Adventure Park, Valley of Tikkar, Morni hills

The Adventure Park at Morni was set up at a cost of Rs. 1 Crore by the Haryana Tourism Department in the Valley of Tikkar and was inaugurated in October 2004 by the then Chief Minister of Haryana. The park was set up on the heavily wooded hill that separates the twin lakes of Tikkar.

Hill separating the twin lakes of Tikkar valley

Hill separating the twin lakes of Tikkar valley

The architecture and layout was conceived by the students of the College of Architecture and the College of Art at Chandigarh. The park was part of the larger game-plan to introduce outdoor activities and adventure sports to Morni hills. The park offered a series of rope obstacles such as the spider’s web, river crossing, Tarzan’s swing, the Burma Bridge etc. A rock-climbing wall with grips for practicing climbing and a short vertical drop for rappelling were the other outdoor activities. Kayaking and angling were to be introduced in the adjoining Tikkar tal. Open-air lakeside camping with evening bonfires was planned. There were plans to introduce biking and para-sailing as well. It was hoped that the adventure activities would attract groups from large corporates and educational institutions in the region and would provide the much needed fillip to the tourism potential of the picturesque hills of Morni.

Even though the plan looked good on the drawing board, yet it did not quite take off as intended. The students gave a curious flavour to the architecture of the park that was not consistent with the general theme of adventure. The park thus came up as a curious mix of a kiddie amusement park (complete with a House of Horror with fibre glass mummies) and an outdoor activity area that was a virtual rip-off from a regular commando-training obstacle course. The park, however, initially did manage an impressive footfall until the fixtures fell into a state of disrepair like most Government-run initiatives.

The Haryana Tourism Department has, however, recently handed over the facility for operation and maintenance to a Chandigarh-based adventure enthusiast and entrepreneur and it is hoped that the park and its visitors will finally get a taste of some real adventure activity. The new outfit has effected repairs of the rope obstacles and is in the process of planning new activities like nature walks and biking in the area.

The Tramp visited the park recently to review the progress. One enters the park through an arched gateway and reaches the ‘Toadstool’ reception building that seems to have been lifted right out of Enid Blyton’s, Adventures of Noddy.

Arched-Gateway to the Adventure Park

Arched-Gateway to the Adventure Park

Toadstool entry to the Park

Toadstool entry to the Park

The inaugural board has been prepared in relief and is almost as astounding as the original name of the park – ‘Hosh & Josh, Hills n Thrills, Adventure Park!!’

The curious inaugural board

The curious inaugural board

One then enters the beautiful, lush green interiors of the park. There are a number of grassed terraces that house the numerous rope obstacles and the swings.

Unusual swings at the park

Unusual swings at the park

Rope obstacles

Rope obstacles

Burma Bridge

Burma Bridge

Spider's web

Spider’s web

A quaint hut-shaped structure houses the cafeteria that is operated by the adjoining Lake-side Cafe.

Cafeteria, Adventure Camp

Cafeteria, Adventure Park

The flowers of the park deserve a special mention. The dainty pink rain-lilies and yellow creeping daisies, the deep red hibiscus and the flaming firecrackers sprinkle colour all over the lush-green environs and make the atmosphere cheerful and picnic-y.

Rain Lilies at Adventure Park, Morni

Rain Lilies at Adventure Park, Morni

Flowers at Adventure Park Morni

Creeping Daisies at Adventure Park Morni

Hibiscus flowers at Adventure Park Morni

Hibiscus flowers at Adventure Park Morni

Fire crackers at the Adventure Park

Fire crackers at the Adventure Park

The park offers numerous pathways running in different directions and cement structures that can be ‘explored’ by the children within the safety of a fenced campus.

The tortoise

The tortoise

Boat slide

Boat slide

The ‘bhool-bhulaiyan’ (maze) and the haunted house are the other attractions for the kids.

Bhool bhulaiya- The Maze

Bhool bhulaiya- The Maze

House of Horror, Adventure Park, Tikkar tal, Morni hills

House of Horror, Adventure Park, Tikkar tal, Morni hills

An artistic ‘Machan’ has been built atop the hill for viewing the surrounding landscape and the hills.

Machaan at Adventure Park, Morni

Machaan at Adventure Park, Morni

Around the Park:

A short walk takes one to the impressive water-fall off the cliff at Thalapur.

Waterfall over Thalapur cliff, Morni hills

Waterfall over Thalapur cliff, Morni hills

 

Boating facility is available at the Tikkar tal lake which also sports an impressive fountain.

