Acem Travels invites you to an inner and outer journey in the Himalayas INDIA 2020

Saturday, 31 October to Saturday, 14 November 2020

View of the highest mountains. Some peaks are almost 8000 meters above sea level.

Acem Travels arranges a 15-day trip to Northern India in November 2020. The program starts in New Delhi on Saturday, 31 October and ends in New Delhi on Saturday, 14 November.

The itinerary includes a one-week Acem Meditation retreat in the foothills of the Himalayas led by Are Holen, founder of Acem, and a five day round trip to wonderful places higher up in the mountains. Our journey goes through the Kumaon area in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. We wind up with three days in India's capital New Delhi.

The tour leader is Torbjørn Hobbel, an Acem Meditation initiator. Unless otherwise stated, he has taken the photos in this presentation.


Saturday, 31 October

Delhi is a fascinating mix of old and new.

On Saturday we gather at the hotel in New Delhi. Early Sunday morning we travel in good standard buses to the retreat place in the Himalayas.

Travel time is approx. 6 hours 30 minutes (298 km).


Sunday, 1 November to Saturday, 7 November

The retreat is organized at River Creek, in the village of Marchula just north of Jim Corbett National Park at the foot of the Himalayas. The place is 558m above sea level and located in a quiet, beautiful valley on the banks of the Ramganga River.
Acem's founder Are Holen is giving the talks at the retreat.

The program offers long meditations, in-depth guidance, lectures by Are Holen and discussions on meditation psychology, and meeting other meditators from different countries and cultures. We start early and get up early. The retreat rhythm follows the path of the sun.

The hotel amenities are very well suited for a pleasant and comfortable stay. We have the retreat site all to ourselves. The two-storey houses are secluded in a huge garden with a swimming pool. There are facilities such as a spa, massage, etc. on offer. We know from previous experience that the vegetarian food is very tasty and delicious.

Here it is good to meditate.
River Creek has a high standard. The basic price for the trip includes single rooms during the retreat. Photo: River Creek.
The dining room. Photo: Pradeep Samvedi
Acem has arranged meditation retreats at River Creek several times. This photo is from the fall of 2019. Photo: Pradeep Samvedi

You can walk along the rivers and in the hills and visit villages and local people. If you are lucky, you may see a lonely crocodile taking sunbath by the river.

A woman collects firewood for her home.
A festival in Marchula village.
Dancing girls from a local school.
A retreat is an opportunity to meditate a lot, but also to meet like-minded people.


Saturday, 7 November

The retreat ends Friday night, and early Saturday morning we travel towards Kausani in good, comfortable cars higher up in the mountains and visit some of Indian Himalaya's most spectacular places. We stay in modern hotels of a good standard.

Travel time to Kausani is approx. 4 hours 50 minutes (154 km).

We travel with good modern cars with good drivers.
On the Acem Travel's trip to the Himalayas in the fall of 2019, these were our drivers.

The first sightseeing stop on the road is hill station Ranikhet.

In the late 1800s, Queen Victoria was the Empress of India, and in 1869 the English established the headquarters of the Kumaon Regiment in Ranikhet. This regiment has a very heroic history and is the most decorated Indian military unit.

The English also went to Ranikhet to escape the summer heat of the Indian plains. Once during the British Raj, Ranikhet was even proposed as the summer capital of the British-Indian government instead of Shimla. Still, Ranikhet is strongly influenced by English colonial heritage.

First, we visit an old cemetery from the First World War. It is quite moving to see hundreds of very young soldiers' graves who all died in British service more than 100 years ago.

Commonwealth War Graves in Ranikhet.
"Burial mounds."

Then we drive through the Kumaon regiment's headquarters.

The English Church. Photo: Abhik Datta
From Ranikhet, the journey continues through beautiful, open countryside with centuries-old terraces for growing rice and wheat.
People in a mountain village market.

The destination of today's journey is Kausani.


Saturday, 7 November to Monday, 9 November

The Himalayas seen from the rooms of our hotel in Kausani. Three hundred kilometres of snow mountains. The most famous peak is Nanda Devi, 7,816 meters high.

