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Far from the maddening crowd

Tired of weekend spots that are just as crowded as cities, Bhupinder Singh escapes to the quaint Gharwali town of Lansdowne

The unexpected, but welcome return of the monsoons set fire to the wanderlust in me. I had to head out of the concrete jungle while the good weather lasted and picked Lansdowne, a small and peaceful town in Uttaranchal, for the sojourn.

Getting there
Hidden in the Pauri-Gharwal region of the Himalayas, Lansdowne is about 270 km away from Delhi. Since the roads are in a good shape, you can complete the journey comfortably in 5-6 hours. It is advisable to start early in the morning from Delhi. Though most of the route is set in the plains, the hilly terrain starts in the last leg of the journey. The easiest route from Delhi is via Modinagar, Meerut, Bijnor, Najibabad and Kotdwar. The route doesn’t have good eating joints, so pack some munchies for the way. There is a place called Vyanjan Vatika outside Bijnor, which serves good food, but the service is not very quick.

Alternatively, you can get to Lansdowne by train. The nearest railway station is Kotdwar, which is 40 km away, and you can hire cabs from there.

Best season
The best time to go to Lansdowne is the start or end of the monsoons. The greenery on the way simply takes your breath away. The rain water brings the dormant waterfalls and streams to life, making the scenery picture perfect. The sheer beauty of the area will beckon you to give up the dry comfort of your vehicle and get drenched in the waterfalls. The weather stays cool throughout the day in this season and the feeling of walking in the clouds is indescribable.

The hilly area begins from Kotdwar and you get drowned in the beauty and serenity of the hills immediately. You can soak in the fresh air, flora and fauna as the drive takes you through jungles of pine and deodar. You can see monkeys and langurs jumping around on trees and some rare species of birds that are native to this part of the country.

Khana peena
The two restaurants in the main market offer good food at economical prices. The only letdown is the absence of good hotels. The Blue Pine Resort is the best place to stay in, but you have to reserve rooms well in advance. The food and service at the resort are quite good. There is another small rest house with two log cabins. But it is only good for the great view it offers. They place is quite rundown otherwise.

The best sights
Lansdowne is primarily a cantonment area. The Gharwal Rifles have their Command Office here. As a result, a large part of the tourist attractions are centred on the Army. The St Mary’s church, which is maintained by the Gharwal Rifles, showcases an audio visual show on the important events in the history of Lansdowne and Gharwal Rifles. Another place one can visit is the Regimental Museum of the Gharwal Rifles.

The most popular place though is Tip n Top, which is the highest spot of the town and gives you a wonderful view of the snow-clad peaks of the higher Himalayas. There is a small café here that serves decent snacks and beverages. Apart from this, there is a small lake called Bhulla Taal where one can go boating or just sit by the bank and enjoy tea or coffee from the small tuck shop nearby.

The sight-seeing here can be finished in just a day with time to spare. You can use the remaining time to visit the Tarkeshwar Temple, which is about 38 kms away from the town. The drive to the temple is an experience in itself. The pine forests lining the road and glimpses of the valley below are breathtaking. The temple, which is situated in an opening surrounded by deodar trees, fills you with peace (even if you are not the religious sorts). There are 200ft high trees all around you and the only sounds you can hear are the gurgling of a small stream that brings water to the temple, the wind and the birds. One can sit there for hours, doing nothing but watching the sun play peek-a-boo through the trees.

Except for visiting these few places there is not much to do in Lansdowne, and that is the best aspect of the place. As the town is not a commercialised tourist destination, you are not pestered by people selling souvenir key chains, which is a huge relief.

Two days in the fresh mountain air away from work and e-mails can do you a world of good. And did I mention that you get cellphone network only in the higher parts of the town? So, next time you want to run away from your boss, you know where to go.

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