Kumaon on my Wheels - Uttarakhand
Lockdown of First Covid19 wave had made me so depressed that the moment, travelling became safer, I planned a Bike Trip of Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. We rented an RE Classic 350 for me & Thunderbird 350 for my friend Nitin from Haldwani.
Day I - The Beginning of Kumaon Bhraman
We started at around 8 AM from Haldwani. Our destination of the day was the Hotel Sun N Snow at Kausani. We stopped by a Temple named Kainchidham. Probably, IT guys might know why this temple is famous! Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of It 😉. Anyways, It was famous not because of any god/goddess but because Steve Jobs [Founder of Apple Computers] visited it before starting up APPLE. Even, Bill Gates too visited it but when he visited, he was already a known celebrity. I am not proud of this but even I am Software Engineer. “कम्युनिटी की इज्जत के लिए इतना तो करना ही पड़ता है!”. After coming out of the temple, we did breakfast at one of the stalls at the temple. Everywhere on this trip, we either had CHAI - PAKODI our Paratha, Be it breakfast or evening snack!
From there we took Ranikhet Route and reached there in pretty quick time. Thanks to the well constructed roads and Joy of riding RE after almost a year in the mountains! I disappeared so fast, Nitin had to ask several people on the way “भैया अपने किसी बाइक वाले को जाते हुए देखा क्या? जिस्की बाइक के पिचे ऑरेंज बेग बंद हुआ था?” 😜
From Ranikhet, I got the first glance of the Himalayas and it was amazing!!! From Ranikhet, we took a little detour towards Dwarahat. As all my Bangalore friends including Nitin studied from KEC Dwarahat, I wanted to visit their college and have food from the Dhaba behind the college! From Dwarahat, the route was covered with a dense forest of devdhar tree! “NO ONE IS AUTHORIZED TO CUT DEVDHAR!” Not even government people.
While I was riding through this forest, All of a sudden I saw a valley. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Valley and that too, in these mountains? Completely unexpected. Anyways, I was tired of riding at 20-30 kph. So When I got these plain roads, I put RE into the top gear and rode at 60-70 KMPH! Trust me! 60 KMPH in this part of the world isn’t a usual thing 😉. I had been to many valleys all around India and In my opinion, Someshwar Valley is one of the most scenic ones!
From Someshwar city, we turned left towards Kausani. While riding on flat roads, Google spoke: “You will arrive at your destination in another 4 km!” Seriously! Just 4 Kilometers?“ Kausani is famous for the Panoramic view of Himalaya mountain range including Trishul & Nanda Parvat” But we weren’t riding towards higher grounds! How on earth we will arrive at Kausani in another 4 km! Did we take the wrong route?” Even if we did, we weren’t having the stamina and time to reach the correct destination. So followed the map and reached the Hotel Sun N Snow! While parking at the Hotel, I could see hazy mountains on the horizon. They were looking tall, even from a distance! At first, I thought it was cloud but then I realized, Oh, That’s the Nanda Devi mountain range! Woah we arrived at the correct destination! I could breathe easy afterwards!
We dropped our luggage in our Room and went straight to the terrace. Where we had evening snacks with the Hazy Himalayas! While starring at the View, A thought came in my mind, Was it worth It?? Indeed It was!
Day II - Adventurous ride to BIRTHI via SAMA
I got up before sunrise & went straight to the terrace to watch the Sunrise. It was relatively dark and hazy but I could spot the Himalayas quite clearly. Slowly the sun was rising and snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas turned from white to golden. It was pleasing to the eyes. Last year, when I visited Auli, I never understood the hype behind Trishul parvart but when I saw it from Kausani, I realized why it was named Trishul! It did look like Mahadev’s TRISHUL!
We finished breakfast by 9 AM and got ready for the longest & craziest ride of the trip. Unlike other Himalaya region, Kumaon wasn’t explored much by riders. So, expect the unexpected! be it a route or destinations which was exciting & scary at the same time!
