The magnetic Munsiari

Uttarakhand

The magnetic Munsiari

Uttarakhand is a treasure trove of beautiful destinations — Nainital, Ranikhet, Dehradun, Almora, Kausani... the list could go on. In fact, one can never tire of the beauty that abounds here.

Another such gem I unearthed recently is Munsiari. I had heard a lot about this tiny hamlet that’s perched on a mountain, but had missed visiting it on my previous trips to the scenic state. This time around, I was determined to make it to Munsiari, and was extremely glad that I did it.

A big fan of road trips for the visual treats they entail, I chose the Almora-Udiyari Bend-Munsiari route. The drive was slow, owing to the narrow roads that run through a part of the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, but it suited me fine. I could gape at the greenery around, the mountains at a distance, and, of course, breathe in air that felt so fresh that I was almost tempted to bottle some and take it back home. Alas!

Love at first sight

As I reached Munsiari, the first thing that struck me was the tranquillity of the place. It sure was like a balm to the soul. The spectacular view of the mountains around added to the allure of the place. I fell in love with the place instantly. Well, this is what love at first sight means, I guess.

Situated at the foothills of Panchachuli Peaks, Munsiari, which is 2,200 m above sea level, is a favourite with trekkers as it forms the perfect base for many treks to glaciers around these peaks.

Friendly locals suggested a trek to Milam and Ralam Glacier, but, given my age and physical condition, I had to pass it up,  and settle down to enjoying the scenic splendour the place offered. However, treks to Thamri Kund, Birthi Falls and Khalia Top are quite popular with amateur trekkers, I was told.

On both days of my stay in Munsiari, I got up early and went on my morning walks to the Nanda Devi Temple close by,  as I found it an ideal venue to just sit around and enjoy the view of Panchachuli Peaks. Another spot I couldn’t have enough of was Mesar Kund. Yes, this pond, which required me to walk a long distance, was well worth the effort. The silence of the hills around, the call of birds from treetops, the colourful flowers dotting the way... the experience was spellbinding.

The sight of the small pond of Mesar Kund at a distance saw my jaw drop, literally. Crystal clear water reflecting the beauty around, far from the madding crowd, Mesar Kund almost looked like a dream.

I quietly sat near the pond, gathering my thoughts, soaking in the tranquillity of the place. It seemed almost unreal. It made me wonder what life in the city is all about.

Falling for falls

Another place in Munsiari that had me mesmerised was Birthi Falls. The gushing waters of the falls, almost milk-like, left me speechless. All that I could hear at this place was the roar of the waters.

Located near a place named Tejam, this is one place that should not be missed by any visitor to Munsiari. Mother Nature sure has her favourites, I was convinced!

Roaming around, enjoying the timelessness of the place, I was envious of the ever-smiling locals who seemed to be one with their landscape. They sure didn’t seem to realise how lucky they were to be living in this slice of heaven.

It was time for me to indulge in some retail therapy. After all, I was at the main market of Munsiari. I picked some winter wear (made of sheep’s wool) made by the women of Bhotiya tribe, who lived in the upper Himalayan valleys of Uttarakhand. As also handwoven mats and carpets, and some knickknacks to adorn my shelves.

On a shopping spree!

The shy, innocent smiles of the locals at the market enthused me to go on a buying spree. I also feasted on fruits that tasted fresh and juicy. Himalayan tree saplings are also a must-buy, I was told. But, considering the long journey back home, I contented myself by admiring them in the nurseries around. Munsiari is also well-known for its medicinal herbs, I learnt.

A short walk down the road, away from the market, is the Tribal Heritage Museum. A one-of-its-kind museum, it provided a glimpse into the history and culture of the Bhotiya tribe. I visited the place, and was awestruck by the collection that included wooden utensils, wooden and brass hookahs, yak-skin bags and wine bottles, once used by the tribals.

It was more interesting to note that it was the personal collection of one man, Sher Singh Pangtey, who travelled from one village to another, collecting items from individual Bhotiya houses, in an effort to showcase the almost-lost culture of the tribe. Hats off to the man for his painstaking efforts!

Sadly, it was time for me to pack my bags. My two days in this scenic paradise were almost over. I resolved to return to this wondrous venue soon. The Nanda Devi Festival in September would be ideal, I was told. So, I have my plans set for September.

Fact File

Getting there

Major towns of Uttarakhand like Kathgodam, Almora, Haldwani and Tanakpur are well-connected to most cities in North India, from where
local buses and taxis ply regularly to Munsiari.
Nearest railway station is Kathgodam, 278 km away.
Nearest airport is Pantnagar, 312 km away.

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