A two-day stay in the middle of nowhere
Sattal is a beautiful summer vacation spot in the foothills of the Himalayas. Situated about 20 kilometers from the more famous Nainital, Sattal refers to the group of seven interconnected freshwater lakes that make up the region. Sattal has a number of picnic areas for the out-of-town tourists, many of which offer boat rides and fishing expeditions into the lakes. However, what made this trip of ours different was the hidden gem among the lakes - the Getaway Jungle Camp.
We chose the Dussehra holidays of 2004 as the time for our trip to the camp - heading out from Delhi early on the 21st of October and returning late on the 23rd. Sattal is around 300 kilometers from Delhi, which clocks in at about 7 hours by car. We headed out from Delhi at around 5am on the 23rd to reach one of the picnic locations at Sattal around noon.
|Sunrise on the way to Sattal|
It was around 1pm by the time collected all our backpacks, bid adieu to the curious gang of children that had gathered by our efforts to load the two boats and set across the lakes to a natural hidden cove on the other side. In addition to our luggage, what made our party strange to those watching us depart were the two large boxes we were taking with us. But more on that later.
|The entrance to the Camp|
|Tents at the Camp|
The boxes alluded to earlier contained a 20" reflective telescope, that belonged to an amateur astronomer in the group. By around 6pm that first evening, we were helping him set it up and then take turns watching the heavens unfold before our eyes - the planets, nebulae, and our dear old moon. We couldn't resist trying to stick a point-and-shoot camera to the eye-piece for a photograph, but other than the moon the rest of the celestial beings were not bright enough for a good exposure. The moon however was most obliging.
Lucky for us, that didn't deter the setting up of the camp. Though we were warned not to go to use the facilities at night by ourselves. Just in case the old woman showed up, we were told, and more importantly due to the ever-present risk of losing one's way without lights or guides of any kind in the absolute darkness. There was something about the place and the darkness - everyone followed the suggestion.
The next morning we woke up to misty dawn, which quickly turned to bright sunshine. After a hearty breakfast, we headed out on a trek along trails with a local guide. Of course what we call trek along trails is an everyday thoroughfare for the locals, who have to take it many times a day for getting supplies and attending to their business. It was funny to see us huffing and puffing along, while a woman with her child and a bundle of firewood on her head ambled past us with no sign of discomfort. Nevertheless, there is nothing to beat the cheery effect of the crisp cool morning air on winded campers. The sights made up for everything else. The lush green pines on the slopes with the sparkling water of the seven lakes below made all the huffing and puffing worth it.
|Sattal during the morning trek|
The third day dawned and it was time to head back. We spent the morning playing games in the large open field. Then we packed and after lunch, headed out of the camp at around 1:30 pm. This time the trek was downhill, and other than the odd stumble was unremarkable. Pretty soon we were taking the boat back to the bustle of the picnic spot on the other side of the lake to find our car and head back to Delhi. Starting off around 2, ensured that we were in the outskirts of Delhi for dinner and in the cozy warmth of our beds before too long.