As children, my brother and I always looked forward to our summer holidays when we would be visiting some unknown part of India with our parents and spent glorious days frolicking and exploring a place. The memories of these visits today come in flashes and almost always revolve around particular incidents rather than the whole trip and the sightseeing. Like what I remember of Mussoorie, one of the most popular hill stations of India is not the hills or picturesque locations, but a toothbrush (a childhood treasure) bought from the town Mall that could be detached, kept in a box and joined together again to be used for brushing. I also faintly remember looking from a roadside telescope towards the peak of a hill that on keen observation looked just like a seated camel. It is only now that I know that the rock is still there and indeed known as camel rock, one of the hotspots of Mussoorie.
Mussoorie was discovered like many other hill stations of India, by British Army personnel named Captain Young in 1820. With the hues of blue and white decking the entire region, clouds, trees, mountains and waterfalls etched like a perfectly painted picture, the small hill town was fondly known to be called as the Queen of the hills and soon became a much sorted summer destination for British officials and later also for Indians. The town was home to Sir George Everest too, the first surveyor general of India and the man who gave his name to Mount Everest. His home, Everest House is still here and can be visited.
Mussoorie lies 35 Km north of Dehradun, the provisional capital of Uttaranchal and a gateway to the Garhwal Hills. Perched on a horse-shoe shaped ridge above the Doon valley, the life in this small town centres around the Mall, the main street decked with eating joints, shops, and interesting buildings, some of the Raj era. Many fascinating items are up for grabs in the array of small shops in the Mall but what is a real bargain here, is the varied range of woollens made by the Tibetan community living in the region and working wonders on yarns for centuries.
While street shopping has its charm, the real glory of Mussoorie can be felt when you take time to wander off towards the hills. There is a ropeway from the Mall to Gun Hill, a hill called so because of the gun that was perched on the peak and fired blank exactly at mid-day to help people adjust their watches. This pre-Independence practice has now ceased however the hill still succeeds to fire-up exhilarating emotions when on a clear day it blesses mankind with heavenly view of the greater Himalayan peaks of Nandadevi, Kedarnath and Badrinath.
Where there are the hills, there are also the waterfalls, and true enough Mussoorie has its share of gurgling water cascading down the twists and turns of the mountain paths and creating magical rhapsodies on the way. The refreshingly cold water of most of this falls, like the Kempty falls lying 12 km northwest of town, the Jharipani falls or the Bhatta falls on the Mussoorie-Deradun road, gives every visitor a chance to feel the magic of the mountains, soothing the body, mind and soul.
Mussoorie is best visited in summer months from April to June, but September till November is also a good time when the view of the Himalayan ranges is particularly awe-inspiring. Uttaranchal as a state is known to be blessed with natural beauty all around. For hikers, lovers of adventure sports, trekkers, and nature-lovers, the whole area is like a treasure trove waiting to be explored. Budget travellers and those who can travel the world with a rucksack are particularly in for a delight with the warm smiles and cool breezes giving you company all the way. Just keep your camera handy and breath-in every fraction of this picture perfect setting.