THE HILLS ARE ALIVE

Mint ST - - IN-DEPTH -

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.

Write to us at busi­nes­soflife@livemint.com

(clock­wise, from left) St Peter’s Church; a view from Lan­dour; and the pop­u­lar Char Dukan street.

GRAPHIC BY AHMED RAZA KHAN/MINT

PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY PHILIPPA KAYE

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