Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sunday Drive

Sunday afternoon we went exploring on the motor scooter. We headed to the west end of town, Library Bazaar. From there we took the road to the southwest, rather than the northwest that we do more often. (Northwest lies the Company Garden, Happy Valley, and Kempty Falls.)

We ended up going all the way around the hill and back to the north side, where it got narrower and steeper. We got off and walked up to the top of a hill. We could see in all directions, but it was too hazy to get good photos. The snows were peeking through the haze to the north. This picture taken from the road we walked up gives a little bit of the feeling of the steepness. A few times I wasn't sure we would make it, but Dan is an excellent driver and maintains good control (and the brakes are strong!).

On the way up we saw signs pointing to "Mussoorie's Highest Hotel," so we decided to find it. I don't know where they got the name "Dunsvirk," but that's what it is.

The lobby inside the entrance is quite elegant, with Tudor-style decoration.

A view of the hotel from the back side where the nice, large garden is located. The hotel rooms were nice and you had a choice of Doon or mountain views. The tariff ranged from about $60 per room per night to about $90 with meals included. Good discounts are available off season. I don't think anyone was staying there right now, but it will soon be very full.

Lilies blooming in the garden just in time for Easter.

From the garden we could see this elegant-looking electrical substation. (Rocks on roofs, as on the shed in the foreground, are quite common. I presume they keep the tin from blowing away in a storm.

From the front of the hotel we could see Mussoorie Modern School. Waverly Convent was also visible to the left of this photo.

And to the north side, we could see the Tibetan settlement in Happy Valley. We were there last October and climbed Flag Hill, the tiny peak to the left of center on this photo. The Dunsvirk is a lot higher.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lunch at Char Dukaan

On Saturday we decided to walk from Oakville to Char Dukaan for lunch. The path is relatively level, going across the top of our ridge from east to west. At intervals along the road there are rest shelters, called hawa ghars (wind houses). This one has been rebuilt with very nice stone work, a hallmark of Sanjay Narang's building style.

We passed Kellogg Church on the right. On the left is Ellengowan, followed by an old house with
these lovely wisteria flowers growing up the side. I don't know its name; its face onto the road is pretty stark.

Once at Char Dukaan, we had our bun omelets at Tip Top. Anil's is the other chai shop, but it was very busy.

On the way home, we stopped in to see the renovated Saint Paul's Church. The windows are beautiful and it was decorated with palms for Palm Sunday, the next day.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Walking to School

Uploads of photos were impossibly slow yesterday, so I'm posting on Saturday to make it up. Because most people walk to most places around here, the paths and roads we use are of primary importance. There are many mountain trails criss-crossing the hillside. But today I am focusing on the more finished ones.

Above Oakville the road has been paved with cement, partly with the common horizontally grooved type and partly with cement paving stones. The ones there are reused from somewhere; some of them have paint markings still showing on them. All of these are one narrow lane in width.

Walking down to Tehri Road from Oakville the path has been widened and partially paved to be passable by a jeep or motorcycle. It’s pretty steep in places, and some of the switchbacks are too sharp to make a full turn, but it is passable. This dog is often in the area; I'm not sure who he belongs to, but he is friendly.

Switchback; path to right leads to Suncliff, where some Woodstock staff live.

At the bottom of the path, Tehri Road comes into view. Straight ahead goes to the Hanifl Center and on east to Tehri. I take a very sharp right and head on to school.

Tehri Road has been paved with asphalt/macadam. It is mostly very good now, about one-and-a-half lanes wide, with yellow edge strips where they haven’t worn off. Notice the pukka railings along the side. It's a very long drop down in many places.

At some of the sharp curves near the school, mirrors have been posted so drivers can see if there is another vehicle approaching the curve from the other side. A toot on the horn is expected by both drivers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It was Wednesday night and time for us to head into the bazaar for our dinner. We usually have soup and cheese sandwiches at home, but like to head out occasionally, too.

I think I mentioned before that we are glad to have a motor scooter available. It is a long walk into the bazaar from Oakville, more than I am willing to do in the evening.

This time we ate at Golden Restaurant, right by the Clock Tower in Landour. The Clock Tower is being renovated and is surrounded by scaffolding. While we were eating, men were carrying in sections of corrugated metal, about 3x8 feet. I’m not sure if they were for the roof or for something else inside.

Ram Chander’s general store has moved across the street from its long-time location. It has been renovated and is clean and bright. The manager told us the old location will soon be the Nainital Bank.

