Our Trip to Munsiyari: The land of Gauri Ganga and Panchachuli-Part2

Continues from Part 1

18 May, 2009: We started at 5 am in the morning and headed towards Champawat. More greenery was seen around the road. Spread across several square kms, Champawat is a valley with picturesque scenic beauty. Beyond the densely forested green hills towards north and east, on a clear day, a few snow capped Himalayan peaks appear like a set of white crowns. We did not stop at Champawat this time.

Champawat

Champawat


There is an ancient temple on the main road which is worth visiting.

Indifferent Spectators..

Indifferent Spectators..

We continued our journey towards Lohaghat. Shortly after leaving Champawat, abundance of giant Cedar trees announced that we have reached Lohaghat. Lohaghat is a busy small hill town and several hill roads meet here.

From Lohaghat, one can drive to Mukteshwer via Devidhura and Saharphatak. One can also visit Abbott mount- a hill top near Lohaghat – a serene place from where one can get a great view of the Himalayan range.

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Hot Puris and Chole Bhatures at Bohra Hotel at Lohaghat pacified our hunger. Remember the popular hill-song ”Bedu Pako Bado Masa, Kafal Pako Chaita”? At Lohaghat we bought some “Bedu” (a type or Beri). It tested a bit sour and as we started finishing off the packet of Bedu with salt, Ramesh started climbing the solitary hill road leading to Mayawati.

Back in 1899, the Sevior couple, disciples of Swami Vivekananda, purchased an abandoned tea garden and bungalow here(then the place was called Maya Peeth) and with the monks of Rama Krishna Mission, established Adwaita Ashram- a center of meditation. Swami Vivekananda stayed at Mayawati once for couple of weeks during the winter of 1901. Till the year 1925, Rama Krishna Mission used to print the “Probuddha Bharat” magazine from Mayawati. There was a printing press here at that time. The printing activities were later shifted to a press in Kolkata. But even now, at Mayawati, Maharajas(monks of Rama Krishna Mission) design the pages of the magazine using InDesign and Photoshop and then email a PDF version of the complete magazine to Kolkata for final printing. Located at an altitude of 6400 feets, Mayawati is surrounded by dense forests of Chir, Pine, Cedar and Oak. An ever-lasting silence seems to prevail here. One can see a panoramic view of snow capped Kumaon Himalayas from here. Being a student of Rama Krishina Mission, it was my dream to visit Mayawati. But, one can not realize the greatness of Mayawati in couple of hours. In order to stay here, one has to acquire advance permission from RK Mission at Gol Park, Kolkata. And more importantly, it is not really a typical tourist spot and one has to maintain calmness and discipline. After a brief visit of the library, which reminded me my school, we left for Khetikhan via Lohaghat. Khetikhan is a small village located on the Lohaghat-Devidhura road. I don’t know why, the name attracted my attention and booked the KMVN tourist rest house here. A friend of mine who visited Khetikhan few weeks ago was lucky to view several Himalayan peaks from here. But we did not see anything because of cloud and mist.
One can also drive down to Devi Dhura, famous for Barahi Devi temple. In “Temple Tiger”, Jim Corbett’s work, the ‘temple’ was actually the Devi Dhura temple.

Devi Dhura.. Temple Tiger Where Have you Gone?

Devi Dhura.. Temple Tiger Where Have you Gone?

Like Shyamlataal, the condition of the Bungalow was pathetic with no electricity and acute water shortage. The Manager seemed to have got rid of all hotel staffs here and employed his wife here for cooking. The whole thing appeared quite disgusting- but we tried to ignore it and kept cool.
After lunch we explored the Chir forest behind the Bungalow. In the afternoon, we went to the Mitha Ritha Sahib Gurdwara. It is said that at this place lord Gorakhnath met Guru Nanak. The day was tiring, the experience inside the TRH was pathetic, but, this is inside the Himalayas..things can not remain so bad.. the sunset behind the Chir forest and valley in front of the TRH and the cool breeze of the evening and the adda on the open terrace refreshed us. We were also excited about the fact that we shall reach Munsiyari the next day!!

