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Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…Birthi Falls

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Part 5 of the Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…

As we ate our lunch, my eyes didn’t leave the clouds that had started to darken the hamlet of Munsiyari. Panchchuli by now was completely covered with dark clouds. These are the ones that will rain, my instinct spoke with me…

Nitin and I quickly decided; we had seen all that was to be seen at Munsiyari in a day’s time, and we also wanted to save precious drive time for the coming days – the TV news had informed it was raining all over Pithoragarh. So, using the KMVN guidebook, I dialed in the Nainital booking office of KMVN guesthouses and sourced the number for the KMVN at Birthi. Readers would remember that I mentioned about this place in the part-2 of the series. I called Birthi KMVN to find a friendly voice answering it and confirming a booking. Voila! It was easy!

Birthi is a 31kms drive from Munsiyari. Sensing immediacy of rain, we packed fast, cleared the bills and started the ride at 3pm, bidding adieu to this magical town of Munsiyari. On hills, it takes about an hour to cover 30kms, and that’s what we planned. I didn’t want to get lashed in chilling rains one more time, so deploying all carefulness that we should, we rode faster than usual.

Well, adventure it really is, when you ride on the mountains! As we neared Birthi, the sunrays gave way to drizzling. Not again! Birthi was still few kilometers away and sprinkle was really getting steadier. However, this one time we go lucky. Just as we entered the guesthouse, it started to pour heavily. For the first time in three days, it wasn’t pouring on us!

Friendly smiles greeted us and guided us to the best room available. It was really nice – clean, warm beds, CTV with Tata Sky and a geyser; at only Rs.800/- per day, it was a real steal. We loved it!

By the time tea arrived, it had stopped raining and sun came back shining over hills.

Well, didn’t I say in the last blog that silence has a very pleasant sound of its own? You should come to Birthi to experience what I mean. A couple of days away from the madness of the cities, away from what some of us call life, are always welcome. Mountains are such heavens of silence and solitude. And when you get back from this heaven, you come away feeling saner, rejuvenated. You come back a better one…

There is nothing extraordinary about Birthi, at least on the face of it. It is a tiny village, with couple of shops on road and the KMVN guesthouse perched atop a hill, right on the main road. However, what breaks the silence and the dullness is the mighty roar of a waterfall, called Birthi Falls. This is what makes Birthi fall on the tourist map and makes it really a place worth visiting.

Located right behind the guesthouse, this one’s a 126 meters giant of a fall. The staff at the guesthouse guided us to a 200meter trek, which leads to the falls. Some walk it was, up the hill…neatly carved out stairs took us near to the fall. And here is what we saw! These images, I hope, demonstrate to you the beauty of these falls. I wasn’t sure, so I made a video. You can access it on Youtube at (http://youtu.be/m1fqUdPGBj8).

This one’s my personal favorite – on the rocks at Birthi! What a bliss!

Nitin and I really liked this place. Serene, quiet and captivating, as if we weren’t only 600kms away from madness of the metro called Delhi. The guest-house was really well-laid, with a pretty garden and a scenic view of the valley. This is a must-visit place and we were glad that we left Munsiyari and decided to spend a night here…

As I went off to sleep that night, I could very clearly distinguish the sound of silence, only to be broken by the sound of the waterfall. Felt really good…

Next morning, sun came out shining really bright. We bid goodbye to Birthi at 9am.

We didn’t really make a plan as to where we would halt for the day. The fun was in the ride and that we enjoyed that the whole day. Nothing really different happened, as we took the same route back towards Dhaulchhina. Nonetheless, I would definitely share this image we took at the coast of Ram Ganga, where we stopped en route…

Since we ate a heavy breakfast, we kept riding non-stop and arrived at Dhaulchhina at around 2pm. A small jaunt became our lunch-halt here. This is where we chalked out the plan for the day; we decided to ride till Rudrapur and make most of the day, so that the ride for the final day would be easier and shorter. I used my network to book ourselves at Ark Hotel at Rudrapur. Other than Radisson, this is a good option to stay at Rudrapur.

Some ride, it was! We rode almost 300kms this day, and it was 8pm by the time we reached Rudrapur.

