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Old 31st May 2018, 22:41   #1
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Default TUV3OO - The Kumaon Episode

The past is like using your rear view mirror. It's good to glance back and see how far you have come. But if you stare too long, you'll miss what is right in front of you!

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This year, the summer getaway had to be grand. The missus seemed to have grown tired of my obsession with the charming little state of Sikkim. Can't really blame her as most of our trips together has been to Sikkim. This year, she had been on an official trip to Sikkim in January and I had spent a few days in Sikkim in February with fellow Bhpians. So, naturally, when I suggested a Sikkim itinerary for our summer vacation, all hell broke loose.


Bhutan was considered for a while. Meanwhile, while discussing possible itineraries with Bhpian Samba, I came to know about their impending Spiti escapade. They were scheduled to start a couple of days ahead of our planned departure date. Discussed with the missus if we could pre-pone our trip by a couple of days and got an immediate nod of consent. Contacted Samba and asked if we could tag along with Team-Spiti till Allahabad for the night drive. Samba and Team-Spiti graciously allowed us to tag along. Thus, Bhutan was shelved in favour of Kumaon. Coming to know of our plans, my mother and my father-in-law showed keen interest and in no time they were inducted in the team.



Pestered the local boy, Bhpian Papabravo and D-Bhpian SS-Traveler for possible itineraries, routes and hotels. With their help, finalized the following Kumaon trail -



Nainital

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Chaukori

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Munsiyari

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Sitlakhet

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Mukteswar

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Lucknow


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Varanasi

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Old 1st June 2018, 20:51   #2
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Day 1 : Kolkata to Lucknow (1028 kilometers)


Woke up late after a good night's sleep and went on to remove the rear jump seats of the TUV to liberate some more luggage space. Mahindra says, the jump seats are user removable. The exercise took over an hour. Each seat is held in place by 6 bolts which are placed at most awkwardly accessible places. At the end of it, I had tried positions a gymnast would be proud of and was lying in a pool of my own sweat. But the effort paid of. Tuffey took in all the luggage with some space to spare

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We assembled at Azad Hind Dhaba, Gopalpur on NH-2(Now NH-19) around 60 kilometers from Kolkata. The mood was upbeat and all were rearing to start the journey. The excitement was evident on the bright faces. We shared a few cups of tea over some gibberish until Bhpian Samba decided to take matters in his own hand and started rolling, we followed in haste. By midnight, the convoy had started in all earnest and we galloped along the toll roads stopping briefly for regrouping after Durgapur Toll Plaza. Thereafter, the sedans made quick progress and vanished into the darkness in no time. Somewhere in Jharkhand, I caught up with Sia, the snazzy Swift belonging to Bhpian Sayata. Since then, the two of us drove in tandem without losing sight of each other till dawn.


We stopped after crossing Aurangabad at a Reliance facility for refreshments. As we ordered breakfast, the rest of the convoy kept increasing their gap. Samba informed of a congestion at Dehri-on-Sone, so we wrapped up quickly and moved ahead. We faced minor congestion at the Sasaram Toll Plaza. Once we entered Uttar Pradesh, the journey was punctuated by innumerable diversions which slowed our progress considerably. We crossed Varanasi and soon landed up on the Allahabad bypass making steady progress till the Lucknow exit. Upto Rae Bareily, it was a single carriageway, but the roads were super wide and in great shape. In no time, we hopped on to four laned toll roads to Lucknow. Soumitra da, an avid traveler himself, had suggested that we put up at Gomtinagar to avoid to Lucknow city traffic. Adhering to his advice, I booked Hotel Nest Inn at Gomtinagar through the Fabotels website. By 5 P.M. in the evening we had checked ourselves in our rooms. The property was in a posh area and exceptionally good for the price we paid. We also found ample parking space at our disposal.


The ODO reading at the end of the day's drive


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Old 2nd June 2018, 13:08   #3
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DAY 2 - Lucknow to Nainital (400 kilometers)

We had a good night's sleep and started from Lucknow by 7:30 AM. By the virtue of staying at Gomtinagar, we were out of the city bounds in no time and made rapid progress towards Sitapur over pristine four laned tollways. Sitapur is about a 100 kms from Lucknow and we breezed past Sitapur by 9 am. Once we left the toll roads and moved onwards, we encountered some rough stretches and diversions. We stopped for breakfast at a Dhaba near Shahjahanpur


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The roads continued to be excellent past Bareily, Kichha and Haldwani. We were relieved to finally get a glimpse of the Himalayas at Kathgodam. The outside temperatures were still above 40 degrees. We started our climb towards Nainital through the most pristine Himalayan highway I've come across. Every now and then, I would roll down to window to check if the ambient temperatures had dropped. Finally, a cool breeze hit my face just as I rolled down the window for the n'th time and we immediately stopped to savor the flavour of the mountains after a 1400 kilometer journey across the sweltering plains.


