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A Diwali in the hills
November 11, 2015, 4:36 pm
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Head to the hills to get away from the noise, but shun all thoughts of lazing about.

With firecracker sounds that boom from all directions and the rush on streets, many swear that their houses need to be abandoned during the festive season of Diwali.

However, in the company of hills, clouds and songbirds, the ideal getaway from ‘thundering’ Diwali, – is Pangot, a sanctuary for many. The hill town, 15km from Nainital, is one of the most stunning locations on Kumaon’s Nainital-Corbett National Park circuit.

If you choose to drive there, wind your way through the busy plains from Delhi to Rampur on National Highway (NH) 24 and turn left towards Nainital via Haldwani. From there, forest patches start springing up till you are fully ensconced in thick foliage, with just the meandering road in front. Every now and then the forest opens up into clearings that are filled with herds of contented cows. The quiet is broken only by the jingle of their bells.

It takes just over eight hours to drive from New Delhi to Pangot. Choose pads such as the known birding haunt Jungle Lore Birding Lodge, where stone cottages overlooking the valley allows you to spend most of your time on easy chairs and with books in hands.

However, Pangot also turns out to be fairly active for people that set out to hibernate. Spend time trundling up the Naina Peak – nothing too ambitious when accompanied by a local guide – and manage to hike up the 7km stretch in just over two hours. After unassuming clusters of village homes, sauntering shepherds, oak trees and rhododendron as constant companions on the way, the view of snow-clad tops of Nanda Devi, Trishul and Nanda Ghunti, from the Naina Peak, at a height of 8,563m  are rewarding enough.

Also try a short Jim Corbett trail for a day. Minus any elaborate exhibits, the museum at Kaladhungi village (41km, from Pangot to Kaladhungi​) only houses simple remnants of the legendary hunter-turned-conservationist Jim Corbett’s life in India, yet, there is enough to excite any Corbett admirer.

Close to the museum is Chhoti Haldwani, a village that Corbett bought in 1915 to develop as a model one. His legacy is kept alive by a Corbett Village Eco-Tour that helps arrange short trips. One can choose between bird-watching, a heritage trail, and a hike into the deep teak forests (Corbettvillage.in).

After a quick stroll around the village, meet with the Corbett Gram Vikas Samiti that runs these tours, and then catch the afternoon safari in the national park through the Dhela entrance for a small glimpse of its 521 sq. kms spread of diverse flora and fauna.

The jungle holds the promise of sightings of avian life, elephants, sambar, spotted deer and, if you are lucky, the tiger.

Once back at the cottage, settle in on the balcony to do little as the sun sets behind the Kumaon mountains.

A trip to Pangot during Diwali also renders a fountain of fireworks against the dark sky in the distance, but the hills absorb the sounds, diluting them to a mild rumble. A little Diwali reminder is not such a bad thing, after all.

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