And finally I reached the highest point of the trek overlooking Munsiyari situated at a height of 11500 ft. The hilltop had beautiful lush alpine meadows and was surrounded by the snow laden peak of the Himalayas. The serrated mountains loomed in the distance. The heaven-touching apex of the mountain was drenched in brilliant light. It felt like the Golden Eternity all around. The prominence of a mountain was enough to dazzle the senses and result in feelings of awe, wonder and amazement. It was pure ecstasy.
This blog is about a road trip I went on recently to a place where I’ve let my mind wander in the backdrop of snow-clad Himalayas, and to reconnect with nature and myself. The destination of this road trip is a comely and stunning hill station tucked away hidden, amidst the snow capped Kumaon-Himalayas. It is a little town situated in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand state. Nestled in the Himalayas, Munsiyari is literally a hidden gem and is also referred to as the “Little Kashmir of India”. It offers splendid vistas of natural elegance along with stunning views of the Himalayan Ranges of Panchachuli. It is a group of five peaks and is the star attraction here. The pristine and immaculate environs of the valley offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountain ranges.
So the expedition began from Delhi as we boarded the train 15035/Uttaranchal Sampark Kranti from Old Delhi (DLI) railway station around 4 PM which took us to the nearest railway station, Kathgodam at night. We stayed the night at Kathgodam and took bus to reach Nainital next morning from where the journey further was somewhat unplanned. Our intention clearly was to jaunt on roads far less travelled by tourists.
Next morning around 6:30 AM when the sun just came up and the sky took on the shades of orange, we started our road travel. The Naini Lake in the morning looked magnificent. This was the first day and we decided to reach Chaukori by the end of the day which was around 180 km from Nainital. We followed the Ranikhet-Kausani-Bageshwar route to reach Chaukori. Around 11 AM we reached Ranikhet. Secluded places all along the way to Munsiyari amidst the Himalayan ranges made us feel like we were travelling to ecstasy.
After reaching Ranikhet we visited few points. It is an endearing hill station but due to the lack of time we departed soon as we still had to cover 130 kms to reach Chaukori. Ranikhet is a cantonment town and also the home for the Kumaon Regiment and Naga Regiment and is maintained by the Indian Army. The golf course present there was lush green and picturesque. Next to it lies the battle craft training area of the Kumaon regimental centre. After a while we again got back and treated further to the next stop which was Kausani. Around 01:30 PM we reached Kausani and had lunch there.
Kausani is a contented place for the backpackers. It is pure dreamland for the sunset lovers and shutterbugs. One is surely to get enraptured by the beauty of this place. Cradled under the sheath of the crimson sun and dark green hills, Kausani was the first place on the trip where we were able to get a glimpse of the panoramic views of the mighty Himalayan peaks. It is said that when Mahatma Gandhi visited this place, he was so much fascinated by its aesthetic beauty that he called Kausani the Switzerland of India as it has a strikingly similar landscape to that of Switzerland.
We proceeded further from Kausani after having lunch. The route all along got better and better. On our way we had to cross number of mountains. During this ride we hopped on some amazing roads encompassed totally within the mountains. There came an off the beaten road which was so destitute that one will surely love having their vehicles on it and moving in ultimate peace. Literally the roads were so empty that we took the turns less cautiously though we were much cautious when we were on our way to Ranikhet. One is sure to get hallucinated by the beauty all around there. I experienced pure gratification on riding the bike on the empty roads with the travel playlist on the speakers, with “Hairat” song playing in the background. I have to say that every song on our travel playlist seemed to be in accordance with the experience I was going through on the route.
Dheemi dheemi chalne lagi hain ab hawaein
Dheemi dheemi khulne lagi hain aaj raahein
Rangne lage hain manzil ko jaane ke raah saare
Jaise aasman ke chitte pade ho banke sitaare
During the journey there came a point when a sign board confused us rather than leading us to our destination. The sign board at Bageshwar had direction to the Pindari Glacier as Munsiyari. So we thought why not move on to the glacier. But from the locals we came to know that it is necessary to get permit from the district magistrate there in order to visit the Pindari Glacier. So we dropped the idea and continued our way to the Munsiyari. On that day our destination was Chaukori but we got a bit late reaching Bageshwar and from there we still were around 50 kilometers away from Chaukori.
As we crossed the beautiful landscapes of Bageshwar it was absolutely dark. Earlier we were pretty confident in Bageshwar that we’ll reach Chaukori on time but there’s no guarantee that how it’ll all really turn out when you are riding on the mountains since the right side of the road is scary and deep gorges is extremely dangerous. As it got dark we got bit cautious and rode very slowly. Though the roads were almost empty but you can’t take risk at such places. Moving all along the terrains and forests of the mountains in the dark, it seemed as if it’s all a dream. All the four bikes were at little distance from each other. One of my friends even slipped and injured his knee. After that point every milestone that came gave us a sigh of relief that Chaukori is coming. At around 08:30 PM we reached Chaukori and stayed the night there. As it got dark we didn’t see any landscape around. We arrived here at night but were pleased to see the sky as one can see the galaxy opening its heart for us to steal a miraculous view of it.
