Nainital, the land where it is believed Parvati's/Sati's eye fell when Shiva was taking her charred body to his abode after she immolated herself in the agni kund at her fathers place. The eye is said to have transformed itself into a beautiful lake. The place apart from the main mall areas is of pristine nature and a beautiful spot to spend your time in the lap of the nature. The current settlement is said to have begun around the year 1840 when the lake was discovered by P Barron, an English sugar trader. Another legend talks about the fact that the lake contains the same water as that of the Mansarovar and taking a dip here is considered to be sacred, though I couldn't find many who were interested in taking a dip.
I with three of my friends started off from Bangalore on 28th Evening and reached Delhi by 7:30, we then took the Ranikhet express from the Old Delhi Railway station. The Railway station was one of the worst maintained stations I have seen till now. We were unable to see the reservation charts as well, since people were lying all around the platform. After the initial cultural shock we managed to locate our compartment and got in. Getting our dinner was now another concern and we had to endure some more of the crowd to locate some decent food, finally we sited a IRCT outlet and got packed food for a cool 85 bucks per pack. The food was good though.
Our destination was Kathgodam the nearest Rail head to Nainital, coming out of the station, we were surrounded by a bunch of taxi drivers asking us where we wanted to go, finally we hired a Qualis for 400 Rs to take us to Nainital which is around 36 Km away. We reached Nainital in around 45 minutes and made our way to the Hotel which was unfortunately situated on a hilllock and we had to do a mini trek to reach it. The hotel's name was RajMahal and was pretty rickety. I guess these guys make business only during the peak season and shut shop during other times. The cost of a three bed room was exorbitant at 2000Rs per day. One lesson learnt from this experience is never go to a tourist place in peak season.
We started our tourism with a cable car ride which takes us to the snow view. The cable car was good albeit very short, but the snow view was a complete disaster as there was no view to be had. The place is a motley mix of all kind of street vendors and road side shops. The snow view was deserted since it was cloudy, A shopkeeper told that on a clear day we can get excellent views of Nanda devi from this spot. Finally after loitering around for some time we went back through the cable car to the town.
We headed in search of a decent hotel for lunch and entered Nanni Nann restaurant which is situated on the first floor on the main Mall road. The Gourmet was very good and we had a fulfilling time.
After lunch we headed off in search of the elusive Poncho, but couldn't find it anywhere but instead came across a bookstore and all of us barged in. Satish from our group has this uncanny knack of mixing around with locals with ease, he stuck a conversation with the bookkeeper and this turned out to be very informative. The bookkeeper said that Jim corbett used to buy his books from the very place and he used to stay at a House called Gurney house just across the lake. We mentally decided to pay the place a visit. After the bookstore we ambled across the circumference of the lake and took a path going towards Tiffin top. Tiffin top gives a wonderful view of the city, the path meanders through old bungalows before running up through forested areas. On the path we came across Gurney house, the house looked well maintained from the outside and we rang the calling bell placed near the gate. An old lady without asking anything indicated to us from the front porch to come in. The old lady was the house keeper and the Owner was away at that time. All four of us loaded with our cameras went in and took pictures of each and every corner of the well maintained place. Finally while leaving, the owner of the house came in his Honda city, We thanked him for maintaining the place so well and continued our trek to Tiffin top.
The trek to Tiffin top is around 4-5 Km long and is not very easy by usual standards, Almost all the tourists do it on horse back. Luckily the horses were taking another route and we had come up by a different route, this saved us from the pain of making way to the horses whenever one came in sight. The trek was a good acclimatisation for our Roopkund trek which was to begin in two days time. The view from Tiffing top/ Dorothy sit is really beautiful. The vast expanse of city and its myraid lakes with schools and kids playing on the grounds was stunning. We made our way back to the city before the sunset and spent some time talking near the lake. It was also time to indulge in long exposure photography under the twilight. For dinner we went to another restaurant called Purohit and didn't like it much, we then decided to stick to Nanni Naan during our stay here.
The next day we hired an Alto for a trip to the three lakes Sattal, Bhimtal and Naukuchia Tal. We reached Sattal after more than an hours drive, the lake looked green and beautiful. There were not many tourists since we had started off very early. We had our breakfast of Gobi and Aloo paranthas and they were one of the best we have tasted till now. The hotel we had them is the first one of the many you encounter after you get down from your car and walk down to the lake. We hired a boat for 45 minutes which cost us around 190 Rs, The lake is far from human activities and is still surrounded by beautiful forests. We spotted a huge number of different kinds of birds and took our own time in photographing them.
The next stop was the Bhimtal lake, this lake is also very beautiful but is not as untouched by human activity as the Sattal lake.
We had to skip the third lake because the driver started making lot of noise saying he had to be back in Nainital by 1. After reaching the town we again revisited Nanni Naan for our lunch. After lunch we lazed around the lake and went to our rooms for a nice snooze. The planned trip to the Zoo was cancelled because of growing laziness and after visiting the Bara Bazaar we had our dinner and headed back to our room. The next day morning we took a cab to the Kathgodam station to join our trekking group.
Overall Nainital is a very beautiful place, I can only imagine what Barron must have seen when he first came here. The 6-9 ban of traffic on the Mall road is not correct, as Vehicles honk their way throughout the day. The honking can turn a pleasant stroll to a horrific one so be prepared for it.