Glasshouse On Ganges
In November 2006 I had to attend a business conference at Mussoorie, the beautiful hill station in the north. As Swarup and I had not visited it earlier, we planned for her to join me after the conference was over. Our friends Roopal and Kushal also joined up and we had a lovely holiday also covering Kanatal and Glass House on the Ganges.
It's believed that the name Mussoorie, is derived from plants of 'Mussoorie' which were found in abundance here while some others believe its from the pulse or dal called Masur. Mussoorie is near Dehradun which is now the capital of Uttarachal and famous for it's Doon School. The 30-km drive to Mussoorie is through winding roads taking you to 6500 ft (1,981 mts). Unlike other hill stations in the country there is very little deforestation and the green carpet covering the mountains is a feast to the eyes. The local government has also barred new construction ensuring that the concrete jungles do not usurp the natural ones.
Jaypee Residency Manor where we stayed, is built on an individual hilltop and is about 500 ft lower than Mussoorie town. In addition to the regular facilities offered by good hotels, it also has an unparalleled 180-degree breathtaking view of the town, the mountains and valleys with blue skies and Dehradun in the distant valley. We spent a lot of our 3-day stay there just relaxing and taking it easy.
The mall is quite an experience with narrow roads (traffic is not allowed) and all kinds of vendors — from fancy shops to small stalls to people selling their wares on the roads. If you look around carefully, you can pick up good bargains, I picked up a jacket which took care of the cold and had a "designer" label for a mere Rs 400! One can also get a grand view of the valley nestling Dehradun.
Early one morning, we headed for Lal Tibba to see the sunrise over the Himalayas. Lal Tibba is the highest point at 7,000 ft (2,133 mts) in Mussoorie and is located in the Landour area, "old" Mussorie. The place is quaint and has escaped the commercial growth of the recent times. Bungalows and cottages surrounded with tall trees are aplenty. Due to a cloudy weather, the sunrise was not as spectacular as we expected or wished but it was worth getting up early to reach before sunrise. The four of us were the only people at the point and it was a great sight to see the mighty Himalayas slowly getting lit through the cloud cover.
Mussoorie is also the home of famous author Ruskin Bond who describes it, "I have mountains in my blood, and if you are such a person, Mussoorie will surely stir in you old memories and a nostalgia for half -remembered things."
After Mussoorie, we went down to Glass House on the Ganges, A Neemrana Hotel, located 23 km from Rishikesh. The Neemrana chain has several hotels and most are converted from old palaces, havelis and bungalows. Situated on the banks of the Ganges (Ganga), Glass House was Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal's orchard of mangos and lychees. It has six cottages offering a view of Ganges. The serenity of the place, sitting in the terrace or the verandah and observing the river change colours with the light of the day, or listening to it in the stillness of the night, make this a unique holiday.
We went river rafting down the Ganges, a distance of approx 11 km and it was an amazing experience. The view was magnificent as we passed by: our rooms at the Glass House, a couple of adventure camps flanked by thick foliage going up mountain slopes, a temple peeking out from the trees and ahead the vastness of this great river. The greenish blue water changed to a frothing white when we hit the rapids. The rapids went up to 3.5 degrees and by the end of the ride we were thoroughly drenched! We were lucky to go for the ride as a slight drizzle started in the evening turning the air cold enough for us to put on the heaters in the room.
Next morning we took a small detour to see the famous Lakshman Jhula bridge at Rishikesh before heading for Kanatal. Kanatal is at a height of 8,500 ft ( 2,590 mts) and about 35 kms from Mussorie but due to non-availability of rooms at Glass House at a later date we had to go there first and then go up again to Kanatal. This proved to be a blessing in disguise as the ride was quite different from Deharadun to Mussorie. A slight drizzle continued almost all the time as we made our way uphill through winding roads with undulating hills and valleys. Many times we saw the mist coming up from the valleys, then low-lying clouds under us and the never ending green patches.
We reached The Terraces by noon followed by fog and rain. It was already cold and the wet weather added to it. Terraces comprises 20 deluxe rooms , each affording a grand view of the snow-clad Garhwal Himalayas and lush green forests. The rooms have all basic facilities plus two heaters per room, which WERE needed! One was a portable one on wheels so one could keep it near the open bathroom door and not freeze one's backside in the morning! ;-) Around 4 pm, the rain stopped and the sun came out for a few minutes. We were sitting in the lounge having tea and someone gave a shout for us to come out - and there was the most spectacular sight! A huge beautiful rainbow with a mirror image shimmering in the background!! Unfortunately the spectacle remained for a few minutes only. The place is comfortable and the staff very hospitable. We were the only people in the place and we got super service, meals made to order, from Italian pasta for lunch to khichdi in the evening!
Kanatal is a small hamlet totally oblivious to the outside world and lost in an era long gone with only one other hotel and no shops except for the usual green grosser cum tea stall. The place is mainly frequented by hikers, nature lovers and of course, honeymooners. An 8-km long walk /drive takes you down offering views of the dense forest of pine, deodar and other tall trees, suddenly opening up into a vast expanse of the Himalayas. To a city dweller the silence can be overwhelming. The up and down drive was scenic beyond words and thankfully the rains had stopped offering great views.
The days spent at these places can best be summed up, once again; in Ruskin Bond's words: "As I write, a small white butterfly flutters in at the open window, reminding me of all that Nature offers to anyone who is receptive enough to appreciate its delights"
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