Next morning we woke up early as we had to reach Munsiyari on time. Day 2 of our road trip began from Chaukori. We reached the rooftop of the hotel and the Himalayan ranges were right in front of our eyes. View was grand and much better from the last stoppage. There was an astonishing view of the Panchachuli ranges in front. Orange and pink glow of the rising sun splashed color on each of the clouds and mountains. Next to the hotel was an elevation point made for the tourists to witness the brilliant sparkling white hill ranges. Besieged by the imperial Himalayas and thick woodlands, Chaukori offers spectacular views of the gorgeous Nanda Devi, and Panchachuli peaks.
Then we moved towards Munsiyari and were unaware of the fact that the road now is going to be full of surprises. After watching the peaks in Chaukori we had the urge to reach the destination soon. We started second day of road travel. As soon as we reached Thal(a village on the route) after getting a glimpse of the Ramganga river we all fell in love with it. It was a pleasant surprise as we had no idea that we were going to witness this beautiful river. As we kept moving the river came closer and closer. This was one of the finest hill roads in terms of beauty I have ever travelled.
With gossips, songs, stories, and some leg-pulling we came all along our way to Birthi falls. This was another surprise on this route. It was a delight to witness this waterfall. We stopped at the Birthi falls. In excitement to take the closer look we reached the falls jumping over the rocks and didn’t even see that there was a well formed path which leads towards the falls. It was totally worth to climb through that steep and slippery route just to experience the surreal cool breeze around, the water mist and the grey sky. The serenity of the falls made it different from other waterfalls and water here was cold as ice.
After having maggi and tea here we proceeded further. As soon as we crossed the Birthi falls roads got better and better along with the landscapes around. The mountain views and water crossings along this road were unmatched and kept evolving though the roads were a bit dangerous. We witnessed some amazing views and also started to feel cold as we moved towards Munsiyari.
Finally around 2 PM we reached Munsiyari(The Little Kashmir of India). It is a hill station with a daunting view of snow covered Panchchuli peak from almost every view. We rested that day as it started raining when we arrived and it got late to trek the Khaliya top(Highest peak of Munsiyari). When we arrived, there was no food in the restaurants and only thing which we got was Maggi. We spent the evening there by walking around and sitting on the edge of the road, watching the sun set behind those huge white mountains.
The image below was our final destination!
Next day we got up early and started the trek around 6:00 AM. Due to sunrise the peaks appeared golden which was just magnificent. Along the trek, breathing pleasant mountain air, listening chirping of birds and watching the snow laden Himalayas one will forget going back from this place. As we hiked through the forests view got better and clear. It was bit tiring to trek after riding bikes continuously for two days, but the views were equally rewarding. The steep trail passed through thick forests. After crossing the tree line, lush green alpine meadows arrived. The music coming out from the speakers was enough to motivate me to reach the peak. Around 9 AM we reached the resort there. From there the highest peak was 3 km away(2 km steep trail and 1 km flat). I along with my friends continued the trail to reach the peak. The view from the peak was flawless. Experiencing the natural beauty of the alpine hills along with the Himalayas looming at a small distance was sure to give someone an incomparable high. Sitting at the peak was a hallucinating experience. It gives you the time to observe your thoughts and submerge yourself into your own instincts. The view was stuck in my heart and I was unable to think anything else. Such is the experience of this hidden gem.
Afterwards we came down and started our way back to Nainital. We continued our travel to Berinag which we decided to be the next stoppage. Coming all the way to Berinag, we had to ride through the drizzles that disturbed us a little. As we came nearer to Berinag it started raining heavily so we had to take shelter at local shops.
Next morning we followed the Sheraghat-Almora route and reached Nainital. We spent the evening roaming around the hill station and of course the Mall Road. With the pleasant evening here our trip summed up and the next morning we returned back to the Kathgodam. We boarded the train 15036/Uttaranchal Sampark Kranti from Kathgodam (KGM) railway station at around 08:45 am and reached Delhi around 04:00 pm. That was the end of the trip but the memories and experience we got here are definitely going to stay with us forever. Just a caution: while riding bikes on Himalayan roads avoid the pine cones and do not hop onto them as they might create problems.
Road trips seem to turn on the "introspective" part of your brain. You learn about yourself: how you can improvise, how you react in different situations, how you appreciate beauty, how you adjust to the changes, how you relate to people when you're not stressed and much more. I have been to the mountain ranges of almost every part of India. Be it the Western ghats, the Satpura range, the Eastern ghats or the Aravalli range and I must admit that there is nothing like the Himalayas. After this trip I am so intrigued by the Himalayas that I’ve chosen the next destinations in the Himalayas - the Kuari Pass trek and the Roopkund trek. The beauty of Himalayan Mountains is sure to ignite the excitement in you. So, I would again suggest you to witness the untouched beauty and this hidden gem of India and give your eyes a retreat to experience the solitude and placidity of the nature.
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