Ok. Crank’s Ridge it’s a weird name for a place in Uttarakhand. Or so I thought before I chanced upon a Wiki article a few years ago about a trippy place in the hills of Kumaon in our own UK, aka Uttarkhand, aka Uttaranchal. After that, I forgot about the place for some while before chance allowed me to make a quick escape over one hot April weekend in Delhi.
Two of my friends gave me company on this trip; one of them had flown down from Bombay. For a weekend trip, that’s how desperate times get for us to go for such a short trip, even if meant a relief of only a few days. We were secretly convincing ourselves to make a documentary about the place so famous for so many years since the 1960s. We never made the movie (why is a long story, don’t ask), but we did manage to have an excellent time.
Once my friend from Bombay was in town, we got on the famous Ranikhet Express to Kathogodam, a small and last railway station, after which one has to go through a 3-4 hour drive to Almora in a bus/taxi. The taxi guys usually charge 200-300 INR per person. The bus might be cheaper but never tried it. The ride is beautiful, and one gets excellent views of the Kumaon Mountains all the way. Once in Almora, you’ll have to take another taxi/bus to travel further to Kasardevi or Kalimath, the quaint villages, the hills around which are famously called Cranks Ridge. One can drive down from Delhi/Dehradun as well, depending on what kind of time you have and what trip you are looking for at the time.
There are quite a few homestays and guesthouses on both sides of the road from Kalimath to Binsar. Mohan’s and Dolma’s Guesthouse are quite good. Dolma’s is cheap accommodation but nice and clean. Mohan’s got more experience centred, where you got full glass windows in your rooms and a fireplace with friendly room service. It is more a resort kind of thing, whereas Dolma’s is a charming and clean guest house run by peaceful Tibetan folks. If one wants to feel the local style of living, there are quite a few homestays run by locals as well. They usually prefer backpackers who’d stay for a more extended amount of time, as that means a continuous income, but they will let out a room for a few days.
We stayed at Dolma’s and enjoyed all the Tibetan food they served. There is a Tibetan monastery around the corner. One can go to the Kasardevi temple as well, which is also nearby from Dolmas. However, one will have to climb around 100 steps to go to the temple. You can climb further 50 steps or so to the Shiva temple at the top of the hillock to view the sun setting on Almora city. You can spend 3-4 days soaking in the good old vibes and breathing the fresh mountain air. If you are the restless type who needs to go out somewhere and see many places, then you can drive to the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, which is around 35kms from Kalimath, or you can go to Jageshwar to see the old and rustic Shiva temples dating back to 9th-13th century A.D. quite a site they are. This temple town is near a dense Deodar forest with beautiful, large, and ancient trees keeping guard of Shiva’s adobe.
We clicked many pictures (see above), attempted to shoot the documentary, and pig out in Mohan’s café. It has become famous now and expensive as well, but the service and food are incredible. Documentary movie notwithstanding, we managed to have one hell of a time, which all 3 of us needed at the time. I have gone to Crank’s Ridge more than 3-4 times since, and every time I have felt the need to stay more. A lot has changed since my first trip, some of it has made it more commercialized, and some have made it more accessible. Baba’s café up the road after Mohan’s is an excellent addition. It is run by Baba, who is a warm and affectionate fellow married to a German woman and has a beautiful daughter. It’s almost like you are in their house sitting in the kitchen, chit-chatting, and drinking a piping hot ginger lemon tea.
Anyways you will have your trip once you are here. Supposedly many famous people had come here as part of the hippy trail back in the 1960s when the counterculture movement was at its peak. Swami Vivekanand opened up an Ashram in these hills after he travelled to the west. Read this to know more about the trippy nature of this place! And here are some details which can be useful:
Binsar Road, Kasardevi, Almora -263601
Phone: +91 5962 251118
Mob: +91 94120 44781, 9758543008
Mohan’s Binsar RetreatKasar Devi-Binsar Road
Phone: 91 – 5962 – 251215, 251060
Mob: +91 – 9412162816
Train Name: Ranikhet-express
Train No: 15013
Starts from Old Delhi junction @ 22:30 daily and arrives at 5.30 am at Kathgodam station.