Bhimtal, India: Away from the Maddening Crowd

The Fisherman’s Lodge at Bhimtal

By Mridula Dwivedi

Bhimtal, India
Bhimtal, India

I just love emails, they are like a magic box, you never know what will come out of it on a particular day. A few months back I got a mail from The Fisherman’s Lodge at Bhimtal asking if I would like to spend some time at the place as their guest.

Now that was straight out of the box of a magician and I readily agreed. I looked at my office calendar and saw that I had a long weekend in the middle of the February and the middle of the February it was.

Bhimtal is quite close to the popular lake town of Nainital (Tal in Hindi means lake). Bhimtal is not as popular as Nainital (I am sure this will change slowly) so it has been spared the hard sell, indiscriminate construction, litter and the crowds. But Bhimtal, like Nainital, is situated around a lake, has a lot of birds and quieter streets to wander through.

A Smooth Journey

Bhimtal can be reached by road in six to seven hours by a private vehicle but then the real time taken is decided by the Traffic Gods.

Boats on the Bhimtal
Boats on the Bhimtal

Another way that is less dependent on the Traffic Gods is to take a train till Haldwani or Kathgodam and then take a taxi from there for a 40-minute ride to Bhimtal. But with the train sometimes the Weather Gods decided to send the fog along, particularly in the winters.

We did the journey in a Skoda Larua with a driver. My hostess had joined us in Delhi and we chatted for quite some time. We didn’t even notice the traffic as we had an early start in the morning and within no time we reached the Dhaba at Gajraula, where we stopped for the tea.

After that I took an Avomine (for motion sickness in the hills) and sleep is a side effect of that. I, therefore, missed out almost completely on the scenery on the way.

A Welcome Drink and a Comfortable Stay

I opened my eyes when we were entering the garage of the Fisherman’s Lodge. It took us seven hours to reach there, which is a good time.

We were greeted with Nimbu Pani (lemonade) that was quite tangy and refreshing. The Lodge has 12 rooms and when I saw mine I thought I was lucky as it faced the lake.

Naukuchiya Tal from the Tarkota Temple in Uttrakhand
Naukuchiya Tal from the Tarkota Temple in Uttrakhand

I was told later that all the rooms have a lake view! After a while, it was time for lunch (continental) and then for me to get some sleep in my cozy room. I got up quite late in the evening to a light drizzle.

I got tea and carrot cakes in the lobby, sitting next to the radiator for warmth. But they have a living room with real fire and that is where we spent quite some time with a glass of wine later.

I kept the first day low key; Rain Gods also played a role with the drizzle. But I wanted my second day to be action-packed. I had planned to trek in the morning and to cycle in the evening and that is what I exactly did.

An Action-Packed Day

I had promised for a 10 am start for the trek to the Tarkota temple. It is 4 km from the Lodge and all uphill. I also felt that we would be back in time for lunch around 2:00 pm. My guide was Sanjay and he set a quick pace.

I said in Hindi, “I walk for a long time but slowly,” hoping he would slow down. He did slow down when we reached the uphill part. Better still, he let me walk at the front so that I could set a comfortable pace.

I have trekked quite a few times in India, including a high-altitude trek at Spiti, so I was not worried about this one. How wrong I turned out to be!

We adopted our little adorable daughter five months back and whatever marginal fitness regime I had (I know I know this is no excuse) has gone for a toss. So, after walking for 15 minutes, I was completely out of breath. That came as a surprise to me.

I thought I would get a second wind soon, but that too didn’t happen for a long time. Though as I had promised, I kept walking for a long time at my slow pace.On the way Sanjay pointed out to a house in distance saying that was filmed in the Bollywood movie Koi Mil Gaya.

Himalayan Bulbul with a funky Hairstyle
Himalayan Bulbul with a funky Hairstyle

After an hour and a half, we reached the summit. I was rewarded (even on the way) by fabulous views of both Bhimtal and Naukuchia Tal. We sat at the top for half an hour, soaking in the sunshine and eating oranges.I am not very religious but the small hill temples are different. With nature around, they for sure make me pause and count my many blessings. Note to self – do something about your fitness or treks will soon become a thing of the past.

After half an hour it was time to walk down. There were two paths, the steep one up which we came and the other more gentle one but longer in distance. Since we were going downhill now we decided to take the path that was less steep.

Hot Hot Chai

Cows on the trek to Trakota Temple
Cows on the trek to Trakota Temple

On the way, we were joined by a village elder and he and Sanjay started talking. Soon they discovered they knew quite a few people in common who worked at the lodge and were related to this gentleman.Somewhere in between, he indicated a short cut and then said to me in Hindi, “I hope you will be able to climb down that way.” I could see he did not trust me much on his mountain paths!I assured him I could and after a few steps he was convinced. I got to hear, “You have been on mountain paths before, you will be fine.”

So, I passed his test.As we were nearing his village he offered, “Come have tea with us.” And we readily agreed. We had a glass of the best Pahari chai and got to meet part of his family. His son works in a factory nearby and the twin daughters are studying in school.Now it was my turn to ask questions and I was curious to know if women around the village went to work outside? And he said, “One or two.”We walked a little around his fields; saw a stunning greenish bird but I could not click it.

Rust Cheeked Scimitar Babbler
Rust Cheeked Scimitar Babbler

We gave in return our unopened bottle of soft drink to a small kid of the family but I am sure if we had nothing to give in return it would still have been fine.Then it was time to head back to a wonderful Pahari (typical of the mountain) lunch with Muli Kadhi’s ( a radish- and curd based curry) taste still fresh in my memory. We were back by 2:15 pm at the lodge.A Memorable SunsetMy evening was also quite eventful.

We (two other guests of the resort) were taken uphill in a car with our cycles riding along in a container. At one high spot we were given our cycles and our task was to ride the cycles downhill.I know, to a real cyclist this would not sound like much. But the views of the valley were fabulous. And we were riding into a magnificent sunset.On the way, we stopped for tea and I got an opportunity to click a few sunset pictures.

Then it was time for riding towards the sunset again. On the only small patch that was uphill the three of us got down and just dragged our cycles!After reaching the Lodge we once again went through the tea, carrot cake, wine and dinner (with a really lip-smacking soup) routine. The next day I was heading back to Gurgaon after the breakfast.

The Traffic Gods

I had nice baked eggs and some excellent cheese along with my toast for the breakfast and we were all set to go.In no time (which is actually three hours) we again made a stop at Gajraula for tea but this time in a food court of a hotel.

Sunset along the cycling route
Sunset along the cycling route

After this, I don’t know why the Traffic Gods got annoyed with us. At one point I saw two gentlemen cycling through the roads and they were from another country.After an hour we managed to cross them some distance ahead, the traffic jam was so severe. Then the traffic delays became the norm and we reached back quite later than the routine 6-7 hours.How much later? That really doesn’t matter.

Delays are a part of traveling in India, as I was told by a young American tourist at Triund, and according to him, they teach us patience.

Even though it was a little past the bedtime of my daughter when I reached home, to my delight she managed to stay awake for half an hour more! I am waiting for the day she grows up a little more and we can take her on our trips.

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