I always thought of Lansdowne as any other hill station. It was never on my list of places to go before I die. But a few colleagues last month were itching to go somewhere and after lot of discussion, we finally settled for this place. It’s not that any of us were to Lansdowne before but what loaded the dice in favour of Lansdowne was its easy accessibility. It is overnight journey from Delhi. And that suited us just perfect. That meant no official leave.
But before we left for Lansdowne, there was uncertainty. There were close to 12 people on the trip but by the time, we finally left for the trip only six remained. At one point of time, we even thought of calling the trip off, if one more person drops out. It is true that we were sad on the dropout rate, but even in that we were very positive. We were hoping if one more person backs out and we were on for a road trip. Five persons are just perfect for a road trip – a car fits only 5 people comfortably.
Fortunately, no one backed out and we six were on the Mussoorie-bound train to Kotdwar. Mussoorie Express is the best train to reach Kotdwar, the nearest railway station to Lansdowne. The train leaves Old Delhi station at 10.20 and reaches Kotdwar at around 6 in the early morning the next day. The best part is this train hardly gets late and we were at the Kotdwar Railway Station on a Saturday morning.
The interesting part was we had not booked any accommodation and the moment we landed at Kotdwar, I called up GMVN Lansdowne only to be told that both properties run by them are full. We had thought at least we would find a room or two at GMVN Tiffin Top but that was not to be. Our last option was Retreat Anand.
We hired a jeep for Rs. 450 to Lansdowne. It being rainy season, there was greenery on the route. I must have used that route many a times but it never looked so fresh. We would have hardly covered 10 km and we were greeted by a herd of wild elephants. It was such a sight. Our driver immediately stopped the jeep and off we went to capture the beautiful beasts in our cameras.
It took us more than an hour to reach Lansdowne. Once you cross Dugadda, the route is scenic with pine trees on either side. Though the road is beautiful and well laid out, one may feel dizziness due to serpentine roads.
Once at Lansdowne, we asked for the way to Retreat Anand, the place where we had decided to stay. Retreat Anand is at a quiet location about three kilometeres from Lansdowne. One can hire a jeep for Rs. 200 from Lansdowne but we decided to walk down the 3 km and the experience was awesome. The weather was pleasant. Every now and then, fog was playing hide and seek and at times it was difficult to see a person barely a meter ahead.
It was fun to walk down the unpaved path. Three hours and almost 200 photos later, we finally reached the resort.
It is such a wonderful place, perfect for a laid back holiday if you wish so. Location of the property is awesome; however a lot needs to be done for the proper upkeep of the resort.
We settled for a family room, which was large enough to comfortably accommodate six adults with an extra bed. The attached washroom was spacious but not very clean.
The property has two swimming pools but both were in urgent need of upkeep and so were the two hammocks. Badminton and volleyball court were fine.
The next day we hired a jeep for local sightseeing. There is not much to sightsee in Lansdowne. The Bhulla Lake, Army Museum, the Garhwali Mess and the Tiffin-top are main places to see in Lansdowne.
The Bhulla Lake is maintained by the valiant jawans of the Garhwal Rifles. Boating facility is available at the lake. The museum houses maps, weapons and other memorabilia associated with Garhwal Rifles and Lansdowne. The museum has books on the history of Lansdowne and birds found there. Garhwali Mess is among the oldest and was established in the early 19th century. The mess compound is beautifully kept and impeccably maintained by the army. There is a dial in the lawns of the mess, which directs to various points that one can see from Lansdowne on a clear day.
Had it not for the army, Lansdowne would have been another Mussoorie or Shimla. Garhwal Rifles has kept the sanctity of the place intact. No construction is allowed in the cantonment area. The army has restored the old bungalows keeping the old charm of the place intact.