We started on the 25th of March – the time of the year when the weather in Mussourie is comfortable – slightly chilly evenings and sunny days with clear skies. We started around 4:30. The drive from Mussourie does become slightly colder as you start climbing altitudes. After about an hour of drive through the narrow winding roads, we reached Buranskhanda. Few adventure operators organise short treks and mountain biking expeditions from this place. It is windy and gives you the first view of the snow-capped hills of the majestic Himalayas (Winter sees this place being covered in snow). After a short tea break, we proceeded towards Dhanaulti. You know you are approaching Dhanaulti when the vegetation starts growing thicker. You can spot deodar and pine trees along the roads. The red rhododendron flowers are an absolute treat.
There are many small hotels in Dhanaulti. We had a look at one and then decided that it would indeed be a shame to stay in a concrete room even after coming all the way from Mussourie to go closer to nature. Our driver took us to the “Eco Hut” maintained by the Dhanolti Eco Tourism and Eco Development Committee. The Garhwali guy at the entrance initially refused to give a room citing no vacancy. After applying a few selling (in this case, buying) skills that I’ve been trained on for the last 10 months, we landed the four of us a room. And we were glad to have got this room. Set right amidst the deodar trees, this place is indeed a nature lover’s (or for that matter, any lovers’) paradise. Made of bamboo, this place is as close to nature as you can get. The water is solar heated and the “street lighting” is solar powered. It was 6:00 in the evening and we decided to have a look at the Eco Park – the only tourist destination. The place is a good spot to start birding though we didn’t have the time to go birding.
When the attendant at the gate insisted that the park was closed and that he couldn’t keep it open any longer, we finally came out and spotted the favourite snack of the hills – Maggi – being made right outside. The guy, Kishore Rana, a Garhwali who ran this shop as a side business in the tourist season, was a potato and peas farmer. After gorging on two plates of Maggi each, we decided to retire for the night. After having a simple dinner of parathas and a lot of gossip, none of us knew when we slept off.
The morning was bright and sunny. The early morning sunlight on teh snow-capped hills in the distance was an absolute beauty. We decided the forest merited a walk. After around an hour of strolling through the rhododendron and the extremely tall deodar trees, we came back to Mr. Rana (oh yes, yet again) for a cup of masala ginger tea. The hot water in the cottage was indeed a pleasant surprise and after quick bath, we proceeded to Tehri. More on Tehri later...