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As we entered Nainital, we encountered maddening volumes of tourists and traffic. To add to our woes, we had booked a hotel on the Zoo road. A very narrow and congested sharp uphill climb from the mall road. Our hotel was barely 300 meters up that road, but there was so much downhill traffic that we had to reverse back down 2-3 times before we finally managed to reach the hotel. However, the rooms were cosy and had nice views of the lake. We immediately ordered for an elaborate lunch and after satisfying our hunger headed down to the lakeside


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We enjoyed a short boat ride on the lake, but my daughter got cranky and we made a quick retreat back to our hotel where we spent the rest of the evening lazing around and chit-chatting, catching up with some work mails and gazing through the window across the city of Nainital. More than anything, we were enjoying the comfortable weather and the nice ambiance created by the city lights twinkling in through the large glass windows of our rooms.


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Old 2nd June 2018, 22:30   #4
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DAY 3 - Nainital (Local sight seeing)

We woke up to a pleasant and sunny day


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Last night, we had booked a cab for a local tour around Nainital. The cab was supposed to pick us up from our hotel by 10:30 A.M. We leisurely hauled ourselves to the diner for breakfast where we were informed that our cab had already arrived. We hopped right in and started our tour. The cabby took us to the local points of interest, most of which were brimming with tourists. We skipped stopping at the first few and thus managed to evade the rush at the rest of the points


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A few Taals and numerous "Lover's" and "Suicide" points later, we arrived at the Botanical Garden


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The garden was a beautiful place, thoughtfully contoured and with a plethora of beautiful flowers. It has it's own little souvenir shop and cafe as well. We spent over an hour at the garden. It was easily the most cherished spot for the day! Around 3 P.M. the cabby dropped us at the Mall Road. We had our lunch at a very nice joint on the Mall Road overlooking the lake. As our orders arrived it started to rain. Myself, missus and the daughter rushed back to the hotel while the parents stayed back for some shopping.


Our parents returned at around 7 P.M. Leaving the little one in their care, the two of us walked down to spend some time beside the lake


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The couple of hours spent by the lake side in comparative tranquility was easily the best time we had in Nainital. With the chill setting in and most of the tourists retreating to their cozy rooms, the transformation of the place was spectacular. Shimmering lights from the hills surrounding the lake, the vibrant reflections on the calm waters, the gentle breeze and the moonlit sky made for a very romantic ambiance. It was soon half past nine. As per our Hotel's policy the free pickup from Mall was available till 9:30 PM. We, very reluctantly, moved back to our hotel.

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Old 3rd June 2018, 21:42   #5
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DAY 4 - Nainital to Chaukori ( 169 Kilometers)

In-spite of the beautiful evening, I was itching to start early towards supposedly less crowded destinations. Also, the thought of traversing the first 300 meters was an irritant and I wanted to get through it before local traffic starts plying. Last night, even at 10 P.M. the hotel cab had a hard time ferrying us on that stretch. For half an hour, I had to wrestle back and forth to maneuver Tuffey out of the cramped shoulder (converted to parking lot). But within the next five minutes we were out of the city bounds and meandering across pristine pine forests towards Almora


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We had initially planned to have breakfast at Almora. But we did not like the vibe of the place, again too congested and too much concrete for our liking. Although the town looked great from a distance.


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Further down, we stopped for breakfast at a neat looking joint

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This was easily the best aloo paratha of the trip. After a short chat with a trucker, who had also stopped for his breakfast, we continued through pristine pine forests


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We reached the quaint KMVN, Chaukori around noon.


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The cottages spread along the boundary looked beautiful. However, we were booked into the main building


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But all my attention was drawn to this beast parked at the porch


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After a homely lunch, we went out for a stroll within the premises


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The cottages up close


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I soon found the perfect spot for a power nap


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KMVN, Chaukori offers a panoramic view of snow peaks, but owing to fog, they remained elusive for the period of our stay. As night fell, so did the mercury. The food menu at the facility was quite limited with only eggs and paneer on offer. After an early dinner, we scurried back into our big and cozy rooms, with the hope that the next morning will bring a fantastic sunrise and the snow peaks will show.


