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benog tibba overview

#79 of 292 Things To Do in Uttarakhand
benog tibba
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Kandi Jethuki, Uttarakhand 248179

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benog tibba

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The walk to  Benog Tibba takes one past the fine colonial building of Savoy Hotel and the exotic but authentic French lines of a chateau, beautifully preserved by the Maharaja of Kapurthala. The road doubles back at Modern School and brings you to Waverley Convent (known locally as Kala Pushta), one of Mussoorie’s oldest girls’ schools. The motor road walk from Waverley to Park Chungi is a level 3 km that passes through unspoilt jungles preserved by virtue of belonging to private estates. For the student of geology, it is fascinating to study how the motor road has been cut through wavy layers of tectonic activity. Every few inches of pink or yellow or purple band of rock or sediment on the roadside banking represents millions of years of painful upthrust, from what was once the floor of the Tethys Sea. The spread of the Doon Valley, that looks so serene, is actually being pushed under Mussoorie, causing the hill station to rise a few centimetres each year.

Near the old chungi is Leopard’s Lodge, a ruin that marks the residence of the famous Delhi commissioner, William Fraser. The building of Cloud’s End Bungalow, isolated and immaculately girdled by oak forest, was supervised by one of the first memsahib travel writers, Fanny Parkes, in 1838. The present proprietor of Cloud’s End Forest Resort has made a sincere attempt to create a resort that combines its original ambience with eco-friendly regard for the surroundings. An outdoor restaurant here functions during the Mussoorie season. Benog happens to be the last fix of Col William Lambton and Sir George Everest’s epic Great Trigonometrical Survey of India.
It seems hard to believe that limestone trucks once ran up and down the sheer mountainside of Benog. A fortuitous scientific misunderstanding stopped the suicidal quarrying that broke all environmental laws. A public outcry saved Benog from the fate of neighbouring Hathipaon Hill that was literally decapitated for its limestone, considered amongst the purest on our planet. In the nick of time, the Supreme Court banned resort developers from axing these forests.

This eastern flank of Benog has now been declared the Mountain Quail Sanctuary and, thankfully, new plantations have sprung up to obscure the limestone roads. The rare mountain quail was last sighted here in the 1880s. It is believed that this bird species, assumed extinct, has since been re-sighted in another area of Uttarakhand.

Everest’s successor as Surveyor General, Sir Andrew Waugh, had built a tiny, charming observatory on the shoulder of Benog (where the summit clump of trees begin) to mark the momentous “last fix” of the greatest survey ever made. This was fairly intact 20 years ago. Recently, a hotelier, ignorant of the building’s provenance, knocked it down to use the stone for a temple to Jwala Devi. Such well-meaning vandalism is the bane of Uttarakhand tourist development, where an international site of extraordinary scientific significance has been all but obliterated. 

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