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Old 5th January 2013, 12:43   #1
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Default Christmas near Nanda Devi

In what was a fitting finale to 2012, we planned our Christmas break doing what we love most - driving to the Kumaon region, and admiring the peaks in their glory.


Our journey started on Dec 21, self, wifey, kids (4 years and 8 years) and my octogenarian father.
Our dream destination was The Misty Mountains Retreat at Jhaltola (near Berinag), where we intended to spend two nights drinking in the views.
Its about 500 kms from our home in Delhi, and not wanting to spend too much time driving in the evening , we had decided to break at Nainital during our onward and return journeys.
We reached KMVN TRH Bhowali at about 6 pm , a solid 12 hours after starting from Delhi, for most drivers this takes about 7-8 hours, as the roads are good. The main reason for the longer than usual time was the fog which had enveloped the plains like a shroud. To our pleasant surprise, as we neared Nainital, we were greeted by a nice sun. We prayed that the weather would be clear when we reached Jhaltola.
The KMVN TRH Bhowali, is quite literally is a rest stop. Tip: when resting over at Nainital in one of the KMVN hotels, make it a point to have your lunch/dinner at the Mall - where you have a lot more options for your money.
Our journey for Jhaltola started the next day at 8 AM. The route that we followed was Bhowali-Almora-Chitai-Barechinna-Dhaulchinna-Sheraghat-Raiagar-Syuti Bend-Jhaltola.
I had written earlier to the owner Mr. Madhur Chhabra, and he was kind enough to personally meet us with an escort Bolero and a driver at Raiagar. The reason? There's a dirt track from Syuti Bend to the resort and that is about a hair-breadth wider than a single lane. On the way-up to the resort, at the driver's side rocks, trees etc protrude on the track , and on the far side, is a sheer drop of a few thousand feet. Being a not-so-good driver myself, I gladly handed over the keys to his driver who took the car safely up to the resort, whilst, Mr Chhabra led in the escort.

Enough said about how to get to the resort. The pictures that follow are God's gift to us, and as we get back to our humdrum lives, we hope these sights are preserved for our children and future generations to cherish.

Christmas near Nanda Devi-mrigthuniandtrishulsunrisecopy.jpg
Mrigthuni and Trishul at Sunrise

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Nanda Devi and adjacent peaks at sunset

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Nanda Devi and Nanda Kot at sunset

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Nanda Devi just before Sunrise

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Nanda Devi West , East and Nanda Khat at Sunrise

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Nanda Devi West and Nanda Khat at Sunrise

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The twin-peaks of Nanda Devi West and East at sunset

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Nanda Kot

Christmas near Nanda Devi-nandakotatsunrisecopy.jpg
Nanda Kot at Sunrise

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The first rays of the Sun fall on Panchachuli group

Christmas near Nanda Devi-trishulsunsetcopy.jpg
Trishul at Sunset
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Old 5th January 2013, 13:35   #2
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Default Re: Christmas near Nanda Devi

Interesting...please keep it coming in detail.

I really hope & share your concern equally that we should preserve 'Mother Nature' so that our future generations are not left with deserted stretches of land.

Regards.
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Old 5th January 2013, 13:37   #3
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Default Re: Christmas near Nanda Devi

Looks like a beautiful place with a majestic view towards the snowladen peaks. Look forward to more photographs, as well as details of the resort.
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Old 5th January 2013, 23:07   #4
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Default Re: Christmas near Nanda Devi

A few words describing the resort are in order.

The resort is situated at the end of the dirt track leading up from near Jhaltola village. From the grounds one has a clear view of the himalayan ranges starting from the peaks of badrinath in the west past the Nanda Devi and surrounding peaks, and east much beyond Panchachuli - right into China (Tibet) and even Nepal.


Rooms are well-appointed, We stayed at Rosevilla Suites. The suite has a large main bedroom, and a small room partitioned from the main bedroom. The room is spacious, well-lit , and ideal for a small family of four. The Kids had a very enjoyable time in their own partitioned area complete with a bunk bed. The main bedroom is large with a sitting area and lots of floor space. The main bed has electrically heated mattresses - which are really welcome on cold nights. Upholstery and furnishings are simple and tasteful. The bathroom is clean, spacious, well-lit, nicely fitted, and everything works. It is indeed a delight to arrive at such a bathroom after experiencing hole-in-the-wall bathrooms in more accessible spots such as Nainital.
Other than the Rosevilla Suites, there are the usual standard rooms, with their private sit-outs, and for larger groups there are big family cottages with upto 4 bedrooms.
Outside the Suites, the grounds, have log tables and chairs, hammocks and swings. There's a recreational hall, with a nice selection of books, card table, indoor badminton court, table tennis, carrom, chess and a few other indoor games. This hall serves as an indoor dining area during inclement weather.
Food is simple yet tasty and based off a set menu and set timings for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. We had opted for the AP, so food was included. We never had occassion to ask for food outside these set meals - but if you want to munch on something in between, I advise you to carry something to snack on.
The proprietor Madhur and his wife Ambika, go out of their way to ensure a pleasant stay. We were very pleasantly surprised with nice Maltas for dessert.