Tikkar tal from Thalapur

Tikkar tal from Thalapur

Fountain at Tikkar tal

Fountain at Tikkar tal

P.S. A local from Thalapur tried his level best to convince the tramp that the demon-head design of the House of Horrors has been borrowed from the original inhabitants of the Tikkar Valley who perished in a catastrophic earthquake! Of course this happened much before the Pandav princes made their appearance at the Lake of Death!!

Nature Camp Thapli

The Haryana Forest Department has created an impressive ‘Nature Camp’ on a hill side at Thapli. The camp overlooks the floodplains of Ghaggar River and the forested Pinjor dun and Himachal hills to the north. To reach the camp one must turn right at the T-intersection on the Shimla highway just beyond the Toll Plaza. One then takes the road to Burj, Ambawallah, Jallah and Thapli, a distance of about 10 KM. The road is excellent till Jallah and narrows down thereafter.

 

Route to Nature Camp Thapli

Route to Nature Camp Thapli

The camp has a nursery of the Haryana Forest Department. There are numerous eco-huts, French/Swiss-style tents erected on elevated platforms with a small-covered sitting area to the front. Each hut is tucked away behind a patch of greenery for privacy. The common dining area is an impressive wooden-structure with a thatched roof.A freshly constructed reception building has been added to the camp. The camp is enclosed within a fairly high wire-mesh fence. The camp was built at an initial cost of Rs. 2.2 Crores but could not be inaugurated due to some issues with eco-clearances. The ‘Eco-Tourism Society of Haryana’ under the Haryana Forest Department has recently invited bids for operations, maintenance and catering at the camp site. The society plans to utilize the camp for educating visitors on environmental issues by engaging them with nature walks and treks, interactions with local communities and adventure sports.

Entrance Gate, Nature Camp Thapli

Entrance Gate, Nature Camp Thapli

Reception building, Nature Camp Thapli

Reception building, Nature Camp Thapli

Dining area with thatched roof (Gol Ghar), Nature Camp Thapli

Dining area with thatched roof (Gol Ghar), Nature Camp Thapli

Eco-hut, French style tent at Nature Camp Thapli

Eco-hut, French style tent at Nature Camp Thapli

Quaint wooden staircase to the elevated platform of a eco-hut, Nature Camp Thapli

Quaint wooden staircase to the elevated platform of a eco-hut, Nature Camp Thapli

The scenic setting of the Nature Camp can be best made out from the view-point high up on the other side of Ghaggar River.

Thapli,view from across River Ghaggar

Thapli,view from across River Ghaggar

While the Eco-Society is making modest beginnings by organizing field trips of schoolchildren yet they need to join hands with an established player like INME to best utilize the fantastic infrastructure created by the Government.

 

