We all need an escape, every time when the monotonous bustle of the cities seeps in our psyche. As this year was particularly hectic for me, I longed for a break. The monsoonal showers were about to end – a big relief from Delhi’s scorching summer heat, making the time even more ideal to take a trip to the Kumaun Himalayas.
To feed my wanderlust, I decided to head to Binsar in Uttarakhand’s mountainous Kumaun region. Of all the popular hill stations I’ve been to in the northern part of the country, this picturesque destination had much more to offer. As a solitary nomad who has a passion for hiking, I prefer fewer crowds and more foliage enveloping endless walking trails.
The road journey I embarked on from Delhi, presented me several wondrous sights along the smooth Kumaun roads. Allow me to go into the details.
A brief stopover in Almora
Just 24km before Binsar, the hill town of Almora surrounded by tall pine and oak trees, was a scenic stop. Although the main town area was a bit crowded with travellers from all over, I did not want to miss walking down the old, narrow lanes of Lala Bazaar. This 200-year-old market area is famous for selling winter wear weaved from Angora rabbit’s fur.
My love for sweets made me search for the famed store, Kheem Singh Mohan Singh Rautela Sweets at Mall Road where I got a chance to try the saccharine treat, bal mithai.
A stay inside Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary
I finally reached Binsar in the evening. I was refreshed by the pleasant weather and the cool winds blowing from everywhere. As the popular Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary surrounds this quaint town, I decided to stay within its premises at the Tree of Life Grand Oak Manor. I got the chance to try out the best regional delicacies prepared from fresh produce, before I retired into the night in lush comfort.
The next morning, the sight of rhododendron and oak trees along with the scenic backdrop of the enormous snow-capped mountains and clear blue sky were enough to transport me into a world of awe. The sound of colourful birds chirping around made my day.
Exploring the village life of Kathdara
This fine retreat, much like the famed Nine Furlongs estate nearby, also organises a few walks through comfortable terrains. One such is the nature trail through dense greenery to the village of Kathdara. I didn’t carry any hiking gear along this time, as I was told that the trek was not that steep. So, by the afternoon, I started following the wilderness and reached in less than two hours. I got to know that the Nine Furlongs estate includes the Dhaulchhina trek with an informed guide who can show one where deer roam around. This trek also offers the wonderful view of the Kathdara village below.
Once I reached the village, I felt that I belonged here. The genuine warmth that the villagers shared was something that I don’t come across very often. Apart from that, the slated roofs of traditional houses besides green terraced fields were an absolute visual delight. The best part was I forgot for a while about life in the modern cities. The uphill climb back to the hotel was a bit strenuous but I was in no mood to take any other means for transport. I was, in fact, prepping myself for the long trek to Zero Point the next day.
Hiking up to Zero Point
I woke up early morning with the sound of chirping birds. This day was slightly more cold (but bearable) and the crisp mountain air made me gulp down two hot cups of coffee. I did not know that this luxury retreat provides an in-house naturalist, who accompanies the guests for the Zero Point trek.
All the more delighted, I passed through the lovely greenery on laid-out gravely paths, and this time I carried my DSLR camera along. The trail was so scenic and with the help of the naturalist, I could spot the Lesser Yellow-naped Woodpecker, Himalayan Woodpecker and Blossom-headed Parakeet among many others whose names I will recall when I check my photos again.
Once I reached the zenith, the unobstructed views of the second highest peak of India, Nanda Devi, as well as Pindari Glacier made me forget that it was a 3-hour-long trek and that I was in a short vacation. I couldn’t help but take snapshots of every other natural marvel from all angles.
The exquisite journey back
Before my sojourn came to an end, I decided to explore more of what Uttarakhand has to offer. It was the perfect time to come across the abundant flora and fauna at Jim Corbett National Park, as the various park zones reopen around mid-November. It is roughly about 152km from Binsar. A little further ahead, about 4 hours away, I reached Rishikesh, a picturesque spiritual hub. It was a delight as I relaxed and read a book while munching some snacks at German Bakery, which is right next to Laxman Jhula. Instead of boarding a train from Haridwar, I opted to enjoy the road journey to Kathgodam from where I had to board the Shatabdi train back to Delhi.
This trip to Binsar has been the perfect escape for me in years. I will certainly take a break next year to its lush natural surroundings and its secluded attractions.