You can read more about the resort (including tariff) at http://themistymountains.in/


Places to go to from here - Chaukori and Patal Bhuvaneshwar are very close, and one can easily take a day trip to these spots.
We opted for a 4 hour trek to Lamkeshwar - the highest point for miles around from where one gets a very nice view.

Some photos of the resort:
Christmas near Nanda Devi-3104_f100_03150032copy.jpg
Long Corridoor outside the Suite overlooks an extensive garden

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Immediately outside the Suite is a large sunny sit out area

Christmas near Nanda Devi-3150_d90copy.jpg
Slides for the younger ones...

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Hammocks are great to catch up on reading or sleep

Christmas near Nanda Devi-logbenchandtablecopy.jpg Christmas near Nanda Devi-logtableandbench2copy.jpg
Rough hewn log benches and tables

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Exterior view of the Suites

Christmas near Nanda Devi-insidetheroomcopy.jpg
Inside, the room is tastefully done.
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Old 5th January 2013, 23:24   #5
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Default Re: Christmas near Nanda Devi

A few more pictures of the mountains...
Christmas near Nanda Devi-nandakhatcopy.jpg
Nanda Khat at Sunrise

Christmas near Nanda Devi-nandakot2copy.jpg
Nanda Kot at Sunset

Christmas near Nanda Devi-panchachulicopy.jpg
Christmas near Nanda Devi-panchachulisunset2copy.jpg
Christmas near Nanda Devi-panchachulisunsetcopy.jpg
Panchachuli range at Sunset

Christmas near Nanda Devi-trishulandmrigthunicopy.jpg
Trishul and Mrigthuni at Sunset

Christmas near Nanda Devi-viewofbluehillsfromlamkeshwarcopy.jpg
This is the view from Lamkeshwar peak which is a moderate difficulty trek from the resort- distant blue hills in the back ground, and a lush valley in the foreground.

Christmas near Nanda Devi-tobenamedcopy.jpg
Unnamed peaks in China (Tibet) @ center and Nepal (east- left of center)
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Old 6th January 2013, 02:43   #6
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Default Re: Christmas near Nanda Devi

Sir, what level zoom are you using for these photos. Just wanted to get a perspective regarding how far nandadevi and panchachuli look to the naked eye from there.

That said, superb pics.
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Old 6th January 2013, 02:52   #7
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Default Re: Christmas near Nanda Devi

Lovely photos! Thanks for naming the peaks. I too was in Kumaon during late October.

You folks from Delhi are lucky - Himalayas so closeby! I had to drive thousands of kms to reach there.
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Old 6th January 2013, 09:26   #8
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Default Re: Christmas near Nanda Devi

Quote:
Originally Posted by manolin View Post
Sir, what level zoom are you using for these photos. Just wanted to get a perspective regarding how far nandadevi and panchachuli look to the naked eye from there.

That said, superb pics.
Thank you manolin.
For most of these shots I was relying on my 70-300 G type nikkor (for film), which when used on my D90 provides an effective zoom of 105-450 due to the perspective difference between 35mm film on a regular SLR and the 24x36mm sensor on a DSLR. Most of the close-ups were on the upper end of this scale.

As the crow flies , Nanda Devi is about 45 km from the resort,while Panchachuli is about 40 km away. I have attached the relevant portion of Google maps showing the location of the resort (marked with the letter "A") and its alignment with the main peaks of the region. On the right (east) is Nepal, and straight ahead (north) is China (Tibet).



Christmas near Nanda Devi-map.jpg

There is some history to this retreat , which I will narrate in my next post.
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Old 6th January 2013, 11:49   #9
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Default Re: Christmas near Nanda Devi

Amazing pic of the mountains. I too hope our next generation get to cherish these beauties. Subscribed.
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Old 6th January 2013, 12:11   #10
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Default Re: Christmas near Nanda Devi

The Misty Mountain retreat at Jhaltola was once part of the estates of the famous "spy-explorer" Nain Singh Rawat.

What follows is an account of Nain Singh Rawat - drawn from the following sources :
http://legends-of-johar.blogspot.in/ and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nain_Singh_Rawat

Birth and Early Life
Rai Bahadur Nain Singh Rawat was born to Lata Burha in 1830 in Milam village in the valley of Johar.
After leaving school, Nain Singh helped his father (a trader by profession). He visited different centers in Tibet with his father, learnt the Tibetan language, customs and manners and became familiar with the Tibetan people.
Due to the extreme cold conditions, Milam and other villages of the upper Johar valley are inhabited only for a few months from June to October. During this time the men used to visit Gyanima, Gartok and various other markets in Western Tibet.
Each Indian trader of Johar, had a ‘mitra’ or colleague in Tibet. Initially, the splitting of a stone, each keeping one half, marked their partnership in trade. Henceforth, the Indian trader or his representative would carry the token to sell his goods in Tibet market only to his mitra’s representative who would fit his half of the stone to the Indian’s.
This knowledge of Tibetian language and local customs and protocol came handy in Nain Singh’s work as Spy Explorer.

