Join guest author Arun Iyer as he continues his journey through parts of Kumaon region in Uttarakhand state. Part 1 link here
Binsar offers some of best terrains for an avid trekker. Even if you are a family with kids and enjoy trekking, there are short, easy treks that fit the bill. In fact it would be a cardinal sin to not trek in such a beautiful landscape.
When you are in an unknown terrain it helps to have a local guide and we had a really good one, Dharmendra from Club Mahindra, to accompany us. Adding to our easewas the fact that the route we took had a partially concretized path laid by local civic authorities.
The real joy of a trek is in soaking in the surroundings while getting acquainted with some of the flora and fauna of the region. The most common ones in Binsar are deodars, pines and silver oaks. In addition, there were rhododendrons or ‘buransh’ as they are called locally (albeit minus the bright red flowers when we visited), walnuts, pomegranate and ‘kaphal’- a red berry found all across Kumaon.
Littered along the path were shrubs of yellow berries called ‘hisalu’ (golden Himalayan raspberry) and ‘bichhu booti’ (Stinging Nettle), whose leaves carry small needles that really sting. “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity” goes a saying and in a momentary lapse of judgement I touched one leaf, very gently at that, with the tip of a finger and believe you me; I had a stinging, numb sensation for almost 4 hours after that. Cursing my luck I wondered why nobody had bothered to put up a sign that read “WARNING!!! DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME, OR ANYWHERE ELSE!’
The other fun of trekking in a tree-filled terrain with a water body added for good measure is seeing a variety of birds. To the untrained eye, they are just different birds. But if you have a bird-watcher for company you feel a sense of accomplishment in being able to identify them, be it a black drongo, the blue whistling thrush, a laughing thrush, hoopoe, Himalayan bulbul and if you are lucky, even a tawny fish owl.
A 4-5 kilometer trek in the Kumaon is an easy 2 – 2.5 hours of quality time with your family and is a must do. As you trudge back through the village sights of women carrying their wares atop their head, villagers tending to their goats and hen, a pet dog lazily basking in the evening sun, and other visuals of rural life make you envious of the tough, yet simple lifestyle of the seemingly happy-go-lucky ‘pahadi’ people.
Back at the resort room, standing in the balcony sipping my cuppa and watching bumble-bees hovering romantically over the flowers, I reflect on the last five days of our holiday. When I originally planned the trip, I didn’t have high expectations and had thought of it as a visit to just another hill station. However, the variety that we encountered in the beautiful locations, views, and interesting temples as well as the relaxation that just being amidst nature imparts, made it a wonderful trip worth every minute spent.
Just then, wifey dear shouted “Have you gathered enough plastic bags for tomorrow?” Darn! Tomorrow is going to be another 5 hours of driving through labyrinthine mountains, accompanied by motion sickness.
What we missed doing
On our first day in Binsar the skies were very hazy and we decided against visiting Zero Point at Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, which on a clear day offers spectacular view of the Himalayan mountain ranges of Kedarnath, Trisul and Nanda Devi.
The next day, we managed to walk about half a kilometer from our resort to get a glimpse of the snow-clad peaks. Getting to see the Himalayan ranges in all its majestic glory and in a panoramic view would surely have been out of the world experience, but maybe that one is for another day.
A few tips
- If you happen to be at Sat Tal around lunch-time, try the delicious ‘kumaoni kadhi’ and ‘kumaoni dal’ with the traditional mandua(millet) ki roti and ‘aalu ke gutke’. Also drool-worthy is the ‘nimbu paani’ made with local lemons, laced with mint juice and a concoction of rock salt with other spices.
- Wherever you get an opportunity, try the ‘buransh’ juice. Made from juice extracted from the rhododendron flowers, it has a woody, sweet-sour flavor and when made in cold water, is a very refreshing drink
- Finally, while I have given enough hints about the winding roads, let me repeat it. If you are prone to motion sickness do carry a bunch of plastic bags, especially if you have kids
How to Get There
- The only way to access the mountains of Kumaon is via the twin towns of Haldwani-Kathgodam.
- Kathgodam is about 280 km from Delhi. If you are travelling from any place south of Uttar Pradesh, the best option is to take a flight to Delhi and then take one of the 3 trains from Delhi to Kathgodam. There are trains to Kathgodam from other parts of Northern India like Jaisalmer/Jaipur, Jammu, Kanpur, Lucknow and Howrah but for most purposes flying into Delhi would be the best option
- Once you have reached Kathgodam, you have to hire a vehicle to go anywhere in Kumaon whether it’s Nainital, Binsar, Ranikhet, or Kausani
- The distance from Kathgodam to Naukuchiatal is about 35 km and it takes almost 1.5 hours. Kathgodam to Binsar is 110 km while Naukuchiatal to Binsar is about 90 km. Either way one should budget for 4 hours at least considering the likelihood of traffic jam at certain spots plus the pit stops one might have to make along the way
- You could also drive directly from Delhi to any of these destinations and there are buses plying as well. But believe me, it’s going to be one tiresome drive
ABOUT THE GUEST AUTHOR
Arun Iyer, by his own admission, is a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ and dabbles in photography, painting and poetry. As a software professional, he’s in a perennial state of conflict, swinging between ‘One day I will give it all up and chill’ and ‘I need to do this’. You can catch him on twitter @arun_s_i
Note from Vibha Ravi : I enjoy reading and editing Arun’s contributions. His sense of humour adds that special ingredient that makes a good story even better