Next day, we started leisurely at about 11am. I won’t bore you with details, as after taking you through the magic of Himalayas, describing a ride back home on the plains would be a tad bit too much!

What a lovely ride, these 5 days offered! We covered 1290kms over these five days, scaled an attitude of 2748 AMSL; crossed magical views of pristine beauty of valleys and mountains, snow-capped peaks, witnessed a river as white as if flowing milk, heard the roar of a mighty, 126 meters high waterfall from close corners and rode through the core areas of a wildlife sanctuary, amidst heavy rains…Simply amazing!

Till the next ride, wish you a happy and safe riding…

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

Written by RRGwrites

November 26, 2012 at 12:15 AM

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.

Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…Panchchuli…

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Part 3 of the Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…

Night at Binsar went by quite peacefully and I woke up to a bright, sunny morning at 7am. As I walked out of my cottage, I noted for the first time the structure and location of this very well laid out Eco-camp. It was a marvel constructed painstakingly amidst the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, perched on the hill as a green jewel.

As I spread out the much-soaked clothes in the sun, I met Gaurav. He offered a cup of tea, and over it shared several pieces about the property.

Binsar is perched on top of the Jhandi Dhar hills. At an elevation of 2412 meters AMSL, Binsar is situated amidst the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary. I learnt that the route to main Binsar goes right from the gate of the sanctuary where we met the guards last night.

The Camp is located in the non-core area of this sanctuary, in a place called Dhaulchhina. This is the shortest possible route to Munsiyari and saves a lot of time and distance, as compared to the one that goes via Bageshwar.

Gaurav shared that his father, Kesar Singh Mehra, a former businessmen and one of the founding activists behind the establishment of the sanctuary in 1988, set up the resort as a eco-friendly destination, primarily catering to the nature-lovers and bird-watchers. He went on to share that the Camp is frequented by over 200 species of birds and one can expect to learn about the aviary world.

By now, Nitin was up and ready with his arms and ammunition – the Camera! Gaurav guided him to a viewpoint they constructed right the top of the hill, located at a 5-minutes trek. Nitin came back with amazing set of images – spectacular mountain panorama of evergreen Himalayan ranges and valleys. The views of major peaks like Chaukhamba, Panchachuli, Nanda Devi, Nanda Kot, and Kedarnath are distinctly visible from there. Sitting leisurely at the camp, one couldn’t even fathom what vista laid just a five-minute trek ahead! This was a clear sky day, which offered a 180-degree Himalayan view. I must share with all readers here that such vast panoramic view can been seen only from Binsar and Kausani in Uttarakhand. In fact, there is a location called the ‘Zero Point’ here, which offers amazing views of the magnificent range. Binsar also offers an excellent view of Almora town.

As we sipped the superbly made herbal tea, prepared from the herbs grown in-house, Gaurav helped us with sourcing five litres of petrol from Almora through his contacts. This was done as the next filling-station was at Berinag, another 65kms ahead. Since we rode almost 430kms on day one, I didn’t want to take risk of running on an empty fuel tank in case of any exirgency.

Thanking Gaurav for his splendid hospitality, we resume the ride for the day at 10:30am. Our stay was really pleasant here and in fact, I have already planned upcoming my winter-break with Neha here!

For details of Binsar Eco Camp, you may visit their website (http://www.binsar-ecocamp.com/index.html). Highly recommended for peace-lovers.

Hereafter, the ride was approximately 160kms. The route we took:

  • Dhaulchinna – Berinag via Sheraghat – 65kms
  • Berinag – Thal – 27kms
  • Thal – Munsiyari – 68kms

The roads were really good between Dhaulchhina and Berinag. We rode through dense forests for the first 15kms and them descended steadily into the valley; we reached Sheraghat in almost an hour. This is where you witness the Saryu River. From here, Berinag is an uphill ride of about 35kms.

Berinag came in another hour and we filled our fuel tanks at the HP petrol station located outside the town, and moved ahead towards Thal. Berinag, located at 1740 meters AMSL, is a tiny hamlet; I was told by locals that both Nanda Devi and Panchchuli peaks can be seen from here. However, I could not observe these peaks during our halt from here.

