Lansdowne: How to travel in under INR 2000
This is the first time I am writing to share my travel experiences. If I want to introduce my travel preferences, I would just say that I am more of a mountain guy and I am just profoundly fascinated by the people, the animals, the nature, the food (No, not the food sorry!) and everything else on the mountains. And yes, I love solo travel!
I was born and brought up in Delhi and I still reside there (fortunately or unfortunately), and there’s a special attribute of Delhites (or maybe people from its neighbour cities too), as soon as they see vacations approaching they let these words flow from their mouths just instantly, “Chhuttiyan aa rahi hain, chalo Shimla chalte hain!” Now it’s really hard for me to state a reason for this emotional attachment with Shimla. But this attachment makes hill stations like Shimla/Mussoorie/Manali so densely crowded that visiting these places is just equivalent to visiting your Nani’s place in Pitampura.
India celebrated Holi a few days back with full enthusiasm. One could see ‘highly‘ colorful people on roads doing anything and then saying ‘Bura na maano holi hai’.
For some reason, I did not want to play holi this year and saw those 2 holidays as an opportunity. I took permission from Ma (it was a struggle though), packed my bag and started finding destinations I could complete within 2 days. I did not know where to go, but I definitely knew where NOT to go because of the above mentioned reasons. After half an hour, I was left to choose between two destinations: Kasauli & Lansdowne. Now it was a random choice to go to Lansdowne (Maybe because it sounds more sophisticated. Don’t hate me if I sound a bit anti-national there!)
It was the morning of 13th March (Holi-day), as I left my place having no clue whether I should go by a Bus or a Train, my aim was to travel by the cheaper mode. As it was Holi, there were bright chances that the bus service would be disrupted. I was left with just one hope- Railgaadi. I was at the Shahdara railway station by 06:45 AM and asked the man at the ticket counter if there was any train going to Kotdwar. Believe me it was such a relief listening to his words, “Lao 85 rupees, 07:30 ki train hai. 2 good things at the same time:
1) 85 rupees ❤
2) There was a train in just another half an hour.
The train arrived at 07:45 AM. I had my earphone on and started disconnecting myself from my daily routine. After around a couple of hours, I asked a fellow passenger how much more time will the train take to reach Kotdwar. ‘The train will not go to Kotdwar’. That was no less than a mini heart attack for me. But on further inquiry, I got to know that there is a bridge that collapsed a few days back, because of which the train would not go ahead of Najibabad Jn.
To reach Lansdowne, one usually boards a bus/train till Kotdwar, and then takes a Maxx (shared jeep) till Lansdowne.
But my case was a bit different. I reached Najibabad Jn. at around 3 PM to get another heart attack. No bus or jeep available for the day to Kotdwar. Aah! Bura na maano holi hai.
I encountered several people at the Najibabad Bus Terminal (just 50 m away from the railway station), who also wanted to go to Kotdwar. After waiting for a while, we asked an E-Rickshaw driver to take us to Kotdwar which was another 25 km from where we were, and ‘unfortunately’ he agreed. Haha! This might sound funny as it turned out to be. We carried on with our journey and were on the middle of our way, when the motor of his rickshaw glitched. We were in the middle of a highway with an E-Rickshaw along, which couldn’t move any further. I told myself ‘Beta adventure hi chahiye tha na tujhe, le mil gaya adventure’.
After having several failed attempts for hitchhiking, we carried on-foot in hope of finding some help along our way. Now the scene was something like- ‘2 old-aged men and one 21 year old guy are walking on the highway making a puppy-face with each passing car.’ 15 minutes passed, and a noble man driving an Ambulance stopped by and asked if we needed any help. ‘Yes Angel! Definitely.’ In another half an hour, we reached Kotdwar. But Lansdowne was still 41 km away from me. But the good thing was that I got a cab from there till Lansdowne easily. It is not a pleasurable way as the road is not in a flawless condition as of Shimla or Manali. But the views are quite amazing. As your vehicle starts ascending, you start feeling your ears getting blocked, welcome to the hills! The weather was pleasant as the area had received a heavy rainfall a couple of days back. I reached Lansdowne by 5 PM and sighed!
