Uttranchal has always fascinated me. Lush green jungles, emerald lakes, random rapids lined on the wary mountains and a quick respite from Delhi heat has always made me coming to Uttranchal. Finding solace in the emptiness of the high mountains and the deep valleys of Uttranchal has become a religious fair for me now. This time around, the decision to have a weekend in Uttranchal came about through unexpected quarters. It was Country inn in Bhimtal I was to go to. I took an overnight bus to be at Kathgodam the next morning. From there it was an exciting journey through the winding hilly roads, forests with the songs of birds to entertain you (at times to make you feel jealous of the people staying here) and the soft morning breeze to console. There was chill in the air and it promised a quilted romance and hot tea in the night. The soft morning light seemed to be opening the gates to a world of inscrutable mysteries and expressions penned by nature. It took me an hour through these beautiful roads to reach the Bhimtal. As you take a round from Bhowali to Bhimtal, you see the shimmering blue lake only to disappear tantalizingly beneath the thick tree cover at the next bend. A few bends more and another lake emerges from the cloud of mist appearing like an emerald beautifully dropped amongst the pine trees.
Within minutes, we crossed the Bhimtal, massive; just a huge stretch of water with an island in the middle, now housing an aquarium. Bhimtal Lake, located 22 km from Nainital, is believed to have been created by the second Pandava brother Bhima, known for his extraordinary strength. Mythology says that during their exile when Pandavas were unable to find water here, Bhima thumped the ground with his mighty ‘gada’ and created a cavity which was filled by underground water. And the place where he put his vessel became an island; which has now being developed as an aquarium with exotic fish from as far as Australia and South Africa. The largest lake in the region, Bhimtal is more serene than Naini Lake. The next bend took us to the market embellished with myriads of variety of fruits (Kumaon has, probably, the best collection of exotic fruits in India). We rode uphill, through the market to the country inn resorts. The resort is beautifully located amongst the hills. I tried spanning the length of the lake from the resort; the resort provided the elegant look of the lake. I was welcomed with a traditional drink. The service was exceptionally friendly and warm, so typical of hilly terrains. I headed towards my room –which was tastefully decorated with artifacts and local upholstery.
I quick hearty breakfast to grab and a long trek through jungle to Sattal were next in my list. After a kilometer ride, we reached our trekking point. An old church greeted us, and we headed to the path that was to tease us for all our way, with the glimpses through the trees and calls of ‘wait’, ‘not yet’ and ‘there’s a better spot for the shot’. I can honestly say the wait was well worth it. We were graced with the clear vista of hilly view with the Naukichiatal lake in the middle, as an emerald. It was so splendid; it looked unreal; like a fine image cut from a magazine and pinned on a horizon. These are seven interconnected lakes. The seven lakes that makeup Sattal includes Panna tal, Nal-Damyanti Tal, Purna Tal, Sita Tal, Ram Tal, Laxman Tal and Khurdariya Tal. Imagine the fine picture they create, appearing together. These lakes nestled in the midst of thick forests in Mehragaon valley are a home of a variety of migratory birds. The lakes retain a pristine glory and tranquility with its clear water.
The trek gave us some fine moments to scan the stray pheasants cheerfully weeding in the jungle. The jungle lore accompanied us half our way until we landed up at the church; a fine splendid architecture of early 90s, housing some foreign tourists and some oblivious feathery individuals who seemed too acquainted with humans. We took a short break to get some fine snaps from the garden to have an unobstructed view of the valleys and then a steep downhill trek to take us to the mesmerizing sattal. Green hills, meandering pathways and oak trees, made the trek more beautiful. The fine, clear picture set on the aisle of nature, proffered an unruffled side of nature beatified with floral diversity. Calm and quiet ambience that this trek provided created an impetus to imbibe ourselves in the luxury of wilderness. In these two hours of trek I came across all the vibrancy of the place.
Nestled between mountain peaks on all sides and set against the backdrop of oak and pine forests, the sattal unfurls the rustic beauty of the Lower Himalayas. Sattal serves before you a perfect pack of wilderness and adventure. For adventure lots, it offers a wide range of escapades. An unsurprisingly perfect destination which offers some finely carved pleasure trips and some of the most jaunting places, Sattal would always dominate in the travel itinerary of daring people. From camping, rock climbing, rappelling, kayaking, to trekking it has all you can put in your adventure diary. A lovely ride in the placid lake, to venturing out in the wilderness, to merriments like crossing river, climbing hills, obstacle walks and the most alluring – the overnight stay in the tents where there is no distraction from the outside world; Sattal leaves you before an amazing time hunting for activities. If you are not an arduous trekker, you have easier options of a nature walk to the water-falls.
Amidst all the activities you can think and try in Sattal, a visit to the Sattal Christian Ashram is a must to take. Situated right on the banks of the lake, this was formerly a tea-estate which was later turned to an ashram to spread the virtues of Christianity. Established by Stanley Jones, this ashram ensures a spiritual healing to the disturbed urbane minds.
Unfortunately, I had only a day with me to spend here: many things were discovered but a lot is still to be experienced, some more treks through the pristine forests, some more songs of birds and a full night to spend in the lap of nature without any amenities. I have Sattal in ‘must to return’ list. To me, it is a perfect virtual paradise intertwined with tranquility, serenity and a melodious gush of greenish water. If you are in search of a composed place to enliven all your dreams, you can always plan to surrender yourself to the astonishing cache of heavenly grandeur of Sattal.
How to reach: Take an overnight journey from Delhi to Kathgodam and hire a cab from there to Bhimtal.
Where to stay: There are some simple and decent options in Bhimtal, for better options check in with Country inn resorts. In Sattal, the options are limited to Country inn or the YMCA camps. The country inn is located just next to Sattal. The quaint location of the resort, surrounded by the natural gifts galore, will quickly make you forget your daily grinds. The resort, so artistically blended with the natural surroundings and overseeing the lake; seems like opening the gates to a place where beauty is infinite and time freezes.
What to do: You can make a list for that, but do try rock climbing. In monsoons, one can also go for some water sports. Nature walks and treks are always on ‘must do’ list.
When to go: Anytime ….. every season comes with its own pack of beauty here. However, go in summers to beat the heat and in monsoons for some of the nicest shots you can take.