Behind KhetiKhan KMVN.. trying first lesson of Trekking?

Behind KhetiKhan KMVN.. trying first lesson of Trekking?

19 May, 2009: Leaving Lohaghat we headed towards Pithoragarh. On the way, there is a place called Ghat where there is the confluence of river Panar and Kali. From here, a road goes to Almora to left.
At Pithoragarh we learnt that the road to Munsiyari via Jauljibi(route b) is being repaired and traffic is blocked. We decided to go via Thal(route a). Soon after we left Pithoragarh, it started to rain heavily. At one point Ramesh had to stop the car because of lack of visibility. While travelling to Champawat last day, we cracked some jokes looking at the dry river bed of Ladhiya. Now, on the way to Thal, we soon met the Ramganga river(not the same Ramganga near Corbett-this is a different river) which was bloated with muddy water charging towards south. I have never seen a river taking such a violent form. Adding to our worry, at many places, the otherwise innocent looking water falls emerging from the hills on the right side turned equally violent and in their quest to join the Ramganga waters, often threatened to block the road. It was an awesome display of power of nature of which we enjoyed every moment. At last we reached Thal at around 11 am and had a heavy breakfast of Paranthas and Chole at Bohra Hotel(yes- like at Lohaghat, this was also Bohra Hotel). At Thal, Srabani and I were recalling events of our 27 hours long journey. I was searching for the delicious Guava that we bought last time. Sandeepdaa procured heavy stock of snacks and biscuits from a grocery shop. Rejuvenated and excited by that fact that Munsiyari is only two hours away, we left Thal; Sandeepdaa tried his skills of singing some Tagore’s songs and Rai started distributing everyone the daily ration of Cadbury.

Om the way to Munsiyari from Thal

Om the way to Munsiyari from Thal

The quality of road was excellent and was surrounded by towering mountains covered with lash greeneries refreshed by rain, dozens of parrots were flying and the rain clouds were wandering around freely. The road climbed up and up and we could see the scary deep gorges on the right side. We took a tea break at the Birthi village near the picturesque Birthi water-fall. Few years ago, we spent the moonlit night of Holi at the Birthi KMVN.

Birthi Fall

Birthi Fall

Birthi..

Birthi..

Now the KMVN Bungalow has been extended and can house more tourists. As we got closer to Munsiyari, the nature turned even more fascinating. Rhododendron, Oak, Walnat forests, green Bugiyals on both sides of the road and most remarkably the carpet of white Pangor flowers everywhere on the road made us spellbound. From Kalamuni top(at an altitude of approx 3000 meters, we saw a glimpse of the Panchachulli peaks. Ramesh assured that in the evening the clouds will go away and we shall definitely be able to view Panchachulli. He was right.

Finally we reached Munsiyari. Zara resort is a km away from the bus stand. The property is well-maintained and room services are excellent. Mr. Punetha, the manager, is a true gentleman. In the afternoon we decided to extend our stay for one more day(it was originally 2 days and 2 nights). After surveying some more hotels near the bus stand, we finally fixed a deal with Zara resort for a four bead room at a very attractive price. We had the lunch and took rest and then went to the bus stand. In the evening we went to the bus stand and spotted a small Bengali restaurant run by a Kumaoni family.

Kumani Didir Bangali Hotel, Munsiyari

Kumani Didir Bangali Hotel, Munsiyari


For the remaining days, we have never thought of eating elsewhere. It’s a very small restaurant and can not accommodate a large group, it does not really look impressive, but their hospitality moved all of us. As a matter of fact, there were no typical Bengali dish, nor were we looking for one, but we did feel at home for the care they took.

20 May/21 May
During next two days we got spectacular view of Panchachulli peaks during Sunrise and Sunset.

Panchachuli during sunrise

Panchachuli during sunrise

Typically, the peaks would be visible in the early morning and during sunset.