Kausani is a small mountain village at an altitude of 1890 meters. We are staying two nights at Buransh Retreat. From each room, there is nothing but a wide-open plain between us and the mountains.

All our rooms have such a view.

Buransh is not a regular hotel. The name means rhododendron - the national flower of Uttarakhand. The place is run by Threesh Kapoor, the most famous photographer who for decades has immortalized nature, wildlife and people in the Himalayas.

Buransh in Kausani.

This is what Threesh Kapoor writes about his vision with Buransh:

I wished Uttarakhand had a center for performing arts, and once I got retired at the age of 62, I felt this fire still burning inside my heart to transform my dream into reality. With this focus and zeal I created an art center cum retreat in a remote village of Uttarakhand where artists from all over the world could come and practice their art, share and teach the locals and school children.

There are hundreds of different fruit trees and berries on the property. In addition, they cultivate tea as the English introduced 150 years ago. They also grow many of the organic vegetables used in their excellent cuisine.

The dining room. Views in all directions.

If you are in Kausani, you have to watch the sunrise. For us, it is just a question of looking out the window of our room.

At night, the lights from houses and cottages on the highland are flashing. From 6.30 am in the morning, the sun begins to rise and colour the mountains golden.

In Kausani we will also go hiking in nature, visit villages and get an insight into how the people of the mountains live. Threesh Kapoor will tell about his experiences and show us some of his pictures. There will also be performances with traditional dance and music from the mountains.

Traditional farming.
On the way to a hike in the mountains. From Acem Travel's tour fall 2019 tour.

Kausani is also known for Anashakti Ashram. Mahatma Gandhi lived here for a while in 1929 and wrote his famous comments on the Bhagavad Gita. The place is located at the very top of a mountain with a view towards Tibet and the lowlands. We will watch the sunset from here.

Gandhi ashram.
Sunset as seen from Gandhi Ashram.
Tea plantation in Kausani.
Some of the participants in the Himalayan tour in November 2019.


Monday, 9 November

Our next overnight stay is the Kasaar Jungle Resort near Binsar and Almora. We stay here for two nights. It is an ideal place for excursions.

Travel time via Baijnath and Bageshwar is approx. 3 hours and 30 minutes (103 km).

Our journey takes us again through very spectacular landscapes. Along the way, we visit Baijnath and Bageshwar.

The 800-year-old Baijnath temples are located on a promontory in the Kosi River, where history tells that the god Shiva married Parvati, the Himalayan daughter.
Mom's little helper.
Shiva is worshipped in Baijnath as the god of all doctors.
Everything changes and flows. Light and dark, day and night. Summer and winter.
Blue on blue.
A wondrous light in the forest.
The god Shiva dances in the mountains.
Some people believe that the Himalayas are Shiva.
Little brother and big sister.

We stop in Bageshwar, an old junction where the rivers Sarju and Gomati meet.

Before the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Bageshwar was an important site for trade between India and Tibet.
On the riverbank, the bonfires burn continuously. It is said that if on a rare day, it is not a body to burn, then the monks light a ritual bonfire so that men will not forget the impermanence of life.

We also visit for tea at Mountain Resort Khali in Binsar National Park. An Englishman built the site in 1875. Since then, many events of historical significance have taken place on the property. Mahatma Gandhi lived here, and it was a resort for the Nehru family. After independence from England in 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru was India's first prime minister.

Mountain Resort. Khali.
This is Indian historical ground.
Ghanshyam Pande owns and operates Mountain Resort. Khali now.
Again, fantastic views.
From the November 2019 Acem Travels tour.

Today's goal is the Kasaar Jungle Resort near Almora and Binsar.


Monday, 9 November to Wednesday, 11 November

We spend two nights at Kasaar Jungle Resort. The place has a good hotel standard and is located in the midst of fantastic scenery, overlooking the mountains and valleys below.

