Uttarakhand’s Kumaon division is known for its large tracts of the Himalayas, whose towering snow-capped peaks are spectacular throughout the year.
Nestled on the footsteps of the Sivalik Range, Ramnagar has an enviable reputation. Located 270 km from Delhi, it occupies the strategic position of being the gateway to Jim Corbett National Park.
It’s a dusty and unremarkable town with its main road crammed with all kinds of stores, interspersed with souvenir shops and restaurants. At first sight, it would seem that Ramnagar’s main task is that of feeding the hospitality sector.
However, it does have two unusual shrines nearby. Garjiya Devi Temple is a well-known Shakti shrine located on a large rock in the middle of the Kosi river. Also nearby is the Seeta Bani Temple, and legend has it that the location marks the place where she was absorbed into the earth.
Venture a bit outside the town, away from the national park, and you may see a lot of litchi farming, something that Ramnagar is famous for. About 30 km away in Kaladhungi is the house where Jim Corbett lived for most of his life and which has now been converted into a museum. It is also lovely and rather idyllic to stroll or sit on the banks of the river at dawn or dusk.
However, a much more enduring experience is a visit to the national park. At first, the cold of the mountains which is sadly missing in the plains and the relative warmth of Ramnagar, especially if you’re arriving after a visit to the hills, can come as a rude shock.
But it is fairly nippy in the mornings and is ideal for a sojourn into the forest. The early morning jeep safari starts almost in the dark and is probably the best option for spotting wildlife. As the open jeep bounces along, buffeted by cold breeze from all sides, the first sight of the park is a bit of a dampener. But that’s where the disappointments end. Leaving the last vestiges of civilisation behind and journeying deeper into the jungle is both captivating and rewarding.
As the sun moves higher and everything is much brighter, the birds come out in plenty. But it also gets pretty warm and the animals seek the shade of the thick forest undergrowth and spotting becomes hard. By now, it is more than a couple of hours of criss-crossing the park and it is time to leave the forest behind and head homewards.