My article titled ‘Trip to Lansdowne’ as part of the Goodyear Travelogue competition got published in the December 2011 issue of Outlook Traveller magazine in India. Please find below a reproduction of the same. Below this article are snapshots of the actual article from the magazine.
My wife Rashmi and I are travel freaks and in the monsoon of 2010, we randomly chose to drive to Lansdowne from our home in Delhi. We had planned to start at 5:30 am, but with a kid in tow, that got delayed by half an hour. And what is it with Delhi traffic these days; everyone seems to be on the road all the time. The 80km stretch to Meerut is a nightmare, rarely have we done it under three hours. The road is inhabited with human dwellings for almost the entire stretch; with tractors, bicyclists and bullock-carts giving company, ensuring you never enjoy the fifth gear long enough.
It doesn’t rain much in or around Delhi, but when it does, it’s cats and dogs. By the time we reached Meerut, it was pouring crazily. Visibility was so low we could hardly see the bonnet of our car and the wiper just couldn’t catch up. Instead of taking the flyover into Meerut, we took the slip road to its right by mistake and had to reverse after a passer-by provided us directions. The base of the flyover had more than a foot of water and there was fear of drowning in it. Hehe. Shifting to first gear, I ensured enough foot on the accelerator to prevent the engine from dying down and keep us moving. It was a small victory when we climbed up the road. We were not even half way through Lansdowne, and the fun had already begun.
As we drove into Meerut, the locals were just starting their weekend with a lazy morning. The rain had eased out by now and I was more relaxed behind the wheels. It was smooth sailing once we were out of this industrial belt.
A warning here though, the road to Kotdwar lacks proper signage so ensure to ask for directions from locals at all possible junctures. More than once we followed the signboards only to realize we had taken the wrong turn. However, the road leading up the hills from here is very smooth, save the curves, which are eroded due to water incessantly flowing on it.
As we climbed up the hills, the humidity went down and the air became fresher and cooler. Nothing like stopping at a roadside dhaba for a hot cup of tea amidst a gentle drizzle. We gulped down two cups each. Chugging along, we even took a detour by going up a dirt track and getting off in the woods. We couldn’t resist the temptation of wetting our feet in a small stream that ran down between two hills. It was sort of a mini-picnic before the big picnic.
You will know you’ve reached Lansdowne when you come to a roundabout, take a left from here, which leads to the bus-stand and the market. We drove past both, and reached Fairydale resort. It was completely swamped in mist when we checked in. Aarav, who was about to turn three in a few months, was uncontrollable with excitement. We were also in time for lunch, served in open air outside their kitchen. It was such a great start to our vacation.
Next morning we were greeted by total white space outside, almost like falling into the clouds. There was mist all over; you could hardly see beyond your hand. The clouds soon cleared and revealed an incredibly blue morning sky. The weather was so awesome; Rashmi and I looked at each other and nodded in approval that we had made the right decision of coming here. Navigating the stone-filled and extremely narrow path from the resort to the main road was thrilling, as my car tilted and slipped and then again tilted, all of this without adding a single scratch to it. Being an army base, Lansdowne is a very peaceful and neat town. As you cross the gates of the army buildings, smartly clad officers help manage oncoming traffic to prevent any chaos.
We decided to drive up to the highest point to get great views of the Himalayas. St. Mary’s church on the way is an extremely cute but well maintained place of worship. Pulling out our umbrellas, we explored the place soaking in all the peace and religious charm around it. Then there is the war museum, which is a must-see. Driving up and down the hill, braking on steep slopes, halting at the curves as water overflowed from the hills, stopping at a dhaba for a tea break, all this was great fun.
Three days later the drive back to Delhi was equally exciting. It was still raining as we descended from the hills. My car almost slipped down a wedge in the road when I took a particularly nasty turn and came face to face with an oncoming truck. There was a loud thud as I pulled the car out of it, and my heart sank anticipating dents under it. Luckily, no damage. We safely made it back to Delhi without any further incidents.
Here are snaps of the actual article in the magazine.