A Travellerspoint blog

May 2011

Munsiyari: Hidden Gem in Kumaon Himalayas

Lush Alpine Meadows amidst snow-capped Panchuli Himalayas as we trekked to the Khalia Peak situated in the tri-borders of India, Nepal & Tibet...

semi-overcast 11 °C

This article below was published in India's leading newspaper Hindustan Times.

To view the published article online click this link:

http://travel.hindustantimes.com/travel-stories/kumaon.php

With the sizzling summer heat raging through, we (me & my wife) thought, the best way to escape it – though momentarily – would be to move closer to the “perennially-cool” Himalayas. Our intention clearly was to trudge on a road far less travelled by mundane tourists. Carrying some online research, a secluded, not so often heard before name - Munsiyari - struck me hard.

Tucked away hidden, amidst the snow-capped Kumaon Himalayas, Munsiyari is a sleepy little town in the eastern-most district of Uttrakhand - Pithoragarh, at an altitude of 2, 200 meters. Strategically located near the tri-borders of India, Tibet and Nepal, this exotic destination was until recently restricted to tourists.

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Standing Tall

Our 10-day-long sojourn took us criss-crossing the entire Kumaon region. We started off to Munsiyari that quiet morning after a night halt at Birthi, famous for the lofty Birthi Falls. As we gradually scaled up the high mountain road the landscape too kept evolving.

Just as we were approaching the highest point en-route – Kala Muni Top – at 2700 meters, a herd of Alpine goats in the backdrop of the majestic Panchuli Peaks caught our eyes. Icy winds were blowing as we stopped for a refreshing cup of tea to warm us up.

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Alpine Goats

As we glided down, from Kala Muni, it was as if entering a fairyland, as we saw Munsiyari at a distance. The name 'Munsiyari' denotes a “place with snow”. We straightaway drove to the Wayfarer Resort, to be bowled out at the setting of this resort. In a line, one besides the other, were six thatched-roofed traditionally-styled cozy Kumauni huts.

The view from the huts was mesmerizing – the entire Panchuli Peaks stood out majestically in front of us. Relaxing in this serene environment we just lazed around. Late afternoon, we ventured out to visit the Tribal Museum. Items ranging form fossils to smoking pipes to wooden utensils to tribal attire, this museum surely is a treasure trove depicting vividly the tribal lifestyle. Thereafter, we loitered in the tiny local market and tasted of some delicious mutton momos.

We woke up very early next morning, anticipating a nice sunrise. Gearing up with our camera, we enthusiastically waited. As the yellowish-golden sunrays struck the Panchuli Peaks from behind, the silhouette effect it created was way too heavenly to describe in mere words.

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Picture Perfect

Post breakfast we ventured out, to be dropped for trekking trail to the alpine lake Mesar Kund. As we hiked through the virgin forest, it surely was tiring but the views were equally rewarding. After an hour’s trekking the forest opened up into a grassland and at the edge was the azure Mesar Lake. We sat by in silence with the rich avian life in company ranging from woodpeckers to crested-robins to red-billed blue magpies. After soaking ourselves thoroughly we trekked back.

In the evening, we met Mr Brindra Brijwal, popularly known as Beeru, the owner of the Nanda Devi Tours & Treks to finalize our proposed Khalia Top trek, the highest peak around Munsiyari. Jovial Beeru, an avid mountaineer himself, gave us details of the trek and organized everything.

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Contemplation

Accompanied by our guide Lalu, along with our porter-cum-cook Mohan aka Sarkari, we started off next morning. The steep 10 km trail passed through a thick rhododendron forest in full bloom. The climb was exhausting and every 15-20 minutes, we had to stop and catch our breath.

Finally, as we climbed above the tree-line, we had our first glimpses of the lush green alpine meadows in the backdrop the snow-clad Himalayan peaks. We decided to stop by to have our packed lunch in these mesmerizing surroundings.

