Escape to KasarDevi

Now there’s a thing. Arriving at the ‘Freedom Hotel’ only thirty minutes after leaving Khali Estates, it looks surprisingly good. There are a team of workmen painting and sprucing up the property, and as we wave Ingrid and David goodbye we are feeling it’s a good choice.

We have landed in KasarDevi or ‘crank’s ridge’ as it has been known. It’s a small wooded town 1900m high on a thin ridge that has attracted many famous people over the years. It is believed it has a great magnetic force and a ‘cosmic energy’ like Machu Pichu and Stonehenge through gaps in the Van Allan Belt which circles the world. T.H. Lawrence came here as did Nehru and Swami Vivekananda who meditated at the Temple. Timothy Leary, Ram Dass and Bob Dylan spent a long time here, the locals giving it the nickname of ‘hippie hill’ and their shenanigans were legendary. It was a hub of poetry, music, mysticism and hippie sub-culture. American writer and Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman lived on the ridge and his daughter and actress Uma spent many summers here. On a clear day there is a full panoramic view of Nanda Kot, Nanda Devi and the 5 snow capped peaks of Panchachulli. I can see why they all came here.

We have a big room with large bed, tv, very clean en-suite bathroom and an easy feel to the place with very friendly owners. There is plenty of outside balcony space and it hangs on the side of a ridge overlooking valley after valley and huge panorama vista of the Himalayan Range. I realise I am happiest in the mountains……

The hotel is full of young Israelis. They are polite and respectful. They sit around chatting, are very vocal and are always eating!! Of this I know from home….. They travel extensively. We are totally outnumbered; 30 Israelis. 2 Brits. If you close your eyes in the restaurant you would swear you were in Tel Aviv. They stay only a few nights. Do the washing, sing a lot and then they are gone.

Another group of 6 young Israelis turned up who were obviously the Theatrical Travelling Israelis. There were jugglers, devil stick throwers, random singers, bong smokers, didgeridoo players, musicians, artists and generally a very friendly bunch of people having a very, very good time. More and more arrived…. They all looked like extras for Joseph’s Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat with their blankets casually thrown around their shoulders and at least 6 to a room! Talk about safety in numbers. Those were the days….when you wanted to share a room with a bunch of ‘cirque de soleil’ stoners!!

We were going to visit the local Zoo. We waited ages on the road for a shared taxi/Jeep which didn’t come. The school bus which was passing and empty beckoned us onboard. There is only one road, what could possibly go wrong? On the way he also picked up 2 Indian women and took them and us to the next village. He wouldn’t charge us. I thought it had been a bit windy on the journey and realised there was no windscreen, it did look very clean.

We walked to the Zoo, only 5 minutes from where we were dropped off. It’s not very big and the entrance fee was only 20 rupees (25p) each. We saw 4 leopards which were all caught locally in the forest.They are much bigger than I thought and all looked in good condition, beautiful animals. Of the other animals there was a lonely black bear who came out and just looked momentarily at us, and 2 monkeys. One a female black faced langur monkey and a larger albino macaque. I had put some old almonds in my pocket and shared them between the two. They carefully took them…..I always feel sorry for single monkeys in cages, like us they are not meant to be solitary animals.

Apart from a few deer with incredibly big ears, roe deer and something that looks like a reindeer but not quite, that was it for the Zoo. We had pictures taken, at their insistence, with a group of Indian tourists who were also at the zoo, still find that strange…..

Almora. The ancient capital of the Kumaon area. Again we stand on the road waiting for a shared taxi to Almora the big city down the road. Again nothing appears so Chris starts flagging down anything with 4 wheels. A car stops and we say Almora? He beckons us in. He says 100 rupees, we nod enthusiastically. He drops us off and we realise he wasn’t a taxi just someone willing to pick up strangers for a little petrol money. It was a brand new car, driven very carefully by a very nice guy.

Almora was a centre of the British authority in the 1870’s and the town is a really bustling market town, perched precariously on the side of a hill. It still has a big Indian Army presence.

Markets and shops that sell or repair anything and everything are here. There are hundreds of small green grocers and chemists and sari shops and dried goods, clothes and stainless steel shops.

