion for us all – with everyone expressing their realization that the friends we made during our IITK days were probably the best and closest friends in our entire lifetime. We also remembered our dear friend Ranjan who tragically lost his life this year, making us all aware of our vulnerability and bringing us all even closer together.