Setting the alarm to wake up for a sunrise might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but in Kausani, in the middle of Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region, it’s worth every bit of the effort. For, this is one of the few places from where an estimated 300-km of the Himalayan range is visible. Besides which, the drama that accompanies sunrise can be sometimes a very short but intense experience.
Predictably, the early morning chill is uncomfortable considering that Kausani is at an altitude of about 6,200 feet. And despite wearing the heavy woollens, the intermittent breeze sweeping through is sharp enough to penetrate right up to the bones. The sky is pitch-black and the mountains in the background are just a ridge-line in silhouette without any distinguishing details. Soon, the eastern sky is painted with deep oranges and pinks and the sun slowly peeks from beyond the edge of the mountains.
While this in itself is dramatic, the ridge-line further separates itself from the background and presents a breath-taking picture. Snow-capped mountains become visible, first as peaks of brilliant white and then slowly turn a beautiful hue of pale orangish-pink. The image is like a 3D picture and the peaks seem so near that you think you can reach out and touch them. The majesty of the peaks is enough to leave you overwhelmed. Easily distinguishable are the peaks of Trishul, Nanda Ghunti and the Panchchuli (a cluster of five peaks ranging from 20,780ft to 22,650ft). Nanda Devi, the highest peak in Uttarakhand, is also visible as a feeble outline.
The orange-pink tinge turns a bit deeper for a few minutes as the sun rises higher. But all too soon, a thick cloud cover descends shutting off the peaks and turning everything—land, mountains and sky—into a uniform grey curtain. For a moment, the recent scene seems like a dreamt-up vision.
Obviously, there’s nothing much that can compete with the early morning drama, but there’s enough in and around Kausani for an engaging visit. The road trip to the hill station is a riveting one with snaking roads that are flanked by towering mountains and skirt valleys, gently flowing streams and picturesque bridges, tiny hamlets and pretty temples. The town itself is a tiny one with pretty houses and bungalows perched prettily on the hillsides.
Sitting on a hilly promontory at one end of the town, with spectacular views of the Himalayan peaks, is the Anashakti Ashram, set up in memory of Mahatma Gandhi, whose stay in Kausani inspired the treatise on Anashakti Yoga.
Winding roads and more spectacular scenery will take you to Baijnath, about 15 km from Kausani, located on the banks of the Gomti river. This was the capital of the Katyuri kings from around the mid-12th century, but all that remains from their time is a set of temples on the banks of the river. Like most temples in the region, the main one is dedicated to Lord Shiva, but there are other smaller ones dedicated to other deities such as Ganesha, Parvati, Surya and others.
■ Kausani is about 55 km to the North of Almora and 155 km from Kathgodam, the nearest railhead.
■ How to get there: Fly to Delhi, take a train to Kathgodam and then drive to Kausani. You could also drive from Delhi but it might be a long and arduous journey.
En route the hill slopes are covered with lush green tea gardens, another of Kausani’s distinguishing features. It is easy to step off the road and wander leisurely amidst the neat rows.
Tea aficionados can also enjoy a cup of local tea at one of the many stalls that line the roads in the area. And while at it, don’t miss a visit to one of the handful of shawl factories that produce beautifully patterned shawls in brilliant colours and designs. Also worth shopping for are handmade soaps, body creams, chutneys, preserves and jams.