Although only 22 kms from Nanital, a popular hill station established by the British, Bhimtal (Bhim’s Lake) is not afflicted with the blatant commercialisation from which almost all the hill stations of yore suffer. The town surrounding the lake is named after Bhim, one of the five Pandava brothers of Mahabharata fame, who it is believed had spent time here when they were banished to fourteen years in wilderness (vanvas). A temple at the edge of the lake is dedicated to Bhim. An unhurried, placid pace of life and laid-back atmosphere makes Bhimtal an ideal retreat for those who wish to escape the noise of urban India.
After a pleasant 300 kms drive with a halt at Gajraula petrol pump for a very late lunch at its well-known dhaba, we (myself, wife Alka, daughter Pramiti and niece Shubhi) checked in at Neelesh Inn just in time to watch the breaking news of the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami. Happy that we were sitting hundreds of kilometres away at a height of 4500 feet and could not affect us, it was business as usual for us. Neelesh Inn sits on the banks of the lake. We had an exhilarating after dinner walk around the lake although the bitter cold chilled us to the bones. With two room heaters on and under a couple of heavy blankets over us, we shivered.
We spent the next two days in boating and trekking around Bhimtal including a trip to Sattal, a group of seven small lakes, 5 kms from Bhimtal, which merge during the monsoon to form one big lake.
On the third day, we drove to Nainital, had a dekko at the lake and drove on to Mukteshwar 50 kms away, a pleasing drive through lush green forests. The panoramic view of snow clad mountains was bewitching. We would have loved to stay the night at Mukteshwar but had not come prepared and returned to Bhimtal.
It was time to return home. We had a leisurely breakfast, said good bye to the birds in the mini aviary maintained by the Inn and left.