9 May 2007


Posted by gopal in General | 4:18pm

 This is an invitation to do nothing. < ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

 Come now, right now, after reading this article.

  If now is spring, mid-March to end-April, bring along cardigans and jackets for the evenings; but relax in sirtsleeves all through the balmy days when the woods are full of birdsong and the flowers are in bud.

 Summer, May-June, is our golden fun-time. Our Mall is then known as the Drawing Room of Mussoorie because so many people meet so many friends, and so many friends of friends, on this road with the spectacular views in summer. And they go for horse rides, picnics in the green dells where streams chortle, or generally munch peaches and plums and look down at the plains and feel happily sorry for the folk working in the heat and glare down there !

  The monsoons, July to mid-August, our green and misty months when the tree-trunks are furred with ferns; and the plains are a sea of cotton-wool clouds out of which the peaks thrust like Never Never Islands in some fantasy fable.

 Autumn settles blue on our hills nostalgia in the heart, and the succulent crunch of apples. A good time for long, quiet walks on winding, lonely, roads and unwinding in the resinous pinewoods with congenial companions; and back to cardigans and jackets in the crisp, star-bright, evening.

 Winter, mid-November to mid-March; the long, effervescent, season still awaiting discovery - though the questing Australians seem to have found it before most others have. The days are shirt sleeve warm and the air is so sparkling that if they bottled it they could sell it as champagne ! The hills come much closer in this crystal air, and the nights are warmed by fires in the rooms and the glow of companionship with no one to distrub you. And when it snows, after three days of clouds massing in the high sky, you're snug in the heart of a Christmas card.

Even our airport is a picture postcard with an Enid Blyton name. It's called Jolly Grant and it stretches out over the mountain backed fields of Dehra Dun, 60 kilometres from Mussoories. It's served by Vayudoot, flying in from Delhi. Delhi is also linked to Dehra Dun by the Indian Railway chugging its way through the forests of this lush, sub-Himalayan, terrae.

And when you reach Dehra Dun, look north and up. Mussoorie is a sequin-scatter of houses across the great mountains stretching against the backdrop of the Himalayan blue, sky.

Excitement begins to build as soon as you leave Dehra Dun's 640 metre high valley and start to ascend to Mussoorie's 2,000 metre fastness. At first the road snakes through the famed jalebi-bends. We've named them after our succulent, golden, pretzel-shaped, sweets because they're shaped far more like jalebis then hairpins. This is only about a third of the 30 Dun but already the air has become cooler and clearer.

Between 90 minutes and two hours out of the plains depending on the speed of your vehicle, you'll reach our Mussoorie. Ours is, essentially, a walking town and we believe that only the old, infirm and ostentatious drive down our Mall. We have vehicle terminuses at the two ends of the Mall and if you get off at the Library terminus, you'll see that the Library Bazaar - so called after the venerable old Mussoorie Library - still retains much of the turn-of-the-century character of the town. There is a circular, Victorian, bandstand; street-front shops with their store-keepers' residences above; narrow lanes leading to cottages and mansions some of which have been converted into Mussoorie's 140 plus wide-spectrum range of hotels.

All these capture the ambience of an era where customer service was a gracious, personal, avocation and leisure was a finely cultivated art. In fact the pace of life in Mussoorie is so unhurried that we caught an old resident dozing in the sun in the verandah of a restaurant.

You can even 'do' Mussoorie with unmatched regality. Ours is one of the few places in the world were the old hill rickshaws still ply. Rickshaw rides down the Mall, and around the wooded road of Camel's Back with its timeless views of the northern ranges of the Himalayas, are a pleasure which is virtually unique to Mussoorie.

Younger, and younger-at-heart, people prefer to amble down the Mall. And, in keeping with our informal atmosphere, it is fashionable to eat roasted peanuts while you amble. These are bought from barrows and little roadside vendors who keep them around little terrocotta gharras - pots filled with glowing, smoking, faggots. One of the barrows offers a bonus; it stands beneath a hoarding depicting Mussoorie's attractions so that you can get the lay of the land while you crack-crunch-relish.



And if you're even more active, you can mount a sturdy little mountain pony. Their shaggy looks often reveal their Tibetan ancestry; and they're tough, patient, and quite used to cosseting the most inexperienced equestrians from the very large and ungainly to the very small and courageous !

Speaking of Tibetans, we have a large settlement of them here. They came following their priest-king, his Holiness the Dalai Lama when he fled from Lhasa. These gentle, smiling, people have thier own temple with beautiful murals in Mussoories' Happy Valley, their Tibetan Homes Foundation, a restaurant and a handicrafts' shop. Their roadside stalls, set up all over Mussoorie, are a colourful diversion for visitors shopping for woollens, sports shoes, overnight bags and interesting trinkets like copies of the famed Swiss Army Knives. Even people from the mountain villages of the Himalayas, the women dressed in bright skirts, blouses and head-scarves, find good buys at the Tibetan stalls.

Another must-do thing in Mussoorie, apart from shopping, is a ride in the 'Ropeway': the cable car that carries visitors from the roundabouts and snackbars of the Childrens' Playground on the Mall to the heights of Gun Hill. Around its flat top are snack stalls and over a hundred photographers who snap visitors in glittering 'hilly girl' costumes, as brigands with ferocious moustaches and turbans, and as country-and-western stars with guitars and straw-hats. But quite apart from these 'souvenirs' of your Mussoorie visit', Gun Hill also offers excellent all-round views of Mussoorie, Dehra Dun, the eternal snows of the higher Himalayas and the wooded slopes of the sister- town of Landour.

Landour is a pleasant morning's walk away, the other side of a clock tower.

If you walk past the clock tower and look between the plains and the rising slopes of Landour, you'll see a road that leads to the green meadows and deodar forests of Dhanolti, 24 kilometres away. There's both a forest bungalow and a tourist bungalow and a tourist bungalow at Dhanolti and its a delightfully lonely place to spend a weekend from Mussoorie. But you can also do it as a day-trip taking in the hill-top temple of the goddess Surkhanda Devi. The temple is approached by a rather rugged, but safe, path and if you look back through the temple's gate you'll see the sort of view that has inspired many of the ordinary people of India to renounce the world and retire to the seclusion of the great mountains.

But if you're not quite ready for such seclusion, take the western trip out to Kempty Falls, a 15 kilometre drive from Mussoorie. Also served by regular buses and taxis this perennial cascade is a mountain stream which has cut and sculpted its way through great boulders and down rock faces offering a stimulating, drenching, shower when it reaches a sandy basis before rushing on. Here there is snack bar and bridge and, inevitably, a few photographers. The journey down is a 20 minute stroll, the way up is a 30 minute trudge, and you should allow half an hour or so at the base of the falls. But if you want a fairly lonely place for a picnic, climb the steps leading up from the road along the course of the stream. You'll find yourself in a little, rocky, dell cleft by the stream and cooled by water gusing through boulders where a pair of dippers flutter and dive. The wooded hills rise steep in front of you and above them there is only the sky where a lone eagle circles, circles, circles...

It's a wonderful place to unwind, soothed by the sound of the rushing, gushing, chortling, bubbling, foaming, swishing, Himalayan stream, and do what Mussoorie encourages you to do to your heart's content. Absolutely, uninhibitedly, nothing.........


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