After climbing down from Kausani we entered into another valley, named Bageshwar valley. It was famous for hundreds of ancient temples built on the bank of river Sariyu. We stopped at one such site Baijnath, around 7 kilometres from Bageshwar. This incredible Shiva temple was built in the 7th Century. There were a bunch of 15-20 small temples made from Rock. We walked around each of them before visiting the main shiva temple. After taking blessings from the lord shiva, we resumed our journey towards Bageshwar. From Bageshwar, we followed the sariyu river till we reached Kapkot.
From Kapkot, Hilly terrain with dense forest started. Roads were still in very good conditions but it became insanely narrow and a major part of it was a single lane! If a car would come from the opposite direction, they might have to take reverse until they got broad enough space to cross. Sama was 24 kilometre and throughout It, we didn’t found a single Home and rarely found fallow travellers. We could even heard Birds’ chirping sound when we took a break in between.
When we reached Sama, It was 2 PM and still 50 odd kilometres left. We thought of postponing lunch for an hour and do it to somewhere near Tejam. Well, It was a big mistake! Because so many things would have been avoided if we would have taken lunch. With every passing kilometre, the quality of roads was degrading with countless hair pin bands without any fencing at the edge or to the sides of the roads. The majority of these slopes were as inclined as 50°. To make it worst, the surface of the roads were having an insane amount of gravels. This had made roads more slippery and increased the difficulty to climb down these roads. Throughout these 15 kilometres, I hardly used BREAKS and I don’t think I had put my bike in THIRD GEAR! At times SECOND seemed fast 😜. With every passing milestone, I was calculating the remaining distance needed to be covered. I never concentrated this hard while driving 😜. Now I realized why I couldn’t found a single vlog of Sama <-> Tejam Route! Because you can’t think of anything other than crossing it safely 😃
Finally, I successfully climbed down the last slope and found a small roadside DHABA on the bank of river RAMGANGA. It was almost 3 PM and apart from that morning breakfast, I didn’t eat a thing. So, I asked Nitin to stop and have delayed lunch.
Scary story started from here! We could found anybody in DHABA and later saw washing utensils in the water stream. Looked like the owner of the DHABA. After shouting for 15 mins, he realized we were calling him so he came to his DHABA. We ordered Maggi but he insisted to try homemade PALAK sabzi, Roti & ARABI (kind of starter) with CHAI. The food was really tasty and I was super hungry so I ate a lot. After spending an hour at this insanely silent, scary but beautiful place we started riding toward the last 26 kilometres of the day. I had hardly driven a kilometre and suddenly, I heard somebody shouting at me. So, I looked back and found no one. This happened 3-4 times. So, I stopped and asked Nitin if he was shouting at me? which he denied. Then he also told me that he was hearing similar things and we realized there was something wrong with food. Probably, It had BHANG LEAVES mixed in it because of which we both were hallucinated. Not sure how but we had completed those 26 kilometres in less than 45 minutes. I was so happy to read ”KMVN BIRTHI!” Hotel’s board. Luckily, we made it without a single scratch on our body under incredible circumstances.
What if we would have taken lunch at SAMA, may all of these been avoided! But would I ever get this experience? probably No! So No Regret! While having tea in the evening, I was thanking about all the events of the Day & Silently thanking god for keeping us SAFE!
Day III - RIDE to MUNSIYARI through higher altitude roads
MUNSIYARI was the reason I planned the trip! And till the last night, we weren’t sure if we could able to reach there. Due to cloudy weather, we were anticipating heavy snowfall at Kalamuni which might close the route for a day or two. So, the next morning, the first thing we asked the receptionist of the hotel was “भैया मुनस्यारी का रास्ता खुला है ना?” Which he replied “हाँ!!!”. Which brought a big smile to my face 😃 Now, no one can stop me from visiting Munsiyari!
Munsiyari was just 33 Kilometers from the KMVN BRITHI. This was one of the most scenic routes! Though, few kilometres near Kalamuni and Khaliatop base camp were tricky and challenging! In an hour and a half, we hit the highest altitude road of the trip at Kalamuni. It was at 2700 meters altitude! We stopped there and visited the Kalamuni temple. There were paintings of the Hindu Gods and the goddesses on most of the walls. It was as if they were telling some kind of mythological story. the temperature at noon was 0° and it felt extra cold due to heavy wind. Luckily, there was a tea stall where we had a tea and worm ourselves.
