The trip turned out to be quite a disaster but we never regretted it.
Cramped in an overnight bus from New Delhi to Kathgodam, we landed on the cold streets of Uttarakhand at about 6 in the morning. After a much needed cup of tea (which was more sugar and milk) we decided we’d head to the quiet and not too commercialised Ramgarh.
This was more of an impromptu decision taken just to clear out the confusion which we had been dealing with ever since we boarded the bus. We were stuck with a guidebook for the very first time and more than help it gave us a magnitude of options which we did not have the time to cover.
One can take a local bus from Kathgodam to reach Ramgarh or can pile into shared cabs like we did. The driver, a wasted old man, was so fragile that his enthusiasm with life and his booming voice and laughter quite surprised us. He rattled on about his children, their education and their ever-rising demands while we looked out at the sunlight washed hills with sleep still caressing our eyes.
On the way we crossed Naukchiatal and Bhimtal. My accomplice who is a much travelled man suggested it would be a bad idea to stop at any of these locations as they were too famous to give us the quite getaway that we were looking for.
In almost an hour and two more tea stops, we were standing at Ramgarh, gaping in awe at the far away snow peaked mountains. But our awe ended right there. In the next 4-5 hours that we spent in Ramgarh we managed not only to tire ourselves excessively but also failed to find a suitable place to stay.
We had in mind a laid back and highly economical home stay but Ramgarh offers no such facility for weekend travellers. Everywhere we heard the same story – If it were for a month or two, we could have considered but for three days… No. The other hotels in the region were similar to what Delhi or any other big city has to offer. Shiny floors, a balcony which looked out at more hotels and a pricing which way above from what we had in mind. We couldn’t find anything below Rs. 1500 for a day.
The place, though, was exactly what we had expected it to be. I had heard that this was where Rabindranath Tagore had penned down Geetanjali and I can understand why he chose this place. In the over-crowded midst of the 21st century, Ramgarh was the quietest place I have ever been to. In the hours I spent walking the streets of Ramgarh I met only two to three people. So much an overdose of tranquillity it was that after a while I wanted to escape to a noisier place. And we did.
At about 1 in the afternoon we had given up and decided to head to the hub of commercialisation – Nainital. But if there was something which might make me go back to Ramgarh then it would be its terrace farms. There is nothing which makes you feel closer to mother earth than walking through someone’s khet, holding hands with a boy more out of necessity than love. Of course the locals laughed at us and of course we did slip a couple of times and yes the sun pretty much burned us down. But for that and that alone Ramgarh shall stay etched in my memories for a long time to come.