Panchachulli in different looks..

Panchachulli in different looks..

Unlike the places like Binsar, Pauri or Kausani, from where you would be able to see a large number of peaks, from Munsiyari, only Panchachulli and some other peaks are visible. But here the peaks appear much closer.

Pandava Parvat at Munsiyari- in the early morning, during day time and then gradually getting covered by dense cloud in the evening..

Pandava Parvat at Munsiyari- in the early morning, during day time and then gradually getting covered by dense cloud in the evening..

Some of the places we visited at Munsiyari-

Maishar Kund is a small lake on a valley. From main road, one has to trek around 1.5 km through a narrow cattle-road which passes through a dense forest at places.

On the way to Maisar Kund

On the way to Maisar Kund


Near Maisar Kund

Near Maisar Kund


Nanda Devi Temple is the most attractive place at Munsiyari. The temple is located in a Bugiyal. It is within easily walk able distance from Munsiyari bus stand. We could spot dozens of butterflies in the Bugiyal. The towering Panchachulli peaks appear even closer from here. The roar of fierce Gauri Ganga flowing through deep gorge below blends with the typical mystical Himalayan breeze here. Couple of villages can be seen in the mountains on the opposite side. One would wonder who all stay there, how they survive and how they connect to the rest of the world.

Darkot Durga Devi temple is another place where one can spend hours looking at the Gouri Ganga gorge and listening to its music. There is a temple of Devi Durga and Kali here.

Pungtey brothers at Darkot village welcome all visitors and in their Tribal Museum. With lot of patience and passion, they provide a vivid description of the history of Johar, the Indo-Tibet border trading trading and lifestyle of Johari Bhotias. The museum has a rich collection of documents, maps, books, pohotographs, models and artifacts illustrating the history of the region. Here I learnt about the great explorer Pandit Nain Singh Rawat and later on purchased a book on his life from Narayanas at Nainitaal. If interested in understanding Bhotia community and culture and Indo-Tibet border trade, one must visit this museum.

22 May
After viewing the sunrise we left Munsiyari and via Thal, Berinag, Seraghat and Panuanaula reached Jageshwer. There is an array of ancient Hindu temples surrounded by giant Cedar forests at Jageshwer.

Jageshwer

Jageshwer


The stretch from Panuanaula to Jageshwer is simply amazing. From here, one can do an easy trek to Bura Jageshwer and enjoy the panoramic view of the Nandadevi and other Himalayan peaks. This is in my wish list.

23 May
From Jageshwer, we reached Binsar in the morning. Unfortunately, because of cloud we could not see the Himalayan range. Also, there were good number of tourists and hence we did not experience the absolute calmness that we did during our last visit in 2004.

Binsar

Binsar


From Binsar, we reached Nainital via Almora. It was a weekend in the peak summer season, there were plenty of vehicles on the road and Nainital was heavily crowded. With Ramesh’s help, we managed to get an accommodation and night bus tickets for Delhi.

In the evening we walked in the Mall road, did boating in the lake and did some shopping at Narayana. I like this shop at Nainital- they keep good collection of wild life and Himalayan expedition books and candles.

Nainital

Nainital


Well- while at Nainitaal, we were wondering what to do during the rest of the days of my sabbatical. While I preferred to take rest and do some study at home, the rest of the gang forced me to plan another trip to the hills- from the land of Gauriganga to that of Ganga- Gangotri. I hope to write a post for Gangotri trip sometime ..

We had in our plan to stay at a place called Didihat(near Pithoragarh)- but we preferred to stay at Munsiyari instead and skipped Didihat. I would like to write about Didihat sometime. This is a small and quiet “Ganj” in Pithoragarh district- spectacular view of Panchachulli can be seen from Didihat. There is a temple called “Malaynath” on top of a hill near Didihat- it is possible to see snow peaks of Garhwal, Kuman as well as of Nepal from here.

