It was the peak of summers and Gurgaon was boiling. We needed a respite from the grime and sweat and from our own flaring tempers. The hills were alive with the peace we were craving for. So we surrendered unabashed to its allure only to return excited, energized and euphoric.
With the numerous choices laid bare owing to the locational advantages of Delhi, we had a difficult time making our selection. Then enticed by its beautiful name we ultimately chose Ranikhet. On returning, we congratulated each other for unanimously making the right choice for once.
Since we did not wish to run around like regular tourists, we decided to explore Ranikhet alone. We had booked our rooms at the KMVN Tourist Rest house. The place is located on the Mall Road but looks as if it is at the end of the road perched as it is on a hill top. However, as we realized later with interesting hiking trails snaking around it, the tourist Rest house became an incredibly attractive location for walking enthusiasts like us. Moreover, you can also cycle down the paths by hiring the cycles available at the rest house reception. The hotel staff will be only too willing to provide you with yet another way to partake the pleasures of their hilly haven.
Ranikhet was revived from its ignominy by the British in 1869 when they decided to build it as the headquarters of the Kumaon Regiment. Ever since then the sanctity of Ranikhet has remained undisturbed owing to it being famed as a Cantonment town. Today it houses the military hospital servicing both the Kumaon and Naga Regiment and is maintained by the Indian Army.
No tale told in India is complete without Kings and Queens and their saga of love. Ranikhet too, as can be gauged from its name, tells the taleof Raja Sudhardev and his beautiful queen Rani Padmini. Enamoured by the beauty of the place, Rani Padmini decided to build her palace here. The King subsequently named the place Ranikhet or the Queen’s meadow.
In remembrance of its royal past the trees still hang pine chandeliers on their boughs. Every evening the red shimmer from the setting sun illuminates the pine bulbs and reminds the new travelers of its regal legacy.
The pine bordered wooded paths in Ranikhet led us to take endless routes. We felt like walking on till we came across a quaint little church at the end of the road. As we sat on the stone steps to rest our tired soles on the velvet green of the grass beneath, we heard a faint hum of a church service. We looked around and noticed a makeshift altar in a cave that was carved into the side of the mountain. People stood there with folded hands and eyes closed lost in their payers. We closed our eyes as well to thank the lord for all the wonderful things he has left for us.
The long meandering roads in Ranikhet are dotted with oak, pine and rhododendron trees whose gnarled trunks talk of stories that have long been forgotten. While walking through their branches and tickling ourselves with pine needles we felt like listening to them all over again. We closed our eyes and laid our ears to the whisper of the trees as they swayed their boughs and swished their leaves to regale us with tales and trivia.
Lalit, our driver, understood our true passion and suggested a trip to Chaubattia. We readily agreed only to thank him profusely later for such an amazing experience. Read about our Chaubattia experience here.
What we missed in Ranikhet was probably the view of the Himalayan range. Owing to the recent forest fires, another example of man’s uncontrollable greed, there was too much of fog around to enable us to view the lofty peaks. Nevertheless, we knew we would be back soon since Ranikhet had exposed us to what no other place had done before it. We discovered that here nature stood before us naked, unabashed and unprotected, yet so powerful that no one dared malign its raw beauty. That has kindled in us the fire to search for, surrender to and perhaps save this strength within us. That is probably the legacy nature plans to leave behind for generations to come.