Kausani -Switzerland of India – The Untold Story
“Wow! This is amazing…beautiful” – the three of us said together and our voice echoed like a clear and surround sound in peace. That was our first reaction to the scenic beauty of hills and a sacred temple aside with an ecstatic view of Himalayan peaks right in front of us. That reaction was surely common, but the place wasn’t. This place is called ‘Kausani – Switzerland of India’ – a village in Bageshwar district of Uttarakhand with just over 2500 population. But the story didn’t start here, let me unfold it from the very beginning.
I was into my post-graduation days and winter breaks were about to knock our doors. The travelling bone inside me tickled again and I started dreaming of yet another joyous trip. “How about a trip to mountains?” – asked to a group of 10, but the expected 2 of them (Rajul and Aditya) enthusiastically said a loud yes. Both have been my travel companions and they were ready to pack their bags with the same zeal and passion that I admire for travelers. “So, where are we heading to?” – asked the ever ‘ready-to-go’ Aditya. Here in India, there are countless destinations to have range of experiences and you can choose among several options as per your preferences.
Just dream of a place full of peace with a river flowing beside you, or a place with beautiful snowy mountains, or a beach with serene ocean, or a place which preserves long-past traditions and heritage, or……. Oh! I myself went into dreams, but that’s how it is, you would find ‘n’ number of scenic destinations to visit. This is mostly the first stage of a traveler’s journey, and this time we had dreamt of a place where there is peace, treks, mountains, snow and most importantly it should not be known to many, that’s kind of an unexplored or extremely less traveled destination. Well, this last line would define the kind of traveler I am.
It’s the third day since we had agreed upon going somewhere, but no place was decided yet. Rajul came out with a place ‘Pitthoragarh’, which he had heard from a friend. We pulled our map out, circled our eyes around Pitthoragarh and marked a place named Kausani – Switzerland of India. All three of us mutually decided to take a trip to Uttarakhand and explore Kausani to the fullest.
Plans began to ooze, with a lot spoken about the number of things we would be doing. This stage of planning is not that easy as it just looked like above, zeroing down on a place took 3 days, 18 hours, 25 minutes and from here not only the list of preferred activities rolled down but many other things like the essential items to carry, clothes to wear considering temperatures in minus, and planning budget was on top of the mind. Our budget was crunched and thus our planning needed some solid adjustments. “We can’t compromise on our exploration; can we make adjustments in our commutations/transportations from Jaipur to Kausani?” – I had put across my thought and interestingly the response from Rajul and Aditya was a head-nodded yes. Well, I mentioned Jaipur here and there is a lot to talk about this city or I’d say that it’s one the most beautifully crafted cities with a generous blend of traditions, heritage and modern culture. But we’ll talk about Jaipur in some other post.
So, now the onus was on all three of us to plan our travel from Jaipur to Kausani – Switzerland of India’ in the most cost-efficient still safe way. We planned to travel all by bus while breaking down our journey into pieces – Jaipur to Delhi, Delhi to Nainital, and Nainital to Kausani – Switzerland of India’(via Almora). It was all set now, bus tickets from Delhi to Nainital were booked steady, the backpacks were ready, tent and some essentials were handy, and packaged food items were kept already. Just 5 more days to our trip and each day was passing extremely slow as if it had 48 hours.
The clock ticked 2:30pm and we were at Jaipur’s Sindhi Camp Bus Stand. When you are traveling Jaipur to Delhi, there is generally no need of booking tickets well before. You just need to keep some time spare to reach bus stand and check for 2-3 bus options out of plenty of them available for Delhi, just bargain for the best possible price and you have your seats. We did the same, and now we were in the bus to Delhi – our journey had begun! The bus from Delhi to Nainital was scheduled at 9:30 pm and somehow that day traffic was a mess, it raised our tension levels with a constant glaze at our watches. “With this much traffic, how the hell we will catch our connecting bus!” – Aditya said.
We reached our pick-up spot just 3 minutes before departure and nothing more could be expected, haha! The best thing about road transport is that it takes you through various cities, towns, villages, cultures, sceneries and weathers. In our trip we were supposed to travel through Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand; just the thought of such things was keeping us thrilled and excited. While we were enjoying the bus travel in our sleeper coach seats, we arrived at Kathgodam early morning. Most of the private bus operators would take you to Kathgodam and then from there they arrange a taxi/cab/cruiser for passengers to be dropped at Nainital. So, Kathgodam was the stop and we stepped out of our bus with sun shining bright but a cool breeze around. Walked to a nearby café for something to eat and just gulped in paranthas, chhole-bhature, and noodles.