Resorts of Morni: Lakeside Cafe

As one cautiously descends the steep hill road from Morni to the twin tals (lakes) in the ‘Valley of  Tikkar’, one first reaches the smaller of the two lakes that has been named ‘Badah’  (large) tal, for some curious reason. The valley as seen from atop the Gajan hill to its north resembles a large bowl, with the green meadows and the sparkling lakes surrounded by hills on all sides. The tals (lakes) are fed by the run-off from the surrounding hills and remain full to the brim for most part of the year. The lakes overflow during the rains and the water spills over into a choe that cuts through the hills and falls sharply to the south to join the tempestuous Dangri nadi. As per folklore, the twin lakes are connected by an underground channel that keeps the water level the same in the sister lakes.
A small, unpretentious, cottage hotel has recently come up by the southern bank of the Badah tal. The name ‘Lakeside Cafe’ not only makes a direct reference to the hotel’s USP, its wonderful location, but is also suited to its no-frills but tasteful character. The cafe area consists of a spacious tiled hall with large glass windows facing the lakeside. A staircase leads to the brick-paved roof-top terrace with a clear unbroken view of the lake and the hills beyond. The owner has added a series of broad, grass covered stepped-terraces overlooking the lake. These lakeside terraces are ideal for lounging on your lavish deck chair under the brightly-coloured sun umbrella and for doing all that idle reading that you somehow could not find time for. You could even smuggle in your angling rod and risk catching a catla or a mrigal. It’s a ‘risk’ because the fishing rights are auctioned every five years to a fishing contractor and no angling licences are given out by the fisheries department. But then the distant contractor is unlikely to grudge you a fish or two, if one were to presume for argument’s sake that you could actually manage to land one! The cafe is kept spick-and-span by the enthusiastic Garhwali cook-cum-caretaker who is all too keen to please. The vegetables are farm fresh, grown on an adjoining field. The room tariffs are affordable and there is ample space for parking. On the whole, the place is modest but the dream that inspires it is definitely beautiful.
As you lean across the terrace railings to peer at the scenery beyond, the romantic in you can’t help but wish that if only the lake waters were a clear Alpine blue. If only that backdrop was of  dense conifer forests with distant alpine meadows and snow-capped peaks. If only the cows that grazed the grassy banks were the healthy ‘Swiss Browns’ with the music of their traditional Treicheln bells filling the  fragrant mountain air. If only one were to be received by that charming Swiss hostess in her traditional embroidered skirt and blouse in gay floral colours. If only this were that quaint lakeside resort in the Bernese Oberland, by the bank of the Brienz! Alas!!  The waters are the turbid Shivalik brown. The red-clay hills are sparsely wooded. The ‘pahari’ cows are of an emaciated and nondescript variety. The caretaker is the everyday Garhwali that you generally encounter at such-like garden cafes on lakes like the Badah tal! But don’t loose heart. With a little imagination you will not be disappointed still!
The area has the rugged charm of the Shivaliks. The tal’s waters are muddy but as per tradition this is the mythical ‘Lake of Death’ where the Pandav prince Yudhistra successfully answered the tricky questions of the Yaksha to save his brothers from certain death. And before you decide to dismiss the tale as local yarn, you are advised to take a walk to the lakeside Thakur-dwar temple. The verandah of this modest, white-washed shrine is adorned by 1000 year old Pratihara sculptures that were excavated at the site sometime in the 70s. The forests around may lack the majesty of the Alpine conifers yet they reveal a diversity that takes a trained botanist to comprehend.You could ignore the cows and focus on the amazingly rich bird life of Morni. The Blue-Magpies, the White-throated Kingfishers, the White-capped River Redstarts, the Flamebacks and the Paradise birds. An early riser may be rewarded with a Sambar Stag grazing in the cafe’s garden or a Barking deer scampering up the far slope with its quaint upright white tail. And if you are the beloved of the Gods, you may actually get a chance to spot a leopard in the wild.

Lakeside Cafe from Thalapur hill, Morni hills

Lakeside Cafe from Thalapur hill, Morni hills

View from the rooftop terrace of the Lakeside Cafe, Morni hills

View from the rooftop terrace of the Lakeside Cafe, Morni hills

Lakeside Cafe, Valley of Tikkar, Morni hills

Lakeside Cafe, Valley of Tikkar, Morni hills

Resorts of Morni: Pine Resort

Nestled in the heart of Morni’s only real pine belt is this two-storey green-coloured road-side dhaba that overlooks the terraced fields and the meandering ghaggar and the road to Barisher. The heavy shade of the whistling pines and the moss covered rocks give one the feel of being in the higher hills of Himachal. The area remains cool even during peak summers unlike other parts of Morni that leads one to the realization that the profile of these lower Shivalik hills can be made to change if dense pockets of pines and deodars are created in the higher reaches. Pine Resort is located about a kilometre short of the turning for Barisher and some 5 KMS from Mountain quail, the Haryana Tourism Resort at Morni. The facilities are rather basic and tourists halt at this spot primarily to get the pine grove experience.

Phones: 9416953017, 9467530017, 9813754017, 9813491417

Pine Resort

Lal Munia, Forest Rest House, Morni

A quaint, red-roofed two-room guest house of the Forest Department with a large well maintained garden is one of the best places to stay in Morni. The interior-walls are paneled with polished plywood and the roof is covered with wooden tiles. Food is available on prior request. Two log huts have been recently added to the rear of the main building to increase accommodation. Bookings are, however, difficult to get for this idyllic resort of the Forest Department located at Haryana’s only hill station. It is named ‘Lal-Munia’ after the brightly coloured finch that is popular as a cage bird. The garden offers views of the meandering Ghaggar river, the Tipra hills and the Bursinghdeo Range to the north.

Phone: 01733-250126

Lal Munia, Forest Rest House, Morni

Log Huts, Lal Munia

Red Munia (Photo courtesy KS Bains)

Red Munia (Photo courtesy KS Bains)

Morni Hill Resorts: Mountain Quail

Mountain Quail– the Haryana tourism motel on the Morni ridge offers decent food and reasonably well maintained rooms. Its the most ‘respectable’halt over for the family crowd visiting the hills.The majestic Auracarias to the front give the motel class. The food is served on request on the garden tableslaid out in the garden to the rearwhich offers views of the meandering Ghaggar, the Tipra range,the Sarahan-Naina Tikkar ridge wall and the snow-capped Churdhar range that lies beyond. BSNL has located a cell tower that gives this motel its USP- excellent phone and data connectivity that is not available in most of the resorts in Morni hills. The resort is named after Mountai Quail, the quaint ground bird found scampering for cover in scrub and dense bushes with its distinctive top knot.