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A video clip of the day's drive



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Old 4th June 2018, 21:37   #6
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DAY 5 - Chaukori to Munsiyari ( 94 Kilometers)

I was most looking forward to today's drive. It promised to be the most scenic. It promised snow peaks!


But first, after a quick cuppa, we climbed up the watch tower to experience the sunrise.

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We enjoyed a glorious sunrise, but the snow peaks remained elusive. The buffet breakfast was served at 8:30 A.M. We treated ourselves to a decent meal and left the resort by 9:30 A.M.



We started through the pine forests again


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As we approached Thal, the terrain and vegetation changed. We drove along a meandering river


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A short video of our drive around Thal. The only rough patch we found en-route, but we were too engrossed with the scenic beauty on offer to bother about a few bumps.





Soon we found ourselves ambling along pristine tarmac in company of towering mountains, steadily gaining altitude.


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We drove past the towering Birthi waterfalls


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And then, all of a sudden, after one of the many unscrupulous twists and turns, we came face to face with the majestic Panchachuli peaks


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This was easily the best moment for us in this trip! From here on, till our hotel, the towering snow peaks kept us company and we stopped multiple times to savor the views


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By 1 P.M. we checked into the beautiful Milam Inn


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We were elated with the ambiance and the grand views our rooms offered


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After a sumptuous lunch, we huddled in our room. The snow peaks kept glistening through our large glass window till daylight vanished. There was no reason to move out of the room, except for the odd moment at the balcony. Time flew by gossiping and playing with the little one. It was chilly outside and a big group of tourists were partying hard. So, we ordered our dinner in our room and dozed off. The morning promised a spectacular sunrise!


Moments from the day's drive



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Old 5th June 2018, 20:05   #7
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DAY 6 - Munsiyari ( 15 Kilometers)

We woke up at 4 A.M. in utmost excitement to watch the sun rise from behind the snow peaks. We were not disappointed


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Snapped a couple of mobile wallpapers

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As the day progressed the little hamlet of Munsiyari basked in sunshine


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We were so engrossed with the vibrant views through the front window, that we were totally unaware about the other window in the room


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After a hefty breakfast, the missus insisted that we drive around a bit. We drove around aimlessly stopping at scenic spots and hiking into the pine forests


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But with every passing moment, the magnificent peaks were getting covered behind a seemingly perpetual layer of fog.


The final glimpse

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The rest of the day was spent eating to our heart's content and lazing around the resort premises.

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We enjoyed our lovely conversations with the friendly staff and the manager from whom we got many interesting information about the place.

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Old 5th June 2018, 21:13   #8
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DAY 7 - Munsiyari to Sitlakhet ( 205 Kilometers)



Our initial plan was to drive to Mukteswar (260 kms approx) and spend two nights there. But Bhpian Papabravo warned that the trip will be long and may become tiresome owing to the perpetually curvy roads all across Uttarakhand. Adhering to his advice, we had started searching for an off-beat stop en-route. We chanced upon a KMVN facility at Sitlakhet, about 30 kilometers from Almora. Rooms were available and booked immediately.


We started early and stopped at a Maggi joint in front of the Birthi Falls for breakfast. While the food was being prepared, we hiked a few steps for a better view of the long waterfall


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Breakfast was served and we made a hasty return


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We had a satisfying breakfast sitting beside this small stream


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The route to Sitlakhet via Bagheswar was extremely scenic. A major part of the stretch was totally desolate and devoid of any traffic. We did not stop en-route.






We crossed the busy and congested town of Bageswar and stopped for lunch at a beautifully located restaurant barely 30 kilometers from Sitlakhet

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We were having good food all through the trip and this lunch was no different. Continuing to amble through pine forests we reached the small hamlet of Sitlakhet.



We missed the signboard to the KMVN facility and landed up on a rocky trail. While the jittery ride was an irate to the parents, we were enjoying getting lost in the wilderness for a while





Finally, sense prevailed and we turned back. Soon, we arrived at the Sitlakhet TRH (short for Tourist Rest House). The facility was located inside a lush forest


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The Sitlakhet KMVN is probably based on a colonial era building. There is a picturesque cottage right beside it which belongs to the forest department. The rooms were large and airy. The upkeep, pretty decent considering it's a less trodden property.


