Offbeat travel has always fascinated people time and beyond as it breaks the rhythm of a monotonic schedule that we have been following since a long time. Being more of a traveler than a workaholic, the mountains have always appealed to me ; the preference being given to trekking and hiking rather than a nominal stay at a location.
However, this trip undertaken with Desperate Traveller ( http://www.desperatetraveller.com/ ) and TITO Travel designers (http://titotraveldesigners.com/) happened to be a subtle game changer as it opened up new dimensions and cleared out the clouds of reservation against the Munsyari experience. Fun Fact : This was a complete road trip , rather a bike trip if I have to be bang on! 2 Royal Enfields and a Tata Hexa were the personification of Rakhi and Salman-Shahrukh : setting the backdrop of a masala Karan-Arjun movie.
Yeah that's me ..... perplexed !
The complete circuit was : Delhi > Almora > Munsyari > Nainital > Delhi. Please allow me the privilege to paint a description for the added experience :
D1 - Startup at Delhi ( Distance : 260 kms Duration : 9 hrs 30 mins )
And the journey began!!
The journey began at 6:30 am in the morning from Delhi : armed with walkie-talkies, safety gears and running high on full energy and adrenaline which gradually rose to hunger pangs. As a result, we took the first break at Gajraula to lighten up the bladder and subsequently gorge upon the breakfast menu at McDonalds. 20 mins later we're back on track and post coverage of local ecosystem and the flora fauna ( drone shots and reels : oh yeahhhhhh !!!!!!!!!! ), we reached Bhimtal at around 5:30 pm in the evening.
For people unaware of the exact path, this is how our circuit was covered : Delhi–Rampur–Rudrapur–Bhimtal.
McD wala breakfast ... Gajraula te
Mini halt at Bhimtal
Bhimtal is just like your traditional Host/Mom : offering you refreshment as soon as you enter the home post a long travel. The modus operandi is obviously a bit on the aesthetical side : lush greenery, crimson evening hue, serene lakes and steaming mutton momos along with kulhad chai. Stevenson would have described this aptly but I am a people pleaser. What else would a tired traveler ask for !!!
Momos aur mahaul
Halt at Almora for the Day
20 mins of lavish fun and we're back on track for our first halt at Almora at 8:30 pm in the night. As soon as you enter the outskirts, you are greeted by the shimmer of lights from the distance, giving the feel of a congregation of fireflies lighting up the diaspora. Take a break, breathe in the air, capture the scenic divinity and take up the halt for the night. A hot shower and a hearty dinner should do the trick.
City n Nashta Paani
Stay : The Himalyan Woods, Kasar Devi, Crank's Ridge, Binsar Road, Almora, Uttarakhand, Landline No: 05962-251033 ( http://www.thehimalayanwoods.com/ )
The Himalayan Woods
D2 - Almora to Munsyari ( Distance : 198 kms Duration : 8 hrs 10 mins )
Morning view be like .....
We start our journey post a simple yet delicious breakfast at 10:30 am in the morning and visit the Ghorakhal temple : abode of a local deity by the name of Golu Dev; popularly hailed as the protector of the hills. My suggestion to you folks : drive under the prescribed speed limit, stay sharp and give the deity few vehicles less to care for.
The local temple market houses the best pakodas the money could buy : a serious run for money to Nouroji Nagar wale Khaandani Pakode wale bhaiya. Post a hearty fill, we got the heavy machinery running and post a hectic long drive arrived at Thal at 6:30 pm in the evening.
Pakoda jabar ba ..
Now, this area houses the most dangerous roads of the circuit : trust me when I say that the whole life flashes in front of your eyes at certain turning and juncture. It will test your will, the strength of your backbone as well as hip bones. A constant rattle is going to mark the whole journey till Munsyari. Don't blame it on us that we didn't warn you upfront.
That being said, another 4 - 4.5 hours of drive and we finally reach out chilled ( the temperature drops low at this point ) at Munsyari at 11:00 pm in the night. Men of few words after a tiresome day, we straightaway attacked the dinner table and retired to our rooms quietly. The only sound frequency audible in the night was that of the chilly wind dropping in ambiguous hints of what to expect the very next day.
Again to let you in on the path : Almora–Chaukori–Thal–Munsyari
D3 - Stay at Munsyari
Munsyari is the last bastion on the Indian side. It borders Tibet and is mainly inhabited by Johari Shauka tribe that traditionally traded salt with the people from Tibet. It is a cultural hub with a museum to celebrate the Shauka culture, many non-descript trails to walk on, stone houses with raised balconies, quiet road and sleepy villages. The place is flooded with hikers and climbers as it is the starting point of many high altitude hikes—Milam and Ralam glaciers being the famous ones.
Its highly recommended to witness the sunrise at Munsyari as the earlier reviews have foretold. Following in the same footprints, we woke up early to be enthralled by the coruscating and grandiloquent sunlight filling up the peaceful void around the mountains (Shashi Tharoor in me awakens to a pomp !!!!!). With the majestic Panchchuli standing guard and Nanda Devi in the backdrop, nothing beats the bewitching beauty this place has to offer.
We freshened up to a breakfast of egg toast, poha and paranthe along with a simmering cup of coffee/tea. After finishing up with the quintessential shoot for our coverage, we decided to explore the rustic town a bit and that's when the magic happened : a few of us went missing !!!! Our plan of a small outing turned into the excavation of the city in the search of the Fallen Comrades but heaven be praised : found them after 1.5 hours of extensive search.
Failne ki aadat purani hai sarkaar
Tired by now, we climbed down the steps of our hotel and descended down the foothill to a local shack to savor some street noodles, Maggi ( evergreen like Kishore Da ) and some mutton momos. We washed it down with some tea yet again ( mountain and tea are complementary pair I feel ).
