RRGwrites

On life…and learning

Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…the Sound of Silence…

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Part 4 of the Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…

Silence has a very pleasant sound of its own. This is what I experienced on the Day-3 of our ride to this land of snow – Munsiyari.

The whole of previous evening went by in drying the clothes in front of the heaters – trust me, that is some task! Yet, I woke up a tad bit early; didn’t want to miss capturing the rising sun and its rays falling on the snowy peaks of Panchchuli. Nitin woke up too and readied his camera – the view from the roof of the hotel was mesmerizing – the entire Panchchuli and Hansling Peaks stood out majestically in front of us. Sheer magic, this were…

In the year 2012 alone, I have witnessed many similar majestic moments – Badrinath, Kinnaur, Spiti Valley, Leh, Khardung La, Nubra Valley, et al.  However, it was a longstanding wish that came true on this Trip – to come to Munisyari, the ‘place with snow’.

For the record, Munsiyari is a far-off town in the Pithoragarh District in the hill-state of Uttarakhand, India. It lies at the base of the great Himalayan mountain range, at an elevation of about 2200 meters AMSL. Strategically located near the tri-borders of India, Tibet and Nepal, this exotic destination was until recently restricted to tourists. This place has a fascinating history. Commonly known as the entrance to the Johar valley, this is the land of the Shaukya tribe, who were carriers of salt on this ancient salt-route from Tibet. In old days, this tribe led a semi-nomadic life; actively engaging in trade with Tibet across the arduous Himalayan routes. They would trek over mountain and passes for about a month and reach Tibet, from where they carried back material, most importantly – salt. In those days, this was the only source of salt in the entire Himalayan region. Some history the place carries…

Over a lazy breakfast, we quickly planned the day ahead – treks to any of the points weren’t feasible, as we had only one day with us. However, we learnt about many of them during our interactions and I am producing information here for those who wish to travel and trek in this grandiose place.

Munsiyari is the starting point of various treks into the interior of the ranges. For skilled trekkers, trek to the Milam, Nimak and Ralam glaciers can be real paradise. This town is at the entrance of the Johar Valley, which extends along the path of the Goriganga River to its source at the Milam Glacier.

For those who are adventurous and photography-enthusiasts, you can trek to nearby places like Khalia Top, located at 11000 feet AMSL, a trek of about 10kms. The friendly Hotel Manager told us that it offers breathtaking views of Panchchuli peaks – the best that can be seen from Munsiyari. This is also a famous skiing spot in the winters of Munsiyari.

For non-expert trekkers, an hour’s walk into the nearby forests will take you to Mesur Kund (Pond). Originally called Maheshwary Kund; this is just a few kilometers walk from Munsiyari, and features into the local folklores as a sacred place.

Thamari Kund is another quaint natural lake located amidst the paper trees. We were told that it is a natural home of the Musk Deer.

We also learnt about Betuli Dhar, a large garden full of Rhododendrons, located about 7kms from Munsiyari. It is here that we got to know that Rhododendrons is actually the state-flower of Uttarakhand!

Madkote, a hamlet at about 22kms from Munsiyari, is famous for the natural hot water springs. These are believed to contain therapeutic value with qualities, which are the cure for joint pains, arthritis and for various skin ailments.

Another easy trek is to Kala Muni Top. This is also the highest motorable road of Munsiyari, at 2748 meters AMSL, located en-route Munsiyari about 10kms before you enter the town. The place is marked with a temple constructed here. The trek is brief and you get to see some truly pictorial views from here. This one’s certainly doable…

With all this information at hand, we decided to go hunt the ‘Munsiyari 0’ milestone – the mark of our journey. This is one habit that I have – of getting myself and the bike clicked alongside the trophy-signage of every ride that I have done.

Serving as my very own landmark of each ride, these images remind me of the ride in its own mystical way, over the years…

As we ventured into the town in the broad daylight, Munsiyari revealed itself in all its majesty and grandeur. Surrounded from all sides by the snowy peaks and Panchchuli looming large over this hamlet, this place is a visual treat to the nature lovers. Charming in its appeal and incredible in its beauty, this little hamlet has managed to remain rather aloof from the well-trodden tourist routes of Kumaon.