Wish fellow Ghumakkars a very happy journey to Munsiyari.

References/Contacts:-
Naina Tour and Travels(Nainital):05942233444, 09412084134, 09719068969.
Zara Resort, Munsiyari- 094111347968.
Booking of KMVN Tourist Rest Houses: Online booking at www.kmvn.org
Other accommodations at Munsiyari:-
KMVN
Pandey Lodge (Fooding+Lodging)
Korunga Hotel (Logding)
Johar Hilltop Resort
Kanchana Bhojonalaya contact number-09410599475. Mrs. Champa Dhami.

Bus/Shared Jeeps:-
Very limited bus services to Munsiyari. List of Uttarakhand Roadways buses I am aware of-
– Haldwani-Munsiyari(Leaves Haldwani early in the morning)
– Delhi Munsiyari(Leaves Anand Vihar At around 3 PM on day 1, reaches Munsiyari at around 7 pm on day 2)
– Pithoragarh-Munsiyari.
– Sumo/Marshall jeeps on share basis from Thal.

I learnt a bit about Bhotia communities from following books:
1) Kailash and Manas Sarovar(In Bengali) – Umaprasad Mukherjee[A description of his Manas Sarovar-
Kailash yatra by Late Shree Umaprashad Mukherjee. Apart from an amazing description of the journey, it starts with an extremely informative historical account of explorations to Tibet]
2) Himaranya (In Bengali) – Ramananda Bharti[As a pilgrim, in around 1890, he reached Tibet via Joshimath and Niti pass. His description of Bhotia community and the socio-cultural life in Tibet and the details of his journey are worth reading]
3) “Asia ke Pith Par Pandit Nain Singh Rawat”(In Hindi and English)- Uma Bhatt and Shekhar Pathak.
[This book is a Gold mine of information on various explorations to Cenrtal Asia and the history of Uttarakhand and especially Johar. Pandit Nain Singh Rawat was a legendary explorer and a great son of Johar. I could not stop once I started reading this book. Also visit www.pahar.org]
4) “Hot Pursuit of Kazakh Bandits by a Johari Trader”- Dr. SS Pangtey and Elmar Grypa
5) “Travails of Border Trade”- Bhawan Singh Rawat [ I collected books 4 and 5 from Mr. Pangtey. Both are very informative.

14 Comments

  • Matthew Laun says:

    I love the pictures of Panchachulli the best. Cheers!
    Matt

  • sanjay says:

    Nice place to visit, very well narrated

  • Amar says:

    Thanks Rahul, pretty interesting. Just remembered…..”Because it is there”.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Great stuff. It would be helpful to have some details around, time takes between important milestones and some clue on distance and road quality. I am guessing that one can do Delhi-Munsiyari with one night-halt, say at Almora. I went to Kausani early this year, we started early morning and were there by late afternoon. Probably we can go a little further but not too sure on acco though.

    Once again, the pics in 550 x 375 would look even more amazing. Its not uncommon to find Bengai Restaurants in far-off places, we even spotted one in Chitkul, which is really like last point beyond Sangla towards China, probably to do with the fact that a lot of Bengalis like to travel a lot, say unlike a Pseudo Delhite- Alien Bihari like me :)

    Haven’t been to Gangotri, I believe it would be closed now or would get sooner. Looking fwd to read about Didihat and Gangotri.

    • testerrahul says:

      Yup- you can do DLI-Almora on day 1 and Almora-Munsiyari(via Bageshwer) on day 2. But, I would stay at Binsar instead or Almora-it is just about another 35 km(and towards Bageshwer). Binsar can be quickly reached from the Almora-Bageshwer road also. The road surface quality in Almora-Bageshwer-Thal-Munsiyari route is quite good. But things change in the hills after rainy season/winter.

