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
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Bhimtal
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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
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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
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The balcony at Bua's home in Almora
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The Library - where I wrote the post
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Little bird on the Library window
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The balcony at Bua's home in Almora
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House from outside
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House from outside
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Almora from house
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House from outside
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Flowers at home
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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
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Bua's house from outside, late evening
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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
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My shoes
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Methodist church
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Little girls at the church
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Flowers at a house near the main market
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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.

-- Siddhartha Joshi 

Comments

  1. I have been to Binsar last summer. Journey was via Almorah (u know obviously).....but it never occurred to me that Almorah is such a beautiful place....and u captured it more beautifully :)

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  2. Surprisingly it wasn't a beautiful place even to me till I made this visit :) But then hills are beautiful almost anywhere; Almora also has an town charm.

    Plus I have home there, so I see things which a casual tourist might just miss :)

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  3. Your bua sure has a beautiful house. Great pics! So waiting to travel the length and breadth of the North.

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  4. I completely agree...the house is an absolute beauty! I had the most relaxing and lazy time thr :)

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  5. So happy to read this post .I had no idea that you are a Kumauoni .

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  6. Hey Kavita, so good to see your comment here too :) I am a pure blood Kumaoni...hahaha :)

    So are you?

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  7. Yes Siddhartha i am a Kumauoni(Kavita Bhatt) ,now married to an Assamese.So nice to meet you :)Infact i am reading your Chitai (Goluji)post rt now.

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  8. I have a HUGE smile as I write this :) I am really glad to have bumped into you Kavita...it feels so good that someone is reading my old posts :)

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  9. This April i went to kausani, was very close to almora. The schedule ws packed and i missed almora during that tour. Hope i go sometime again.

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  10. I m very thankful to u 4 uploading a bunch of images dat really cheered me up on a morning I m so homesick. I googled 4 images of Almora and chanced upon ur 'Almora from house' image nd exclaimed with joy dat dis ws captured from my neighborhood. Great blog and wonderful images and yes, ur Bua's house is one of the most beautiful houses I hv evr seen. I have even clicked a photo of it sometime back from the road above. I call it 'naturally beautiful'. :-) Thanx

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  11. A great insight to the tourist who come here to explore the picturesque sights. Apart from natural beauty it has cultural magnificence and various destinations unexplored.
    Pictures are beautiful :)

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  12. Hi a few mums and kids are travelling to Almora .. is Bua's place as your Bua .. am from the south so please pardon the error, but is Bua's place a place to stay for us travellers or your aunt's place (it's beautiful)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Nandini, unfortunately this is my family's home and not a home-stay. If you are in Almora, do make a visit and tell them you saw the images on my blog and came :)

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    2. Arpita ChakrabartyJuly 31, 2016 at 7:35 PM

      Hi Siddhartha,

      I live in Almora and have seen this house many times. It is so grand. But I would like to know a little history about this house - like when was it constructed? who constructed? etc. I am an Almora-based journalist for a national newspaper, and if we find some interesting history, we would like to do a news story about it. -

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  13. Hi Siddhartha,
    I have been living in UK for the last 12 years and have been to Almora on a few occasions. Lived in paparsali for 4 months and fell in love with the place. My mother was born here so you could say maybe its in genes!
    I really am seriously thinking of making the move and make Almora my home but am concerned about what will I do there to make a living. Also I only know a few people from my minimal stay and would like to make some new friends and contacts....

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  14. I can't tell you how glad I am to have stumbled upon this post! That is a beautiful house and I loveee Almora :)
    Shubham

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