Golden is a decent Indian restaurant. We started with paneer pakoras (a favorite appetizer). Dan had Dry Mutton Curry, a specialty he remembers fondly from the old Kwality Restaurant in Dehra Dun. This was nearly as good. We also had Gobhi Mutter (cauliflower and peas) and tandoori roti. Very delicious!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sunday Afternoon

It was nice to hang around the house on Sunday afternoon, not doing much of anything. Dan went off on the scooter with a friend and his motorcycle to give rides to two children of another staff member. The boys had never been on a motorbike and were thrilled. They took them out to Suokholi, about 10 kilometers to the east.

Every day the cows check out the area around our house; we must be on their regular route. I heard their bells jingling on Sunday afternoon so I went out with my camera. They will brave almost any path, or even a stairway, to find their favorite food. The stairs go up from our front yard to the Oakville Lodge, a fairly new duplex right above our house.

Monday, March 22, 2010


The 84-year-old Hostel has been completely rebuilt, with the generous help of Sanjay Narang ’81. The project was managed by his own contractors and completed in a record time of ten months. The updated building made generous use of the old building, as wood and other materials were salvaged and reused. Everything is upgraded and modern, with new furniture made of sheesham and sal wood, local trees with long-lasting strong wood.

There is a 25-meter heated swimming pool facing the Doon. The former swimming pool area was incorporated into the new building. It is all amazing and beautiful.

We celebrated with a dedication on Friday afternoon. Special guests were Ken and Regina Saum, who were Hostel supervisors in the 1970s when we were on staff and when Sanjay was a student. It was good to reconnect with these old friends and their adult children who accompanied them. A very special moment was when Sanjay was presented with an honorary diploma. One of his regrets in life was having to leave Woodstock before graduation in 1981. A very nice tea was served following the dedication ceremony.

Left to right: Sanjay Narang '81, Ken Saum, Thomas Chandy (Chair, WS Board), David Laurenson (Principal)

Saturday evening a fancy dinner and dance were held at the Hostel. The dinner was quite amazing, from multiple tandoor specialties to curries to South Indian to burgers and fries. Desserts were mostly Indian along with a thick dark chocolate mousse. It was a long walk back to Oakville, but needed after that banquet!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


When we arrived Monday, we were assigned to a duplex at Oakville, called the Terrace. The school told us that next week we could move to the guest room we occupied last spring, right in the Quad. However, we decided we’d prefer to stay at Oakville. So Tuesday afternoon we hired a taxi and hauled our stored luggage up to the house. We have gradually accumulated a few household goods and some clothes that we leave here between visits.

The Oakville estate was formerly the property of the United Church of Canada. About 30 years ago, the Alter family acquired the main property. The school has two duplex units there where staff are housed. One of the buildings burned down a few years ago and a lovely new duplex was built on the original foundation. Ours is the older one, shown below. (We are on the right side, which gets very little sun.)

Looking eastward from our front yard (where cows enjoy browsing) we can see the big old Oakville main house across the now-defunct tennis courts. Forty years ago Dan used to play tennis up there on Sunday afternoons.

It's a 20-minute walk to school from Oakville, all downhill. The return takes a bit longer, but it is a pleasant walk along Tehri Road and up a Jeepable path. I haven't taken the "Eyebrow" path yet; I must do that soon!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


The five words you don’t want to hear when you arrive at the KLM counter at O’Hare: “Your flight has been cancelled.” Happily, the next words were “We’ve rebooked you on the American flight nonstop to Delhi.” So we had a few extra hours to kill in the airport. The first thing to do after checking our bags was to contact our friends in Amsterdam who were planning to meet us for a cup of coffee early on Thursday morning and the second was our Delhi hotel that was sending a car to meet us at the airport. Thankfully, both emails went through (even though the internet kiosk we used was clumsy, slow, and in direct sunlight). The flight was uneventful, if long at 15 hours.

It is always nice to come through customs and see our names held up on a sign, knowing that we have a ride to our hotel. A prepaid taxi is fine, too, but sometimes they have trouble finding their way in the warren that is Karol Bagh.

We were in our beds in the Swati Hotel by midnight, much better than arriving at the airport at 1:00 AM, as our original flight would have. We are always glad to stay at the Swati; they know us now and give us a room upgrade if they can. We spent three days in Delhi getting over jet lag, visiting with Anju and Sandeep, and touring the Akshardam Temple.

Monday morning we left early for the New Delhi train station and the Shatabdi train to Dehra Dun. We decided to splurge and travel in the “Executive” chair car this time. It was nice: four seats across instead of five; tea served in china cups, not plastic; and corn flakes (with hot milk) before the omelet/bread. And plenty of room for our luggage.

During Sunday night we heard a lot of noise outside our hotel. When we came down to leave at 6:00, there was an enormous ditch right up to the hotel entrance. We had to go out the restaurant door, sidle to the right, and get down a very narrow set of steel steps. I found out I couldn’t do it with my backpack on and a handbag! In the photo, you can see Dan in the white hat. The man on the right is standing near the top of the steps.