The drive to Munsiyari has been one of those best-ever drives! And I couldn’t help but write a separate post on the experience.
We started off from Jhaltola (Read about our Jhaltola stay) at around 9.30 am, post breakfast and a little break for the food to settle down, and reached Munsiyari around 3pm via the Thal road. It wouldn’t take so long had we not stopped by Avani on the way to buy some local items and artefacts, and then, stopped by every other ‘beautiful view’ on the way…..
Up until Thal, which is about 50 kilometers from Jhaltola, it was mostly a drive past kilometres and kilometres of pine groves. Upon crossing the little towns of Berinag and Chakori, the drive gets mostly downhill. And through the middle of pine filled woods. Stately though they look, it was only during our Uttarakhand trip that we got to know how pine groves are no good for bio-diversity, how they don’t support life and instead, take away from the soil much of its nourishment.
Beyond Thal, it is mostly an uphill drive to Munsiyari and it is from this point from where you get to see steep ravines on one side and high hills on the other. Lofty deonar trees cover the hills, but then, soon, vegetation starts getting sparse with the climb. And soon, you are mostly staring at naked hills. Amazed as we were at how people live in these higher reaches, Ratanji told that the locals were quite rich owing to the Winter Insect harvest they undertake during the summer months of May and June every year. Yar Tsa Gumba, or Cordyceps sinensis, the mushroom sells for exhorbitant prices owing to its medicinal qualities.
Stop by Birthi Falls which is about 35 kilometers from Thal. Park your car by the side of the road and get ready for a steep climb of about ten minutes through a cemented pathway to the foot of the waterfalls. We loitered around the steps for some time clicking pictures and feeding the mountain goats that were busy grazing and seemed quite used to our attention. How we longed to trek down the huge boulders of the waterfall to the street below where our car was parked, but Jayanta ruled out such ‘unplanned’ adventure! Once back from the waterfall, we stopped by the IRTC hotel at the foothill of the falls for a cup of tea and coffee. They readily obliged.
Stop by KalaMuni Temple which is on the Kalamuni Pass. You can see the Munsiyari valley below from the Pass. But what hits you best, at this phase of your drive to Munsiyari, are the Himalayas right in front of you just as you hit the Pass. If not for religious reasons, go inside the temple complex to check out the hundreds of bells that devotees tie while making wishes. A few photographs, and we were soon on our way…
Once past the Pass, the drive is past verdant meadows with deonar trees. Not once do you want to lose sight of the snow-capped Himalayas though. And caught in the beauty around you, you so long to run out of the car to embrace the hills. Ratanda, our driver, smiled and told us that he’d bring us back to the meadows post our lunch. Oh of course….we were already late for lunch!!
We promised ourselves to make the most of our two-day stay at Munsiyari…no, we’d only walk. Ratanda could rest…
For the complete Uttarakhand itinerary, where to stay, what to see and what to buy, read — An Uttarakhand Roadtrip This Summer