I had finally mustered enough courage to set out alone; after the fraças in Garhwal.
Although Uttarakhand hadn’t been particularly kind to me, this time I chose to explore Kumaon. A day in Dehradun and another in Nainital was spent getting used to the idea of trusting strangers again. Destiny had another jolt planned when a minor incident happened but thankfully no damage was done. I promised myself to be more alert and enjoy roaming like my old self.
After toying with the idea of going back home, circumstances conspired to bring me to Almora. I had gone to Haldwani to make my way back to Delhi but changed my mind again and board a bus to Almora. The first memory of Almora will remain etched in my mind of eating the super sweet Baal Mithai at Kheem Singh Mohan Singh Rautela and dancing happily on the street. Then there comes a moment when your heart says everything will be alright. I had begun to trust my sixth sense again.
Almora is the cultural capital of Kumaon and was established by the Chand Rajas in 1560. I meandered around the streets soaking in the frenetic sights and decided to check out the hippie hamlet of Kasar Devi situated on a nearby hillock. A shared taxi took thirty rupees, I saw foreigners loitering around and colourful signboards indicating cheap homestays with fresh home cooked food. It felt like my kind of place for slow travel with lovely landscapes too.
I plonked myself at Arjun Guest House and gazed at stupendous valleys and mountain views in the day and picturesque sunsets in the evening. The pine trees made a rustling sound when the wind picked up. I made friends with the birds that came and cared to sit in peace around me. A little eatery by the name of Baba Cake (owned by a German) was my favourite place to while away time reading, sitting in the bright sunshine.
Random interactions with the villagers revealed that if I went further ahead I would see the Himalaya. I didn’t quite understand what they meant by the Himalaya, considering we were already seeing the mountains. One day when I actually went strolling forward, I chanced upon a view of perfect white mountains, one after the other and then I realised Himalaya meant snowy mountains.
Binsar was touted as a must see destination, perched at an altitude of 2420m. The only options of staying inside were costly luxury estates and the KMVN Tourist Reception Centre. One day we set off on a Royal Enfield to see the local shawl factory of Panchachuli Weavers at Dinapani and crossed the forest check post after paying the entry fees to enter the scenic Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary.
A walk among the dense oak and rhododendron forest took us to a place called ‘Zero Point’, from where there was an unhindered view of the peaks of Chaukhamba, Panchachuli, Nanda Devi, Mt. Trishul. Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is an ideal place for bird watching and wildlife photography. We marvelled joyously at the crystal clear views, and were later told that the skies had been cloudy for the past week and that we were indeed lucky to have witnessed that majestic sight.
We can plan all we like, but the best sojourns are the unplanned, spontaneous ones!
How do you like your journeys?
How to Reach : Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is at a distance of 32 kms from Almora. Almora is around 375 kms from Delhi and the road is pretty good.
Weather : The days are pleasant and nights are nippy from March to November; December to February is very cold.
Where to Stay : At basic village homestays inside Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary or luxury estates, there are plentiful accommodation options in Kasar Devi. KMVN Binsar is a fine place to stay inside the wildlife sanctuary.