It was 9:00 am, and our cruiser was ready to take us to Nainital. Ah! Those roads, it wasn’t the first time we were on those roads, but they have always been brilliant and give an eye-soothing experience with hills coming by and greenery everywhere. “I can travel such roads or even higher roads for my whole life” – Rajul said. And, Nainital was here now with another phase of our journey completed successfully. There are generally two options when you want to travel to Kausani from Nainital, either you hire some private taxis/cabs, or you take a Uttarakhand roadways bus/private bus.
We had already decided for a bus journey, and we took a bus asking for Kausani and now our third phase began from Nainital to Kausani – Switzerland of India (via Almora). “How can we even describe this mesmerizing beauty of these hills and clouds!” – Rajul said, and I replied in a jiffy, “Absolutely, see these clouds how close they are, it seems we are among these or sometimes above these.” The bus drops you at a spot from where there are cruisers to drive passengers through small villages and drop them at their homes, respective villages, etc. So, we also took a cruiser and finally reached Kausani at 6:30 pm in the evening.
The feeling of reaching the desired place after an amazing journey across different landscapes is simply overwhelming. We found a hotel named Hillview in Kausani – Switzerland of India, which had a direct view of Himalayan peaks and believe me even at night, those snow-white mountain peaks were clearly visible and moonlight shining over them was like the cherry on the cake. That’s how we had a slightly exhaustive, but a lot more pleasuring journey and it was the time to take rest and start exploring the place very next morning.
It was 4:30 in the morning, and we were on the hotel’s roof to experience sunrise over the Himalayas. What a view it was! In utter silence all around, freezing morning, a cup of tea in our hands and that sunrise. It was feeling like a true switzerland to us Kausani – Switzerland of India.
There can’t be a single person not falling in love with this scenario. Well, it was time to go right on top of the hills and watch them more closely. Time to trek! We packed our bags with some essential winter clothes as a backup, our tent for camping, enough number of filled water bottles, some packaged food items, lighter/matchbox for a bonfire, power backups, etc. “I’m absolutely excited but slightly worried.” – said Aditya. His worries could have come from last night when he realized that very few people go for this trek, it’s an open forest, and there’s almost zero probability that we would find anyone at the top especially at night. But his worries were apparently none of these. We three have generally been explorers and we try to find out such places which are not known or still not visited by many.
So, his actual worry was camping at night right at top of the hill with freezing temperatures at around (-)10 degrees or even lesser. It is not easy to camp anywhere in these low temperatures as the base of the tent gets wet because of dew, plus it tends to become extremely cold because of cold surfaces at night. “Let’s keep the excitement going.” – I said. We took a taxi to reach the starting point of the trek and told him to pick us up the next morning, also saved his mobile number. So, we were to begin the trek. It’s called Pinnath Trek – 8 km trek passing through the forest with no appropriate walking way up and a brilliant spot for off-beat travellers who loves adventure and forest treks, and of course, it takes you to an ecstatic view of Himalayan peaks like, Nandakot, Nanda Devi, Trishul, Nanda Gunti and Chaukhamba.
We were about to start our trek, and we asked a tea/food stall owner (situated at the starting point) that what’s the way to the top. And, there was a local resident who was going up to visit sacred Hindu shrine and he offered to go along. “Of course, yes, let’s go together.” – said Rajul. It’s amusing to meet and talk to local residents, learn more about their culture, beliefs, traditions, foods and more. Our first stop was Rudhradhari Temple and Waterfalls – a beautiful temple in the lap of hills with pure mountain water falling at the back.
The resident told that most of the people finishes the trek here itself and don’t climb up to Pinnath shrine. He asked, “You want to come up with me to Pinnath or ending it here?” I replied, “Yes, we will be going till the top and also stay there at night.” Through the lush green forest, we trekked all kilometres to reach a destination and could say just one thing together – “Wow! This is amazing…beautiful.” Hey readers, this is the exclamation I started this post from. This is the story behind that echoed voice at a sight where eyes could just feel pleasure in watching such a place being unraveled. But there is a lot more ahead now.
We paid a visit to sacred Hindu shrine Pinnath – a square structured temple dedicated to deities Bhairon and Mahadev. The resident left after paying a visit there and warned us to be careful of wild animals coming to temple at night, and as expected no one else was there. Before leaving he also suggested to fill our water bottles from a well there. Now, it was just the three of us, sitting there to keep watching impeccable serenity of Himalayas in a peaceful environment. “Let’s start gathering dry wood sticks before it gets dark.” – said Aditya.
