The north-western areas of India (Uttarakand province and north) share the Himalayas with Nepal so the countryside is vastly different and so are the temperatures. Having spent a month in 35degC+ temps we decided to ‘head for the hills’ to try and find some resite form the pre-monsoon heat.
Nainital is a small town nestled in the mountains at about 2000m above sea level and instead of heat it has gorgeous cool days (mid 20’s). Instead of baked dry dusty plains it has a gorgeous lake in the bottom of the valley and instead of hoards of western tourists it is a favourite of Indians escaping the heat of the lower regions. In the 6 days we spent there we literally saw 4 other Europeans, and that my friends is unheard of for a tourist town.
The drive up into the mountains was gorgeous, with scenes that made me think of Europe. Lots of pine wooded hillsides and lovely winding roads. Of course it comes with a heap of rubbish and Indian crazy driving so it was not all Edelweiss and ‘The Sound of Music’ but hey – this is India.
As we made our way through the crazy bus depot part of town we crested a hill and there it was. A perfect teardrop lake with mountains climbing on all sides, pretty mulitcoloured buildings and temples dotting the landscape. We looked at this and went – yep, heaven on a stick. We had planned to stop for a bit to get some work done and this looked like just the spot.
We found ourselves a lovely little hotel (prices here were much higher than we expected – lake views stretching to $50+) that was in budget and settled in for a good stretch.
And then reality hits 😉 Of course with an Indian tourist town the only food you can get is …. Indian! I am not sure what I had expected but some variety wouldl have been good. Most touristy places can throw together some pasta or a pizza to tempt the western eaters but these guys didn’t have to – they have practically no western eaters. Now don’t get me wrong – we like Indian food a lot, but not every night, a little choice is a good thing.
Then there was the beer thing. No restaurants sell alcohol at all. In the whole town we found one bar and it was literally about 2.5km walk from us through thronging masses of people and traffic, downhill outbound and massively uphill on the homeward run. Bottleshops numbered 2, one of which was closer to us but still with the down/uphill problem. By the time we bought beers and struggled up the steep hill to our hotel both ourselves and the beers were all hot and sweaty. That said – not an insurmountable problem.
And then Dave got sick. 2 days spent trapped in the room, definitely not fun. Even more so as buying toilet paper turned out to be more difficult than buying beer. Indians don’t use it and as it is an Indian tourist town there was none to be found. I eventually found a packet of soft serviettes so they did double duty and got us through.
In the end though, by the time he was well enough to go out and we had pretty much decided that while Nainital is undoubtedly gorgeous and sensationally temperatured, that perhaps it was not a place for us to stay for a month. So on we go. Back down the mountains and back to the heat of the plains.
The only thing missing from the photo is the noise. It is an endless aural barrage of tooting horns from every vehicle that moves through the streets. At times it feels like you just want to scream for the noise to stop!