If your destination is the small town of Kausani in the hills, you don’t just hop onto a bus to get there. You take the trip the hard way to explore the rustic charm of this town and for the panoramic view (300-kilometres-wide) of the Himalayas. At the end of the journey, you find that every minute of that arduous journey was worth it.
Like many Delhiites, we had not the slightest idea how to reach Kausani, over 400 kilometres away from the national capital. Volvos don’t drop you there in the morning. Google said it was ahead of Almora -- the town closest to Kausani that I had heard of. I was aware that Haldwani, 273 kilometres from Delhi, was a major transit point in Uttarakhand, from my previous trip to the mountains.
We boarded an ageing Uttarakhand Parivahan bus to Haldwani from Anand Vihar – an interstate bus terminus in east Delhi – an hour past midnight. Delhi-Haldwani buses are frequent and all seats were occupied even at that hour of the night. Given the quality of the bus, the ride was not as bumpy as I had anticipated.
Half past eight at Haldwani and the winter sun seemed in no mood to share any heat. The word from the bus depot was that all Parivahan buses to Almora had departed. But, behind the depot, mini-buses lined up and conductors solicited passengers, crying out “Nainital, Almora, Bageswar… Kausani.” These buses filled up in no time but there was always another one waiting.
About halfway through to Almora, the winding motorway started to descend, with the beautiful Kosi river meandering slowly along the road. The slope ran down to Garampani, a town in Nainital district from where the road routed through a valley. Kosi’s rocky riverbed followed all the way, cutting its way through hills, until it bade farewell at the beginning of the ascend to Almora – a cantonment town.
Kausani is about 50 kilometres north of Almora. The sun had moved to the west but our bus moved past arid terrains and barren looking terraced farms rather unhurriedly, stopping to let in anyone who waved.
We eventually made it to Kausani 14 long hours after leaving Delhi.
‘Switzerland of India’
‘Unblemished by modernity’ seemed a fitting first impression of this sparsely populated town at an elevation of 1,890 metres in Bageshwar district. The air there is fresh and the breeze carries the scent of pine trees.
The usual sights in every hill station — an old church, a summer palace or a governor’s bungalow — are not there in Kausani. Anasakti Ashram, where Mahatma Gandhi spent about two weeks in 1929, is the only monument in the town. The rest of the spectacle is all ‘courtesy nature’.
The Mahatma is said to have described Kausani as the ‘Switzerland of India’. If you’re wondering why, you could check into one of the hotels offering a room with the view of the Himalayas.
And you would realise that Gandhi wasn’t wrong. It is easy to lose yourself looking at the first sun rays of the day falling on the snow-capped peaks while sipping hot tea from porcelain cups. You could sit back and gaze at the Himalayas until the sun decides to call it a day and then count the number of empty tea cups. As the orange fades away on the Himalayas during twilight, the Trisul peaks resemble the iconic Paramount Pictures logo.
If the Himalayas, including Nanda Devi, Trisul and Panchchuli, are not enticing enough, you could just venture out and enjoy the pleasure of being amid nature. The pahadis, known for their love for walking, have left behind several trails. Follow one of those into the pine forest. There is hardly a concrete structure dotting the frame and you could just get that you were missing every day – holistic peace.
For more of it, you could embark on a 2-kilometre trek through the woods, a little away from the town beyond the bright yellow mustard fields. The rocky trail leads to a valley from where you explore your way around hills, across Kosi’s riverbed and past women herding cattle in the mild sunshine to reach Rudrahari temple on the banks of the river. It is believed that a mystic meditated in the forest for years and later established the cave temple, which now also serves as his residence. Sitting there, soaking in the surroundings and philosophising is highly recommended.
Sixteen kilometres north of the town, located on the banks of Gomti River in Garur valley, are the leaning stone temples of Baijnath. Legend says the temples were built overnight by the Katyuri kings, who ruled the area between 7th and 11th centuries AD. If you find imperfections beautiful, Baijnath temples and the scenic locale is worth a visit.
You could also take a tour of the local handloom factory and watch the weavers’ knit shawls, woolen apparel and blankets. Besides handloom products, the factory sells other local artefacts and tea from Kausani’s tea estate.
Many of Kausani’s men serve in the army – a phenomenon common in the northern hill towns of the country. The rest of the population depends on agriculture and allied activities, tourism and other small businesses for their livelihood. They are a happy lot, uncorrupted by competition and the mad rush so characteristic of cities. Indeed, the warmth of the Kumaonis embellishes the town that otherwise has little to boast of.
Kausani is synonymous with peace. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating, because Delhi has erased my ability to perceive it. Well, at least they don’t honk needlessly, to say the least.
If you are a nature lover, who is at peace listening to the melodies created by chirping birds and pine leaves singing in the breeze, Kausani is your place.
Distance: Delhi to Kausani – 413 kms
No direct bus, train, or flight available between Delhi and Kausani
Hire a cab or drive down to get there conveniently
Buses to Haldwani are frequent from Anand Vihar ISBT. Daily trains are also available
From Haldwani, Uttarakhan Parivahan buses are available but private buses ply more frequently
Attractions in Kausani
Nature walks, pine forest, exquisite view of Himalayas at sunrise and sunset
Anasakti Ashram – Mahatma Gandhi stayed here for a few days in 1929, now a museum and study centre
Kusani tea estate
Handloom shawl factory
Rudrahari cave temple trek – 8 kms from town, 2-km forest trek
Baijnath temple – 16 kms
Someshwar temple – 19 kms
Bageshwar temple – 39 kms
Chaukori – 75km, known for the view of the Himalayas
Pindari, Kafni and Sunderdhunga Glaciers’ trek (advisable to go with experienced guides)
Several hotels are available in and around Kausani according to your budget
Cabs are available for local sightseeing