It is important to note that 6kms after Berinag, there comes a crossroad called Udiyari Bend from where the roads bifurcate; the left one goes to Chaukori and the right one descends towards Thal. Again, after 18kms, there comes another bifurcation called Bharad Bend, from where a U-turn shall take you to Thal. The other road from here goes towards Bageshwar. I came across a very good map of this area at the KMVN rest-house at Birthi; reproducing an image of the same for the readers. Very useful, it is…

We arrived in at Thal, a small hamlet, at about 1:30pm and locals guided us to Mehta Restaurant for lunch. Finished, is what the cook shared! So we moved to another small eatery right next to the police station, and ate the easily available Thali – Daal, Roti, Chawal!

As we crossed the Ram-Ganga Bridge to enter Thal, I saw a very age-old looking temple complex on the banks of river. I learnt later that this is a Lord Shiv Temple, and it is here where from several decades the famous Thal Mela (Fair) is held. This temple also has a significance as it is believed that all Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims from here would take a bath in the Ram Ganga and then only proceed towards the pilgrimage. It was amazing to learn that before independence, the revolutionaries organized the Fair to commemorate the ‘Jalianwalan Bagh’ massacre and since then, the Fair became an annual feature. However, people shared that since the trade from Tibet slowed down, now the significance of the Fair is steadily diminishing. Some history this small hamlet has…

Munsiyari was about 67kms from here and we hoped to reach there by 4:30pm. Weather was really good, bright and sunny and we rode almost non-stop.

We rode quite leisurely after Thal, clocking 30kmph. En route, we rode alongside the Purvi Ram Ganga River, a river with such whitish water flowing as if milk it were! We had never seen anything such; see for yourself…I also made a video here, capturing the pristine beauty of this river in images was nearly impossible. See it on Youtube at (http://youtu.be/oQXS5O_Vlpo).

Villages in Kumaon are really captivating. Every now and then, you’d come across the group of school-going kids, who make all sorts of gesture to grab the bikers’ attention, while the elders look upon at us as the ‘spoilt-ones’! Well, I don’t blame them – imagine what your and my Mom would say upon hearing or biking exploits!

At around 4pm, we arrived in at Birthi, where the mighty Birthi Falls could be seen and heard at a distance. However, we didn’t stop and kept riding, hoping to reach Munsiyari by 5pm and catch the magical rays of setting sun on the Panchchuli peaks.

Well, nature has its own plans! As we crossed Birthi, I could observe the onset of clouds – dark and threatening – over our heads. I feared the repeat of what we faced yesterday, and asked Nitin to speed up.

Just as we neared Munsiyari and the milestone declared 14kms more to go, it started to pour, as heavily as it could get. We rode non-stop from this point, getting wet in the lashes of the rain, right at the altitude of 2700 meters AMSL! I could see captivating views of the hills from this height; yet, stopping and clicking pics in such rains would have been sheer stupidity! Some hard luck…

We reached Munsiyari by 5pm and were really glad to find Bilju Inn located right on the main road, as we entered the town.

Shivering, we quickly checked into the hotel and changed into dry & warm clothing. By now, rainfall had stopped! We noted the magic that unfolded outside – see for yourself.

Whole of the evening hereinafter went in drying clothes and other gear in front of the room-heaters! However, we did find the room very well laid out and service to be good. Once warmth came back in our bodies, we chalked out the plan for next three days.

For Day-3, were decided to stay and relax at Munsiyari, exploring this magical town at leisure…

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.

Motorcycle Diaries. True at Munsiyari…

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Part 1 of the Motorcycle Diaries. Road to Munsiyari…

Just returned from a ride to the Him-nagari of Uttarakhand – Munsiyari. True and I covered 1290kms over five days, scaled an attitude of 2748 AMSL; crossed magical views of pristine beauty of valleys and mountains, snow-capped peaks, witnessed a river as white as if flowing milk, heard the roar of a mighty, 120 meters high waterfall from close corners and rode through the core areas of a wildlife sanctuary, amidst heavy rains…

It was some fun…

Leaving you with this magical moment of True standing tall in front of the grandeur of the Panchchuli Peaks.

Detailed Motorcycle Diaries of this Trip will follow soon.

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

Written by RRGwrites

October 14, 2012 at 7:27 PM

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