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DON'T MISS: Kasar Devi, a piece of paradise

Last updated on: March 30, 2013 15:07 IST

DON'T MISS: Kasar Devi, a piece of paradise

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Dilshad Master-Kumar

Dilshad Master-Kumar, Co-Founder Farinto.com travels to Kasar Devi for a spin on the bicycle and returns with a bagful of memories

The drive from Delhi to Kasar Devi takes around 7 hours -- if we start off really early in the morning. Our plan is to load up and leave by 5am. But with four children in tow -- a one-year old and three 4-legged ones of sundry ages, that's hardly a possibility. By the time we leave at 9am, with our two mountain bikes firmly strapped on the back of our car and all the children bundled in, we crash straight into the Delhi-Noida-Ghaziabad office traffic -- it takes us 2.5 hours to negotiate through the mess in erstwhile Mayavati land.

The highway to Almora isn't anywhere close to what we've begun to expect -- spoilt as we are with the Delhi-Jaipur and Delhi-Chandigarh expressways. It's a simple two lane highway on either side, that becomes one-lane fairly often -- often enough not to presume that a bus won't come barrelling down what you consider "your side" of the road!

There's a Bikanerwala on the way, nearing Gajraula, which is a good place to stop over for lunch. Super clean and with an eclectic veggie menu ranging from chaat to dosa to Chinese and pasta, one's got to be a real picky eater not to get what the stomach desires.


Image: The pine trees -- creating their own music
Photographs: Dilshad Master-Kumar
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DON'T MISS: Kasar Devi, a piece of paradise

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Tired of the flat landscape and impatient to see the mountains, my three four-legged ones and I have our heads stuck out of the window -- and then, as soon as we pass Haldwani main town, there they are!

The mountains, silhouetted against the grey blue sky! By evening we are in Bhim Tal, and after an eight hour drive it is tempting to stay over at one of the hotels facing the Bhim Tal lake and just chill. We decide to strive on though, and hit Almora town at dusk.

Like any other hill town in India, Almora has a central market that's bustling with activity, a bus stand where the entire town seems to have gathered, and a German Bakery. Well, it's like this. Where there are hills in North India, there are Israelis (read Manali, Dharamsala, Dhanaulti etc.) and where there are Israelis, a German Bakery isn't far behind. It's never 'German' though, and besides bread and sundry 'pattice' you don't get much else. But it's always there.


Image: One of the cottages at Kalmatia Sangam - in the middle of the forest, facing the hills
Photographs: Dilshad Master-Kumar
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DON'T MISS: Kasar Devi, a piece of paradise

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Kasar Devi is another 30-minute drive from Almora market. If any of the locals tell you it's 'just 5 min away', they're clueless! We are to stay at a friend's place -- a beautiful colonial-style bungalow tucked away off the main road and facing a meadow of pine trees. The site is breathtaking. Almost picture postcard.

The pine trees -- they whisper to you, and create a music all their own. It's quite warm for the hills -- unexpectedly so, since the cottage has no fans! And the Kasar Devi mosquitos -- they're huge! Like one of the locals said, huge and dumb, because they come buzzing straight into your face thinking you can't see them.


Image: Old colonial bunglow -- our home for the holidays
Photographs: Dilshad Master-Kumar
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Mohan's Cafe, about ten-minute drive away, is our retreat for food. It's dominated by Israelis which explains the boxes of Tahina that are on display in the front store. They also have an internet cafe so you can munch on your tuna pizza and send your emails at the same time.

Just get off from the main Almora road and there are some amazing trekking and mountain bike tracks and we take off for a 6 km stint to Balta village on a super hot day. It is a brilliant ride and we give the good 'ol Firefox bikes a good drubbing.

The Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is just 30 km away and the really adventurous ones can bike the whole road uphill. I'm not. I prefer to bike it all the way down -- so much easier on the quads!

On our last day there, we pop in at Kalmatia Sangam Himalay Resort. Serenity personified. The super helpful staff takes us around the estate, show us the rooms and give us some tea.

The lotus pond at the reception, the armchair swing in front of one of the cottages -- all named after Himalayan birds, the sneak peak of the Himalayas that promises something special on a clear day -- love everything about this place! Definitely coming back.


Image: Mohan's Cafe -- send an email, buy your local groceries, and have a hot meal. All-in-one place!
Photographs: Dilshad Master-Kumar
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Top five recommendations for first-timers:

  • Arm yourself with enough snacks to last the whole trip – there aren't too many restaurants around
  • Find a place where you can cook your own food, then hop across to the village, buy fresh stuff and cook it yourself
  • If you're heading there in the peak of summer be prepared for heat in the hills as well, it can get really hot in the day.
  • Take a decent pair of walking shoes -- there's many gentle trekking routes that are fun to do with the kids
  • Eat the tuna pizza at Mohan Restaurant -- it's to die for!


Image: Gentle trek through the forest around Kalmatia Sangam.
Photographs: Dilshad Master-Kumar
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