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Pritha Manchanda Oct 13 2015

Road less travelled: A walk in Nainital

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There is only one kind of walking that city folks can afford – and that is the unpleasant one, invariably surrounded by impatient crowds whom nothing would give more joy than pushing you out of their way. However, once you are in the hills, walking can actually turn in to a pleasurable activity for even those who are loth to indulge in it on a regular basis, with the joy of discovering new vistas, and chancing upon the odd discovery that makes travelling so good for the soul. You haven’t really travelled unless you have discovered something, and travelling on foot is the best way to do this.

Nainital, nestled in the foothills of Kumaon, affords the luxury to a citywalker to put on his neglected walking and trekking shoes and go walking again. Its many walking paths are generous to the old, the frail and others who are unused to walking, while providing challenging trails for those who seek out adventure. Some of the most popular walking destinations are Naini Peak and Tiffin Top, famous places to visit in Nainital.

Tiffin Top is an old trail built when Nainital was a British cantonment, and it still has traces of that era. Half paved stone trails, lined avenues of fir and rhododendron trees and breathtaking views of the Kumaon ranges at different points make this walk a must for every traveller to Nainital.

The hill station of Nainital is one of the 64 Shaktipeeth, or sacred shrines dedicated to the mother goddess Parvati. Legend has it that the diamond shaped lake was made when Parvati’s eyes fell into the lake, and that is how it came to be known as Naini lake. The lakes around Nainital make for beautiful evening walks; Naini Lake is even cordoned off from vehicles in the evening so strollers may have the pleasure of walking around by the balustrade.

Evening distractions in the form of gliding swans in the lake, swarms of vendors selling nibbing novelties such as cakes, muffins, momos and other stuff keep the throngs of visitors busy while they are walking around the famous lakeside. Mountain dogs are a permanent feature of the mall road – lying under the benches as if they don’t have a day’s care. Khurpa Tal is another popular if more desolate spot, open to boating till winters when the lakes freeze over. Since around this time the weather in Nainital is more fickle than the average lover’s mind, it’s a bliss to walk into the mist at one time, and to walk into rays of sunshine the next.

Photographs and story: Payel Majumdar
* The author had been invited on the behalf of the Manu Maharani Hotel to experience the true essence of Nainital.

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