We started looking for dry wood sticks around the temple premises, which being a forest had many dry leaves and wood sticks. The requirement was of many because we were advised to keep the fire lit beside our camp from evening to early morning, that roughly means for at least 12 hours. It took us nearly 2 hours to gather enough wood sticks, which made us experience the soul of forest with birds chattering and singing, some far and distant voices of random animals being heard, and greenery all around like each tree talking to us with wind blowing.
Our camp was all set and bonfire made ready for 12 hours of stability. Songs were played mostly spiritual and sometimes Bollywood ones; we talked, laughed, cracked jokes while being in such a majestic atmosphere of silence in the lap of nature with the snowy Himalayas and immense trust in God. “It’s dinner time, unpack the food boys.” – I said. We enjoyed those quick bites and had pieces of bread which we baked in our bonfire to consume them with tomato ketchup. The night was getting darker and temperatures were already down to (-)11 degrees. Voice of distant animals was getting more intense and the surface of our camp was getting wet because of dew. This made us shift our tent to an open room built beside the temple and we gradually went on to sleep. Just before this, we had prayed almighty to anyhow keep our bonfire alive to not let wild animals come nearby. I personally had a sound sleep as if my mind is unloaded from all the stress or worries and it’s hard to find any more words to elaborate on this irreplaceable experience that we had at Pinnath.
The morning was surely amazing with intriguing sunlight falling on those peaks, but it was time to walk back down. There are many beautiful places to visit in or near Kausani called Switzerland of India including Pinnath Temple, Rudradhari Waterfalls and Temple, Kausani Tea Estate, Sumitra Nandan Pant Museum, Anasakti Ashram, Kumaon Shawl Emporium, Baijnath Temple, Lakhudiyar and Bageshwar. We’ll talk about a few of them in some other post dedicated to them.
We had packed our bags, folded our tent, cleaned up the surface where we had bonfire and ate food, just made it as it was before. Well, this should be our duty wherever we go. I prefer not disturbing or demolishing cleanliness of a place just because we paid a visit there. We started walking back down after visiting the temple again and thanking God for this experience. “Do you remember the way back?” – asked Aditya. Rajul replied, “Don’t worry, we just need to keep moving down and we’ll be fine.” Half way down, we were absolutely on the right path. But then somewhere in the middle we lost our path. “Is this the same path we had come up from?” – I asked. None of us was sure about it, but just kept moving down with a hope. At one point, we realized that we were completely lost in that dense forest.
For a few minutes, our minds stopped working out of fear. Checked mobile phones, but no network was there to call anyone. We also walked a few steps back if we could find the point from where we lost the track, but that was useless in such a dense forest. We have been forest lovers, and that travelers’ spirit was keeping us motivated. I saw a jackal or a fox right in front of us, but just reacted calmly. Interestingly, Rajul found his BSNL network coming to life and instantly called the taxi owner to inform him about this. We could talk more but call got disconnected and networks never came back.
We decided to keep moving down the respective path and somewhere down Aditya heard someone cutting woods, this encouraged us to shout. “Is someone there? Can you tell us the way out?” – we kept shouting. Someone responded, “Keep coming down till you see water flowing.” And we finally reached there, that someone was a woodcutter who took us out and showed the way. We thanked him for his generosity and captured the moment as well. The best thing was, there were plenty of people who were waiting for us to come out of the forest as taxi owner had conveyed to others that we had lost our way.
Everyone greeted us as if we were their true guests and had won something. The sheer love and gratitude that they showed was remarkable. This was just one climax, the other was waiting at the time when we had to leave and find transport back to Delhi. The plan was set to take the same approach of dividing the travel into different phases and travel all by bus. But here came another climax of our story, a food stall owner told us that a Uttarakhand Roadways bus leaves for Delhi from Kausani – Switzerland of India’early morning at 6. Yes, you read it right – a bus ‘directly’ to Delhi. Though, surely a bit uncomfortable for long journeys but it was a brilliant cost and time-saving option for us. That’s how we returned to Delhi ‘directly’ and then Delhi to Jaipur was as easy as it always is.
We had travelled a few other places during the same trip including Munsiyari, but let’s just pick one at a time. So, Kausani – Switzerland of India is a place which demands attention as a beautiful village offering an ecstatic view of Himalayas and has a lot of other things in offering from lush green forests to the tea estate, from museums to temples, and from waterfalls to off-beat treks – a truly serene and majestic place to visit.