While the entire nation is talking about the calamitous effect of the floods in Uttarakhand, I decided to explore the unharmed parts of the state. I started my journey at the greener and calmer Mukteshwar. At about 7500ft, this one-road town is cosseted by thick forests and peers down at rolling valleys, orchards, villages and farms. Plus the shining peaks of Chaukhamba, Neel Kanth, Trishul, Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot, Panchachuli, Annapurna, and more, spread out, completely occupying your field of vision.
While here, you must visit the 350-year-old Mukteshwar Temple, dedicated to the Lord Shiva and the Chauthi ki Jaali, where sheer cliffs and rock faces zoom up for about 2000ft at the edge of a valley and jut out at surreal angles, inviting sunset photos. And if you are an adventure sport enthusiast, you can test your strength by trying out rock climbing, rappelling or even paragliding.
Mukteshwar is ideal for a scenic trek/walk amidst the thick deodar, oak and pine cover. Plus, you can experience the sheer joy of simply plucking and devouring a fresh green apple or peach straight from the tree.
Hotel construction in Mukteshwar proper is more or less banned and apart from properties of Kumaon Tourism or the PWD, you’d be hard put to find a hotel in town. The many ‘Mukteshwar hotels’ options that come up when you Google are actually between 3–6km away in peaceful hamlets like Sargakhet and Bhatelia, each with its own beauty spots, peaceful walks, potato farms, orchards and 19th century bridle paths among the woods.
While here, I came across a buzzing BPO filled with energetic young employees in a small village called Letibunga (just 1km from Bhatelia). This little institution comes as a refreshing break to the old world character of the hill station.
How to reach (From Delhi):
• The Anand Vihar–Kathgodam Shatabdi (12040) leaves daily (except Thur) at 6.15am and reaches at 11.50am.
• The Ranikhet Express (15013) leaves daily from Old Delhi at 10.40pm and reaches at 5.05am.
Mukteshwar is 60km from Kathgodam; a taxi up costs `1500–2000.
By Road: Mukteshwar is around 350km (6–7hr drive) from Delhi.
Aditya Remy Shah works for a social enterprise in the remote villages of Uttarakhand. His passion for photography encourages him to travel and also participate in various photography contests. He is also actively involved in various social activities to empower the weaker sections of the society through self-reliance and community action. His work can be followed on here and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.