Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…Ride to Binsar
Part 2 of the Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…
For the mountain-rider in me, the hills of Kumaon have always been enchanting and luring. During last four years, I travelled in this land of hills almost like a religion – Kumaon always attracted me towards itself.
While holidaying at Ranikhet three years ago, my wife introduced me to Munsiyari – the Him-Nagari of Uttarakhand, she shared. Since then, I was longing to visit this place.
All these years, one or the other thing came in way of actualizing this wish. However, earlier this year, Nitin and I resolved we would surely ride our bikes to this destination in this year itself.
So, once the monsoons ceased to lash the hills and landslides gave way to safer routes, we planned the much-coveted Trip.
The total distance from Gurgaon to Munsiyari and back is about 1300kms, so we planned a 5-day trip. However, we froze only the first 2 days’ itinerary, thus:
- Day 1: Gurgaon – Dhaulchhina/Binsar
- Day 2: Dhaulchhina/Binsar – Munsiyari
For the rest of 3 days, we thought of various options – staying over for a day at Munsiyari, or travelling to Kausani and then Ranikhet, or staying at Almora and then riding back home…we explored various options and finally agreed to decide it en route itself – in the true bikers’ way!
Some homework helped plan the Trip. I took advice from Nandan Jha, a true Ghumakkar! His advice came really handy; he shared that we shouldn’t halt at Almora on Day-one and rather drive ahead to stay at the Binsar Eco Camp. He had explored this place earlier and mentioned good things about it on Ghumakkar.
We also planned in advance our stay at Munsiyari. From amongst the set of resorts(!) and hotels mentioned on the travel-sites, we zeroed down on Bilju Inn. Reasons were simple – this property had geysers installed in their washrooms – a rarity in the sleepy hill-stations of the Himalayas! To top it, we found that this was a newly constructed property and had large rooms at a decent tariff.
Armed with above plan, we started from Gurgaon on October 12, 2012 at 5:15am. Ride to Binsar was approximately 425kms; an early start was a must. We planned the first day well rather elaborately:
- 200kms: Breakfast: Gurgaon to Moradabad (5am to 9am) (NH 24: via Garhmukteshwar/Gajraula)
- 110kms: Lunch-break: Moradabad to Haldwani (9:45 to 12:30pm) (NH24 to Rampur / from Rampur NH87 via Bilaspur/Rudrapur/Haldwani)
- 115kms: Final Destination: Haldwani to Binsar Eco Camp (1:30pm to 6:30pm) (NH 37: via Khairna/Almora)
Morning ride was really great! Weather was extremely pleasant, and turned rather chilly as we crossed Ghaziabad and rode towards Moradabad. With almost negligible traffic, we rode non-stop and took a brief halt at the Ganga-bridge at the holy city of Garhmukteshwar.
McDonalds is built right on the highway; around this place there are several other eateries too – Dominos, local players, so options are aplenty.
After a sumptuous breakfast and rest, we resumed the ride. Moradabad came in about an hour; roads till now were simply fantastic! We took the Bypass and reached Rampur soon after. From here, we rode ahead towards Rudrapur via Bilaspur.
Man! These were some bad roads! And bad they were for good 30kms! One really needed to look for tarmac from amongst potholes on this stretch! Negotiating this stretch rather carefully, we arrived at Rudrapur city by 1140am. Haldwani came shortly after at 1245pm; roads from Rudrapur via a forest range to Haldwani were really good.
As I always say during my rides, may God bless VG Siddhartha of the Café Coffee Day chain for opening so many outlets all over the country! At Haldwani, CCD was our lunch-halt. Sandwiches, brownies and coffee – this was real relaxation our bodies needed after a 300kms ride. And good food was a must to boost our spirits for the ride uphill – 130kms to Binsar. After all, you can’t ride empty-stomach!
We resumed the ride at 2pm. As we crossed Kathgodam, straight roads gave way to the serpentine roads of the hills. Though I had initially thought of taking the route via Bhimtal, Nitin rode straight ahead on SH87. Good chance, this was! This road was newly constructed and turned out to be a real smooth ride.
Here I must share with the readers that on our way back, we took the route via Bhimtal. Big error! Please avoid this route – poor roads and heavy traffic will make you forget that this route is shorter by 5kms! At Bhowali, both routes converge and we continued our ride on NH87 towards Almora.
I forgot to mention this earlier; as we resumed our ride from Kathgodam, the bright sunny day gave away to the cloudy sky. Around Bhowali, it started to drizzle and then came a heavy burst of downpour, as we neared the Kainchi Dhaam. This forced us to take an unscheduled break at a nearby tea-stall. Treating ourselves to a hot cup of tea, we wondered if rain would halt our ride so abruptly – we were still 80kms away from Binsar!
