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REVIEWS RANIKHET

Magical Moments

The mountain road winding thru cedar forests. The peace, tranquility and cleanliness almost slams my senses as soon as we cross the green and yellow gateway of the Kumaon Regiment Centre (KRC) into Ranikhet. The ethereal beauty with a majestic deodhar (perhaps the first on the 9 hour drive from Delhi) to our left welcomes us in. Since the time the Britishers discovered this celestial piece of earth to the outside world, the ambience of the place seems almost unchanged. Norman Troupe, who built his homestead, Holm Farm, here, would probably agree, a 130 years later, which still stands atop a hill surrounded by coniferous forests.

Aah, no hustle-bustle of a busy hill station. No touts offering the best accommodation bargain in town, or cajoling us to book a sightseeing tour for the morrow, or offering to escort us to ‘sunset point’ or ‘himalayan point’ in the evening. When did you need to hold another hand to discover nature in all its purity and grandeur? I don’t want this 14 km drive from Ranikhet to Majhkhali, to end. All thoughts of reaching our destination before dark vanish. Had we not already ‘arrived’?

Golf course ringed by pines. My eyes rove through pines ringing verdant meadows (to later discover that it is a golf course), wooded slopes of stately deodars standing sentinel to the winding mountain road. As the car negotiates a bend, a silver streak hits the sky. With a sharp intake of breath I slowly brake, bringing the vehicle to a smooth stop, almost guilty for the noise the engine was making.

The setting sun breaking thru clouds. The sun, slowly turning orange, slips from behind the clouds down towards the last leg of its journey for the day, saying goodbye with a splash of colors across the sky. As the seconds pass (or stand still?) the emotions of the Sun through the day are reflected on the white and blue canvas - silver, orange, grey - slipping in and between tufts of clouds, its rays streaking through the pine trees, calling to the birds to return home. Timelessness and creativity, new meanings are reborn; myriad emotions, changing, expressed and reflected with each passing moment – the pines, deodhars, oaks, tiny mountain flowers, the jungle babbler, the undulating hills, the tree line, soothing breezes, all juxtaposed perfectly. I realize, my furiously beating heart has settled to a trance at this discovery (setting suns have become a ‘discovery’ in the new millennium).

An ancient temple discovered during a jungle walk. Next day, I wake up to a misty morning and the views through the bay windows enthrall me.
"Blended of mists and light, winds and water;
Can a mere cloud bear messages?"
Now I know where Kalidas got his inspiration for ‘Meghdoot’.

The trails, behind the resort, on their way to the quaint hamlet of Digoti lead us through emerald foliage, into a small, ancient temple complex.

A colonial church now turned into a kumaoni factory. The romance of Ranikhet keeps unfolding. We stop to admire an old church only to discover that it is now a factory, with the war widows of the KRC operating looms to knit Australian Merino wool into shawls with ethnic patterns. At another place, a winding path into the forest brings us to ‘Carpentree’, a workshop where Kumaoni youth are engaged in making designer furniture, of legally felled pines, deodhars, surai. Employed are contemporary design and traditional techniques of solid wood craftsmanship and also the likhai craft – decorative wood carving that goes into ornate doors, beams and pillars.

As dusk mingles into the evening, the star spangled sky entices us to sit out with our favourite sundowners. Lounging on the restaurant balcony, the 270 degree view of the Himalayas – the king of the mountains – is ever so mesmerizing.

Thank you, city stresses, that I find all this so very magical!

- Achal Bindra Ban


Acknowledgement: Review from Caravan Travel Talk

High tea with the queen
By Rishad Saam Mehta

Ages ago, a beautiful Kumaoni queen, Rani Padmini, fell so deeply in love with the green glades and meadows of a tiny hill paradise that her king, Raja Sukherdev, built her a grand palace there and named the place Ranikhet, or queen's meadow. So goes the legend... There is no trace of a palace to lend credence to this legend, but few who have visited Ranikhet have any doubts about its charms.

Part of the Ranikhet experience is in getting there. The road hugs the mountainside, so for three hours you are treated to vistas that made the hill stations of Uttaranchal justly famous , thick, forested slopes of pine down which charge lively mountain streams and, far below, pristine valleys carpeted with flowers.

As you approach Ranikhet, keep a watch to the left for the best view of all. The ancient, snow-clad Himalayas , abode of India's gods, invincible defenders of her plains , come into view. No wonder unspoiled Ranikhet is the favoured destination of exhausted urbanites yearning to breathe in the fresh, invigorating mountain air.

