In the Kumaon circuit of India, Almora is more or less overshadowed by the presence of its ‘big brother’ destinations. The travelers are more engaged composing poetry in Munsiyari or sailing the yachts in Nainital. This is my second visit in the Kumaon belt and in my first one I too had developed such a ‘nothing special’ concept of Almora. It changed this time. I rediscovered Almora. A walk down its lanes revealed Almora : places to visit and things to eat.
The tedious train journey from Kolkata to Lalkuan followed by the short bus ride to Nainital for overnight stay before setting off the next day to reach Almora had drained me of any considerable time to enjoy a walk. I pounced on the first opportunity I got to take that very essential walk.
I was with a group of fellow travelers who invited me to join them. One of them took a quest upon himself: To find and visit the Ramkrishna Mission in Almora on foot. We walked through Almora’s streets, every now and then asking the locals for direction. The road inside the town was moderately busy with school and college students returning home. As I walked I took note of the numerous sweet shops lining the pavement. I am a Bengali of Kolkata and anybody acquainted with Bengali cuisine would know what ‘sweets’ mean to them. I can spend my entire life eating nothing but desserts and sweets.
The Sun was shifting its position more and more to the west when we crossed the well maintained playground and I could feel that we were no more in the town. The hustle and bustle of the residential and market area was absent here. I checked the horizon. This was the 10th time that I did and again met with disappointment. The shady pine trees contributed to the calmness. This walk turned out to be one of the most pleasant ones that I had ever taken. Finally we reached to the Bryton point from where the ‘All India Radio’ building was visible. We had followed the direction of a kind local who told us the Ramkrishna Mission was adjacent to this building .
We deviated from the road and started descending the steep flight of staircase constructed on the slope of the hill. It was a spirally long descent amidst the towering trees and wildflowers. A misty river far away in the horizon was raised to such a perspective that it imitated the clouds. I also saw a solitary villager pass by to reach her hut nestled on the slope. In totality I felt a dash of peace over my entire being when the inclined rays of the sun protruding this green canopy fell on my skin through the curves of the pine fruits hanging high above.
Finally the staircase, the walk and also my fellow traveler’s quest ended when we reached the Ramkrishna Mission. It is a humble building when compared with its counterparts elsewhere in India. But, what makes this place special is its location. It does not jut out in the street but sits in silence on the edge of an impenetrable forest. In the prayer hall photography is not allowed. Pictures of Ramkrishna Paramhans, Swami Vivekananda, Sarada Devi rested in the sanctum of the hall. We paid our respect to the great monks and philosophers before taking leave.
As we emerged out of the slopes of the forest to the road my eyes met the view that I had been dying to catch for a long time. In the horizon the snow peak had unveiled herself just as the Sun was about to set!
After welcoming this spectacle with much fanfare we boarded a local bus to reach back to the town. The cheerful bus ride with the local Kumaonis is a memory to cherish forever.
Once back in town, I stopped restraining myself and went around hopping from one shop to other tasting and buying sweets! ‘Balmithai’ is fudge coated with white sugar balls. It tastes good and is the most popular sweet of the region. ‘Singori’ is another sweet which tastes awesome and is served by wrapping a Malu leaf around it. I tried both of these and also bought them for future consumption but, what I absolutely loved was the sweet named ‘Choklate’. The namesake of the tyrannically addictive indulgence turned out to be equally extravagant. I ended up gobbling several of these and with it I realized that Almora had grown on me.
Trip Taken On- November 2015
Travel Agent Hired- Debi Tours And Travels (Biswanath Ghatak- 9051806469)
Hotel Booked- Hotel Himplaza (+91- 70556-56745)
This is not an advertisement but a recommendation. I paid for my own trip.
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