      You could do a circular journey here- go to Munsiyari via DLI-Kathgodam-Bageshwer-Thal and then come back via Jauljibi-Pithrogarh- Tanakpur- Kichha-DLI..(Please refer to the map in Part 1 and look at the four routes listed there for a reference). While going to Munsiyari, you could do a night stay at Binsar and while coming back to Delhi, you could stop at Abbott mount(near Lohaghat).

      I will fix the images perhaps over the weekend. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Santanu De says:

    Looking at the map, I find four possible ways in which one can reach Munsiyari from Lohaghat, of course there is an overlap, but still, four alternatives:

    Lohaghat – Ghat- Rameshwar- Gangolihat- Berinag- Thal – Munsiyari*

    Lohaghat- Pithoragarh- Dewalthal- Thal- Munsiyari* (*along Ramganga)

    Lohaghat- Pithoragarh- Ogla- Didihat- (near Thal) – Munsiyari (the road from Didihat meets the road from Thal somewhere a little ahead of Thal itself, I don’t know the name of this junction)

    Lohaghat- Pithoragarh -Ogla- Jauljibi – Munsiyari along Goriganga

    Which of these four routes will you recommend for someone who’s going to Munsiyari for the first time?

    I also plan to visit Binsar WLS and Chaukori, so my original plan was Kathgodam – Binsar- Chaukori – Munsiyari – Patal Bhuvaneshwar (?)- one more halt? – Kathgodam, but now I realize that this plan is sub-optimal as I’d be traversing more or less the same road on the way up and down. Twice, I have to halt around the same location (about 5-6 hours from Munsiyari – Chaukori and PB. Now I can stay a day longer in Chaukori and visit PB during this time. ). Also I was undecided whether to return to KGM directly from PB or halt one more day in between at some place, since I dont like to be in the car for more than 6-7 hours a day.

    Now I plan either Rudrapur- Abbott Mount – Munsiyari- Chaukori – Binsar – Kathgodam. This will be like a circular route- and some of the problems in the earlier route go away automatically. It may be possible to do it the other way also, that is start from Kathgoadam – Binsar and end by Abott Mount – Rudrapur.

  • Rahul says:

    I suggest
    “Lohaghat- Pithoragarh -Ogla- Jauljibi Munsiyari along Goriganga”
    This is the finest and also the shortest route.

    “his will be like a circular route”
    ## Yes- it is a nice idea. You can see more places.
    Good luck for your journey.

  • Tania Sen says:

    Hi,

    Very well narrated travelogue. Really loved reading it. Just wanted a piece of information. We plan to visit Munsyari in the last week of December via Pantnagar airport. Can you please give me some idea about the driving time taken from Partnagar to Munsiyari. Was thinking of taking a night halt at Chaukori…is it advisable? Or one should halt at Almora. Actually not getting to know the travel time beyween Pantnagar to Mumnsyari. Our destinations would be primarily Munsyari-Binsar-Naukuchiatal. Would appreciate to receive suggestions from you. Thanks

  • trahul says:

    Hi, Tania,
    Considering tea and lunch breaks etc., on a reasonable estimate, it should take close to 10-12 hours to reach from Pantnagar to Munsiyari. I would suggest a night halt at Choukari wich offers great mountain views. Last week of December is one of the best times to go to Himalayas. Best wishes for the journey.
    Rahul

  • Sushil Ojha says:

    I plan to go by train from DehraDun to Haldwani/Kathgodam. And then to Gurudwara Mitha/Ritha Sahib from Haldwani or nearby places like Nainital or Almora by bus (Govt or Pvt). I am not sure about availabilty of such buses. Please guide if you have any sure idea.

  • testrahul says:

    During the trip I did observe a bus(UK Roadways) shuttling between Nanak Mata( near Tanakpur) and Ritha Mitha Sahib. I can’t tell for sure if the service still operates. If I were in your situation, I would have called KMVN head office and asked for the contact number of KMVN Nanak Mata. Then I would have called KMVN Nanak Mata and enquired about the bus service. KMVN employees are in general helpful and I have almost always got credible input from them.
    Otherwise, some google search may help.

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