It was mid noon by the time we reached Naini Lake. Instead of dropping us by the lake, the driver first drove us to hill top, from where Himalayas was visible to naked eye. He did this because, as the day progresses the view gets duller and vague. My joy grew over and over at the very sight and kept gazing for few moments that I know will last for fewer moments. It was a dream come true. Being a mountain person, I wished for a more closer view, specially of the Nanda Devi peak. The weather was chilling to the core, when I realized that I was not properly covered whilst most of visitors, if not all were hidden under woolen clothes head to toe. Did I have a better resistance? i probably need to test my-selves.
Our next point was Eco Cave Garden, that was on the way to Naini Lake. With an up-slope entrance leading towards the caves, well demarcated points guided to different rocky structures naturally built named after animals (probably once inhabited). Getting in and out was more of an adventure via the narrow path way with sharp edge stones, pointing out. These rocks were relatively cold. Enough care needs to be taken if older people wish to walk through, as the steps are uneven, slippery and narrow. It is common that people get stuck, unable to find way out or sometime feeling uncomfortable in the darker corners trying to put the foot at right place. Despite this, we jumped through for I loved these “Monkey Type” activities right from school days.
Out of the rock garden, passing through the pine and deodar trees, the driver dropped us right at entrance of the lake from where boating begins. However, we chose to explore the place by walking around, tired of sitting in the car most times that mademe dizzy in the twists ans turns. Meanwhile, hunger struck me and couldn’t help but notice a pani puri vendor. We hopped and sat for a while soaking in the sun and gulping the little puris. The adjacent stall, sold Moong Dal Cheela (one of my favorites). It was an open kitchen, hence I ordered one, just to see how he made it. It was quite simple, and a variation to what I made, usually in the form of dosa.
We then walked through the shade alongside the lake reaching a point where crowd was gathered to witness the ongoing cricket match. Never, did I expect a cricket ground amidst the hills. Then I said to myself….its “India”, and cricket can be everywhere. Adjacent to the ground is the Naini Devi temple that also has Hanuman Mandir and Gurudwara close by. The temple was overlooking the lake and the goddess was decorated attractively. I also spent considerable amount of time at the Gurudwara, for, this was Neel’s first visit. The temple was surrounded by shops selling attractive stuff, specially clothes, toys, eatable etc. Ones out of the temple, it was boating time and I had to walk back to the entrance. The walk through slightly stoned path was relaxing. Brrrrr…tired yet the determined me..pushed a little hard telling stories to my little one soon reaching the boating point. We hired a boat and got ourselves with protectives that were stuffy, heavy and uncomfortable. Yet, what kept me distracted were stories from our boatman, who had been in this business for more then 20 years. Neel was engrossed and kept asking about the tall trees, crocodiles and fishes. It was 4 pm but seemed like 11 in the morning for the sun was up and shining bright.
Next was the best thing..shopping. I fell for the woolen clothes and colorful candles. There were scented ones too. Every street was bustling with shoppers filling bags with woolen stuff that probably I wouldn’t get in Bangalore or any other city. I picked a stole and some candles. I was now feeling a bit torpid with hand full of stuff and searching for the driver who promised to take us to Hanuman Ghari on our way back to the hotel. After a couple of calls back and forth, we boarded the cab and headed of to Hanuman Ghari, which was not too far. As I reached the temple, the Sun was slowly dipping and I kept gazing and captured both with my eyes and camera lens. I felt deep sonder as thoughts of similar moments flashed by. A memorable long day winded with roti, curry and steaming cup of tea.