After our pleasant stay at Naukuchia Taal, we headed for our next destination Chiliyanaula. I first heard about it from one of my cousins Sanju da(Sanjib Ganguly, to whom I owe a lot for my limited knowledge of the Indian Himalayas). It first came up in the discussions about Ranikhet. Ranikhet is a famous hill station in the Kumaon hills but I’ve never been there. As in many other cases, when I asked Sanju da during our planning phase, he quickly pointed me to Chiliyanaula. It was barely 10 km away from Ranikhet. One could very well enjoy the famous sites at Ranikhet but stay at this quiet place which also has a KMVN rest house with picturesque views of the Kumaon Himalayas.
After a drive of about 2.5 hours, we entered the outskirts of Ranikhet. Clear, unobstructed views of The Himalayas were abound at every bend of the road. Eventually, I couldn’t resist asking the driver to stop the vehicle for a few snaps.
We finally arrived at the rest house. After completing the formalities, we were allotted a room. It’s windows opened at the lawn at its backyard. As I moved out into the lawn, I was greeted with majestic 180 degree view of the Himalayan range starting at the left from the peaks of the Gangotri group, followed by Kedarnath, Mandani, Chaukhamba, Neelkanth (Badrinath), Nandaghunti, Trishul, Mrigthuni, Pawalidwar, Nanda Devi going up to Panchachuli and even beyond it leading towards the Himalayan peaks of western Nepal.
We quickly ordered our lunch and moved out to the lawn to bask in the afternoon winter sun. The cold was intense but very much enjoyable in the sun and more importantly, clouds stayed clear from the distant mountains. I was pleased to have been rewarded with my decision to come here during winters (contrary to the advice of some). The room we were allotted, also had a heating system installed. I was excited but it didn’t last long when I was told by the staff that it never worked. But who cares? After all, we’re not to stay at the room for long.
The lawn at the backyard wasn’t very big. It extended as a balcony from where one could have an unobstructed view of the valley and the mountains beyond it. We sat there with nothing to do or worry about other than watch the daylight changing its angle and color. It was an act of nature that was to be witnessed only through the changing colors of the snow-capped peaks. the dazzling white in the morning, they acquired a tinge of gold as the day progressed.
The color of fading sun gradually rubbed onto the pine and deodar forests, which gleamed in the gold. Mt Trishul appeared at a very different angle from what we saw at other places like Binsar or Kausani. The three peaks which gave its name, were clear and distinct, separate from each other. the day was approaching a phase where a drama was about to be enacted. A drama that is very familiar to me in these mountains. One needs to be prepared enough to capture it as the scenes were to enacted very fast. It’s a drama of changing colors in the backdrop of the snow capped peaks and the hovering clouds.
The sun started playing its role as it prepared to retire for the day. Shutters kept firing and every shot sprang up a different shade on the mountains. The rays of gold and crimson even rubbed off on the sparse clouds that floated in the sky.
As I turned from left to right, I saw the entire Himalayan range from Gangotri group in the west to Nepal Himalayas in the east, bathing in gold and crimson. Mt Trishul, which was the most prominent, appeared magnificent in the fading colors.
As soon as the sun went down, the chill in the air sharpened and we retired to our room quickly.
Chiliyanaula is one of the rare locations where one gets equally good views of sunrise and sunset. In the anticipation of a wonderful sunrise, I woke up early the next day and I wasn’t disappointed. The sequence of events that were played out yesterday, just got reversed as if someone re-winded the video in the opposite direction. It started of with a dark outline of the mountain ranges in the backdrop of a sky that was just being lit up. I turned my head to the right where the sun was peeping out from behind the hills.
It came up in leaps and bounds while the morning rays sprayed their colors on the Himalayas. First of the peaks to assume the golden crown were Mt Trishul and Mt Nanda Devi.
The golden crown of Mt Trishul made it more evident why it was named so. When I turned to my left, I saw the distant peaks of Garhwal region were also starting to wear their crowns. The most distinct of them all was Mt Chaukhamba. No matter where we go in Uttarakhand or which time of the day it is, it never misses to show up as long as the clouds steer clear.
After all the colors were played out, The Himalayas wore a dazzling white look. After breakfast, we went out for the main places of visit in nearby Ranikhet – the cantonment, the famous golf course and others.
Ranikhet (queen’s meadow) draws its name from a local legend that Raja Sudhardev won the heart of his queen Padmini, who later chose this area as her residence. Later on, the British established the headquarters of the Kumaon regiment, which gave birth to the entire cantonment area along with the magnificent golf course (one of the highest in Asia).
If you steer clear of the main Ranikhet city, which is a bit congested, the rest of it is mainly the cantonment area, which largely clean, quiet and well maintained. After visiting the main sights of attraction, we came back to Chiliyanaula to witness another wonderful sunset to end the day. Chiliyanaula got etched in our memory with its solitude and magnificent Himalayan views. It was in our minds even when we moved towards our next destination Dhaulchina.