Landour is a perfect walking town. A small army cantonment, with few houses, a couple of churches, a temple, and few shops – that is the town. Located a few KMs above, it kind of sits on top of Mussoorie. Away from the maddening crowd of tourists that flood Mussoorie. The whole of hill town can be covered by walking around. In fact, it is walking that you enjoy the most in this lovely hill town.
Roads are well paved making it easy to walk even when it is raining. It does rain a lot in this part of Uttarakhand. Tall Deodar trees surround you in an engulfing manner and send your thoughts inwards. The fact that the village is quite clean compared to most Indian cities, makes it, even more, inviting for walking. Allow me to share a few walks that I took in Landour:
Gol Chakkar Walk or the Landour Loop
This is is the default circular walking path here. You can start at any point and walk towards Lal Tibba.
If you go clockwise, you would first see St Paul’s Church. An old church that has been recently re-furbished with stone arches.
The Char Dukan is where you must stop for pancakes or coffee. There are now more than 4 shops here but most of them serve the local special food – especially Pancakes. Early morning I met a group of bikers here – all hungry after their rides. Throughout the day I saw people stopping by to eat. I did not eat here but I saw almost everyone enjoying their food here.
I would later learn that the building that houses the Char Dukan used to be an army depot. Depot number 31 can still be seen on one of the gates.
Walk ahead after crossing a small bridge and you are on a dream-like road. The day I was walking, I had clouds all around me, adding to the mystery and mystique of the place. I looked at the houses – small & large hidden in the midst of Deodar trees. None of the houses was at the level of the road – they were either uphill or downhill – a nature’s way of keeping you fit.
Lal Tibba is the most famous part of this walk. If you walk early mornings, all you would see if people washing their horses and a closed red building. But on a clear day, this place is buzzing with activity as you get a clear view of the Himalayan ranges. Telescopes help you take a closer look at the peaks. Lal Tibba is like an edge overlooking the valley and keeping a keen eye on the mountain ranges.
A beautiful stairway led to a lovely well carved, well-maintained house on top. It just seems to be right out of the dreams. Wonder who is the lucky family that lives here and even luckier are those who will inherit it.
A stone gate, as always, invoked curiosity and as I peeped in, I realized it is the cemetery. I saw the beautiful graves, more like memorials surrounded by colorful flowers. They were just by the side of the road saying help to walkers as if remembering the days when they walked the same roads.
You are almost at the end of this walk when you see Kellog’s Church and the Language school.
Landour Language School
At the Language school, I had an engaging conversation with the principal of the school – Sh Chitranjan Dutt. He walked me through the history of the school and how it helped the British officials learn the local languages. How the course material was developed for many Indian languages. It is interesting that the school continues to attract language enthusiasts from around the world.
Sister’s Bazaar Walk
On the Gol Chakkar walk, if you take a detour at Kellog’s church, you would be headed towards the sister’s bazaar. Once upon a time a small bazaar meant for nurses working at the local Military Hospital, it is now placed famous for the peanut butter.
On this walk too, you go up and down a well-laid path, overlooking the valleys. On a clear day, you would be able to see the campus of Woodstock school with its lovely hostels standing out. Some of the old houses are lovely to walk by. Rain shelters built with the local stone just merge with the ambiance that does not belong to this era for sure.
At the bazaar, stop by at the Bake House for some lovely bakery products. You can also pick the books from the local authors here. You do know that Landour is home to many stalwart authors like Ruskin Bond, Stephen Alter, and Bill Aitken to name a few. Incidentally, all of them have written about the place too, so it is a perfect place to pick up books.
Peanut butter – the most popular local souvenir is what you pick from the Anil Prakash Grocery store. It is a normal everyday grocery store. Except that one shelf is dedicated to peanut butter and jams that the family kind of pioneer. I had the pleasure to talk to Shri Inder Prakash – the patriarch who started the peanut business in Landour. He passionately spoke about how peanut butter used to be imported from America before 1947. After independence, some locals started making peanut butter. Mr. Prakash started making it in his home which is right next to the shop.
Mr. Prakash claims to be the first one in India to make cheddar cheese from buffalo milk. He spoke about the blackberry jam he used to make when blackberries used to grow in his backyard. When I asked him the secret of his peanut butter – he smiled and said it is all about roasting it right. Everything else is a cakewalk.
Do pick up the peanut butter on this walk.
Jabarkhet Nature Reserve Walk Landour
Not too far from the village, Jabarkhet Nature reserve – a protected area is a perfect place to walk. Since this is a private and ticketed property, you do not find many people here. I first read about it in Stephen Alter’s The Secret Sanctuary. By the time I finished reading the book, I wanted to visit the place. Sometimes you just have to wish for something and it calls you.
There are various trails that you can take within the Jabarkhet Nature reserve. They are curiously named Leopard trail, mushroom trail, ridge trail – do not take the names literally. Walking on the Pugdundees, it feels like you have become a part of the forest. In June, I could notice all kinds of mushrooms growing here. I could hear the birds but given the density of the forest, it is not easy to spot them and leave them apart from clicking them. The same holds true for butterflies. They were simply a treat for the eyes though with their swift movements it seemed they are trying to make me exercise my eyes.
Moss-laden oak trees created a haunting scenery on one side. A few stones arranged to look like a sitting area seem like a scene out of a film where a group of friends discovers ghosts at night while enjoying a campfire.
A small interpretation center introduces the visitors to the flora and fauna of the forest. I was told that March and April are good months to discover flowers at Jabarkhet. In June, there were almost none.
Walk to the Ancient Shiv Mandir Landour
This was the shortest but the hardest walk I did here. A signboard said Prachin Shiv Mandir – 200 meters. How hard can be 200 meters and how inaccurate could the sign writer have been? I started climbing it and the gradient kept getting steeper. I had to take frequent stops. Thankfully, the scenery around was so lovely that I did not mind stopping. The temple made an appearance after I had climbed for good 15-20 minutes. It is a simple Shiva temple, with no signs of it being ancient. Having said that I was happy to see a neat and clean temple.
I also did a Heritage walk here, but that deserves a complete post, so stay tuned.
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