Ye jee chuka zindagi apni !!!
Thankfully, the property owner decided to delight us in the evening with some local delicacies along with a bonfire to lighten up the 'situation'. We had madhue ke chapattis, chauli ka saag, pahadi chicken curry, bhutua ( a local delicacy consisting of sheep intestines, kidneys and liver chopped finely and prepared with local herbs and spices : a must try for non-vegetarians ), bhatt ki dal, steamed rice and seviyan as dessert. Dinner by the bonfire, purview of the mountains, local pets fooling around you, travel stories in the air, loads of star gazing and a cup of brimming tea to take the session forward, this was a night worth remembering.
BonfireAur ye hain ... Raani 💓
Stay : Vijay Mount View Resort, Munsyari - Thal Road, Munsyari, Uttarakhand 262554, Contact No: 084493 29977
D4 - Munsyari to Nainital : Longest circuit of the lot ( Distance : 263 km Duration : 12 hrs 15 mins)
We checked out early morning at 7:30 am as this was the longest circuit of the complete package and we didn't want to check in late. We departed from Munsyari after a breakfast of bread omelette and tea and drove up to the first halt at Birthi fall which is a small tourist attraction on the way.
The Purvi Ramganga river has been a steady companion for most parts. With crystal clear waters the river’s gurgle echoes far and wide. Birthi fall is a straight tall waterfall that freezes in winters, I was told apparently by the owners of few kiosks that have crouched up around to offer the tourists food and a reason to halt and admire the beauty.
Few snacks and drone shots later we realized two major things: Firstly, we have outstayed at this place by more than an hour : onset of small tension. Second and the most important one : we were yet to find a refueling station. With the indicator jumping up and down to 'reserved' indicator, we reached Thal and got the vehicles rejuvenated.
From Thal, we commanded a different route to Nainital: via Bageshwar. The steep accents followed by nominal descents exhibited the wonders of Mother Nature as this is a route to enjoy. Lined by valleys, arrays of Rhodendron, Bhutia dogs, feral cats, macaques, metal bridges and small splashes of villages around, this is the ride where you need to chill and just go ahead with the flow. You just get the feeling : all good is happening at the moment. Relax! Feel blissful and blessed! We reached Bageshwar at 4:30 pm in the evening but took a halt few kms later as we wanted to cover maximum distance before dusk.
We took a halt for team, jalebis and samosas at some local kiosk. Oh yesssssss !!!!! samosa jalebi aur chai : just how middle class can we get ... lol 😂 ( in golden words of Maya Sarabhai ). In the next 20 mins, we were back on track and reached Almora by 8:30 pm.
This is funny yet interesting : 2 of our team members decided to go full Rohit Shetty on us and took a different route to Nainital ( wahi Mukteshwar wala! ). We realized this 30 mins late in the journey when we found that they were not in the walkie range and that the live location indicated some other route. The next 30 mins of anxiety gradually sublimed when we reconnected with them over a call and got assured that despite being on different routes, they were on the right path. The only variation was few jackals crossing their path : apparently disturbed by the Enfield boom.
My learning from this incidence : always stick together on the mountainous paths, keep up the communication and Khatron Ke Khiladi to mat hi banna bhaiya ( facepalm ) !!!!!!
That being said: we reached Nainital by 11:00 pm and without further adieu checked into our royal suits ( thanks Desperate Traveller again! ). A hot shower and piping dinner later, we dozed off into a tiring abyss of sleep.
Stay : Manu Maharani Regency, Thandi Rd, Tallital, Nainital, Uttarakhand 263002, Contact No: 099718 55186
D5- Nainital, momos and Delhi ( Distance : 311 kms Duration : 6 hrs 30 mins )
Facing the Naini lake and into the main city, we decided to check out early and explore the Mall road as well as Tibetan market.
Nainital gives you an insight into the commercialization of the mountains. While you appreciate the fact that this has benefited the locals in many ways, this is also eating away at the beauty of this region. I leave it to your better subconscious to debate if this is a necessary evil : a boon in disguise !!!
We reached the mall road and attacked the Tibetan market asap !!!!! Window shopping through kiosks, getting the candles and all natural fruit squashes for home, bargaining for goods, overladen with paper bags : oh yess !!!!! no to plastic and no littering !!!! We decided to visit the famous Sonam Fast Food joint in pursuit of mutton momos but were in for a shock : they didn't serve non-vegetarian momos on Wednesdays ( Learning : don't wander to places based on partial research : you feel terrible afterwards !!! ). We settled in for the vegetarian ones 💔.
Ji haan bhaiyo behno .... mutton momosMix Thukpa
At this point, I felt I had to do something. I couldn't give up this easily. You come to a place and don't try out the specialties : that's an utter shame. We strolled outside the market and found a joint that served mutton momos, thukpas, kathi rolls, mutton golgappas ( our innovative idea/keeda : lets anglicize the rustic panipuri: yum BTW ), lemon tea and coffee. Once it hit the spot, we decided that we had enough of Nainital and marked our onset route to Delhi.
The journey back to Delhi was a normal highway ride. We gave it a thought to halt and have dinner at Moradabad but then gave up on it as easily as we gave up on RaGa ( years ago .... sic ) and took a dinner halt at Gajraula again at Moga Punjabi Tadka. Post a cup of tea, we drove again and finally reached Delhi at around 11:30 pm in the night : laden with memories of an amazing trip and a promise to return for another offbeat adventure soon!!!!!
Distance covered : 1032 kms
Duration : 36 hrs 10 mins
Experience : EXPONENTIAL !!!!!!!!