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Old 2nd May 2024, 16:28   #1
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With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.




Prologue: We moved to Mysore two months ago and have been enjoying and revelling in the laid back, calm way of life in this beautiful town. The idea for this trip came into existence over a casual cup of tea with a friend when I was still in Bangalore and had no idea that we would be moving to Mysore.



The quote above, is from a bookmark I bought on my recent trip to the mountain town of Mussoorie. An ardent fan of the author Ruskin Bond, a visit to Mussoorie was a must. The Himalayas of Uttarakhand are mesmerizing and mysterious at the same time in his books. His writing had created this urge to visit the places featured in his books. Another friend and a Ruskin Bond fan was excited about visiting his place. Until a few years ago, one would see him at Cambridge Book Depot, signing his books. From the locals, we heard that he has now shifted to Dehra Dun. For us, it was just exciting to see the places right in front of us, as if they just came out of the pages of the books. It was mandatory that I read Roads to Mussoorie while there. It was surreal and thrilling, at the same time visiting most of the places in and around Mussoorie that appear in his books. Though not physically signed, we can buy the books with his digital signature. It is also remarkable that we visited his home the year he turns 90!


With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-cambridge-book-depot.jpg



The planning began in February. We lost no time to book flights and stay, as these hill stations get crowded during the summer vacation season. Though the flight was direct to Dehra Dun, almost the whole day was lost in travelling both ways. We got 3.5 days, and the last day happened to be the elections there (which we didn’t know when we planned our trip). The stay was booked at an Airbnb in Jharipani, 8km before the main Mall Road in Mussoorie. Located in a peaceful location overlooking the Doon Valley, the cottage is just the perfect place for those looking for a relaxing and calm stay away from the hubbub of the touristy Mussoorie town. The Airbnb we stayed in is part of the Kamal Cottages. At one point, this area belonged to the Nepal Royal Family. After the king’s time, his children sold most of the land that belonged to them. Kamal Cottages is one of the parts. A small temple on the premises houses varied Hindu gods, and a small park surrounds it. The views are spectacular from every corner of the place. Every bend of the road delights you with an enchanting view.


With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-jharipani-waterfalls1.jpg


The small town of Jharipani boasts a waterfall, which is not touristic and hikes around the area aplenty. A concrete road is in the making towards the Jharipani waterfall. We met a few young guys from Saharanpur who had come on their motorcycles 80% of the route and walked the rest of the trail. Sceptical about there being any water in this summer season, the waterfall surprised us with gushing water. The last stretch to reach the waterfall is narrow. Be cautious, and it is worth the effort. It is situated in a serene place covered by forest on all sides.


With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-picture-palace.jpg


Spend an evening strolling on Mall Road, shops selling warm winter apparel and cafes offering food to satiate the food preferences of everyone. From local cuisine to gourmet food, you can have it all -the barbecued corn or popcorn from the roadside (perfect companion for the cold evening chill). The ropeway to the Gunhill top is another attraction in the heart of this road. I was excited as this was my first time riding a cable car. The view from here is majestic, the Himalayan mountain ranges on one side and the town of Mussoorie on the other. Unfortunately, we reached there after sun-down. Other than the viewpoint, some shops (most of them) offer photos in traditional Uttarakhand attire. Sipping a hot ginger from a restaurant, we headed back towards the cable car and down we came to the Mall Road. Though the rule says no traffic is allowed on Mall Road, we came across locals (on their scooters) causing havoc (to pedestrians) by constantly honking and riding rashly. One end of the road hosts Picture Palace, now closed, which used to be a cinema hall and the other Library, known as Library Chowk.


With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-savoy.jpg
Writer's Bar at Savoy Hotel


The Savoy Hotel has been featured in Ruskin Bond books with captivating stories. One is of a leopard straying inside the hotel, and co-incidentally, the maid goes missing from there. It is a mystery whether the leopard had her for breakfast or did she run away with the laundry man? The hotel is now run by ITC under Welcome Hotels. Having read stories about these places, it was but natural that we visit them. The writer’s bar is a fascinating place, old British architecture of spacious rooms with high ceilings and marvellous big furniture. The wall in one corner of the bar has wooden plaques announcing the famous writers who visited the place.


With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-sunrise-over-doon-valley.jpg
Doon valley at sunrise


In the olden days, one could reach Mussoorie via Dehra Dun – Rajpur Road – Jharipani – Barlowganj – Mussoorie. There are now two roads - the main road proceeds directly to Mussoorie, and another locally called bypass goes through Jharipani, Barlowganj. The Rajpur Road in Ruskin’s description is not how the road is now. There are ample showrooms of all famous brands, the nights are lit up with bright lights, and fancy restaurants and cafes beckon to you. After the showrooms are the turn of restaurants and cafes that run for many kilometres. They are found on either side of the road, and one wonders how many will have a business. This question was answered on our way back when we saw hundreds of cars going upwards towards Mussoorie, and the flow wouldn’t stop. The season was just about to begin.