Phone – 01733-250166

Mountain Quail Resort, Morni Hills

Mountain Quail

View of Bursinghdeo Range and Sarahan from Mountain Quail

 

Morni Hill Resorts: Rock View

The road from Morni to Tikkar tal is a level drive for some 2 kilometres from the fort until one reaches the sharp bend around the Gajan ridge. The road then descends sharply against the face of the rocky-cliff and offers an awe-inspiring view of the sparkling lakes and the vast plains that stretch into the distant horizon. About half-a-kilometre from the bend a narrow dirt track meets the road on the right. The track runs parallel to the metalled road in the reverse direction for some distance. This is the forest track that leads to Rasoon, a hamlet under Bhoj Balag. The track continues further till Deora, another hamlet of Balag. About a hundred yards or so from the road, lies Rock View, a modest cottage-hotel.

The red and white cottage with its sloping roofs and garden terraces, looks breath-taking against the rocky backdrop of the Gajan cliff that rises sharply to form a natural vertical wall of rock. The lawn to the front of the hotel offers an unbroken view of the Bhim Tal. One can also see the meandering hill road leading to the picturesque valley below. The hotel ranks the heighest for this uniterrupted view of the beautiful terraced hills ensconcing the sparkling lakes, the green meadows and the vast plains beyond the ‘bowl’. As the sun sets beyond the Rasoon hill, the sky gets painted orange and the view can look spectacular in the rains when the golden rays filter through the wooly clouds. A short trek down the Deora track can lead one to another viewpoint that offers an unparalleled spectacle in fog months of December/January. One can see a thick white blanket of fog covering the numerous small valleys that are formed by the rolling hills as they fall to the plains to the South.It takes a while for the uninitiated to realize that its fog that one sees and not snow.

The budget hotel offers rooms starting at Rs. 700 for a night. The facilities are basic but neat. The clean, oil-free home-made food and warm hospitality sets the place apart from the other small resorts of Morni. The author likes to describe the place as ‘The Forest Guard’ as it seems to be guarding the pathway to the enchanted wood that lies beyond. The environmentally conscious owners have planted a number of fruit-bearing trees on the terraces. The forest track is lined with silver oaks till some distance from the hotel.

Rock-View

Rock view, a Cottage-Hotel

Snowfields of Morni

Sunset at Rock View, Rasoon, Morni

 

 

Morni Hill Resorts: Chandrawal Kunj

Chandrawal Kunj is one of the oldest resorts of Morni. It is also the greenest resort in the hills. It is located atop the chir-pine covered hill that overlooks Bhoj Jabial, about a kilometre from Morni along the Morni-Tikkar Tal road. The resort is built on leveled piece of land alongside a natural pond, with green hill-tops forming the backdrop to the South and East. The main cottage is painted in bright colours as are the four ‘huts’ (single room with sloping red roof). The flaming red poinsettias that have been planted along the boundary wall with the pond add colour and life to the resort. A large gazebo serves as the common dining area. The height is about 1200 metres and the thick cover of pines all around the resort makes it one of the coolest spots in summers. The owners have planted a wide variety of trees and flowery shrubs inside the resort.The deodars that are generally found at altitude greater than 1500 metres have been grown successfully inside the compound and promise to attain their majestic heights in another decade or so. The experiment with deodar needs to be replicated by the forest department as they definitely look more regal than the chir pine that takes equal time to grow.The resort is visited by a wide variety of birds and one can frequently spot the beautiful Red-billed Blue Magpie hunting for frogs at the pond adjacent to the resort.Food quality is decent but the rooms have a lower end, budget hotel feel.An ideal stop over for a trek or a drive to the tals.

The resort is named after ‘Chandrawal’, the first commercially successful Haryanvi film that was released in 1984 and starred the proprietor of this resort in the lead role. She  also produced the film and has recently started the filming of a sequel.

Chandrawal-Kunj

 

Chandrawal Huts

 

The Gazebo

Red-billed-Blue-Magpie-at-Chandrawal-pond

 

 

 

Morni Hill Resorts: Green Hills Resort

The resort started with a couple of modest thatched roof cement huts but a concrete building has been added to it. It is located at Bhuri, some 3 Km from the Thapli-Jallah turn while driving towards Morni from Mandana side. A pine grove covers the hill to the rear and one has a good view of the Tipra hills that lie beyond the ghaggar.

Green Hills Resort, Bhuri, Morni