I love going up to the rooftop of my home in Dehradun. On a clear night one can see the lights from the Mussoorie hills glimmering like a thousand of fireflies. Among my favorite memories are those of eating ice cream at Kwality’s on a hillock. The restaurant launched by two enterprising Punjabi businessman no longer stands, sadly, and a lot of the old Mussoorie charm has exited with it. During a recent trip, however, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that – at least – some of its leafy abundance is back. The hills stripped bare, thanks to indiscriminate limestone quarrying in the late 70s and early 80s, are now back in their verdant glory. Take a bow conservationists. Countless stretches of pine waved their spiky emerald fingers at us as my friend’s cream-colored Innova lugged us towards our destination spread out like a sequined crumpled cloth in the mountains. I sat back contentedly taking in the rich greenery and cool air.
Getting into the main bazaar we were rudely jolted by the traffic, smell of fresh cow dung, and the dirt. Gayatri, who lives in the US with her husband but grew up in Dehradun, turned out to be the more tolerant out of the two of us. The main town area is a little difficult to digest, I have to confess, with its busy bazaars and music-blaring cheap eateries, not to mention stray dogs and cattle.
The descent from the bazaar area in Kulri to the guest house called All Seasons is pretty steep. Gayatri, who’d confirmed the booking, had expressed disappointment earlier in Dehradun about having been declined a place at a four-star property owing to the summertime tourist influx (even in August!). Yet All Seasons turned out all we could hope for, and more. The rooms are large, well-furnished, and comfortable. We had access to Tata Sky television, Wi-Fi, and a fridge. My favorite, though, was the balcony with cozy sofas and a table overlooking the hills. I didn’t have the time (just then) to reflect on their rugged, undulating beauty as we’d booked the Innova forKemptyFalls for that afternoon.
The hairpin bends sent our heads spinning as we descended down some 15 kilometers from Mussoorie. Situated almost midway between Dehradun and Mussoorie Kempty Falls was developed as a tourist destination by the British sometime during the early 19th century. The word ‘Kempty’ is a derivative of the term ‘Camp tea’; the British with their strong tea fetish would frequently organize their picnics and tea parties at this spot. The falls come cascading down from a height of 4,500 feet and tear into five separate cascades.
While we were fascinated by the pristine beauty of Garhwal’s rugged landscape Kempty proved to be something of a disappointment, choked as it was with plastic and miscellaneous garbage. Trash cans are few and far between; is the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam listening?
The drive back to Mussoorie was far more invigorating thanks to the emerald landscape and beautifully-contoured hills, not to mention wild dogs and mountain goats. All Seasons proved to be a restful nook with home-cooked food and a friendly staff. Tired out, we retired early.
Sipping tea in the balcony the next morning watching the mist rise from the hills leaving them dew-washed and pristinely lush has been filed away under ‘Favorite Memories’.
Not to be missed.