Just 12 kilometres to go! What a scenic route, I felt like I was riding in paradise. I always had a dream to ride in the snowfall and on the route covered with snow. Well, this was the closest I reached towards it! At around 1 PM, we reached the Hotel Milam Inn, our host for the next 2 days. View from every part of the hotel Milam Inn was breathtaking. We could see small Munsiyari Town situated in the lap of the PANCHACHULI mountain range. PANCHACHULI felt so close to me as if I could jump from my the balcony and reached on the peak!
time for some site seeing. So we went to the Darkot. The place was famous for woollen clothes and handicrafts made from Rabbit’s wool. The hot water stream of MADKOT was just 10 kilometres from DARKOT but by the time we had completed our shopping, It became quite dark. The last thing I wanted was to get sick due to riding in the rain. So decided to head back. we were around 5 kilometres away from the hotel and a hail storm started and it was becoming heavier with every minute. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any shelter and we had to keep riding. It was my first experience riding in the hail storm and trust me it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. Despite, wearing 3 layers, It was hurting. Finally, in 15 minutes we reached the hotel. While parking only, I shouted "भैया प्लीज गरम चाय और मिक्स वेज पकोड़ा रूम में जल्दी भेज दिजिये" .
As soon as we changed our clothes, somebody knocked our door. there It was : "चाय और पकौड़ा" at our door step. I put a chair in the balcony, and enjoyed delicious CHAI-PAKODA with incredible view of the Himalays! Later on, spent amazing evening with camp fire and tasty pahadi food.
Day IV - Trek to KHALIATOP
We woke up with another disappointment of not able to see the clear view of PANCHACHULI peaks due to cloudy weather. But It had increased the chances of snowfall. For Indians, snowfall isn’t a normal thing. Most of us, won’t experience it their lifetime.
We took early breakfast and went for the Khaliatop trek. We weren’t carrying any trekking shoes or trekking stick. luckily we got a trekking stick from the base camp. ( FYI - charges of trekking stick and entry fees were 50 Rs & 100 Rs respectively ). It was a 4 km trek, one way. During which we were climbing up to 3300 meters altitude. As it was the upper Himalayas and not the trans-Himalayas, 3300 meters altitude meant a lot! And, I realized it, throughout the trek 😜. I had just trekked for 500 meters and I became exhausted and feeling breathless. Earlier, we were resting less and walking more but later we were trekking less and resting more. The place which was looking greener, in the beginning, was looking whiter with every step towards the top! I wanted to save as much energy as possible and hence decided not to walk a single meter more than required. So took every possible shortcuts 😜. The scary part was, throughout the trek, we didn’t see a single person. On top of that, we weren’t carrying any local guide. And, due to last night’s heavy snowfall, trekking trails got disappeared. We were completely relying on our instincts! Luckily, we saw a broken board of 3 KM and later spot small fencing at the top. It was - “KMVN KHALIYATOP!” Suddenly, I experienced spring in my steps, all tiredness was gone and without stopping any further I reached the top.
Khaliatop viewpoint was 3 kilometres from the KMVN guest house. But due to heavy snowfall, we couldn’t able to trek further. On a clear day, one could see the 360° panoramic view of the Himalayas from the Nanda Devi mountain range to the Panchachuli mountain range and mountains of Nepal. Incredible right? Still with these clouds also, the place and the view looked amazing! I was experiencing something which I had never experienced before. There was snow everywhere. I behaved like a kid and started to dive in the snow as well as initiated snow fights with Nitin. Btw, we took just over 2 and a half hours to reach at the top. That was some effort. We were damn hungry and ordered the entire menu which was a few Maggies, Omelettes and Tea/Coffee. I don’t know why but Maggi tastes completely different in the Himalayas. Post our lunch, Snowfall had started and before it became heavier we decided to trek back. But, not before enjoying the snowfall!
climbing down was more challenging than the climb up. On top of that recent snowfall had made the trails more slippery. Trust me! I fell more than 10 times on my way back to base camp. And my last pair of thermals became wet and muddy. But who cares about what I will gonna wear tomorrow, what mattered was I was having the best time of my life! So, “LIVE IN THE MOMENT!” We completed the entire trek in just over 4 hours. And, that too, without trekking shoes. It was my first major snow trek and I had nailed it!
