It was already 8 PM when the bus pulled over in an attempt to relieve its aching muscles. The passengers had been long waiting for the driver to make the final announcement. They are tired by the super-long journey from Almora to Munsiyari. I was there somewhere amidst them, getting tossed by the infinite number of hairpin turns all throughout this 250 kilometer of journey. It was tedious but just like any other Himalayan journey, had its own charm. The pine forests of Kumaon Himalayas in Uttarakhand, India are quite popular and the journey involved occasional breaks whenever a lonesome pine fruit was found loitering in the street. The joy of gathering these is only comparable with the ecstasy of collecting the Apples from orchards of Kinnaur. Sometimes when the distant fog cleared a tuft of the snow-peak becomes viewable and all my restlessness flew off.
As soon as the driver announced “we have reached Munsiyari”, the crowd started dislodging from the bus. On boarding down I found the valley already half asleep and engulfed in total darkness. With a torch and rucksack I treaded along the uneven path half guessing and half praying I reach the room of my cottage as soon as possible.
Early morning the next day an asset of a view welcomed me when I opened the door. Right in front of my eyes were standing the lofty Himalayan peaks of Panchachulli with a fiery red hue over its summit. That was the first rays of the Sun kissing it lovingly.
I was lucky the sky was clear that day with no trace of fog or cloud. The weather in this region is very unpredictable. Sometimes the peaks are visible all through the day and on the less fortunate times sheath of mist veils it. The caretaker of the cottage was a humble old man who spoke broken Kumaoni-Hindi. He told me about the achievable 1 day treks from Munsiyari and hence my initial interest of visiting the Maheshwari Kund received a final approval.
The upward incline of the pine shaded asphalt road with the majestic whitewashed Panchachulli and the azure sky as my guide and companion appeared to me as a dream. On the ascent I met a couple of locals who greeted us gleefully in their own dialect. It was not Hindi what they were speaking but I suppose when there is warmth and goodness of heart, language cannot be a barrier. They live a modest life, under extreme weather condition, devoid of luxuries and yet they are so much happy and satisfied. They spread love wherever they go. That is the beauty of the mountain people living in remote location. They are beautiful. They conveyed to us the origin point of the trek and cautioned that we must not stroll away from the route.
The origin point of the trek was unceremoniously ordinary. Boulders were stacked up as if someone was trying to tell us ‘do not take this way’ but a voice inside me shouted “those locals cannot be wrong, trust them”. We started the uphill hike following the path. We were nine. The smell of the woods charmed me all along. Here and there sometimes a camper’s disowned shoe, water bottle, a piece of cloth appeared. Sometimes a clear gushing stream of water erupted, followed us for a while before taking a turn and vanishing in the forest. The hills tired us every now and then and we were forced to take occasional breaks. Suddenly in one such break as I turned my head around, I was awe-struck. I realized we have climbed so much into the woods that I can view a considerable portion of it below me on one side and the entire valley of Munsiyari on the other.
It took about 45 minutes to reach the meadow, home to the lake. At its best, the lake can be described as a long forgotten lore of the forest-unclean, unkempt. The meadow was joyfully green with velvety grass, surrounded by red and yellow trees reflecting the season of fall, extending into the beyond. The place was not infiltrated with tourist. We were the only group up there and I took full advantage of my solitude. I ran, rolled and even meditated on the meadow.
The journey downhill to the valley took less than half the time it took us to complete the upward ascent. Apart from a weird ‘uncontrollable knee-issue’, nothing much bothered me. On reaching the valley the good villagers told us the reason of the abandoned status of Maheswari Kund. Sometimes ago a traveler while camping in the meadow was attacked and killed by wild animals, since then the government had informally closed the spot. Still, the lake is frequented by curious hikers like me who often seek help of the villagers to reach the isolated land high above the rolling hills.
Munsiyari is proud of its organic potato farms. ‘Balati’ is one such farm which had risen to stardom in the region. Naturally my lunch that afternoon involved mashed potato and rice. Post lunch I wandered about in the valley in lookout of a local chit-chat partner. Attracted by chocolate dips I entered the shop selling it. The shopkeeper turned out to be a man who gave me a golden advice. He asked me to visit the local ‘Nanda Devi’ temple to watch the sunset and promised that it would be one of the best experiences in my life. Before I took off for the journey to the temple a bunch of playing kids crossed my path. Quickly a friendship formed. The leader was called Karan and he enthusiastically answered all my questions regarding his valley. He showed me his school, friends, neighbors and spots to photograph. He also narrated how life becomes hard in the tough months of winter when there is knee-deep snow and relentless snowfall. How they have to miss school, patients get no medical access and life comes to a standstill.
The Nanda Devi temple turned out to be like a gigantic football field surrounded 360 degree by the mighty Himalayas. I can understand quite well why the Hindu Goddess chose such a place to seat herself. It was heavenly. The entire afternoon was spent in bliss watching the peaks play hide and seek with the golden clouds.
When I returned to the valley it was already dark, I walked up to the shop selling chocolate dips to thank the shopkeeper for without his help I could have never witnessed the magical sunset. I found the shutter down; Munsiyari was already in slumber…
Trip Taken On- November 2015
Travel Agent Hired- Debi Tours And Travels (Biswanath Ghatak- 9051806469)
Hotel Booked- Johar Hill Top (089547 21405)
This is not an advertisement but a recommendation. I paid for my own trip.
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