When you reach Lansdowne, you start feeling like you’ve arrived back in time. The small town doesn’t have modernized infrastructure as such, doesn’t have many places to eat or stay, but these aspects do not stop it from being an amazing destination. You won’t see many vehicles in and around the town. Just the taxis and army trucks (as it is a cantonment area). And this is a pleasurable sight in itself, specially for people from Delhi. No hustle bustle around, it was something I was seeking for a long time. I checked around for hotels (I did not get one pre-booked this time.) I came across ‘Galaxy Hotel’ which was a minute away from the Gandhi Chowk or the main market (where the taxi drops you). I didn’t think much and checked-in the hotel. I got a room in the basement, which was small and not luxurious at all, but it was fine with me as I didn’t spend much on that room, also I was alone. And who wanted luxuries, I was there just to explore the town! I had a quick meal from the hotel’s restaurant itself and left to range over the nearby places.
It was already dark and cold. I had no woolens along and walking through the streets of Lansdowne, with a light breeze, unknown people all around, was something I cannot define in words. I walked for a couple of hours and explored nearly all the streets around Gandhi Chowk (The Center).
Now, I was looking for some place where I could have a decent meal and encountered a cafe named ‘Tipsy’. Thank god that I decided to have my dinner there. Tipsy is situated on the Gandhi Chowk and is one amongst a few restaurants around. It had almost everything on the menu that a typical Delhite looks for. I ordered Chicken Curry and Roti, and was delighted by its taste. After having a fulfilling dinner, I headed back to my Hotel and decided to have a sound sleep as I had to see many places the next morning.
I woke up to the sound of birds chirping. I realized I wasn’t in Delhi, but at a serene place 250 km away from it, and got excited that very moment. I right away got fresh, packed my stuff and checked out of the hotel. The hotel manager helped me out in deciding the flow of my journey. There were several places in my check list and I had ample of time to cover them all. One usually doesn’t take a cab or any means of transport to convey through the town, legs are the best medium for that purpose and I suggest you to do the same if you visit there. You will thank me later. The calm, beauty and serenity of the place works as a tranquilizer.
I started off with Bhulla Tal, an artificial lake, which is a half an hour walk from the center. On the way to it, I found many small kachcha houses which gave a sight of a beautiful village. You’ll see women cooking, washing clothes, teaching their kids, which adds on to the village like environment. There is also an undesired element on the way: Monkeys. Though they are of no danger, but it’s advisable to keep your belongings tight with you. One lovable thing about the roads of Lansdowne is that you’ll see few or no people accompanying you to your destination.
The roads are so desolate, that you can hear the sound of birds all around. Coming back to Bhulla Tal, you have to take a ticket worth Rs. 20/- to enter, and if you want to do boating, there is a ticker of Rs. 80/-. There are also a couple of decent food hubs around, serving good food. This place has its own beauty, the lake has swans, as well as fish inside and visitors are allowed to even feed them.
The next stop was St. Mary’s Church on the list, which was after a 15 minutes walk from Bhulla Tal. What a beauty it was! I was mesmerized by the elegance of it. It was closed due to some reason, but just by its sight from the outside, one could judge how beautiful it must be from inside. Have a look at it ?
I could sit there for hours and just stare at the grandeur of this place, but because of time constraint, I had to move on.
Just a 10 minute walk away is the Tip in Top, which is said to be the highest point of Lansdowne. I didn’t expect much from this place but I was proved wrong once I reached there. It was a view which left me dumbstruck.
Looking at the gigantic mountains from that point, I realized how easy it was for me to escape the daily routine and get what I wanted. It just required some courage and my monthly savings ? But I didn’t have much time to lose myself into thoughts, so I left for the Santoshi Mata Temple. From Tip in Top to Santoshi Mata Temple was the best path for the day, as the road that lead to it just had me as far as my eyes could see. Though the temple didn’t have much for me, but one good thing happened. I saw snow lying behind the temple. Dilli waalon ke liye vo heere moti se kam nahi ?
It was now time to get back home. The last bus from Kotdwar was at 4 PM, and it was already 1 PM. I reached back to the center, had lunch at Tipsy (Do try the Grilled Sandwich and Cold Coffee), and took a shared taxi and reached Kotdwar by time to catch the last bus to Delhi. The journey way back home from Lansdowne took approximately 7 hours (See how close this amazing place is!)
This trip neither took much time, nor did it take much capital, but it definitely gave me a lot in return. It gave me experiences I will keep with me for my lifetime. From surprisingly getting the train ticket at such short notice to walking with those old men on the highway to the ambulance ride, everything in this trip is worth remembering ❤
I could do it all in just Rs. 1,950/-. Also, I am sharing the detailed expenses so that you can have an idea of the same.
I would be more than happy if I can be of any help to you. Kindly drop in any queries on the provided details. And yes, I highly recommend solo travel.