I was ready by 7 am. Mahesh was waiting for me at the petrol pump. After I did my initial recording, I started around 7:15 am and headed towards the pump. I too had to fill in.
The weather was cold and really beautiful with fog everywhere.This route towards Munsiyari was little offbeat one and all along, I would be running parallel to Goriganga river squeezed between high mountains.
I was really enjoying the ride. The road was narrow and no traffic could be see around. Often, we would pass by villages surrounded by lush green vegetation situated along side the road. It was a wonderful feeling and I was thinking that I could stay at such place forever. The air was fresh and cold.
After about riding for around 40 kms we came to Sera village where Mahesh had told me the Hot Springs were. The time was around 9 am. We drifted off from the main road and parked our bikes. It was going to be my first time experiencing the springs. At a distance, I could see water vapors moving upwards into the air.
We were not the first ones and had to wait for a while till there was room for us. A group of 5-6 people had already occupied the pool. A small pond had been made and the hot water was directed to flow into it through man made channels. The sulfur smell was all over the place. Sulfur hot water springs are said to have many medicinal benefits on the body. Natural springs like these are spread across all the areas in Uttarakhand and other parts of India
Finally, we got the chance and after removing the clothes, I went inside. My first reaction was like a high voltage running through body as the outside temperature was cold and suddenly my skin sensed hot water. Once inside, there was no way I was going to come outside soon. It felt so relaxing. Near to us, there was a big waterfall falling off the opposite mountains unloading its contents directed into the river . After lazying in the pool for around 30 mins, we got out and changed our clothes. It was time to move further.
Some kms further, I bid adieu to Mahesh and thanked him once again, this time for showing me the hot water springs. Had I traveled the route solo, I certainly would have missed it. Mahesh then, started his return journey.
From there, Munsiyari was only 30 kms. I left the river and now started to climb on the twistys.
I reached the city around 12:30 pm. I had to look for a hotel and after inquiring with many of them, settled with the one which gave me a cheap rate. I got a decent room for 500 rs after a lot of bargaining. This hotel was little on the upside from the main bazaar area and nearer to Khaliya top road.
Being off season, hardly anyone was present inside the hotel. I made a decision a visit the Khaliya top today itself. Khaliya top is a favorite spot in Munsiyari where you have to trek for around 2 hrs depending on your fitness level to reach to the top. From the top, you get to see the beautiful range of the Himalayas including the famous ‘Panchchuli Peaks’. Apart from that, there is a tribal museum and Nanda Devi temple which are also favorites among the tourists.
I knew, time was running out and it was going to be challenging thing of completing the trek and be back at the hotel before it got dark. Even the hotel guys suggested me to push it off to tomorrow but, I had some other things planned. I took a conscious call and freshened myself as quickly as possible.
Khaliya top was around 7 kms from my hotel. On the last turn towards it’s entrance gate, I was shit scared as there was black ice on the road up ahead and somehow I was not confident riding over it. For a moment, I thought that the bike might get skid and then there would be problems. And so, I parked the bike at the corner itself, just on the side of the road and went walking towards the gate. That made me walk around 100 mtrs.
The time was around 1:45 pm when I started the climb. I could see some tourists there along with me going upwards. The walkway passed through thick cover of jungle and scarcely had steps. Most of the duration it was just plain ground with rocky patches. The thick cover almost hid the sun and it gave the feeling of evening. Also, it was said that the area was favorite for leopards and I being solo here, did not want to have an encounter with them at any cost. I pushed for the top as quickly as possible.
The heavy down jacket was wearing me out and I had to break at a certain times to catch my breadth. Even though climbing as fast as I possibly could, I had made only half way and the sun going down fast worried me. Through the gaps of the trees, the sun rays hit me which gave away the sun’s current position.
The time was approaching 4 pm and still I hadn’t reach to the top. Adding to my worries, I now, was treading on snow laden path, which slowed my progress even further. Every step had to be put properly and any single wrong step was going to land me in serious trouble. Even, sliding me all the way down! The soft flaky ice had got converted to hard slippery ice due to the pressures applied by feet of some many people walking over it.
The people going up thinned and people coming down increased in numbers. I got little spooky and asked as to how much more did I had to climb to reach to the top. The answers I had received worried me and still I had a long way up. They also gave me another option to stay at the top for tonight at the govt guesthouse but, it was going to come at a higher cost. Something around 2500 rs for a night! This, anyway, was not going to happen and then, I took a judicious call of reverting back along with them just so that I could get company along the way down before it got dark completely. I imagined a Leopard sitting high on the trees and watching me. Leopards like to sit on trees and watch the drama. Uttarakhand is synonymous with Leopards and has many interesting stories linked to the state. You must be knowing Jim Corbett, famous for killing the man eating leopard of Rudraprayag.
I came back down at around 5 pm. By then, the area where I was standing was in complete dark shade due to the mountain behind me. Only, the last rays of sun for the day shone on the ‘Panchchuli Peaks’ in front of me. This was a mesmerizing sight and I knew it had to be captured. But some element to the scenery was missing. My bike. The photo was going to be incomplete without the bike being in the frame. I had very less time as the peaks were getting covered in dark fast.
I knew, I was going to take a big risk by bringing the bike nearby to the entrance gate but at that moment I was filled with such an ecstasy that I forgot about the black ice on the road. Immediately, I ran and brought the bike and parked it safely with the side stand towards me. Initially, it was on the other side where valley was there but, I knew the risks associated with that and cleverly turned my bike. I took the photo just in time and it came out as perfect as I wanted it to be. The photo had made my day and even though I could not reach the top to see the view, this photo gave me enough consoling. It was time to head back to the hotel.
In this heat of the moment, I had forgotten to take the lunch and right now, I was very hungry. On my way down, I stopped at a road side stall for tea and some snacks. This gave me temporary relief. Back at the hotel, after I got freshened up again, I treated myself to a full course meal.
It was a full moon day and the ‘Panchchuli Peaks’ were shinning in the moonlight. What a sight it was! Adjacent to my balcony was a roof of another building. It was so close that, I could easily step on it from my balcony. I went there to click some pics and also put my DSLR in to time lapse mode. While all this was happening, I took to transfer my data from phone and GoPro to my portable hard drive.
It had started to get cold and when I went to sleep, I couldn’t. All the bedding things like the cushion, the pillow, the pull over were cold as freezer. I was facing difficulty in getting sleep and so finally gave up. I ordered a small heater which I placed right in front of my face. The heat developed from heater gave me some relief and finally I was able to sleep. That accessory had just costed me 150 rs for the night!
Tomorrow, in the first half, I was going to explore the remaining places in the city and then head towards ‘Kausani’.