Delhi to Sursingdhar: Outdoor lessons
If the proliferation of books and blogs about the outdoors being a good classroom for children is anything to go by, then we had chanced upon the ideal destination for our four-year-old. Besides, the stifling force of summer was upon us, and my husband and I could do with a three-day break in the hills.
Less than 100km ahead of Haridwar, nestled amid the majestic peaks of the Garhwal Himalayas, is a slice of paradise called Sursingdhar. This small town in Uttarakhand offers an idyllic setting and a profusion of opportunities to orient young children to outdoor adventures.
We left the woefully traffic-clogged roads of the holy city for valleys cloaked in green, winding roads clinging to cliff-sides and a cheerful blue sky. We had booked a room at the Himalayan Eco Lodges & Camps, propped at the edge of a valley, with stunning views of peaks like Nanda Devi and the emerald water of Tehri lake in the distance.
We reached Sursingdhar just in time for lunch, which was a scrumptious fare of steaming hot gehat dal (horse-gram pulse), munduwa roti (chapatis made from a local ragi-like cereal), jhangora ki kheer (a dessert made with barnyard millet and milk) and other Garhwali dishes (chicken curry, mooli thechwa or crushed radish). It was a clear day and we looked in wonder at the snow-topped Nanda Devi peak, the second highest in the Indian Himalayas, in front of us.
After the mandatory siesta to recover from the journey, it was time for rhododendron juice and hot fritters before we set out for a short hike around the property. A guide from the lodge accompanied us. We walked along the dirt path lined with pine trees and stopped for riveting views of the Tehri-Garhwal valley.
At night, we had dinner around the bonfire with other guests at the lodge, a welcome contrast to the sedate “dining room” meal at home. My daughter was helping out, collecting pint-sized sticks to feed the bonfire.
The next day, after an 8am breakfast, we opted for a drive to Dhanaulti (40km), with a stop at Kanatal (25km from the lodge) on the way back. A canopy of thick forests and striking views of tree-carpeted hillsides kept us company. At Dhanaulti, we took the easy walking trails of the Eco Park—an initiative of the Uttarakhand forest department—pointing out the pines, oaks and rhododendrons to our daughter.
We still had energy left for a short but steep 2km trek on a paved path to the ancient Surkanda Devi temple in Kanatal. I was surprised at my daughter’s energy levels; in Delhi, she has to be prodded to even pick up her toys. At the temple, a 360-degree view of the valley, in the embrace of snow-capped Himalayan peaks, awaited us.
Back at the lodge, the rope-activities area had our daughter curious. The in-house expert helped her try on the gear—a safety helmet and gloves. As the older children slithered across the ropes between two rock escarpments, she cheered them on. It may be my imagination but I saw a future team leader hard at work.
As the night sky filled with stars, we gathered by the bonfire again; our daughter confidently deposited her stack of wood-fire sticks as contribution—she had become a seasoned bonfire assistant. And we were quite sure that we would be bringing her again to this free and unstructured classroom.
Weekend Vacations offers suggestions on getaways that allow for short breaks from metros. The author tweets from @adicrazy.