Hereafter, we rode towards the Nanda Devi Temple, located at a ride of about 3kms from the main town. Nanda Devi temple, we found out, is a small white completely unassuming structure, which to our surprise, was locked down without sign of any priest, whatsoever! There is absolutely nothing noteworthy about this temple. What is outstanding, though, is location where is it perched.

Here nothing stands between you and the snowy peaks on one side and slopes curved by terrace farmlands on the other. Panchchuli appear as near as it can get; you feel as if walking over them. The view takes your breadth away. And the silence is almost godly. Those who say temples are a mark of peace and calm surely were referring to this place. Sitting here, I missed Neha a lot…this is the place we should’ve visited together. Well, soon someday…

From here, we rode towards Darkot. Located 8kms north of Munsiyari, this is an emblematic picturesque village of the Bhotia tribe. We had learnt about the craftsmanship of the tribals of this village. To visit this place, you have to come towards the main town, and a road diverts towards this village from the taxi stand. As we rode towards Darkot, we passed the famous local Tribal Museum, and decided to come back for it.

Darkot turned out to be no different than a sleepy mountain village rested on the slopes. However, we met some incredible people here and visited their homes – the homes of the weavers of shawls and other hand-woven garments.

This visit certainly led us to deeper knowledge of the culturally rich style of the rural inhabitants of Munsiyari – we found century old houses here with intricate work on its panels, doors. The old artistic houses of Darkot represent the rich culture and creativity of the people of the Bhotia Tribe, which actually hails from Tibet. We also witnessed the handlooms of several kinds – used to spin wool and cotton and weave them into pashmina and other sheep-wool garments and carpets. See for yourself…

After buying some superbly hand-woven pashmina caps, we rode back towards the Tribal Heritage Museum. Oh! What a treasure it turned out to be…

Also famous as the ‘Masterji’s Museum’, is a place that I end up terming, ‘simple and yet profound manifestation of a man’s desire to preserving history in his own sweet manner’.

Built by Dr. Sher Singh Pangtey, this place is a true example of taste, grit and passion. As you talk to him, his exuberance doesn’t make him look a day above 50years of age; in reality, he is 70plus! I could observe his childlike enthusiasm as he showed us around his collection of artifacts.

There is so much to see – age-old photos, long-standing maps, coins from all over the world, documents, local utensils & other items, wind-up gramophones, hand-made saddlebags, wooden bottles, native dresses and attires, hand-crafted shoes…so much that I can’t portray it in words and even if I venture to, I need to write at least 10000 words! I loved the place and captured it into a video (http://youtu.be/CQ71W9s2ANM). Must see…

With our hats off to Dr. Pangtey, Nitin and I came back for lunch to the hotel. En route, we crossed several beautiful living mountain streams – there’s something magical about these streams, indescribable in words. I’ve always been fascinated by them…the mountain-lover in me wants to halt at everyone, wishes to explore the start of each such stream and secretly plans to some day even live next to one such stream!

Here is when plans got changed for the day! Changed to what? Does the image of clouds looming over Panchchuli give you any hint?

🙂 Wait for the next and last part of this travelog…

To be continued in the next blog…

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‘Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…’ was written in 5 parts. You can read all 5 parts of this travelog here.

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2 Responses

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  1. dear rishi,
    i had read ur account of munsiyari trip. fantastic. I envy ur enthusiasm for the rides one after the other. photos are very beautifullllllllll. keep it up. good luck. safe riding………………….

    G R KRISHNAN

    December 8, 2012 at 3:41 PM

    • Krishnan Uncle…feels always great to hear from a veteran like you. I hope and pray I keep riding with your enthusiasm once I reach your age. You were superb during our ride to Ladakh.

      RRGwrites

      December 8, 2012 at 6:09 PM


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