THE HILLS ARE ALIVE
rifle stands. They were specially commissioned after the first Indian war of independence in 1857. Prior to the construction of these pews, soldiers had to leave their rifles outside church, and locals would steal the guns. Ironically, churchgoers often found themselves at the wrong end of the muzzle.
The church, which has been immaculately preserved and is still in use, is simply bursting with stories from its fascinating past.
I ventured down to Landour Bazaar to discover a treasure trove of local sweet-shops like Omi Sweets, which opened in 1830 and is known for its bal mithai, sohan halwa, balushahi, gulab jamun and pure chocolate barfi. Tibetan jewellery and antique shops packed with remnants of the town’s colonial past line the street.
The next morning, I took a walk beyond the Gol Chakkar and Sisters Bazaar to visit the privately owned Jabarkhet Nature Reserve. This place will, quite simply, warm the hearts of any wildlife and nature lover. Once an area decimated by woodcutters and desecrated by picnickers, the 10 acres of forest have been restored by landowners who cleared all the plastic and watched the land regenerate. The idea was to turn the Jabarkhet Nature Reserve into a model of conservation and sustainable development for the area, while promoting awareness, and appreciation, of nature. They currently employ three men and three women whom they have trained as caretakers, guides and transport providers. They are all from the local villages, and the plan is to employ more people by developing
Take National Highway 34, NH58 and NH334, via Muzaffarnagar, Roorkee and Dehradun. Alternatively, take an overnight train to Dehradun; a cab from there will take about oneand-a-half hours to Landour.
La Villa Bethany (lavillabethany.com), a home-stay style property, offers a variety of room categories, such as the Log Cabin and The Hobbit home; tariff starts from Rs4,500, including breakfast, for double occupancy.
Take in the view from George Everest’s house in Khanij Nagar, 11km west of Landour.
new livelihoods based on sustainable harvesting of forest products and eco-tourism activities, including village home-stays.
It’s sheer pleasure to amble through the pristine natural environment. I headed off with my guide Virendra, a local boy who has been part of the project since its inception, over clearly demarcated walking trails. A mine of information on plants, their qualities and uses, insects, small creatures and mega fauna like leopards and Himalayan brown bear (which we saw courtesy cameratraps), he was ideal company. A variety of birds revealed themselves through leafy perches.
A hearty lunch that included a vegetarian pizza and Caesar salad followed at Café Ivy, one of the newer additions to the Char Dukan street, and then it was back to the hotel. I made an attempt to read whilst daydreaming and gazing at the valley below.
Since I had time on hand, I reserved the last day for strolling to the Clock Tower Café, a chic hangout in Mussoorie, and spent some time exploring the town. Walking back to Landour (5km) would have been ludicrous, so I hopped into my favourite set of wheels—a wonderfully robust old Ambassador Grand. It was a perfect end to my weekend.
Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros. The author tweets from @Philippakaye.
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(clockwise, from left) St Peter’s Church; a view from Landour; and the popular Char Dukan street.