Weather forecast was damn accurate. there were chances of the rain at 1 PM and it did rain at 1 PM. fortunately, before it got heavier like yesterday, we managed to reach the hotel. There wasn’t a heater available in our room. so the only we could worm ourselves was to get some RUM which we had in the night but for now, we had to manage with just “"चाय और पकौड़ा"”.
Surprisingly, at 4 PM, the cloud cover had lifted from the Panchachuli and a major part of it became visible. This was the clearest view of the Panchachuli we got so far. Apart from RAJMA, Munsiyari was famous for the mutton. And, As it was our last evening at Munsiyari, We went on a hunt. I had asked probably all the local restaurants in Munsiyari. Finally, headed towards the last restaurant and guess what, only one plate of mutton was remaining. वो कहते हैं ना, दाने दाने पर लिखा है, खाने वाले का नाम Replace “Daana” with “mutton” 😉. Next on the list was the Nanda Devi temple. More than the temple, it was the view around it which had amazed me. I would say it was the best place in Munsiyari. FYI, We got RUM for the night on our way back to the hotel. not the Old MONK, some local brand but taste-wise, it was the best RUM I had in my life!
Day V - Ride to PATAL BHUWANESHWAR
So far, Munsiyari had given us many amazing memories and thrilling experiences. Not able to see the Panchachuli peaks was the only disappointment.
I woke up at 5 AM and went straight to the balcony and when I looked up, I was amazed to see a sky full of stars. Before today, I couldn’t able to spot a single star in the Sky due to heavy cloud cover. But today it got disappeared. Suddenly, I could spot the silhouette of Panchachuli Peaks. I realized in few hours Panchachuli would be visible. the main reason why we travelled so far. I didn’t want to miss a single moment of it and hence didn’t sleep afterwards. Capturing stars is my hobby and hence brought my NIKON to take some pictures. Unfortunately, I wasn’t carrying any Tripod so had to build my own tripod with desi JUGAD. With the chair and Buckets, I could able to build the TRIPOD. Just imagine doing all these at 5 AM that too, at the temperature way below 0°. Crazy right? Indeed, travelling and photography make me crazy! So, After playing with ISO for some time, I got one of the best shot of the Panchachuli - “Snow-capped Panchachuli peaks with many stars in the background!”
visibility was increasing with every passing minute and I could clearly see all the peaks of the Panchachuli range. There was snowfall last night, due to which all the mountains were covered with fresh snow and looking really white. Sunrise was happening from the right side of the Panchachuli mountains. Initially, a part of the mountain range became golden, in an hour, the entire Panchachuli became golden! With this, it was looking prettier. I hadn’t seen sunrises better than this! I had waited TWO days for this view and every bit of it was worth it. There was a saying in Hindi - “सबरा का फल मीठा होता है!” Well, In my case, it was sweeter and prettier!
We really got addicted to the View. even though we wanted to leave by 9 AM, we couldn’t able to get up from our seat at 10 AM. We even had our breakfast on our balcony. Requested them to serve us on the balcony so that we didn’t need to get up from there. Finally, We got up, packed our bags and resumed our journey towards Patal-Bhuwaneshwar.
On my way back, I was thinking about each and every moments of the last TWO days. I felt nostalgic especially, when I was passing from places like KHALIYATOP base camp and KALAMUNI temple. We had early lunch at Birthi. Everywhere we chose the local Dhaba and due to which the trip became tastier!
From THAL we took BAIRINAAG route. it was paradise for the riders. Roads with great conditions and a lot of curves where you could band your bike as low as you want! We thought of having evening snacks with a panoramic view of the Himalayas at the Chakauri. so took a little detour and visited KMVN Chakauri. We had Tea with Aloo & Onion parathas there. The Panoramic view from KMVN Chakauri was similar to Kausani but the mountains looked nearer.
From chakauri, it was 90 mins ride. Most of it wasn’t as scenic as Munsiyari and roads too weren’t as good as it was till Bairinag. we reached Patal Bhuwaneshwar at late evening. found clean enough room to crash in for a night. After freshening up, we went for the dinner to the only restaurant of Patal Bhuwaneshwar and ordered delicious veg Pahadi THALI!