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Wide Angle

The weather was turning cloudy, as we started trekking again through the meadows accompanied by a light drizzle. After hiking for about a kilometer we stopped at an idyllic location to set up camp.

Soon, our two tents were mounted. The drizzle however turned into a downpour and continued for about two hour making us worried. Mentally, we were making ourselves prepared to “survive the night” on biscuits and chocolates.

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Solitude

As we were losing hope, the Mountain Gods smiled and strong winds blew away the clouds. Sarkari and Lalu already had collected firewood and our chullha (fireplace to cook) was soon alighted. It was getting very cold and sitting by the warm fire, we cooked our dinner of spicy chicken and hot rotis.

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Shelter

Having our stomach full we got inside our tent and called it a night. However as each hour passed the wind outside grew fiercer till I heard a commotion in the middle of the night. I pulled out my head, zipping out my tent, to hear Lalu saying that their tent has blown away but they managed to salvage it. Fortunately for us, our tent stood the ground. We could only pray and after about an hour, the howling Himalayan wind calmed.

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Me and My Dog named Boo

Early morning just as dawn was cracking I pulled out and sat on a rock to witness an amazing sunrise sipping a hot cup of tea. Soon, we started to towards the Khalia Peak, visible to us about a kilometer up-hill amidst the carpet of green lush meadows.

An amazing riot of colours was spread all across in the backdrop of the snow-clad peaks and big herds of grazing alpine goats. Resting awhile watching the never-seen-before surroundings, we finally made our final push to the Khalia Peak. Soon, we were at the top, at a height about 11,000 feet.

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Pinnacle

Squatting down at the peak for about half and hour was a humbling experience and thereafter reluctantly we made our way down.

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Soaring Higher

As we reached back our camp, Sarkari was ready with hot parathas which we shared with a shepherd who happened to pass by. Understood from him how hard and harsh life is in the mountains. Their search for greener pastures has to continue…

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Sharing

Thereafter, dismantling our tents we made our way downhill and trekking down for about 3 hours we reached the road head. Picking up our bags form the Wayfarer Resort, we started for our next destination Dharchula, situated in the Indo-Nepal border, by banks of the Kali Ganga – the base camp of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.

Fact File

How to Reach

By road Munsiyari is situated at a distance of about 612 kms from New Delhi. By train one can travel by the Raniketh Express to Kathgodam, the last railhead. From Kathgodam one has to travel by road via Bhimtal, Bhowali, Almora, Binsar, Takula, Bageshwar, Vijaypur, Chaukhori, Thal, Birthi and finally Munsiyari. The distance between Kathgodam to Munsiyari is about 261 kms. One can break the journey with a night halt at Binsar, Vijaypur or Chaukori.
Vehicle-hire charges: Usually Rs 1600-Rs 2000 for Alto/Santro/WagonR to Rs 2200-Rs2500 for Innova/Qualis per day from Kathgodam

Where to Stay

There are many options available for stay ranging from luxurious to budget hotels/resorts.

Posted by sabyasachi 01:46 Archived in India Tagged khalia trek_ khalia_ peak_trek khalia_munsiyai munsiyari_uttarakhand Comments (0)

See As we Saw - Spiti Valley II - Part VI

Memories captured in our lens as we sojourned on a 14-day-long Jeep Safari meandering through the sacred Himalayas in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh

sunny 10 °C

Part VI of this this photo essay covers our drive towards the Dhangkar Monastery after exploring through the scenic landscape pf Pin Valley that I've described in the Part IV of this photo essay.

Dhankar (also Drangkhar or Dhangkar Gompa; Brang-mkhar or Grang-mkhar) is a Gompa, a Buddhist temple in the district of Lahul and Spiti of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Situated approximately at an elevation of 3,894 metres (12,774 feet) in the Spiti Valley, Dhangkar Gompa lies between the towns of Kaza and Tabo. The complex is built on a 1000-foot (300-metre) high spur overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers. Undoubetedly, it is perhaps one of the world's most spectacular settings for any gompa. Dhang or dang means cliff, and kar or khar means fort. Hence the meaning of Dhangkar is a fort on a cliff.

