I am a mountain person, in love with the Himalayas right from childhood. Therefore, it was only natural that I would choose to go the hills for my winter vacation. Of course, my parents sitting in an unusually warm Kolkata, wondered why anyone would want to go from a freezing Gurgaon to an even colder place by choice, but then who listens to parents anyway! We chose Mussourie from a list of names - a place where we had been earlier for only a day. We hated the place at that time, as it was peak season and Mussourie was bursting at its seams with tourists from all over. We, however, thought that such a famous place merits a revisit and we are glad that we chose to go.
We started our journey on 5th January early morning by the Dehradoon Shatabdi and reached Doon at around 2 pm, almost 1-1/2 hours late owing to dense fog in the Delhi-NCR and parts of UP. We hired a cab and reached Mussorie at around 3:30pm, famished and exhausted.
We had our bookings at the Padmini Niwas, which is a short walk from the taxi stand. It is a lovely heritage (colonial era) property, very well maintained, the staff friendly and service exemplary.
Dining Room : Padmini Nivas
We had reached after lunch, but on arrival, hot snacks and coffee were promptly served without much ado. That evening we did not venture out of the premises and enjoyed a breath-taking sunset from the terrace, and the little dining/sitting room adjacent to the bedroom.
Picture : Sunset from Padmini Nivas
We set about exploring Mussorie early next morning right after breakfast. We started by walking up the Mall road till we reached one end of it, which is called the Gandhi Chowk. this is also known as the Library end as the beautiful Mussorie library stands here. It is another colonial era building and the facade is beautifully maintained.
Picture : Mussourie Library at Gandhi Chowk
Picture : The Golden Structure near the taxi stand
While walking back we took a short coffee break at Café coffee day, which is near the library/Gandhi chowk. A long walk down the Mall road took us to the other end of the Mall road (known as the Picture Palace end), where we found an excellent Tibetan joint known as Kalsang that served us excellent pork momos, a huge portion of mixed meat Thupka, Pork Shapta and Thingmo - the Tibetan bread, which we washed down with hot ginger-lemon tea.
The next day saw us walking down the Camel’s back road. It is a full 4 kms trek, but is charming with forested areas, beautiful old buildings, an ancient cemetery, and gorgeous views of snow peaks (Gangotri, Kedarnath amongst them).
Picture : Cementery on the Camel's Back Road
Picture : View from the Camel's Back Road
The camel’s back road is a longish and picturesque bypass of the Mall Road which connects the Library end to the Picture Palace end. Except for a little uphill stretch at the end, the walk is mainly straight without much ups or downs. During off-season, the road is a real pleasure to stroll around without any horses or other walkers breathing down one’s neck. While walking here we noticed thick frost on the road, which gave us an idea of the freezing night temperatures. Later, we came to know from the locals that Mussorie generally receives its first snow by mid-December, though this year is an exception (trust our luck!!!).
We visited the Company Garden next day - a place which is one of those "must visit" spots of Mussourie if you go by the Taxi and Rikshaw driver's recommendations. It is a man-made park with a water body and some rides inside and is about 4 kms away from Mussourie. We found it rather disappointing, even though kids might like it owing to the various joy-rides and a small boat ride. The pool (certainly not a lake) is very small and boat rides comprise of taking 5-6 rounds in this singularly unattractive piece of water body. All available rickshaws take tourists to this place with a charge of Rs.150 for a one-way trip (they are also willing to wait for one hour and bring you back for a charge of Rs. 300), and while the journey is a real pleasure owing to the surrounding natural beauty, the man-made park certainly fails to match up. Kempty Falls, the road to which falls on the way to Company Gardens, did not figure in our plans as we had already visited the place in our previous trips and had been thoroughly disappointed seeing the mess people had created with absolutely no control over environmental regulations.
Picture : Artificial Waterfall at Company Garden
On our way back, we did the other "must-visit' spot - the Gun Hill, which can be reached by a rope-way, and were again disappointed. The place is infested with shops, trying to sell an assorted bunch of nonsense.
Once back we visited The Christ Church, which is situated a little uphill from the Mall road. It is an early nineteenth century church and has breath-taking Victorian and Pre-Raphealite stained glass windows, beautifully carved wooden church pews, ancient timbered carved ceilings, a huge William Hill organ and a 1889 bible that is still read. The church remains closed, and one must ask the caretaker to open the door to the rich and heavenly sight lying inside.
Picture : The back side of the Christ Church (where the caretaker stays) and the deodar tree (enclosed by a gate) was planted by HRH Princess of Wales in 1906.
The last day we took a trip to the Tibetan monastery. Set near the Birla house this place is worth a visit and one can spend some quiet time sitting on the terrace, enjoying the scenery and warm sunshine. The peace and solitude of the place and friendliness of the Tibetans on the premises have a rather soothing effect on one’s mind and soul.Picture : offerings to Lord Buddha inside the monastery
Picture : A revolving lamp inside the monastery
Picture : paintings on the outer wall of the monastery
Mussourie is a place to visit only in off-season and in idyllic circumstances. The so called "tourist attractions" (except the Tibetan Monastery) are nothing much to write home about, but is a lovely place for a leisurely holiday. The walks along the Camel's back road and the Mall road and visit to the Tibetan Monastery are certainly worth the effort. The place also has beautiful heritage properties, which are a joy to watch and plenty of good restaurants to satisfy ones palate. One must choose the hotel well (like we had done with Padmini Nivas) so that the afternoons / evenings can be spent sitting in the sun-bathed terrace overlooking the pristine Doon valley and sipping warm tea with a good book.
Picture : sunrise from the Hotel
We spent four extremely pleasant and carefree days in this town and came back relaxed, with happy memories to last a lifetime.