Finally, we were on the last day of our trip. We had o catch the Ranikhet Express from Kathgodam in the evening and we checked out of Mukteshwar in the morning after breakfast. So, there were a few more hours at our disposal and as planned earlier, we decided to hop by some of the places we did not visit during our stay at Nainital, in the beginning of the trip.
The first place on the list was Bhimtal. This lake was larger than that of Nainital and the water seemed to be more clean and green. In fact, people who tend to have a quiet vacation may opt to stay one or two nights at this place instead of or in addition to Nainital.
There’s an interesting piece of history or rather mythology bound to the place. The story goes that during the “Agyatvas” of the Pandavas, Bhima went to fetch water on Draupadi’s behest and on not finding any water nearby, struck the ground with his “gada” and that was the source of the lake. It is also believed that Bhima built a temple near the lake. Though we noticed a temple a few metres away from the lake, we were not that inclined to go down and visit and instead roamed around the lake for a while. A small island in the middle of the lake added to the charm of the lake.
Due to the scorching sun, we could not wander for much longer at the place and decided to take our lunch in a restaurant near by. After lunch we headed for another lake.
But on the way, we made a brief stop at the Hanuman Garhi temple. It is a famous temple, according to our driver Puran, dedicated to Lord Hanuman. We could see a large statuette of Hanuman from the outside and did not bother to enter the interiors of the temple. Now this place is supposedly very near to Nainital and it offers a good sunset view. Alas, sunset was not even close. And Puran did not mention the place or that it is a sunset point, during our stay at Nainital. But then again it had been his characteristic for the entire trip. So there was no point in getting irritated all over again on the last day.
Naukuchiatal was the last place we stopped by before we finally headed for the railway station at Kathgodam. The lake has nine vertices, though it was difficult to clearly identify the nine corners from the banks. We noticed quite a few large ducks near the lake – the ones we call “Rajhans”.
Since we were seeing too many places in too less time, we were not able to absorb the beauty of each place separately as we should have. Rather, it was like being at each of the places just for the sake of it. So finally we said it quits and decided to set off for Kathgodam and actually reached the station with much time to spare.
I would like to close the trip report of Kumaon mentioning one little observation. Many a times during our journeys, I noticed fine looking ambulances plying on the road. They are state run with some number (probably 108) displayed in large font all over. Puran explained that if anyone calls that number for medical help, the ambulance reaches his/her home, within acceptable time, to take the ailing to the nearby hospital. And mind you that the hospitals are also located at the large towns only, so they have attending doctors with the ambulances for urgent requirement. And this medical service is free provided by the government. It was hard to believe in our country and I could not even imagine such a service in my state. And according to Puran this service actually works and works well. In fact this is one of the facilities he mentioned that the state of Uttarakhand introduced for its people after the split from Uttar Pradesh. But then I thought, is this kind of service feasible in the part of the world where I come from. Puran actually confirmed my reservation putting forward the observation that people seldom fall seriously ill or ill at all in these parts and when they do (with age I presume) they do for good, with little possibility of recovery. That’s why the free ambulance service works so well because it’s not used that much as it could have been in any urban establishment. That’s the beauty of the mountains. I hope that the mountains can keep alive their healing beauty and do not get crippled with the muck of the urban encroachments. Then, we, the children of the claustrophobic city life would have no where to run to, for refuge.