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Solo Autumn Ride through the Kumaon Hills (Day 1) – Nainital – Almora – Berinag – Chaukori

Solo Autumn Ride through the Kumaon Hills (Day 2) – Chaukori – Thal – Tejam – Munsiyari

Solo Autumn Ride through the Kumaon Hills (Day 3) – Munsiyari – Tejam – Kapkot – Bageshwar – Gwaldum

Solo Autumn Ride through the Kumaon Hills (Day 4) – Gwaldum – Kausani – Someshwar – Ranikhet – Nainital

Route Map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zNncS6K-Gva4.kD5l7sHLF6WE

Notes to a 20yr older me.

Day 2: Chaukori – Thal – Tejam – Munsiyari – 95Km

One habit I hope you’ll continue is waking up early. Anyway as one gets older, sleep goes down.

My alarm was set for 0500 but I woke up at 0445 due to the habit of taking out Lily for a walk. Looked out of the window. It was still quite dark. I went down to the kitchen to see if I could get tea. Not a soul was stirring. So I went back to the room and half slept through the wait.

The East was a slowly brightening over the horizon. The first peaks to hit with sunlight were the Panchachuli peaks.

Sunrise @Chaukori – Panchachuli Peaks

There was some moment downstairs – a cook was walking around. I asked him for a few cups of tea,

Today was going to be short as Munsiyari is a short distance from Chaukori. So I took the morning easy. Relaxed on the room’s balcony and enjoyed the sunrise over cups of hot tea.

Given the time, I explored the features of Canon G1XMk2. It was a new camera I had recently gotten from Australia. I was using it first time on the trip. On this ride I would realize that though bulky it makes great pictures.

Sunrise over a village house @Chaukori
Sunrise over Nanda Devi peaks @Chaukori

After a lovely sunrise, I went down and had a leisurely breakfast of paranthas and omelet washed down with coffee. The good part of KMVN rooms is that breakfast is bundled with the room changes. Given that there are pretty much no choices for eating outside the guest house during off-season, this works out to be a very good deal.

After breakfast I stepped out to enjoy the view. It was a bright morning. Soon I was in a conversation with the only other guest at the guest house. A retired Bengali gentleman fulfilling his wish to wander the Himalayas. And he had dragged his wife along with him, who didn’t seem too happy to be stuck in the cold for two weeks.

After leaving Chaukori, I retraced my route towards Berinag. Then, a few Km before Berinag, turned down towards Thal.

Again the road had hardly any traffic and crossed several tiny hamlets separated by dense jungle.

Panchachuli Range from the road above Thal
Selfie with Panchachuli Range in the backdrop from the road above Thal

I was in two minds on what route to take to Munsiyari. There was the straight route through Tejam and then there was the longer route via Didihat and Askot. Worried that I may get sick like yesterday, I choose the shorter route. Will reserve Didihat for some other trip.

Chaukori to Thal is about 25Km and I was soon at Thal. Thal is a dirty little town with the roads crowded by jeeps and truck ferrying people and goods to the interior. I stopped to fill petrol and was quickly out-of-town.

After Thal, the road follows the Ramganga river upstream. The road is good and the ride pleasant. I stopped a few times to hear the river and the birds. The only other people on the road were road repair workers who were clearing the landslide debris at various places.

Clear waters of the Ramganga river. Very tempting to take a dip, but the water was freezing cold.
Blue-Green-Blue: Ramganga River flowing through the hills

After Tejam the ascent to Munsiyari starts. The road narrows and the condition worsened with several water crossings thrown in. At one of the crossings I made the mistake of putting my foot down and the freezing water soaked my shoe and socks all the way in. The cold was unbearable. So I parked the bike and sat down on a sunny ledge to take off the shoes/socks to let them dry thoroughly before moving on. Remainder to keep waterproof shoes on the next hill ride.

An unknown waterfall across the valley

Soon I was under the Brithi waterfall. Not feeling like walking, I decided against hiking up to the falls. Took a few pictures below the falls and moved on.

The more popular Brithi waterfall

The road condition deteriorated and I had to constantly keep a watch for potholes. Few Km after Brithi I spotted a roadside waterfall with a grassy knoll next to it. I decided to take a break. 15 minutes and a few long exposure experiments, I started again.

A smaller seasonal waterfall

Soon I was at Kala Muni Top which is the highest point on the road to Munsiyari. Descending down my next stop was at the Balati Potato farm. The view was splendid. It was early in the afternoon. So I decided to take a longer break.

Lying down on the browning autumn grass, I settled down to enjoy the view and the sun on my back. After almost 40 min of soaking in the view, which included a short nap, I headed down to the town of Munsiyari.

View from the Balati Potato Farm

The KMVN guesthouse is towards the entrance of the town. Again the place was hardly occupied. So I took a room on the top floor with an awesome view of the Panchachuli peaks.

Room with a view

After leaving my luggage in the room, I went down to town for lunch. Munsiyari is a small town with a few shops, houses and couple of schools.Didn’t find anything interesting to eat. So I picked up some juice, biscuits and chips for lunch.

There is a co-operative which sells stuff made by village folks. Picked up a pair of woolen gloves and some pahari spices. Returning to the room, I ate a little and then went to sleep.

Unfortunately I forgot to set the alarm. That was a costly mistake. When I woke up, the sun was just setting. Too late to head out for picture. Instead I had to be content with taking pictures from the room.

Munsyari as a town is a little down in the valley. While it offers a splendid view of the Panchachuli peaks, the width of Himalayan range is limited.

Munsyari Sunset

Like Chaukori, I sat on the balcony with a cup of tea and enjoyed the sunset. After a while the cook came to ask for dinner. There was limited choice and I picked some basic affair. By dinner time I was also feeling feverish. A quick dinner and I was back in the room.

Making sure I had multiple alarms set, I called it a day.

Munsyari sunset ride had been realized.

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