After an initial exploration of Tibet with the Schalaginweit brothers of Germany, Pundit Nain Singh Rawat joined the Education Department, being appointed as the headmaster of a Government vernacular school in his village at Milam from 1858 to 1863.

The Great Game
In the decades leading up to the 1850s, the British and Russians were engaged in a battle of one upmanship, in the vast desolate plains of Central Asia (including Tibet).
While Russophobia was on the rise with successive generations of East India company men, it was also becoming increasingly difficult to send officers on clandestine missions of map making as the risk factors were too great. If captured it meant certain death for these daredevil men - the Tibetans were an insular society, and did not like any external influences on their land. Secondly, the detection of such missions also meant political embarrassment for the British. Sir John Lawrence, Viceroy of India banned the British from venturing into these lands, his political view being that if they lose their lives, we cannot avenge them and so lose credit. It was Captain Montgomery who proposed to his superiors, a novel method to train the natives in scientific western methods of survey. These natives he had argued were far less likely to be detected than a European, however good the latter’s disguise.
Moreover, even if they were unfortunate enough to be discovered, it would be politically less embarrassing to the authorities, compared to if a British officer was caught red handed making maps in these highly sensitive and dangerous parts. This approach was approved and the foundations were laid for a new era of cartographers, relying on the intelligence brought back by the trained natives.

Training & Methodology
In 1862-63, Education Officer Edmund Smyth was in correspondence with Captain Montgomery to recruit some trustworthy natives as explorers for the Great Trigonometrical Survey. On the recommendation of Edmund Smyth, Nain Singh and Mani Singh Rawat were selected for this expedition at a starting salary of rupees twenty a month. Nain Singh worked in the active service of the Great Trigonometrical Survey from 1863-1875. Nain Singh was given code names "Chief Pundit" or "No. 1" for this clandestine expedition by the survey officials. He not only worked as a surveyor in the GST, but also trained many surveyors and explorers for other expeditions.


Training :
On 12th January 1863, Nain Singh along with his cousin, Mani Singh Rawat were sent to the Great Trigonometrical Survey office at Dehradun, where they underwent training for two years. This included the training on scientific instruments, and some ingenious ways of measurement and recording information, and the art of disguise (espionage). Nain Singh was exceptionally intelligent and determined, and quickly learned the correct use of scientific instruments, like sextant and compass. He could also recognize all major stars and different constellations easily for directions.

Methodology :
A sergeant major drilled them using a pace-stick, to take steps of a fixed length which remained constant even while climbing up, down or walking on plain surface. They were trained to record the distances by an ingenious method using a rosary. This rosary unlike a Hindu or Buddhist one, which has 108 beads, had just 100 beads. At every 100 steps the Pundit would slip one bead, so a complete length of the rosary represented 10000 steps. It was easy to calculate the distance as each step was 31˝ inches and a mile was calculated to be around 2000 steps. To avoid suspicion, these explorers went about their task disguised as monks or traders or whatever suited the particular situation. Many more ingenious methods were devised for this expedition. The notes of measurements were coded in the form of written prayers and these scrolls of paper were hidden in the cylinder of the prayer wheel. The Pundit kept this secret log book up to date. The compass for taking bearing was hidden in the lid of the prayer wheel. Mercury used for setting and artificial horizon, was kept in Cowri shells and for use poured into the begging bowl carried by the Pundit. The thermometer found place in the topmost part of the monk’s stave. There were workshops, where false bottoms were made in the chests to hold a sextant. Pockets were also added to the clothes used during these secret missions.

Thus prepared and trained, the Pundit traveled for months at a stretch collecting intelligence in most difficult conditions, traveling closely with the natives in caravans. What was to follow, were some of the most glorious years in the exploration and mapping of Tibet and all its river systems and indeed some of the most fascinating explorations worth recounting. In 1865-66, Nain Singh traveled 1200 miles from Kathmandu to Lhasa and then to the Mansarovar lake and back to India. On his second expedition in 1867, Nain Singh explored Western Tibet and visited the legendary Thok Jalung gold mines. His last and greatest journey of 1874-75 was from Leh to Tawang (Assam) via Lhasa, which got a great appreciation thorough out Europe.