We went out for a stroll in the woods


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The area was teeming with monkeys and soon they started getting curious! We made a hasty retreat


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We ordered tea and snacks and receded to our room.

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Old 6th June 2018, 22:16   #9
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DAY 8 - Sitlakhet to Mukteswar ( 57 Kilometers)

On a clear day, snow peaks would be visible from the Sitlakhet, TRH. But we were not lucky. Also, we were very keen to spend as much time as possible in Mukteswar. We gave the buffet breakfast a miss and started rolling early.


GMAPS found us a shortcut




It was slow progress initially, but soon we landed back on good roads. We stopped at a beautiful little property for breakfast


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The lawn had great views


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And Peach trees! With ready to eat fruits!


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The place was run by folks with a heart of gold. The Maggi and omelettes were made with love and the tea sweetened with warm hospitality.


We asked if we could try some Peaches and our host gleefully plucked some for us. Fruits doesn't get any fresher


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In some time, we reached the Trishul Orchard Resort, our stay at Mukteswar. The resort is perched on a scenic hill top.


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We had arrived early and had to wait a bit while the friendly staff scurried to get our room ready


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Finally, we were lead to our cozy room


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View from our room


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The staff promised a lunch prepared from homegrown veggies. While waiting for the same we strolled around the well spread property


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We enjoyed a tasty lunch prepared from organic fresh farm produce


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We were having a good time at the resort. The little one was enjoying the most. The place is punctuated with thoughtfully carved out gardens, alleys and open spaces. After lazing around for an hour, we decided to drive to Mukteswar Dham and Chauli ki Jaali, the local points of interest.


The Mukteswar Temple was too crowded, so we drove past towards Chauli ki Jaali. We parked Tuffey near the KMVN facility



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From there, it was a beautiful walk through a 200 meter forest trail which led to a beautiful view point.


Rhododendrons in full bloom


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The main attraction ( a naturally formed hole in the rock!)


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And wonderful views


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The rain clouds caught up real quick and we made a hasty retreat


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Old 9th June 2018, 21:04   #10
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Day 8: Mukteswar (continued...)

We drove back amidst a drizzle accompanied by thunder and lightning. The rain marred our plans to stop at the local Chocolate and Ice-cream outlets. However, by the time we reached our resort, the ominous looking clouds had disappeared. While our parents and the little one receded back to our room, we made conversation with the resort owner. He, insisted that we go to the sunset view point, a 50 meter trail from the resort.


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The viewpoint offered spectacular 360 degree view of the valey


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We experienced a spectacular sunset. As soon as the sun went down, the temperatures dipped sharply. The gusty winds that welcomed us in the morning returned and we passed the rest of the evening indoors. Dinner was served early and as we enjoyed the homely food, we deliberated if we should prolong our stay at Mukteswar by one more day. All of us wanted to spend more time at the Trishul Orchard Resort, a plan for a lunch and confectioneries at one of the many picturesque eateries in Mukteswar, which we missed due to the rains, also started brewing. We discussed at length but decided to take the call in the morning. With the sweetness of the fresh fruit custard we went to bed.




DAY 9 - Mukteswar to Lucknow - via Pilibhit (425 Kilometers)



We woke up a bit late. The parents expressed their desire to experience Ganga aarti at Varanasi. So, we decided to move towards Lucknow. We left the resort after a hearty breakfast by 10 A.M. We drove by Bhimtal, the biggest of the lakes in Nainital district. Google Maps was estimating our Lucknow arrival by 7:15 P.M. But we had major plans for the evening! We decided to continue steadily without any major stoppages. At Kathgodam, I made an abrupt decision to use the alternate route via Pilibhit. Thankfully, the roads were good and we were making steady progress. Around the town of Pilibhit, we were slowed down by hundreds of tractors ferrying sugarcane.



We stopped for a short break inside the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve


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After Pilibhit, GMaps directed us through some most beautiful MDRs (Major District Roads). We reached Lucknow by 5:30 P.M. We had saved enough time en-route for our planned errands in Lucknow. After resting for an hour at the hotel, we called for a cab to take us to Dastarkhwaan, a Mughal restaurant of much repute. 20 minutes later, we had arrived


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After thoroughly over compensating for the missed lunch, we headed to the nearby Chikan shop


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The family spent over an hour shopping, while I kept company of the little one and wondered how to accommodate the extra luggage. We finally got back to our hotel, happy and content. We decided to start late the next day.

