I had very unusual local travelling companions during my visit to Landour and Mussoorie earlier this year in June — the mist or rather the clouds that accompanied me wherever I went. They were a constant companion from the time I arrived in the area till I left.
Sometimes the clouds would be wispy and scraggly; but mostly they were the kind that covered everything, obscured visibility and lent an air of mystery to everything and everyone it enveloped. It was magical to see the clouds descend and disperse and descend and disperse… Most of the time they were the perfect companion for leisurely walks and strolls; at other times, a spoil sport of sorts like on my first day there which was all about exploring Mussoorie.
My first destination was Suakholi or rather the road leading to Tehri from there, about 10 km from Mussoorie. The geologist in me was keen on seeing the exposures of the oceanic crust reported from the area as well as some interesting rock formations. After lunch at Rokeby Manor, I left in search of the rock exposures. Unfortunately for me, the photograph above will tell you what the visibility condition was like.
I would have appreciated this view at any other time, but not when I wanted to search for specific rock exposures and formations. I did come across a couple of promising looking ones, but with low light and poor visibility I couldn’t be sure and had to leave disappointed.
My next destination was the house of a man I had read about in a book and who had captured my imagination. The man was George Everest, and the book was The Great Arc: The Dramatic Tale of how India was Mapped and Everest was Named. George Everest, a geographer, was the Surveyor General of India from 1830 to 1843 and is credited with completing a section of the Great Trigonometric Survey that mapped India from its southern tip to Nepal. It was during his tenure that a new mountain peak, then known as Peak XV, was ‘discovered’ to be the tallest peak in the world, and subsequently named Mt. Everest.
I had come across the existence of George Everest’s house while doing some background reading before the trip and was rather keen on visiting it. Though I had read that Everest’s house was in a bad shape, I hadn’t expected to see how bad it was. The walls were crumbling, the rooms were stinking and the whitewash patch up job being attempted only made it look worse as you will see in the photographs below. The ever-present clouds here just obscure, but instead added to the general feeling of desolation. [Click on any one to start a slide show]
I was surprised to see so many tourists around and glad to know that they were interested in Everest’s house. Till I found out that no one knew or cared about him or his house. They were only there for the view or rather the view if the clouds had not been present ! 😮
I headed to Mussoorie next, eager to explore the queen of the hills and muse to many a literary inspiration. I had plans of a leisurely stroll down the Mall and maybe look into the market there. Stop at a cafe for a pit stop and browse at a bookshop or two. But it didn’t quite work out the way I had envisaged.
Maybe it was a particularly crowded day or maybe it was the last week of summer holidays, but it felt like the world and their neighbours or rather Delhi, Punjab and Haryana were at Mussoorie, if one went by the number plates of the vehicles that had jammed all roads in the town. There wasn’t any place to even walk on the roads. With all the honking, the vehicles and the crowds, I felt I was back in Mumbai.
I changed my plans of exploring Mussoorie town and decided to head to Camel’s Back Road instead. This 3 km stretch was supposed to offer a quiet walk and great views of the valley. As an added bonus for me, there was a cemetery and a church to be explored as well. Camel’s back Road was all this and more. Apart from a couple of two wheelers, I didn’t come across any vehicular traffic. I also came across the mandatory cows and monkeys without which no trip anywhere in India is complete. To my disappointment, the church was closed as was the cemetery and I had to be content with seeing everything from the roadside.
What really bothered me was the music blaring out from the premises of a religious organisation shattering the peace and quiet of the area. How this can be allowed is something I have not been able to comprehend.
It is always difficult to visit a place with pre-conceived ideas and I try not to have any expectations of places I’m visiting for the first time. Unfortunately or fortunately, I did have some expectations of what Mussoorie would be like. This was largely shaped from accounts read in books and photographs of friends who had visited it.
In reality, Mussoorie was far removed from what I imagined it to be — quiet, laid back, charming, relaxing. In reality, it turned out to be quite the opposite — noisy, crowded, commercial. It was everything that I didn’t imagine it to be. When I returned to Rokeby later that evening, I decided that I wouldn’t be returning to Mussoorie again, at least during the duration of the trip. It was too similar to the city I had left for my holiday in the hills.
I know it is unfair to come to such a conclusion about Mussoorie after just a few hours there. Maybe I will visit it one day and revise my opinion. Maybe I won’t.
Have you been to Mussoorie recently or in past? If yes, tell me about it.
Disclaimer: I was invited by Rokeby Manor at Landour to visit and stay with them. My exploration of Mussoorie was facilitated by them. Needless to stay, the views and words are all mine. 🙂