Almora - a town revisited

So I finally start this blog, days after writing many posts which I could never finish. Sometimes it was weird emotions which wouldn’t let me proceed, on other occasions my memories failed me.

But this post is different; it’s about today, the present. I am in Almora, sitting in the big library surrounded my numerous books and trophies, an old fashioned, simple and elegant sofa set, and a red and yellow carpet. There are hundreds of Reader’s Digests, PhD theses of numerous relatives, and quite a few books on International politics. I am tempted to pick up one of these and leave ‘The Black Book’ aside, something that I might actually do tonight. It’s almost five now and soon I would venture out for a walk and random conversations with strangers, but for now I will write about today.

It’s my first trip to my mother’s hometown after 1994 and the first time that I find the place so enchanting. We are staying at my bua’s place which is a beauty in itself. The house is more than three-quarters of a century old and built in the style of old English villas (it bears a striking resemblance to our much older house ‘Joshi Villa’ in Nainital, apparently because of the close friendship of the two men who built these two houses).

I spent the whole morning and afternoon observing the small little things from the rear window of our car. Ma was constantly telling pa and me about all the places we passed on the way, her stories ripe with excitement as she recounted her childhood memories. It seems much has changed since the 50s and 60s, but I still found most of what I saw extremely charming. Hills started soon after Kathgodam, and so did the stories. I had numerous questions about the geography of the place, which finally irritated pa and he asked me to go and see google maps properly! I was impressed and silenced for a while. We stopped at Bhimtal, another popular destination with the tourists in the area (apart from Nau Kuchiya Tal, Saat Tal and so on). Just a few quick snaps and off we went towards Bhowali and then to Kainchi, famous for the ashram of Baba Neem Karodi. The Vaishnodevi temple there was extremely clean and serene, for once I was keen to spend a day at the adjacent ashram, impossible unless perhaps you take permission in advance.

Flowers at Bhimtal

Bhimtal

It was Garam Pani after that, which is a popular destination for people to stop and take their afternoon meals or a quick cup of Chai. The road to Ranikhet separates from the Almora road soon after.

Technicalities apart, the best way to travel in these parts is to have a car of your own or a taxi. You may want to stop on numerous unlikely locations and only a personal vehicle allows you that. I have traveled alone enough in State Transport buses, and for a back-packer that’s the only economical option available, things reveal differently when you travel with the locals in local transport (something I learned really well in J&K, but more on that trip in another set of posts). If you are alone, you will easily find ways to travel between destinations, there are enough jeeps, mini-trucks etc available for that. I have even hitchhiked and never had a bad experience, though not something recommended for a woman traveling alone.

On the way

Almora comes after this pleasant ride and the town almost welcomes you even with all the new construction and the now unrecognizable landmarks. Bua’s place is slightly outside the town (Rani Dhara) and a beautiful one at that, the images attached below do not do justice to the place. The house is called 'Laxmi Nivas' and was built by Fufaji's father a long time back. It was also the first cement house built and is still commonly known as 'Cement Kothi'.Almost the whole of Almora is visible from here and I am waiting for the evening to see all the twinkling lights.

The ceiling at Bua's home in Almora

The balcony at Bua's home in Almora

The Library - where I wrote the post

Little bird on the Library window

The balcony at Bua's home in Almora

House from outside

House from outside

Almora from house

House from outside

Flowers at home

Its late night and am finally ready to start the new blog, a quick update on the evening walks in Almora. Almora is basically a very small town and it won’t be difficult to walk through the whole town and still not feel tired, of course this does not include all the lanes and by-lanes. Walking through the town today reminded me of a similar walk years ago through Mussorie. I even started and ended the walk in similar light conditions, of course I was on my own so didn’t have a house with steaming cup of tea waiting for me at the end of the walk.

Almora at night

Bua's house from outside, late evening

The huge windows are open and the cool breeze feels really nice, I long for some company. But even the silence of solitude is blissful. House is silent and I can hear the birds chirping outside. It feels home and despite the tiredness, I am happy.

Coming back to Almora, it helps when you are confident. People would want to always pick conversations, and its nice to be polite and smile rather than frown and behave like a tourist who wants to be left alone. My camera helped me get a bunch of flowers from a couple of girls. I was looking for ma’s childhood school, and stumbled up the Methodist Church on a hilltop. It was a perfect place to sit down and just feel the place, and of course the cool air.

Random

My shoes

Methodist church

Little girls at the church

Flowers at a house near the main market

There is very little that comes close to walking around the sunset in an old charming town. Right now I am more than enthusiastic for my early morning walk tomorrow.



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