In the Great Trigonometrical Survey, Nain Singh surveyed 2000 km long trade route from Nepal to Tibet in around 21 months. He was first to determine the exact location and altitude of Lhasa town. Nain Singh measured 31 latitudes and 33 altitudes of different places during this survey. He travelled the length of 800 Km of Tsang Po river in Tibet, and was the first person to find that the Tsang Po and Brahmaputra rivers are one. He successfully completed his expeditions in the disguise of a Lama as the entry of foreigners in Tibet was forbidden.

Retirement and Death :
Nain Singh’s last journey has taken its toll on his health, also impairing his vision. He continued for a few years to train other Indians in the art of surveying and spying, and did a highly commendable job of it too.
Nain Singh Rawat died of a heart attack in 1895.

Legacy :
Nain Singh Rawat explored most of the unknown territories of the Central Asia and Tibet beyond the Great Himalayas. His collected scientific information about the geography of these regions provided a major contribution in the mapping of the Central Asia.

For his extraordinary achievements and contributions, Nain Singh was honoured with many awards by the Royal Geographical Society, the Paris Geographical Society, and other European institutions. The survey journeys of Nain Singh got place in many books, magazines, and research papers of different languages around the globe.

Colonel Yule, addressing the Royal Geographic Society at the time of its presentation of the Society's Gold Medal to Nain Singh, said, "It is not a topographical automaton, or merely one of a great multitude of native employees with an average qualification. His observations have added a larger amount of important knowledge to the map of Asia than those of any other living man!"

Awards and Recognition
  1. In 1868, Nain Singh was presented with an inscribed gold chronometer/watch by the Royal Geographic Society (RGS), London.
  2. In 1876, Nain Singh’s achievements were announced in the “Geographical Magzine”.
  3. In 1877, Nain Singh was awarded with the “Victoria / Patron’s Gold Medal” by the Royal Geographic Society (RGS), London.
  4. In 1877, Nain Singh was presented with an inscribed gold chronometer/watch by the Society of Geographers of Paris.
  5. In 1877, the British government awarded him with the title of “Companion of the Indian Empire” (C.I.E.)!
  6. In 1877, the British government honoured him with a grant of a village in Rohilkhand (Bareilly) as Jagir, and 1000 rupees in revenue.
  7. On 27th June 2004, an Indian postage stamp featuring Nain Singh was issued commemorating his role in the Great Trigonometrical Survey by the Indian government, after about 139 years since his achievement!
It felt great to have lived a bit of history when at the resort- and even better sharing this lost story with all my friends on Team-BHP!
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Old 6th January 2013, 12:46   #11
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Default Re: Christmas near Nanda Devi

The resort and its surroundings are not without their fair share of wildlife. Himalayan boar, Leopards, lots of species of birds abound near-by.
The owner Madhur is an avid birder himself and is co-authoring a book on the many avian species found here.
During our breakfast chat (yes- the owner and his wife partake their meals with the guests!) , I asked him if big-cats occasionally strolled into his property? To which he retorted - "the property is theirs, we are the encroachers".
What a different perspective!

Sadly, I did not have the chance to take photographs of wildlife while I was there. Maybe next time...

Last edited by joybhowmik : 6th January 2013 at 12:50. Reason: sentence structure
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Old 6th January 2013, 13:57   #12
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Default Re: Christmas near Nanda Devi

Couple of glaring errors - now corrected! Apologies...

Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
As the crow flies , Nanda Devi is about 45 km from the resort,while Panchachuli is about 40 km away.
This should read :
As the crow flies , Nanda Devi is about 45 miles (72 km) from the resort, while Panchachuli is about 40 miles (65 km) away.
[I misread the scale on the google map]
Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
Attachment 1034778
Unnamed peaks in China (Tibet) @ center and Nepal (east- left of center)
The caption should read "Unnamed peaks in China (Tibet) @ center and Nepal (east- right of center)
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Old 7th January 2013, 12:47   #13
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Default Re: Christmas near Nanda Devi

Splendid pictures Joy! I really wonder at times looking at these pictures that if there is any other heaven?
You have done complete justice to the stunning landscapes with your marvelous photography.

Regards,
Saket
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Old 10th January 2013, 12:11   #14
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Default Re: Christmas near Nanda Devi

Quote:
Originally Posted by joybhowmik View Post
The pictures that follow are God's gift to us, and as we get back to our humdrum lives, we hope these sights are preserved for our children and future generations to cherish.

Thank you for handing down the God's gift to fellow bhpians

That is an excellent photologue, giving out all the essential details to plan a trip.

Is the area covered in snow in Jan / Feb blocking approach?

Last edited by rajcs : 10th January 2013 at 12:13.
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Old 10th January 2013, 15:37   #15
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Default Re: Christmas near Nanda Devi

Thanks for wonderful pictures. They have come out really well. I came to know about this resort around 2 years back and has been planning to visit them but somehow it has never materialized. Thanks for giving the feedback on the same.
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