7th March 2015
The majestic Panchachuli range was changing color with each and every passing minute. It was 5am in the morning and I was sitting quietly, in silence in the car parked at the vast open ground of Munsyari helipad. There was no one around. I had been sitting and waiting for that magical moment when first rays of sun would kiss the mountain peaks and make them blush and glow like a newlywed bride.
I hardly slept IN THE CAR parked inside KMVN rest house. I kept on getting up every hour to check on the weather. It had been raining since evening and the view of the himalayan range was eclipsed by dark clouds. It was a full moon night but moon was no where to be seen in the cloudy sky. When I got up around midnight I was astonished to see clear cloudless sky, the moon shining in full glory and the stars twinkling in the sky. It is amazing how quickly weather changes in the mountains.
The Panchachuli peaks are a group of five snow-capped Himalayan peaks lying very close to Munsyari. The five peaks on the Panchachuli massif are numbered from left to right:
1. Panchachuli-1 (6,355 meter or 20,850 feet) ASL.
2. Panchachuli-2 (6,904 meter or 22,650 feet) ASL.
3. Panchachuli-3 (6,312 meter or 20,708 feet) ASL.
4. Panchachuli-4 (6,334 meter or 20,780 feet) ASL.
5. Panchachuli-4 (6,437 meter or 21,118 feet) ASL.
The group’s name is derived from the legendary Pandavas “Five Chulis” (cooking hearths), where they cooked their last meal before proceeding toward their heavenly abode.
Drove back to KMVN rest house, got fresh, had simple breakfast and then drove to Nanda Devi Temple. Nanda Devi Temple located on outskirts of Munsiyari offers excellent views of Panchachuli range and is significant for local people. The temple is a 3 kilometer drive from Munsyari and is located in a large meadow.
Though I could not go, Khaliya Top (11500 ft ASL) is an easy 10 kilometer trek from Munsyari and is famous for panoramic views of towering peaks of Panchachuli, Hardeol, Rajrambha, Nanda Devi and Nanda Kot.
After a wonderful time in Munsyari it was now time to move on to the next destination. Patal Bhuvneshwar in mind i drove towards Kalamuni Top.
After driving for about 10 kilometers I reached at a nice place. The gate mentioned Thamari Kund Nature Park Trail. Thamari Kund, a ravishing natural lake surrounded by alpine and paper trees, situated 2748 meter or 9015 feet ASL is a three kilometer pleasant walk from this place. Musk deer are easily spotted near the lake.
Kalamuni Top (9500 ft, ASL) dedicated to Mata Kali is 15 kilometer from Munsyari, followed by steep descent on a number of hairpin loops till Birthi Falls. It is the exact place where I was stuck on my first attempt and had to return back to Thal.
Unlike that day when I had to return back just before Kalamuni Top due to black ice on the road and fresh snowfall, the driving conditions were excellent. Sun was shining in full glory, the snow was shining white in the sun light, road was absolutely perfect for driving.
There was hardly any traffic on the road. Reaching 125 meter high cascading birthi falls was just a whiff of air. Soon I crossed bend towards Bageshwar via Kapkot and was driving along crystal clear Ramganga River.
From Udairi bend I turned left towards Berinag, a place famous for excellent tea, snake temples and panoramic views of the himalayan mountain range. Berinag was just around 10 kilometers from Udairi bend and the road was excellent. Berinag bazar was bustling with activity but I could not stay for long as evening was setting in. The last eight kilometers of road till the bend towards Patal Bhuvneshwar was in real bad shape.
Patal Bhuvaneshwar turned out to be a nice simple place with very few shops in the market. The village nearby. The setting of the village was very quiet and the views of the Himalayan range were excellent. I had tea from a shop nearby which had excellent sitting area and views. I went to KMVN rest house, which is situated down on the walking path to the cave.
I ordered for the dinner at the guest house and went walking around exploring the area. The dinner served at the restaurant of KMVN was wonderful. After dinner I walked back to the market area where my car was parked.
The shops in the market close down very early. It was hardly 8 o’clock and it looked as if nobody lived here. It was a deserted sight. It was getting cold too. The Manager at the KMVN rest house gave me an additional blanket in case I needed it during the night.
Amazing……….isn’t it. I was at a strange new place once again. For the 18th night straight, I was going to sleep IN THE CAR once again. Never even once I asked for a place to sleep in a hotel or a guest house. It was if I wanted to sleep IN THE CAR.
There were few vehicles parked in the market but I did not notice any soul around!!!