Our prayers were answered; the rain stopped in about 20minutes and we recommenced our ride. Minutes after, we arrived at the Kainchi Dhaam, where the famous Ashram of Baba Neeb Karauli is located. This is where Steve Jobs found solace during his maiden trip to India in the seventies!
Surprisingly, sun started to shine over our heads as brightly as if it never rained! With boosted spirits and some warmth back inside us, Khairna came shortly after. It is a small hamlet, about 96kms from Haldwani. This is the point from where roads to Almora and Ranikhet bifurcate; tourists and travellers love to have light refreshments here. The road ascends to Almora, which is about 33kms from here.
We reached Almora by 4:45pm. Whew! This was some ride till now – 400kms!
As we touched Almora, a signage declared Binsar to be 33kms ahead, on a road that diverted to the left. As we took this de-tour, we thought of it to be some kind of bypass to avoid the congestion of bustling Almora city. However, this wasn’t right; people guided us back to the heart of the town and then after several rechecks, we came back on our route to Binsar.
As the sun was setting on one side, scary, dark clouds were looming from the other. Again, I could observe a few raindrops. You’d note some of them on the adjoining image too…
Scared, we quickly rode towards Binsar Eco Camp.
This is where it started to go all wrong!
As we entered the resort, we realized we have arrived at Binsar Eco Resort, instead of our destination Binsar Eco Camp! All this while, in our misplaced enthusiasm, we were chasing a wrong address! 20minutes wasted in this confusion, the managers here guided us to what we thought was the right address. Not to be…
Another 30mintues ride, sun had finally set and rain was looming over our heads! We reached the entry gate to the Binsar Wildlife Sactuary, where to our dismay, the forest gaurds told us that we have come on an altogether wrong route. They shared that Binsar Eco Camp wasn’t located at Binsar; it was at Dhaulchhina!
It was 7pm and drizzle was persistent. So we requested the guards to tell us the shortest possible route. That they did, and how!!
We were guided towards a route, which went through the wildlife sanctuary, just beneath the core-jungle-area (we were told this later!). Now, as we entered this lonely, scary track, came down the heaviest downpour one could imagine.
Well, I must share that I have travelled on some very lonely stretches; this was proved to be the scariest of all. Completely dark it was, we brothers rode our bikes non-stop in the only source of lights – the bikes’ headlights! This was a typical forest track, and rains made it all the more difficult to negotiate the ride. We stopped several times to check the signal of the phone – no respite. What made us ride ahead in this pitch dark jungle located upon the mounts in the dead of rainy night was the my belief/experience – people in hills don’t lie! After all, the guard had said that the forest track would end in 13kms and route to Dhaulchhina would emerge!
Bang on right he was! Just as my bike’s meter clocked 13kms, we came out to a neat tarmac. By now, we were completely drenched and shivering. And it didn’t help that there weren’t any signage that could guide us to either left or right. Fortunately, mobile phone’s signals were back and we called the Camp to locate the address.
30minutes later, amidst heavy rains, we arrived at Dhaulchhina, a hamlet where Binsar Eco Camp was located above a hillock.
We arrived inside the property to find it covered in pitch dark – there wasn’t any electricity and no power backup too! Well, I must say by now I was kind of irritated and lost my cool at the young Gaurav Mehra, son of the owner Mr. Kesar Singh Mehra, for not installing any signages of his property anywhere on route, right from Almora. Young, but smart lad he turned out to be! He quickly gauged the reasons behind my annoyance, conversed very politely, trying to dowse my displeasure. We couldn’t see much in absence of electricity; candles were all we had to quickly change into fresh & warm clothing! It was very cold out there!
We were guided towards a small bon-fire near the kitchen area; we desperately needed to dry-up our gloves and shoes at least; they were extremely necessary for the ride next day.
We chatted for an hour, about a lot of things. By now, some warmth had seeped in – both from the fire and Gaurav’s pleasant demeanor; we felt better. He shared that the right route to Binsar Eco Camp was from Almora towards Dhaulchhina, which is a distance of about 33kms and NOT towards Binsar. He also shared that the guards at the sanctuary’s gate guided us to take the track just beneath the core-forest-area, in order to save time! Some nerve-chilling revelation to us, this was!
Over dinner, we learnt many things about Binsar. Simple, vegetarian food came as a seven-course meal to us hungry, tired souls!
Almost immediately thereafter, we went off to sleep, praying for a clean sky the next day…
Ride to Munsiyari to be continued to the next blog…
‘Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…’ was written in 5 parts. You can read all 5 parts of this travelog here.