By Sanjeev Nayyar | 2012

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Nainital was the last stop of my 18 day Kumaon Yatra. Reached from Mukteshwar about 4pm, checked into a hotel near the bus stand at Rs 600/ a day. The lake is a minute away from the hotel. U see an overview of the lake and Nainital from top of Naini Peak 2611m while Nainital is 1938m.

To avoid excessive traffic in Nainital u have to pay a toll to enter Mall road. Between 6 to 8 pm no cars allowed ON Mall road, becomes a pedestrian walkway. Cycle rickshaws (run by Biharis) take u up and down at a rate of Rs 10/. On the Mall road is ASHOK rest that you see. Nice veggie food.

A view of the Naini Lake the town''s biggest attraction. Go for boating early morning. It is lovely, u will get a good rate also. Have omlette bread and tea close to the bus-stand in the morng, very tasty. There is a road on both sides of the lake, the road on the right is Mall road. Full of shops and crowded like any other shopping street.

Next morng decided to trek to Naini Peak. Crossed mall road, from Tibet market took a public bus for about 10 minutes. From there have to walk 15 minutes to where the climb starts. Met a local boy who offered to drop me there, show me Snow View for Rs 50/. Enroute he stopped & asked me to click this pic of the lake. Lovely in the morng.

U see me at Snow-view from where one gets the Himalayan View. Quiet nice. Lots of telescopes for tourists. I was then dropped to a point from where the trek to Naini Peak started. As I realized later it was a shorter route with a well laid path, was like climbing from behind the hill.

The hill that you see in front is Naini Peak. Not a good pic but just to give u an idea of height of peak. Locals climb faster by using the old trekking route. It took me about one hour each way.

A view of the Himalayan Peaks somewhere enroute left to right Trishul, Nanda devi, Nanda kot and Nanda Ghunti. Excludes Panchachuli. Was a lovely and lonely trek thru dense forest.

U see the forest guest house where one employee stays. On a clear day u can see Badrinath hill from here besides the Himalayan Peaks. Saw a group of students from Delhi. The forest official lamented that nowadays few people came up, most go only where the car takes up.

Walk for about 5-7 minutes to the top of the hill. There is a bench to sit, be careful one slip and u go straight down. Horse shoe shaped Naini Lake. Most of the hotels on left side of lake. Front area has High Court, other offices. Was told Nainital''s famous schools are on the hills on right of pic.

A horizontal view from the same point. I reached the top at 12.30 too sunny. Best time to go is early morning or afternoon. Early morning u get the rising sun hitting u into your camera, eyes.

I came down from another route that ends in a village ie what you see. Loved the trek. Was happy to see a few youngsters trekking up.

I think lost my way and walked into a village. U get a different view from where. The complete hill on the left side of lake and the lake itself.

At the same point met this lady who had come to collect water from a natural water source there. She was most cultured, good looking, well spoken lady that I met during the 18 day yatra. Just loved her complexion as I did of others who live in Kumaon. She was nice enough to show me the way down but me being me lost my way.

I walked into another village. Some said go straight so walked into another lane. Met these boys there who said I had come the wrong way. They not only showed me the way to a main road but scared away a lungur who threatened to attack me if I crossed his path. I walked on road not knowing where would reach till I was given a lift by someone on a bike. Reached Bara Bazaar Nainital within 10 minutes.

U see the Naini Mandir ie on the banks of the lake. Muslims have made a huge masjid close to the temple just like they have done in Bageshwar and Baijnath.

It was about 2 by then, was hungry. Headed straight for SHIVA rest where had eaten the previous night as well. Very good veggie food and reasonably priced. Serve Dosas as well.

Back to the Lake. Missed taking a boat ride because it had got late by then. For hire of car/buses contact Nayna Travels - Praveen Bisht. Very close to the bus stand. Tel 05942 231234, cell 9412084052, 9756204052. A friend used their services and was happy.

There was a Govt sponsored festival which is why Mall road and Lake banks were all lit up. On left of pic is Naini Mandir and Gurudwara while right of pic u can see masjid ka minaret.

I wanted to take the ropeway so was in a hurry. The last ticket is booked at 4pm. Was late but pleaded to allow me to take it. From hill top u get a Himalayan View and there is Appu Ghar, an amusement park. Not impressed may be because it was closer to sun-set. Suggest you go in the morning before 10am.

The Mall road is dominated by shops owned by Punjabis (what you see) and others that are rented out to Kashmiris. A number of locals I spoke to appreciated the drive n success of Punjabis but felt that the community was not doing enough to support local people for e.g. in education, training, health etc. Thus the locals disliked Punjabis. By virtue of being a Punjabi and the son of a migrant could relate to the feeling. Hope the Punjabis spend a larger percentage of their wealth for the benefit of locals. After all here is where they earned it.

End of Mall road go Bara Bazaar, Mallital to a shop Nainital Wool Wale. Has super range of wool and woolen products. I could not find a better shop in the whole market. Do negotiate. I bought a sweater - very good. Suggest spend 2 days in Nainital to enjoy the place even though it is very crowded and commercialized. Spend an extra day to do the Naini Peak trek.

Mall road is virtually full of shops selling Kashmiri products. Residents of Kashmir Valley take shops on rent. I was told that the rental could be between Rs 1 to 1.25 lakhs a month. Locals wondered how the Kashmiris made money. Locals said rent was easy money and making locals lazy. On entering one of the shops met the owner who seemed quite suspicious. My friend, a senior local lawyer, said he looked like a Afghani and asked where he was from. The person kept on skirting the question.

This is Jama Masjid on banks of Naini lake. It was a small masjid earlier. Never seen a Minaret with loudspeakers on all sides. Azaan is heard all around the lake, even on top of Naini Hill. It was not there in 1989 when I visited Nainital last. Locals feels the high volume Azaan disturbs the peace and tranquility of the area.

Earlier local Muslims spoke the same language, wore similar clothes as the Pahadis (locals). Things have changed in the last many years. Muslims wear typical Islam dress, long beards, big mosques stressing the Muslim identity. Large influx from the plains into the hills mainly from Bareilly, Moradabad etc. Also buying lots of land. This is disturbing harmony and could create in the near future.

Close to the Tibet market and the Jami Masjid large nos of Muslim shops selling chicken, mutton, fish and eggs. Thru the Kumaon Yatra found Muslims mostly selling non-veg, run barber shops, doing welding and carpentary work. Locals told me that those involved in these business are from the plains and responsible for Islamization of the local Muslims. Enroute to Naini Peak saw some Mullahs, when asked why they were there, said to propagate Islam had come from Bareilly. When I asked for permission to click a pic was brushed away.

Early morning view of Bhimtal 22 kms away. Also visit Zoo, Ramgarh 25 kms away is heart of apple orchards, Kainchi 17 kms away is ashram of Neeb Karauli Baba (have super masala soda there), Naukuchiya Tal 26 kms away is a pretty lake with its 9 corners and Sattal 27 kms away very beautiful lake.

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