With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-view-balcony.jpg
View from our Airbnb's balcony


An exhilarating experience to visit the places as we've read in Ruskin Bond's books, especially these particular ones that were on our route and we passed through them multiple times: (excerpt from the poem in the book Roads to Mussoorie)

Remember the old road,
The steep stony path
That us up from Rajpur,
Toiling and seating
And grumbling at the climb,
But enjoying all the same.
At first the hills were hot and bare,
But then there were trees near Jharipani
And we stopped at the Halfway House
And swallowed lungfuls of diamond-cut air.
The onwards, upwards, to the town - Ruskin Bond


Landour is a cantonment area, further upward after Mussoorie. This is where Ruskin Bond’s home is. An evening was spent in Landour walking around the streets, admiring the views and the old colonial-style architecture. The famous Landour Bakehouse bakes a delicious spread of croissants, brownies, and sandwiches. Their cheesy garlic croissant was finger-licking good, and I had a ginger lemon honey tea to wash it down. The chilly summer evening was a perfect setting for this supper, and the bakehouse has unique furniture (reused sewing machines) for the table. The backdrop for the bakehouse is spectacular, covered with pine and oak trees.


With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-jbk_hike_hmlyview2.jpg
View of the snowcapped Himalayas


A privately maintained/preserved nature park is the Jhabarketh Nature Reserve. They charge 450/- per person (including GST), and you can spend the whole day inside the reserve, though camping is not allowed. They provide a paper map with multiple trail options and information about the reserve. The trails are very well marked, and one can easily find their way inside this nature reserve. For a guide, they insist on booking the slot ahead, who have more knowledge about the flora and fauna of the area. On a clear day, the Himalayas are visible to the naked eye, and we were lucky to have been on the hike on one such day. Some of the mountain ranges had received a fresh snowfall the previous night, and the white snowcapped mountains were a treat to the eye and made me stand dumbstruck there for many minutes.

The Hills-E-Ishq Café (also a restaurant) close to the Jhabarkhet Nature Reserve dishes up local dishes and beverages. Their Gharwali thali is a must-try that includes all the delicacies of the traditional cuisine specific to this area of the Himalayas (the Garhwal Himalayas). As the rhododendrons were in season, they had the juice/soda of these flowers, which was very tasty and aided in digesting the heavy spread of the meal. The café is run by an enthusiastic local lady genuinely interested in what she does. Appreciate her effort in saving the tradition and serving the local traditional food by visiting the cafe when in the area.

Another privately run place (hosted by the couple – Kavitha and Shukla), the SOHAM Himalayan Centre, is a fascinating museum displaying varied items related / belonging to the history, culture and geography of these mountains. This should ideally be the first place to begin the journey. You learn about the history and culture of the place, which will help you to appreciate the rest of the trip better. Having a PhD in Painting, the host, Mrs Kavitha, is highly knowledgeable and skilled at narrating stories. This multistoried museum houses everything from old scriptures to coin collection, photographs to paintings, locally used utensils to pieces of architecture and the like. It is no wonder that this region is rich in culture and traditions. Many religious places like Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Rishikesh, to name a few, are part of this state. It is fascinating how the culture and local practices still thrive to keep the rich historical and mythological tales alive. They have a meagre Rs.100/- for entry fee. Support the cause of preserving the traditions, history and culture of the Himalayas by visiting the centre.


With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-view-mussoorie.jpg
Mussoorie town seen from our Airbnb's balcony


Located away from the hubbub of the touristy Mussoorie town, the Airbnb Cottage at Jharipani is a perfect place for those looking for a quiet stay. The evenings and early mornings are tranquil with the melodious chirping of birds. The views are spectacular from every corner of the property, inside and outside. The cottage overlooks the Doon Valley, and 50mts from the gate is the beautiful view of Mussoorie town. Commuting to Mussoorie is a breeze, thanks to the taxi service recommended by the host. The driver, Faizan, is well versed with the mountain roads and is very good at negotiating the traffic on the narrow, steep hill roads.

This was my first time in Uttarakhand, and I can’t wait to explore the other Himalayan places in the state. The well-laid roads from Dehradun airport to Mussoorie make travel easy and hassle-free. The Flybus by KSRTC is the best way to get to KIAL from Mysore. They keep up with the timings. They reached the airport earlier than the expected time of arrival when I went. The buses are comfortable, and experienced drivers make it a smooth ride.


The best souvenir to remember a trip (in my opinion) is a postcard of the place. I posted one from the Mussoorie post office, and it was an incredible feeling when I received it at my doorstep.