The village of Kasaar has a fascinating history related to more or less well-known personalities. This is what Wikipedia writes:

"In the 1960s and 1970s, luminaries of the counter-culture, including Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens made pilgrimages to the ridge to visit these established inhabitants. In 1962, Allen Ginsberg came with Peter Orlovsky, Gary Snyder and Joanne Kyger to visit Lama Govinda. Ginsberg commented in a letter to John Kelley that "Rishikesh and Almora were not unlike the Catskills readily accessible, only more spiritual." In late 1964, Ralph Metzner visited Lama Govinda on the ridge and was later joined by Timothy Leary on honeymoon with his wife Nena von Schlebrügge. The marriage did not last long. Leary wrote much of Psychedelic Prayers, a psychedelic version the Tao Te Ching composed from nine English translations of the book, on the ridge. Later in the decade Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), visited the ridge as a part of his own pilgrimage. Scottish psychiatrist, R. D. Laing spent some time there in the early 1970s; as did Robert Thurman, the Buddhist scholar, who spent six months with his wife Nena von Schlebrügge and family, including their 3-year-old daughter Uma Thurman, studying with Lama Govinda as a part of his doctoral dissertation over the summer of 1971."

Bibliophiles will be interested to know that D. H. Lawrence, author of Lady Chatterley's Lover, also sought spiritual and creative inspiration at Kasaar Devi.

The location of our hotel is ideal for exciting excursions.

Together we visit Almora town with old wooden buildings with carvings. Although much is gone, it nevertheless provides a glimpse of traditional architecture in the mountains. We walk through the markets and take in the ambience.

An old wooden house in Almora.
Something for the grandchildren?

We will visit the famous Chitai Golu Devta Temple. It is said that all good wishes will be fulfilled by Gullu, an incarnation of the god Shiva. Thousands of letters with wishes are hung, and tens of thousands of bells tell that many feel they have had their wishes fulfilled.

Thousands of letters to the god.

There is a lot to see and experience in the area around where we live, so you may have to make some choices here. There are two very interesting excursions in particular. Each will take a few hours. Since we have cars at our disposal, we can have different programs.

Option 1: Excursion to Jageshwar

This is a more than thousand-year-old pilgrimage site with clusters of temples with fascinating architecture and history. One of them is said to house one of the 12 traditional Jyohtir lingams - one of the god Shiva's most sacred places in India.

Jageshwar is located about 35 km from where we live.

It is a peculiar atmosphere in a place where human beings have been worshipping their gods continuously for more than a thousand years.
Jageshwar has more than a hundred Hindu temples built between the 7th and 12th centuries.

Option 2: Excursion to Binsar

Binsar is a national park 15 km from where we live. Here is an opportunity to hike up the hill. The peak is at an altitude of about 2500 meters. Binsar is known for great variety in fauna and flora. Mountain Resort. Khali is located at the entrance to the national park.


Wednesday, 11 November

In the morning we travel with our cars from Kasaar towards Delhi. Down on the plains we take a bus and arrive at our hotel in the evening.

Travel time is approx. 9 hours (368 km).

Pilgrims on their way home from Jageshwar.
Fog in the groves.
Not everyone travels to our standard.

On the way down from the mountains, we visit an ashram with a special history. Many famous people have been inspired here, and the place gives a glimpse into the Indian guru culture.

Neem Karoli Baba's Ashram in Kainchi.
Neem Karoli Baba.

In 1974, before Steve Jobs started Apple, the young man travelled to India with a desire to meet guru Neem Karoli Baba who lived in Kainchi near Nainital. Jobs came too late. The Guru left the body a few months earlier. But Jobs remained intrigued by the baba's teachings and recommended e.g. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who then went through a difficult time, to visit the ashram. He did. Many other celebrities can also be mentioned. Julia Roberts claims that Neem Karoli Baba profoundly changed her life.

Quite recently, Mark Zuckerberg talked about his ashram visit to India's Prime Minister Modi. It says to have given the ashram a real boost of popularity.


Wednesday, 11 to Saturday, 14 November

Delhi is India's capital and offers a lot - culture, history, folk, shopping, a mix of new and old, etc.

One can also relax in Delhi.

We live in the Sunder Nagar area, which is very central, yet secluded from the most hectic city life. Local sightseeing to various tourist spots will be arranged.

The vegetable Market in Old Delhi.
Much is hidden in the mysterious India.


Saturday, 16 November or early morning Sunday, 17 November


Created By
Torbjørn Hobbel


Unless otherwise stated, he has taken the photos in this presentation.