The Beautiful Uttarakhand: Corbett & Binsar

Travel and writing, two things that I realized (pretty late), I love doing! Late than never, here comes my first travelogue.

Being a person, who hails from the southern part of India,  I have always wanted to witness the magnificent Himalayan ranges. So, when it was time for a vacation, we (my family) decided to visit a place that would let us closer to this snow clad beauty. No, we did not plan to go on a life changing trek to the ranges or an exciting road trip to Leh-Ladakh. All we did was to visit a small village in Uttarakhand, Binsar, that allows a panoramic glimpse of this wonderful mountain range. Deciding to survive in temperatures as low as 2 degrees celsius was adventurous enough for us!

To add a little more adventure to our trip, we included a jungle safari at Jim Corbett to the vacation plan. We were all set to visit the tigers and to get a glimpse of the Himalayas.

We reached Ramnagar railway station at night and the chill air gushed onto our face as soon as we got down the train. It goes without saying that we were layered in clothes and to top it, a fine jacket (yeah, we did get stares from people around for being dressed as though we are in the Alps!). The good part, by the following morning, we got used to the weather. As our safari was in the noon, we decided to spend the morning in the banks of Kosi river.

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Kosi river

The cleanliness of the water, solid rocks and the trees around gave such a picturesque view. The first dip of feet in the cold water was just blissful. We spent a good 2 hours enjoying the view of the river and were happily throwing pebbles in the stream.  It was time for the safari and after a lavish lunch, we were in the gypsy heading to the Jhirna zone of Corbett.

 

This was our first safari and the travel in an open gypsy by itself was amusing to us. Assuming the weather would be fine for an afternoon safari, we were slightly under dressed. The jungle had thick forestation and it was pretty cold. We spotted wild boars, peacocks, hundreds of deer, a monitor lizard (scary one), elephants, lots of monkeys, but no luck with the tigers. We heard their roars and what the locals call “deer calling” (the sounds made by deer when tigers are nearby). But no luck in sighting them and it still hurts us that the gypsy, 5 minutes behind us, spotted a family of tigers (along with 2 cubs). How I wish I had access to felix felicis! For muggles (non-Harry potter folks), it is a luck potion and when consumed, events are sure to favor you.

The evening was well spent in playing games in the resort as it got pretty dark by 5 in these regions. The next day we decided to hire a local cab to head towards Binsar, the most awaited part of the trip for us. It took 6 hours for a mere 180 km drive in the ghats. On our way we bypassed Ranikhet (Army regiment) and Almora. We also got our first distant glimpse of the Himalayas and this added to the excitement for the next day.  We loved the landscapes on our way and it was decorated with oak and pine trees throughout. Binsar belongs to the kumaon regions of Uttarakhand and it was colder, serene and tranquil. Our driver, who was also an excellent tour guide, used “ekant” (solitary in Sanskrit) to describe the beauty of this place. I cannot think of a more apt word! The place was free of the hustle bustle lifestyle and was just peaceful.

We tried the local kumaoni cuisine for dinner. Their food is prepared in sarson oil (mustard oil) and contains majorly a green leafy vegetable called saag.

Next day we were all set to visit the Zero altitude point, which gives the breathtaking view of the mountains (a 300 km stretch). The point is located inside the Binsar wildlife sanctuary (more of a bird sanctuary). As it was winter, we could not spot many birds. Vehicles are allowed only up to a certain point in the forest and we had to walk our way up to the view point. The walk was roughly 2 kms and takes about half an hour. For people like us, who are little lethargic about exercises (we are not lazy!), the walk, given the weather and altitude was little difficult (be sure to carry a bottle of water with you). A local guide is essential for this walk as there are various routes in the forest and one may get lost. This sanctuary is famous for leopards and again luck was not on our side. However, we spotted a species of mongoose (it looked more like a raccoon), which is found only in these regions.

We reached the zero point and it has a huge watch tower that allows the panoramic view. Finally, luck was on our side (I did not take the luck potion!), as there were no clouds hindering our view of the mountains. The beauty of the panoramic view cannot be explained in words, check out the pictures! We could see the peaks Nanda devi, Nandakot, Trishul and Panchachouli. We could hear the birds chirp, the gush sound of the mild winds and every single sound of the nature surrounding us. We just sat there and let that moment to take over us!

With no heart, we decided to walk downhill and move on to visit the Jyotirling Jageshwar, situated at roughly 50 km from Binsar. The way to this temple looks heavenly with just devdhar trees (cedar) in any direction we could lay our eyes on! This temple is the 8th of the 12 Jyotirling temples and is an age old stone temple. It also has a separate sanctity for Lord Mrutyunjay, Kedarnath and Pushti Matha. This temple has a 1200 year old devdhar tree, Ardhanareeshwar. The name is perfect, as the tree starts as one and divides into two trunks as it grows.

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1200 years old Devdhar tree, Ardhanareeshwar

On our way back to Binsar, we decided to visit the Gram Devta (Golu Devta according to the locals), as we found the story of the temple interesting. The Chithai Golu devta temple, in the outskirts of Almora, is also known as Nyay devta. People seeking justice write an application to the god here and tie a bell in the temple. They believe that the devta will serve justice. We were taken aback by the sight of the temple. Each and every inch of the temple was decorated with golden colored bells of varying sizes along with a paper attached to them. It appeared like each and every person who has ever visited the temple has left their mark on decorating the premises of the temple. Later, during our evening tea, we decided to join the bonfire arranged by few villagers, to get some warm relief from the chilly evening.

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The bells demanding justice!

We had reached the last day of our trip and with heavy heart we bid farewell to the snowy mountains and headed to Nainital. It was a clear sky day and we spent some time on a boat ride at the lake and clicked as many pictures as possible. The lighting was just too perfect! As we had enough time before our train, we also visited the Bhimtal and Naukuchiatal lakes.

With loads of memories, stories and pictures we headed back to our home from Kathgodam station!

 

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