Today we went about everything in a relaxed manner.
We went to a guest house that is constructed and managed by Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), my parents’ old University. It was currently under renovation but from what I could see, it looked lovely. We walked through a forest littered with dried pine leaves to reach the entrance. There were many spots where I could see the whole country-side spread out in front. I slipped and fell on the dried pine leaves more times than I would like to admit.
We proceeded towards the apple orchard in the compound. There were some shiny rocks lying around. I picked up and threw one. It flew till far and as soon as it touched the ground, it broke into many pieces. Turned out that the rocks were very delicate. The guide told us that they consisted of silica and we could even scratch them with our nails to get the shimmery dust out.
For some time we just sat there and stared out into the horizon, drinking in the view. We reached out for a tree which was completely covered with berries. Our guide (and driver) told us that these were called Kaaphal. We collected as many berries we could and ate them right there. It was an experience that I don’t think I will be forgetting anytime soon. Our driver, Arjun, knew quite a lot about the countryside. He had been our driver since day 1 and had showed us around the mountains. He took us to places we perhaps would never have discovered on our own. He was very helpful and showed us many beautiful faces of nature. Arjun uncle and Papa had long conversations off and on, about tourist spots, vegetation in the mountains, and any adjoining hill stations that we could include in our iterinery. He also guided Papa on which eateries we could visit, to get a real Kumaoni food experience. Papa being a journalist, thoroughly enjoyed the little tit-bits of the city that was shared with him.
Next, we went to another clearing in the forest where we just listened to the sound of the birds and rippling of the leaves in the branches. Those sounds in harmony felt much better than any song I may have ever heard. Arjun uncle gave us a pinecone with pine nuts in it. It was then I found out that there were some things in the pinecones which were actually edible. The pinecone was very nicely structured with a bunch of pine leaves on its top. There were quite a few pine nuts in the pinecone. We ate them right there and then. It was a wonderful experience. I know that I have overused this term, but I can’t help it.
We had lunch at a restaurant that we had not tried before. Nothing special, just the usual food that one can get even at a restaurant in Mumbai. The lunch spread at Ranikhet had some Kumauni food on its menu, but Kumauni food was not something that could make our mouth water. Also, even though the major occupation of the place is terrace farming, the vegetables and fruits found there were quite bad quality. Maybe that had something to do with the weather. Whatever the reason, food is certainly not one of the main attractions of the place.
After lunch we went to Rani Lake named after the hill station itself. The sky was pitch black with clouds and thunder booming. Ignoring all of those, we went for a boat ride. It must have been less than five minutes when it started pouring. We quickly turned back. By the time we reached the deck we were completely drenched. The boat lenders didn’t look at all affected; in fact they seemed quite smug, and looked as if they were holding back a laughter. They collected their life-jackets and went away leaving us in the shade of a small swing-set. At last I got impatient and walked out in the rain, towards the car. Others followed suit.
In the evening we went to the Mall Road again and bought some fruits. We went to the gardening shop we had visited the first day and bought some seeds to plant in Mumbai. Dinner followed soon. Today was the pizza and garlic bread day. Yum!!
Photo credit : Insha Faridoon