Roving in monsoon especially over the mountains of Kumaon isn’t such a good idea, but when your employers do not give you break, when you are so wrecked up in head that you have dreams of nature calling you, there is no choice. So what the heck, we started, we boarded Sampark Kranti Express from Old Delhi Railway Station to Haldwani.
Next day we stated from Haldwani. Our original plan was to reach Bageshwar and visit Baijnath temple. But we got delayed as we were pretty tired from the day before. And as time passed by and nothing constructive formed, we took a bus till Kausani which is around 140 Kms from Haldwani and 38 Kms from Bageshwar . We reached there around 6 PM.
At the very moment I stood firm on its ground, all I liked about it was Air. Roughly 20-25 shops in the market, it’s an ideal place to start with, where you can be totally isolated from the hustle & bustle of city dwelling, yet at reach of good food and transportation. As you go a little to the top of town, there are resorts for people who wouldn’t mind spending some extra for luxury. As for us, the fukkas there are some nice budget hotels. Left turn from the main hub, as we go up half a kilometre, there is Anashakti Asharam where Mahatma Gandhi stayed for 14 days and meditated. It’s a place where one can meditate. The morning and evening prayers are held every day. Near the statue of Gandhi, one can watch splendid Himalayan range. There is a museum where belongings of Mahatma are kept.
Although in monsoon, this place is covered with a thick blanket of fog, we were able to capture some moods of its never ending youth. The sunrise and sunset are famous here. I particularly loved the Bhotia dogs and Birds here which are plentiful in all the places. Bhotia dogs are thick furred, gentle, friendly dogs and only expect love. At night though they become little fierce and alert for suspects and wild animals
After a little walk and morning breakfast, we strolled towards bus stop. Fortunately we got a direct bus to Baijnath. We reached Baijnath via Garur.
Lord Shiva and Parvati were married at the confluence of River Gomti and Garur Ganga. Built in the series of Vaidyanath temples, the Baijnath temple is complex built by the Katyuri kings with the idols of Shiva, Ganesh, Parvati, Kuber and Brahma around 9th Century AD.
Main attraction is the Parvati idol in the centre of main complex. There is a main temple complex around which there are small temples from where the idols are either removed or partially damaged. One should sit on boulders near the bank and look at flowing water and fishes.
Bageshwar is 17 Kms from Baijnath. This whole Garur – Bageshwar stretch is a rich valley with large paddy and maize fields waving all over the place. Garur is the main market of this region and Garur- Gwaldhaam road connects it with Garhwal. We were supposed to reach Munsyari the same day, but there was no scope for that as all the taxis had already left. The route to follow is via Kanda- Udiyari Bend- Chaukori- Thal- Munsyari. We had to change taxis at three places in order to reach Thal.
We reached Thal around 3 PM and came to know that the road to Munsyari is under repair at 3 places. It is pretty common here after torrential rains. Thal is 6 Hrs from Munsyari. There is a nice place called hajeti some 2 Hrs hike from Thal. After a long tiring day, this walk could practically make you numb at feet but after crossing dense forest and reaching at the top gives you the kick. At two points this trail bifurcates. The only path to follow is the one that takes you towards the top. In some time it was pitch dark and we returned to the hotel.
Next morning we started from Thal. Last night it had rained heavily and even morning wasn’t any better. By 10:30 rain stopped and mud were cleared. En route is very scenic and full of small villages like Nchni, Tejam, Girgaon. Our Max halted for few minutes and I would try to freeze these landscapes in my cam. At a place called Kalamuni, some 17 kms from Munsyari, I went to click pictures and got back with several leeches sucking my blood. I didn’t realize it until we reached Munsyari.
Munsyri at the very outset doesn’t look better than any big town with its roads stench and filth all over. But as we moved along the curvy road outside the main town, we started to see its real beauty. There are lush meadows, sweet scents of conifers, variants of flowers and most mesmerizing Himalayas. We had our lunch at this decent restaurant where we saw a little of Panchachuli and virgin peak on the left. We saw shining Panchachuli. I clicked few pictures and stared at it for half and hour after which it became all foggy there. After having lunch we went to Nanda Devi temple. This is 1.5 Kms from main town and the best spot to view these ranges.
This area has plenty of birds and flowers. Birds are very difficult to capture and need a lot of cool. The time difference between my hand taking out the camera and clicking it was very well utilized by shy and bridy birdies to flutter in jungle. By the dusk we reached the temple and clicked few nice pics of clouds playing over our heads. Porters told us about Milam glacier trek which is a 4 day trek to the source of Gori River. This is 40 sq. Km glacier and falls in Johar valley which extends into Munsyari. It is inhabited by Bhotia tribe and is famous for its rare herbs and medicines.
Another point of interest is Khalia top. It’s a bugyal @3500 Metres where one can get 360 degree view of Himalayas. It is photographer’s paradise. Unfortunately this time of the year no guides would go with us as the dense forest beneath it is full of blood sucking leeches and trail is also very slippery. It is 7 kms trek. It is advisable to stay overnight there and take pictures in morning. On the way back you can also visit maheshwari Kund. From Munsyaari we decided to go back to Thal and from there to Gangolihat. Last night it had rained heavily but it was worth taking the risk.
We reached our way back to Berinag and then to Gangolihat. Berinag is famous for its August fair which is devoted to snakes.
Gangolihat is famous for its cave temple Patal Bhuvneshwar. We reached around 12:30 PM as we had started early from Munsyari. This day we went to the outskirts of town into the fields and watched sunset. We saw some boys playing Cricket on the road.
Next day we started to Patal Bhuvneshwar. It is one of the most enigmatic, mysterious places in India. It is 14 kms from Gangolihat and the main cave is 100 feet from the entrance. There are steps and narrow passage where you need to change postures to be able to enter. Oxygen concentration is low. Inside the limestone cave there are stalactite and stalagmite forms of gods, men and animals which are mentioned in Vedas and Puranas. There are other caves inside the main cave. There is this saying that one of these caves opens somewhere near Mount Kailash and Pandavas in their last journey rested here and started for Kailash. I just paused and pondered and wanted to go inside other caves but it isn’t allowed.
Without wasting further time afterwards we wafted and hit the road to reach Raiagar. Original plan was to reach Haldwani the same day but decided to stay at Dhaulchhina which is a place 38 Kms from Almora. Locals told us it’s a great place to explore natural beauty. En route we had to get our Max repaired. The room at Dhaulchhina was nice and comfy and we retired soon.
The very next day we got to know of this Hike of some 8 Kms. Binsar is perched on Jhandidhar hills. This was the summer capital of Chand rulers. Enroute there are Pine, Oak, Rhododendron and Cedar forests. Forests are rich in flora and fauna. There are 200 species of birds, many mushroom species and at one stretch a whole colony of lizards. As one moves upwards, jungle shows it’s thick and thin. There are Bryophtes, Pteridophytes and hanging moss. It is a protected area. Animals include Leopards, Wild cat, Langurs, Musk Deer, and Black Bear. Birds include Fork tails, Monal and different species of Woodpecker. At the highest point, “the zero point” one could see Kedarnath, Nandadevi and Trishul.
We hiked back to Dhaulchhina and had our food. We got a bus to Haldwani. We saw beautiful landscape of Almora. And as evening came by our steps and drew its colours on horizon, all we could see was red. I believe this was our farewell gift.