With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-postcard.jpg
Postcard that made it from Mussoorie to Mysore

Last edited by kiki_13 : 2nd May 2024 at 18:13.
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Old 2nd May 2024, 18:09   #2
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Re: With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!

Some more photos

With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-jbk_flowers.jpg
Wild flowers in full bloom - Jhabarkhet Nature Reserve

With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-jbk_flowers2.jpg
Wild flowers on the trail

With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-jbk_hike_himalayaview.jpg
Jhabarkhet Nature Reserve - snowcapped mountains at the far end

With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-jbk_hike1.jpg
Rhododendron and the never ending mountain ranges - Jhabarkhet Nature Reserve

With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-jbk_hike02.jpg
The trail - Jhabarkhet Nature Reserve

With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-jbk_hike3.jpg
The hike at Jhabarkhet Nature Reserve

With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-jbk_map.jpg
The trail map

With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-jbk_trail_rodo.jpg
Rhododendron trail at Jhabarkhet Nature Reserve

With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-jbk_trail2.jpg
Well marked trails - Jhabarkhet Nature Reserve

With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-jbk_trail3.jpg
Well marked trails of Jhabarkhet Nature Reserve

With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-jharipani-waterfall2.jpg
The secluded and non touristic Jharipani Waterfall

With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-jharipani_temple.jpg
A small temple near our Airbnb

With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-postoffice.jpg
The charming post office - Mussoorie

With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!-sunrise-balcony1.jpg
Sunrise from the balcony of our Airbnb
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Old 2nd May 2024, 18:59   #3
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Re: With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 3rd May 2024, 09:33   #4
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Re: With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!

Quote:
Originally Posted by kiki_13 View Post
An ardent fan of the author Ruskin Bond, a visit to Mussoorie was a must.
Exactly a year ago on this day, we returned from our trip to Mussorie. We also love Ruskin Bond's writing, especially my wife. We too made couple of visits to Cambridge. Your photos and write up brought back lots of memories.
The only downside during our trip was that the whole of Mall Road was getting re tiled. So it was not an easy walk.
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Old 3rd May 2024, 11:13   #5
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Re: With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!

This thread is so close to my heart. In 2021, just before the pandemic exploded (Wave 2 - Delta), we decided to pack our bags and work from the hills for 2 months. The original plan was Mussoorie (1 month) and Solan (1 month). 25 days later, the entire country was so badly impacted by Covid that we had to pack our bags overnight, cut short our trip and return back home to Bangalore.

On the brighter side, we experienced Mussoorie like no other. We were one of the handful tourists in Mussorie that time and as days passed by we were perhaps the only ones around. We booked a 1BHK flat on rent (close to Wynberg Allen School with an amazing view of Dehradun from up above). A typical day would start at 5:30 AM, my wife and I would trek all the way to Landour, or sometimes take a ight stroll on camels back road or to library chowk and back. On the way back, we would pick up fresh groceries (veggies, paneer, curd, grains & other food staples) and get back to our apartment by 9AM to start our office work. A local help would help with cooking and cleaning. Evenings would also be a nice walk around the area. To top off, I also clicked the milky way from our apartment balcony one new moon night.

What a blissful life it was.

We fell in love with Landour. My wife and I are avid birders and this place is a treasure trove. We saw a lot of rare birds (at least for someone in Bangalore) including some exotic pheasants. This place is also great for foodies - Be it Omelette bread at Char Dukan or Lovely Omelette Center or Alu Paratha at any neighborhood place (folks would serve it with so much love and affection) or the numerous cafes that my kids absolutely loved.

Those were indeed the best days of our lives.

Last edited by sachinayak : 3rd May 2024 at 11:22.
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Old 3rd May 2024, 19:32   #6
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Re: With love to Mussoorie - Ruskin Bond's homeland!

Thank you so much for this post, @kiki_13

Mussoorie is my home-town, and your post evoked extreme nostalgia in me.
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Old 5th May 2024, 18:25   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rajesh1868 View Post
Your photos and write up brought back lots of memories.
I am so glad my writing could evoke those memories and looks like we would've covered most of the places in Bond's books. I bought the bookmark (the heading for this blog) from the Cambridge Book Depot

Quote:
Originally Posted by sachinayak View Post
Those were indeed the best days of our lives.
Wow! That must've been a wonderful experience. I am very sure those were the golden days and I can imagine how much you would've enjoyed the place and having all those spectacular places all to yourselves.

Quote:
Originally Posted by swe.desi View Post
Mussoorie is my home-town, and your post evoked extreme nostalgia in me.
Pleasure is all mine. You are lucky to have such a wonderful place as home. I am so glad you liked it! Hope you will get to visit your home soon.

Last edited by libranof1987 : 7th May 2024 at 17:08. Reason: Merging back-to-back posts. Kindly use the Edit/Quote+ functionality to quote multiple posts.
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