Last edited by mi2n : 10th June 2018 at 22:52.
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Old 10th June 2018, 11:55   #11
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DAY 10 - Lucknow to Varanasi (335 Kilometers)

Once, we got down from the hills, we experienced the heat wave ravaging Uttar Pradesh. Temperatures around Pilibhit were in the mid forties. Lucknow was over 40 degrees as well. While serving bed tea, the hotel staff intimated us of an impending VVIP visit in Lucknow and the resultant plan of road closures. Taking his advice, we left Lucknow after a quick breakfast.


After a six hour drive, we reached Varanasi, and stopped for a late lunch at Hotel Kaushik right on the highway

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As soon as we got down from the car, we were in for a shock! The outside temperature was 45 degrees and it was like standing in front of the outdoor unit of a split air conditioner. We rushed inside the facility


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We found a beautiful lawn behind the hotel, but the unbearable ambient temperatures prevented us from exploring it. Kaushik hotel had decent rooms on offer for a fair price. Over lunch, we debated whether to check in here, the advantage being the easy exit on to the highway or move inside the city of Varanasi for ease of access to places of interest. The team insisted that we move in, i agreed reluctantly. Twenty minutes later, we were at the Hotel Temple on Ganges right on Assi Ghat.


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We rested for an hour and had tea. Then, we walked down to the ghat for a boat ride


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We coasted past quite a few ghats to reach the Dasaswamedh ghat


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We witnessed Ganga Aarti sitting amidst hundreds of boats and thousands of tourists. Once we were content, we slowly headed back to our hotel.




DAY 11 - Varanasi to Kolkata (685 Kilometers)

Last night, while we were returning from our boat ride, we saw one of the most messy traffic congestion around Assi ghat. We had accordingly decided to leave Varanasi by 6 A.M. We made good progress till the Sasaram Toll Plaza where we lost about 20 minutes amidst long ques of trucks. Then we faced an ugly congestion around Dehri-on-Sone. The locals had blocked the highway in protest of an accident. When we reached there, the blockade was going on for over 2 hours resulting in a 5-6 kilometer long ques each way! We followed local cars on the other side of the highway and parked around 100 meters from the spot. About 40 minutes later, the police force and local administration arrived and the crowd slowly started to disperse. We were hungry by this time and as soon as we left the congestion behind, we stopped for breakfast at a Reliance facility.


After a filling breakfast, we continued steadily. The highway through Bihar and Jharkhand were smooth sailing. By 1 P.M. we stopped at Shaan-e-Punjab dhaba, Topchanchi, around 300 kilometers from home.


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The lunch break was planned to be our last stop en-route. We made good use of the tasty food. By 1:45 P.M. we were rolling again. The journey onwards was even faster as the toll roads opened up to 6 laners around the Bengal-Jharkhand border. We reached home by 6:00 P.M.


The ODO reading for the trip. Shade under 3500 kilometers.


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Unloading the memories


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The route map


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Thanks for reading. Until next time.

Last edited by mi2n : 10th June 2018 at 22:57.
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Old 11th June 2018, 07:08   #12
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 11th June 2018, 12:47   #13
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Default Re: TUV3OO - The Kumaon Episode

Beautifully penned travelogue Mi2N with fabulous photographs to boot.... definitely a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Rated 5 Stars !!!

Warm regards,

Siddhartha
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Old 11th June 2018, 13:51   #14
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Default Re: TUV3OO - The Kumaon Episode

This is what I call a perfect travelogue Mi2n. Right amount of text & awesome pictures. Your narration keeps the reader engaged throughout. Some of the Munsiyari clicks are mindblowing. Tuffey looks handsome in the Kumaon background.

This travelogue brought back good memories of the innumerable trips I have made to Kumaon. The roads looks so familiar.

Keep travelling & Keep Writing !!

Cheers,

Pawan
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Old 11th June 2018, 14:20   #15
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Default Re: TUV3OO - The Kumaon Episode

So glad mi2n that you enjoyed the trip to Kumaon. I was especially happy to see you went to nainital - that's my hometown.

The picture below is of my high school. Thanks for bringing back so many memories.

I haven't been able to go to Nainital this year yet - your thread provided the much needed push.

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