Day VI - Ride to Binsar
Patal Bhuwaneshwar was a real surprise destination of the trip. It was a cave temple and having incredible Hindu mythological stories associated with it. It contained all the information from SATYUGA to KALYUGA, even the time, when KALYUGA would end! Don’t worry still millions of years left for it! The great Guru Sankaracharya had visited this cave during his visit to Mount Kailash. So imagine how ancient this place is and the incredible value it holds. The cave had the same gate for entrance and exit. Only one person can enter/exit at a time. Only a few dozens of people could stay in the cave at a time. The entrance was so small that, I had to enter on my knees. I climbed down around 100ft on my knees to reach the bottom. When I reached at the bottom, I was surprised to see how broad the cave had become. It had seven small caves inside the main cave but travellers weren’t allowed to enter any of them. Almost all the caves had a story associated with them. They were like a bridge, and it would take you to different religious places like Rameshwaram/Kashi from this cave. I know it was hard to believe, but millions of years ago who knows there might be a path! I was amazed by each and every story associated with various sculptures which were formed naturally. Interestingly, When our guide was telling them, all most all of them made sense. There won’t be many pictures of it on the internet because videography and photography were prohibited.
After visiting the temple, we went to our room, got ready and went for lunch. Around 11:30 AM we started towards the last destination of the trip, TRH Binsar! It was 10 KMs inside Binsar National Park and the main gate would close after sunset. Hence, we need to reach before 6 PM. On the way, when I crossed Sheraghat Bridge, my bike’s petrol went into reserved mode. Petrol pumps in this region were scarce but luckily, I found a local shop which was selling petrol at a bit higher rate. So filled enough petrol. I asked Nitin to fill a litre of two but he was confident about not needing them at least for the day. So we moved on towards Binsar. In another 10-15 kilometres his bike went into reserved and now there wasn’t any petrol pump available. Due to this, we had to drive at least 25 kilometres more for a refill. Thankfully, just before sunset, we could able to reach the main gate of Binsar National Park.
We thought now just 10 kilometres remaining so probably 20 minutes of drive. But it was a National park and not a highway! The roads were really narrow and not at all in good conditions. We were almost riding off roads. On top of that, it was getting darker and the probability of encountering wild animal had increased or at least I thought so. Hence, I was scared and wanted to reach KMVN Binsar ASAP. After riding for 40+ minutes, with insane back & neck pain, I reached KMVN Binsar, our last destination of the trip!
I was damn tired but still a little excited because of the type of stay we had booked there. It was the costliest booking of the trip but each Rs of it was worth it.
Day VII - Ride Back Home
Again, I got up early in order to capture more stars. Unfortunately, I couldn’t found a better view and definitely, any shot couldn’t beat the Munsiyari one so stopped trying. At the time of sunrise, I ordered TEA and went out on the balcony to see the sunrise. I enjoyed sunrise with TEA and then went for our last Trek of the trip, the ZERO Point trek. Compare to the Khaliatop trek this was nothing. It was a simple 2 kilometres walk though we tried to increase the challenge by following various narrow off-road trails. From the ZERO point, we could see a clear view of most of the mountains of the Nanda Devi mountain range.
Time to go home but not before having Chocolate BARFI at Almora. I had to visit Almora, not because of Chocolate BARFI, but TWO of my BBFs are from Almora. calling your friends or sending them selfies from their city would be a nostalgic experience. One I never wanted to miss. From Almora, we had a choice to take a Mukteshwar route which was challenging and slower than the usual route to Haldwani via Keinchidham. I was really tired of riding for the last 7 days and wanted to reach home ASAP. So took the usual route. For the last 6 days, I felt like somebody had put me in a cage and just now they had set me free. Free to ride as fast as I could. After 6 days, I hit the roads at 80 KMPH. It was refreshing!
So far, I hadn’t visited any famous lakes of the Kumaon region so I took the Bheemtal route. Upon reaching there, took a selfie. I really wanted to do paragliding there but I was really tired and badly wanted to go HOME! So, left it for the next time and headed towards the Haldwani. After taking a small tea break we reached Haldwani!
Finally, Anther legendary bike trip got over with incredible memories and experiences!