There are lots of people, especially in the pedestrian area, it’s busy. There are many colonial and Indian style houses in the Main Street from early last century, they are very pretty. Sadly a few have been knocked down and replaced.

It was a good day out. It felt like the week before xmas, all hustle and bustle. Everyone is very friendly and wanting to chat.

It seemed crazily busy but I think that is spending too much time in the mountains for you…..

We bought a cotton tunic where everything in the shop was taken off the shelves to be shown to us; I always feel a bit pressured at this point!! A very lovely thin woolen scarf produced locally. A poster of the mountains from a fabulous big book shop and masala cha hah (as they call chai here!! Just as you think you are getting somewhere with the lingo) and samosas which were so good I had two. Taxi home, chill out. Day in the city.

Yawnnnnnnnnn…..and 3 days later, gallons of cha hah and 2 books later. Watching the eagles and vultures make big circles above you. It’s very easy not to do much here.

The famous KasarDevi Temple, a mile down the road and high on the ridge was having a bit of a do. For 24 hours they were singing aloud a whole section of their scriptures. They had local wealthy businessmen and their wives saying blessings and blessing the idol as they were about to open a new temple. The original temple was a small cave behind a big rock with a small building around it.

We walked up to where a colourful open sided marquee was erected and the source of music and singing. We sat on a wall and watched and listened for a few minutes.

A tall guy in orange robes and a hat like a woolly flowerpot wandered up, we exchanged namastes and he said ‘you’re from England’. He sat down and he explained what was happening in the ceremony. He was a funny and cool guy and was the Priest who lived on-site and looked after the temple. He was very chatty and had very good English We were offered food (we had just eaten) and cha ha which we accepted.

They were all very friendly and inclusive.

On the way out back past the original temple a man saw us looking inside and took us in. He opened the grill in front of the shrine and gave us 2 blobs of the orange colour on our foreheads and a minty cake to eat. It’s all very humbling being blessed. No wonder our churches are closing at a rate of knots, we need to be more inclusive and welcoming and a lot less exclusive, it might encourage more people to go.

On Friday a large new group of young friendly Israelis turn up and by mid afternoon the hotels balcony’s sound like the X factors practise studios, voices, guitars and didgeridoos echoing over the valley. Might be time to think about some Delhi shopping..

It’s almost time to leave the mountains and head back towards the railway town of Kathgodam for a night and to catch our early morning train back to Delhi. We still have 2 nights in colonial splendour to look forward to.

The taxi ride from KasarDevi was entertaining. The driver was useless, my mum in her 80’s on a bad day was way better than he was. The hotel in Kathgodam was basic but good enough for one night with a big group of monkeys in the gardens for entertainment. The monkeys weren’t enough after a while so we headed into town to the Walkway Mall a newly opened shopping experience. We had coffee looked through all the shops and then found a bar. Whooppee. We had a few beers and some very nice food. They brought us a dessert on the house and then 2 young Indians asked if they could join us and buy us a beer. One guy was a local vet and the other his brother in law on short leave from the army. They were very entertaining and friendly and Ayusha , the vet was saying how he wanted to go to England. He asked us a million and 1 questions about everything. After a few more beers they dropped us at our hotel, swapped email and Facebook and who knows we might see them soon!!!

Up early for the train after not sleeping well it left bang on time. It cost £9 for us both. 2nd class AC for a 7 hour journey. The trains are great value and very well used. We are looking forward to a bit of luxury at the ‘Colonels Retreat’ tonight. A nice dinner, feather pillows and duvet what a treat.

Still don’t want to go home 🙁. It was a long slog on the train with lots of crying babies and noisy people around us.

We ate at ‘Colonels Retreat’ and this was by far the best food in India, modern beautifully cooked food. We are going to do some last minute shopping at Dili Haat market and then home. It’s been a blast.

”Jobs fill your pockets, but adventures fill your soul.” – Jaime Lyn

One thought on “Escape to KasarDevi

  1. Just read your last blog (have loved reading all of them) – good to see you back at yoga by the way. But what an amazing adventure you have both had!!

    Liked by 1 person

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