The entire Spiti River Valley is in the rain shadow of the Himalayas in Northern India, very close to the border with Tibet. Irrigated by snow melt that is channeled only a few crops can be grown between the heavy winter snows.

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Welcome Gate
As we dove past the winding roads of this cold barren landscape, we came across this arch welcoming us to the Dhangkar Gompa...

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Away & Beyond
Considering the isolated location, the approach road to Dhangkar was very smooth. We branched off for Dhankar from the main Kaza-Samdu road at a point which was around around 24 km from Kaza.

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Blue Sky, Barren Mountains

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Snaking Through
As we gained height at each hairpin, the Spiti river snaking through the valley provided a bird's eye view...

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Breathtaking
Words fail to describe the raw & mystic beauty of this place...

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Mesmerizing
Beyong the barren mountains and the valley below are seen a range of the snow-capped Himalayas of Tibet...

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Speechless
Countlless times we halted the vehicle and silently soaked ourselves in this heavenly setting...

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Sight to Behold
The first glimpses of the Dhangkar Gompa from a distance. Dhangkar was the traditional capital of the Spiti Valley Kingdom during the 17th century and has some features dating back to the 12th century. It was the seat of the early rulers of Spiti, the Nonos, who had the right to cultivate the government lands nearby and were the custodian to carry out repairs of the fort .

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Prayer Flags
Colourful prayer flags fluttering across as we approached the Dhangkar Gompa...

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Cliff Hanger
The Dhangkar Monastery as if hanging in the barren cliff as we trekked up the dusty path...

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So Near Yet Quite Far
We just stopped on the way and soaked ourselves in this "out of the world" landscape...

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Picture Postcard
Mitali just posed behind this postcard perfect sight...

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Another View

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I'm Ready, Are You?
Captured a picture of this cute child near the Dhangkar Monastery...

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Innocence

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Bizzare
Close up of the clay mounds besides the dirt trek that we followed towards the gompa...

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Out of the World

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Contrast

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Daunting

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Pointing to Heaven

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Serene
The serene settings at which stood the Dhangkar Monastery...

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At the Doorstep
Finally, reaching the doors of the monastery...

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Save Dhangkar
A banner mentioning an important message to Save Dhangkar displayed inside the monastery...

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Memorable
Stood for this memorable snap with the the head lama, Prema lama, who gave us a vivid description of the importance of this bye-gone era monastery and also gave me some tips on meditation...

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Holy Man, Holy Blessing
Lama Prema also stood with Mitali for a snap inside the inner courtyard of the Dhangkar Monastery...

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Skillful Merger
An exterior wall of the Dhangkar clearly show how it is as if emerging from the clay mounds, and how skillfully it was constructed so many centuries ago...

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View from the Top
Mitali atop the roof of the Dhangkar Monastery, the views are mesmerizing and simly out of the world...

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Colourful
Colourful prayerflags flutters in the strong wind that we experienced at the clay-topped roof...

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Scenic Confluence
The scenic confluence of the Spiti and Pin river coming from two different direction can clearly be seen from the roof of the Dhangkar Monastery...

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Contemplating
I just sat at the roof top of the monastery and could not stop contemplating, is this real...

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Prayer Lamps

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Door to the Shrine
The colourful main door that leads one inside to the holy shrine...

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Inner Courtyard

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Cutie Pie
A cute baby at its innocent best as we moved outside the Dhangkar Monastery...

After our "out of the world" visit to the Dhangkar monastery, we made our way towards Tabo, our destination next...

To be Continued...

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Posted by sabyasachi 03:25 Archived in India Tagged spiti_valley himachal_pradesh lahaul_spiti buddhist_monasteries tibet_monastery dhangkar_monastery dhangkar_gompa Comments (7)

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