Mukteshwar was the last leg of our Kumaon tour. We reached the place in the afternoon. Situated at a height of 2286 metres above sea level, Mukteshwar is a quiet little hill station. The tourism brochure mentioned that one can do this and that, visit this place or that in Mukteshwar or simply sit back and relax. I think there is no better way to put it right across. More than sightseeing, the town is more suitable for escaping from the fast urban life and let oneself unwind.
Our KMVN hotel was located at the very end of the town. In fact no sooner we entered the town of Mukteshwar, we reached the hotel and the road did not proceed any further. So the town was a small one. Again we got only vegetarian food at the hotel restaurant. And we got to know that the ration actually comes from a town which is located before Mukteshwar. If I remember correctly, the name of the other town is Matelia.
Lunch was late and after an hour’s rest, I thought of taking a walk and look around the place. Abhishek was not feeling well, so the others decided to stay back. An aimless walk with no one by side has its own charm in a way. The first thing I noticed was the variation in plantation. Till then, pine was predominant in the places we visited in our Kumaon trip. But here in Mukteshwar, I noticed more cedar trees. There was a good view point just in front of the hotel but due to cloud cover the mountain ranges were not much visible. After spending some time there, I was wondering which way to pursue.
The striking thing about the topography of Mukteshwar is the sharp jagged protuberance of the rocks and there is a place where this characteristic is predominant providing the place an impression of overhanging cliffs. The place is locally known as Chauli-ki-Jali. There was an arrow indicating Chauli-ki-Jali towards the left of the hotel and I started walking that way. But after a few steps only, I was at my wit’s end as there was no road to pursue. Then I realized that there was a narrow uneven road that went up by the side of a hotel. There was a notice mentioning that the road is for public and not for hotel use only. Confirmed, I went up the road, if one can actually call it a road. It was rather a lopsided narrow stretch cut from the mountains and soon I was lost to myself with no trace of humanity in vicinity. After some time I was thinking seriously whether I should pursue the road any further since it was becoming more uneven. Suddenly at a turn, there was a group of people. They were probably sitting there waiting for the sunset. But there was still some time left for the sunset. I decided not to proceed any further. Neither did I stay there and wait, but returned back.
Soon, I again reached our hotel and since there was still sunlight, I continued my walk; this time in the opposite direction. After a few minutes, I reached the footsteps of the Mukteshwar Dham, the Lord Shiva temple from which the town gets its name. A couple of hundred steps’ climb took me to the temple. It was calm and tranquil with only a lone saint doing his own silent “yagna”, quietly. He did not pay any attention to me. So I moved over to the rear side of the temple from where one can have a top view of the Chauli-ki-Jali.
I came down to the road beneath the temple in a different route and found that there was another way to the Chauli-ki-Jali from that place. That road seemed much more even and safe but I did not pursue continuing walking to the Chauli-ki-Jali then as it was approaching sunset. Instead, I thought of walking down the main road for some more time. Soon, I reached the small market with only a handful of shops and that too most of them were already closed. No wonder that the hotel brings its ration from the next town. There was a branch of SBI in a bungalow shaped small building and two men, probably employees of the bank, were playing carom outside the bank. Then there was a small post office as well. That too was closed. And there was an IVRI campus just at the staring point of the town. Within the next few minutes, I reached the starting point of the town. My guess is that if one walks along the main road from there, one will reach the KMVN rest house in less than fifteen minutes and that is probably the farthest one can go. So, one can well imagine how small a place the town of Mukteshwar is. Of course there are small hilly roads branching out off the main road that perhaps take one to the other parts where the locals live or some other places where hotels and offices are located or may be even rest houses built by outsiders to take refuge at some particular time of the year, far from the madding crowd. I took one such path that went downwards from the starting point of the town and walked for some time. There was a small church which seemed nearby, but one can never be sure with the winding hilly roads. So even after ten minutes or so, it still remained at the same distance. I gave up and returned and walked up the main road back to the hotel.
The next morning, after breakfast, I went to the temple again. This time, with Runa and Rishi. Abhishek was still not feeling well and stayed back at the hotel. After the temple visit, we went straight to the Chauli-ki-Jali. I have already mentioned before, how the odd protuberance of the overhanging rocks characterizes the place. But reading about it in the tourist pamphlet and beholding it in person are two different thing altogether. The other amazing thing was that one could view the entire valley beneath, from that place. The braves can do rock climbing at the spot with the professional gear of course. The fools can use their own hands and crawl up the slanted rocks. We were neither of the two, so we went as far as out guts permitted, posed for a few snaps to cherish afterwards and enjoyed the beauty of the place to our hearts’ content. We could have stayed there a little longer, but Rishi got thirsty and insisted to return to the hotel.
Back in the hotel we packed our luggage and checked out. We had a train to catch in the evening from Kathgodam. Our vacation in Kumaon was coming towards the end. We were hoping to sneak in a few more places on our way to Kathgodam. But the though that we have already spent our last night in Kumaon was making me gloomy. The images of miseries and worries of work life were coming back to me.