Fairies, Witches and Peanut Butter

Mussoorie offers itself as base camp for a place that throws up more surprises than you can think of.

mussoorie-landour
This photo, “Mussoorie Bazaar from Landour” @Flickr
from paulhami made available under a Share Alike, Attribution license

A small cantonment town contiguous with Mussoorie, Landour is snugly positioned 1500ft higher than its more popular counterpart and is hidden away in the Mussoorie Range. It enjoys cooler temperatures due to its slightly higher elevation and affords a striking view of the Himalayas. It is also several decibels more peaceful and significantly cleaner, and, due to a smaller population, it is probably one of the best weekend getaways you never heard off. Remarkably enough, it is thanks to a complete lack of commercial hotels in the area that Landour is still untouched by the plastic and filth of a booming and uncontrolled tourism industry.

Landour is matchless because of its reputation as a trekker’s paradise. It serves as a valuable origin point for some of the most adventurous and prolific treks around the Himalayas. The Nag Tibba (or Serpent Peak) is the highest peak in the area and is located to the north of Landour. A more adventurous trek is the heavily forested, quasi-surreal and aptly named Pari Tibba. ‘Infamous’ for the unusually frequent lightning strikes, the trek is devoid of human inhabitation primarily due to local superstitions about the place. Pari, unbeknownst to most, is not merely a synonym for fairies but also for witches in the local dialect.

The oldest building in all of Mussoorie was constructed in Landour, made by the man who discovered Mussoorie, Captain Young. The good Captain, presumed to be of Irish descent, went on to become the first commandant of the prestigious Gurkha Regiment of the Indian Army. The estate is now in a state of decay and disorder, with illegal residents and squatters being its primary tenants. But the estate does light up once in a year, during the festivities and celebrations of Losar, the Tibetan New Year.

Landour also has a strong American connect, with several missionaries having set up base in the region in the latter part of the 19th century. There are several exchange students and expatriates who visit Landour tracing their ancestry. However, Landour’s connect with America is strongest with all matters gastronomical. Thought they might be mere shadows of their illustrious past, the bakeries in Landour yet serve bread and cookies in the same traditional manner as they were a century ago. One of the first places where peanut butter was made commercially in India, Landour also serves some of the most delicious fruit preserves, pasta, home made pizza and cheese.

Landour is home to some of the most celebrated artists of our times as well. Some of them include Tom Alter, Victor Bannerjee and the lovable Ruskin Bond, whose house is just as quirky as the old man himself. Visit the town to indulge your sense of nostalgia, to gorge on the scrumptious fare and to stimulate your sense of adventure.

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