Acknowledgement: Review from Outlook Traveller

Ranikhet Still Station

Ranikhet is a sleepy hill station where even leopards take their own sweet time to move out of your way, says Mahesh Tharani

I am lounging around at Ranikhet Club and looking at most of the 300-kilometres of the Himalayas that can be seen from most places in Ranikhet. At 1,829 metres above sea level, I can see the snow on the tips of the Himalayan Mountains. Banderpunch (6,316 metres), Kedar Dome (6,830 metres), the three prongs of Trishul and the five peaks of Panchchuli are gleaming a golden yellow, which gets softer as the sun sets. Gold becomes mellow yellow and I get up, bored. It has been two months since I stepped foot in Ranikhet and these sights don't excite me anymore. It's the transformation of colours once the sun sets behind the mountains and the moon shimmers on the ice-capped peaks, that has caught my eye recently.

I walk from the porch, towards the Billiard Room and spot a new family at the club. In Ranikhet most faces become familiar in a week or two at most. I walk towards the television they are watching. The lady appears bored of the cricket and the children look like they would prefer watching something else.

"Where are you from?" I ask.

"Delhi," the man replies, looking a little startled, as if surprised to see someone else there.

"Have you come to Ranikhet for the first time?" I ask, ignoring his glance.

"No. We come here every year," he replies.

I am flummoxed that they are watching television when the porch offers more entertainment with the sun exhibiting all the shades of yellow, orange and red.

"Are you a local?" asks the man, not taking his eyes off the television set.

"No," I say, "I have been here for two months… living with a friend."

"Beautiful, isn't it?" he says.

I rumble a 'splendid' under my breath, wondering if that's the case why’s he watching cricket on television.

"We've come here every year for the past fifteen," he informs.

"How come only people from Delhi visit this town?" I ask expecting him to know the answer.

"Not too many people know about Ranikhet. I think it's best left that way, otherwise we would have another Nainital on our hands," he says.

I agree with him. He continues, "The people haven't commercialised the place with shopping areas and the lake is nowhere close to the main town, I guess that's what detracts people from visiting Ranikhet."

I agree to this point as well and get on to trivial issues about the benefits of having only one temple of note situated outside the main area and the town having shops which only offer the bare daily requirements of the locals. Fifteen minutes later I go back out on to the porch and watch the snow capped mountains gleam in the moonlight. A soft blue has descended and as the night grows, the colours change to deeper shades of blue, indigo and violet.

I get back to where I sat previously and Akshay, my host, comes out after his game of billiards with his cousins. On most days Akshay and his cousins are the only people in this relic of a club, built during the times of the British Raj. It still retains its Old World charm with wood panelling skirting the walls and a watering hole which is a favourite with locals and guests. The bartenders do not need to be told what you need after you've ordered your first drink.

We have to leave but the show would continue after a short break in which we drive home and have dinner. We approach the 100-year-old house on the winding road lit by the car's headlights. Akshay suddenly slams on the brakes and calls for my attention. He flicks on the headlights to a high beam and my eyes light up to the leopard lounging on the road.

We're ten feet away. The leopard lazily gets on its feet, looks at us and starts walking away from us and towards the house. Akshay eases off the brake and goes towards the big cat, which begins trotting and breaks into a run. It stops, looks back, its eyes shining in the light of the headlight and then canters away graciously. We're stunned and amazed. My mouth is open while Akshay looks more relaxed since he has seen many leopards around his town.

The next morning the routine continues, meeting the same people, talking about the same things and planning the evening. I participate convivially though I know the routine by heart by now. In a place where every second lasts a minute and the only sounds that one can hear are of birds chirping, I am not surprised that the only skyscrapers are tall Australian pines.

Kumaon Regiment Centre (KRC) is the sole active zone in Ranikhet. In its grounds youngsters play sport and the Kumaon Regiment marches. Ranikhet has been the headquarters of KRC ever since Lord Mayo, viceroy of India from 1869-72 was enchanted by this town and planned on shifting the summer capital of India from Shimla to Ranikhet. Unfortunately (or fortunately for Ranikhet) before realising his dream he was killed during a visit to the Andamans. The summer capital stayed put in Shimla but the Kumaon Regiment made the hill station its headquarters.

Acknowledgement: Review from Business Traveller India
   
 
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