Ruskin Bond was an integral part of my childhood and I grew up reading about Dehradun and Mussoorie. So, when I heard that it was snowing around Mussorie, I jumped at the idea of visiting! Most people who hate the gloomy foggy (smoggy) Delhi winters might be appalled at the idea of going to an even colder place in December, but in Mussoorie the skies are clear. The cold air coupled with bright sunshine is incredibly refreshing!
Our route: Delhi- Ghaziabad- Meerut- Muzzafarnagar- Roorkee- Dehradun- Mussoorie
Its a long journey by road (about 7 hours) so its good to do this over a long weekend. Its best to start early in the morning so as to be able to skip the horrid traffic in Ghaziabad. The road up to Muzzafarnagar is excellent if you take the Meerut and Muzzafarnagar bypasses. It is only after Muzzafarnagar that the two lane state highway, which tries your patience, begins. Weirdly enough, the roads in Uttar Pradesh are better than the roads in Uttarakhand. Its good to have someone who is comfortable with driving in the hills after Dehradun as the climb is steep and there are many hairpin bends. However, unlike the climb to Lansdowne, the road is pretty wide and there is a lot of traffic.
Things to Do:
1. Visit Dhanaulti: Mussoorie is crowded and filled with tourists, so Dhanaulti which is just 24 km ahead is where you’d really get the peace and quiet of a hill station. Here, you can play in the snow while taking in some spectacular views. The drive to Dhanaulti is beautiful but can be treacherous because there is ice on the roads. Its best to drive slowly and carefully so that the tires do not skid.
2. Explore Landour: Landour is a cantonment town which is contiguous with Mussourie and counts Ruskin Bond and Tom Alter among its famous residents. One can walk up to Landour from Mussoorie (a rather steep climb from the clock tower) and explore. Wander around Castle Hill (there is a Survey of India office here), eat in Clock Tower Cafe (more about this place below), buy some peanut butter (Landour was one of the first places in India where peanut butter was produced commercially) and hang out at Char Dukaan.
3. Walk around Mall Road: You can’t go to Mussoorie and avoid Mall Road. Its filled with tourists, curio shops, other shops selling mitts and mufflers; and places to eat. It is quaint (don’t miss the post office building and the State Bank Building) and has incredible views of the surrounding hills and Dehradun. The lights of Dehra twinkle up at Musssorie after sunset and are quite mesmerising.
4. Visit Cambridge Book Store: Though this is on Mall Road, it gets a special mention because I love Ruskin Bond’s books. He frequents the book store and is to be found there each Saturday from 4 pm to 6 pm. Unfortunately, I did not manage to meet him but if you are a Ruskin Bond fan who is in Mussoorie over the weekend, head to Cambridge Book Store at 4 pm. It’d be really nice if you could get me an autographed book while you’re there!
5. The Cable Car: There is a ropeway in Mussoorie. However, I’m not in a position to recommend it to anyone because I never tried it out. I’ve been in cable cars before and none of them had as many people crammed in at the same time. However, you could always take a leap of faith, I’m sure the view will be worth it!
6. Kempty Falls: If you are looking for unspoiled natural beauty, this is not your kind of place. Situated about 15 km from Mussoorie, the place is described aptly by wikipedia as a tourist trap. Its not like I regret having visited but, in hindsight, my time would have been better spent exploring Landour and Mussoorie! I could, for instance, have visited the old library in Mussoorie which looked much more interesting!
Eating in Mussoorie:
I enjoyed the food in Mussoorie so much that I feel like dedicating an entire post to it. However, since this article would be rather incomplete without my food experiences, I’ll put them down here.
1. Clock Tower Cafe, Landour: We had dinner here on our first night in Mussoorie and loved it so much that we went back the next day despite the fact that we had a long list of places to try! The food, the ambience and the portion sizes are all excellent. If this place were in Delhi, I’d be here all the time. I’d definitely recommend the Spaghetti Bolognaise, the All Salsiccia and the Caesar Salad with Apple Pie and Key Lime Pie for dessert. I’m sure the other dishes are also fantastic but we were simply too full to try them out.
2. Kalsang, Mall Road: For everyone who loves Tibetan, Thai and Chinese food, don’t miss the Devil Momos here!! Or the Tingmo with a variety of main course dishes. Try and order as much food as you can possibly stuff yourself with, you won’t regret it. However, do remember the fact that the portion sizes are again quite large!
3. The Soup walla, Kulri, Mall Road: Mussoorie was cold. Cold enough to numb my fingers through woollen gloves. So, when we saw the soup walla on Mall Road we all wanted some. I don’t know if it was the cold, but I’ve never enjoyed soup anywhere as much. He sells 3 varieties of soup: tomato, vegetable sweet corn and chicken sweet corn all for rupees 20 each! You can also ask for a complimentary topping of bread croutons. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I will say it really warmed the soul.
4. The Hot Milk from Mussoorie Sweets: I hate drinking milk so much that I have feigned lactose intolerance several times in the past. But, as I said earlier, Mussoorie was incredibly cold and I needed a constant supply of hot fluids. So, I grudgingly sampled the milk and, IT WAS DIVINE. Boiled slowly with almonds, raisins, sugar and nutmeg, it is served in “kulhads” (earthenware pots) and is so delicious I’m extremely grateful to the cold that forced me to try it!
5. Chick Chocolate, Mall Road: As far as decor goes, this is the Big Chill of Mussoorie. However, the comparison only extends as far as the decor because while I LOVE the food at Big Chill (and the desserts!), I was sorely disappointed by the food at Chick Chocolate. The Chocolate fudge cake and the pasta were both disappointing and; though the chocolate momos were good, they were terribly overpriced. So, on the whole, if you want to eat that kind of food, walk up to Landour and eat at the Clock Tower Cafe. In case you’d rather head to warmer places, chocolate momos are also available at Anju Coco on Havelock Island.
Other Useful Tips:
1. Keep your balcony doors closed: I’d read a rather funny hotel review on trip advisor once and laughed at it. It said “I left my balcony door open and a monkey came in and stole my food.” Like that would ever happen to anyone! So, of course I left my balcony door open… the view was fantastic! But when I looked out, I saw a rather large monkey perched on the door. It snarled at me and then came inside and stole a large tetra pack of Real Litchi Juice. I must say that the monkey had really bad taste, it preferred the juice to leftovers from Kalsang. I’m not making any of this up. Anyway, I’m not laughing at that review anymore.
2. Don’t forget gloves and extra pairs of socks!
For more on my trips to Uttarakhand this year,