Kipling Road to Mussoorie: Nature lovers revive trail, much to Ruskin Bond’s joy
Kipling trekked this trail, the lone link then from Dehradun to Mussoorie, in the 1880s. He set his experience in his popular novel, Kim.india Updated: Aug 12, 2017 18:19 IST
Take a walk, up or down, a Kiplingesque lane with a backdrop of the Himalayas stretched out across a vibrant blue sky and an undulating Doon valley below.
Like most hill stations, Uttarakhand’s Mussoorie is done and dusted with a mess of concrete and overload of tourists. But the Queen of the Hills is turning to its past for a better future.
An overlooked and weather-beaten British-era bridle path, named after The Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling, is being propped to revive the town’s mojo.
Kipling trekked this trail, the lone link then from Dehradun to Mussoorie, in the 1880s. He set his experience in his popular novel, Kim.
More than a century on, an asphalt road with guardrails pushed the heritage path out of public memory, and the tourist circuit as well. Hardcore adventurists and nature lovers use the trek, but that’s all.
Local enthusiasts are now trying to resurrect Kipling Road and recapture the quaint and quiet outdoorsy feel associated with the town.
Author Ruskin Bond, a Mussoorie native, is delighted with the turn of events. “I used to walk up that road very often, on weekends or when it snowed. It was a bit tiring but was great fun. I haven’t been there in many years, but it’s wonderful to know that people are using it regularly now,” he said.
Bond could not be happier as one of his books is The Kipling Road.
Dehradun-based heritage group, Been There Doon That, is conducting guided heritage walks frequently along the Kipling trail. “The route offers five strikingly different views of the Doon valley from across five sharp scissor-like bends,” said Lokesh Ohri, the organisation’s founder.
The Rajpur Community Initiative, a citizen’s group, is working to conserve the trail.
“We want the heritage trail to be conserved and promoted, but not overexploited,” said Reenu Paul, founder-president of the group.
Actor Tom Alter, fellow Mussoorie resident and an ardent trekker, has also been pushing actively for the trek’s revival.
The trail begins at Rajpur on the outskirts of Dehradun and cuts a 35km drive to Mussoorie into a healthy 9km walk.
The walkway is steeped in history — a brick tunnel hidden by undergrowth is reminder of failed British attempts to build a railway line to Mussoorie, standing at an altitude 2,006m. There are toll tax boards dating back to the 1920s, an iconic Half Way House at Barlowganj and a castle, where an exiled king of Nepal lived.
According to historians, Fredrick Young and John Shore were the first Britons to walk up this trail to Mussoorie in the 1820s.
It was a “very lively route” back then as British officers on horseback and their ladies in jhampans, a type of palanquin, soaked the salubrious air, sipped beer and tasted cookies from breweries and bakeries dotting the way, Ohri said.