Mountain roads remind me of school days. The times when every day or every hour brought about unexpected joys and unexpected sorrows – short-lived, all. Hill routes bring views that may last for a mile or a minute and you never know what the next sharp turn has in store for you: dizzy heights, devilish ditches or merely a painful round of steering-pulling… thus, the wheels move on. About six hour of such tortuous wheeling, Naren and I finally reached Ukhimath; in fact we nearly surpassed it and were forced to take a U-turn.
I must enlighten you here that a U-turn in Uttaranchal hills is no mean drill. One has to first find a wide stretch to exercise the turn and then slice the vehicle to its extreme left, greedily. This would be followed by moving back and forth several times to achieve a neat 180-degree round, watching out all the time that neither the backlights bump a rock nor the rear wheels slid off the road. One respite is lack of traffic, though the driver must watch for pahari kids who may get excited at the site of a horn-blowing vehicle at close contact.
The Kumaon Mandal guest house at Ukhimath, like most other KMVN units, is perched at a vantage place, offering liberal views of a deep valley, and a string of green hills. But the wind factor heightens the chill so we had little time for the verandah. The poker-face cook told us that he can dish out only gobhi for the dinner unless we bring home the chicken to roast. Valid argument, we surmised. Since I needed a PCO booth to tell my wife of my well being, we headed for the local market about less than a km on foot and did the needful. Frankly, throughout the trip, Doc proved a great help in fixing the lunch-dinner (thanks to his food-fixation); besides, he also carried a magician’s cap in his sack and produced tetra-packs of fruit juices with alarming frequency (alarming for the diabetic, that is).
The dinner at Ukhimath, despite Doc's manoeuvres, was not much to write home about, but the cold weather, hilly walks and rum were doing wonder to our appetites. We drank well, ate better and crashed with the TV screen on (yes, the tube was there even when most of the ‘interesting’ channels were missing).
On our worksheet the day next was Chopta-Tungnath-Chandrashila combo while the following 24 hours were booked for Deoria Taal. Since Ukhimath is kind of a midpoint for the two excursions, we decided we should stay for one more night at the lodge. Frankly, if one could fortify oneself from the icy winds, the Kumaon Mandal unit at Ukhimath is a poet’s muse. Too bad that neither Naren (sorry from dropping the title, doc, but it reminds me of Manmohan Singh) nor yours truly felt poetic at the end of a busy day. Hence, we missed the Muse and embraced the Bacchus.
(For the Chopta-Chandrashila climb, wait for the next posts, friends!)