Wandering the valleys of Kumaon


Happy being a nomad.
Awesome TL. Liked the photo of the Milky way.
Day 2 - Dantu Village

At some point in the night I woke up startled with the loud mooing of a cow. Then I realized that sound was coming from just below me. In the village houses, the ground floor is where the cattle are kept and upper floor is used for residence. With the low ceiling and the standing cow, the cow’s head was only a feet or two below where I was lying down echoing sounds into my bum.

At 0445 my body’s natural alarm clock went off. I knew it would be a few minutes short of five and continues to sleep. A little later I got up, put on the jacket and stepped out.

I had left my tripod outside at night. Wasn’t surprised to find it still there in the morning. It was quite cold and I fumbled while mounting the camera on the tripod head.

Having setup the camera, I pulled the jacket hood over my cap and dug my hands deep in the jacket pockets. Then I waited the light to show up.

The much awaited sunlight did not turn up, but clouds did. With that vanished my hopes of capturing the beauty of sun rising over the Panchachuli.

Waiting for the sunrise

I waited around a little longer. Then realizing that the clouds are not going to do me any favor, going back to my room, I went to sleep.
Around 0745 I stepped out again. To my surprise a few flakes of snow drifted in. For a moment I thought of going back. Then realizing the mistake I had made in Chandrataal two years back, I ignored the thought of returning and planned to stick with my original plan of staying the day there.

The first order of the day was to check out the river crossing. I wanted to figure out the best route back as getting wet would mean an entire day of uncomfortable shoes and socks.

A goat hunkering down on grass to get warm in the cold

A bit of sunrise on the peaks

A locked up house in the village

Taking a circuitous route, I walked down to the place where my bike was parked. There was a thin layer of frost formed on the seat. Wiping it away, I waited a little for the seat to warm. Then I headed down to the river.

frost on the bike seat

Dark clouds towards the side of Panchachuli. These are the ones which showered snow over the village a little while back.

Down at the river crossing, the water was flowing faster than I anticipated. I walked up and down the bank to figure out the best way to cross. Several minutes of observation yielded no results. I decided to take the plunge.

Taking off my shoes and socks, I rolled up my pants and stepped in the cold water. It was colder than I was expecting, yet the moment wasn’t as shocking as the day before. The water level was quite low compared to the previous afternoon. Slowly feeling the way through soles of my feet, I walked up to the middle of the river.

There I stood, letting my feet freeze amidst my admiration of the beauty of the valley. I was probably looking like one of those people who fish standing in the middle of water. The sun playing hide and seek with the clouds, was fortunately out while I stood there.

I now had a fairly good idea of how to cross the river. Slowly I walked back to where my shoes and socks. For a while I sat on a rock drying and warming up. Then I headed back.

River crossing

The half constructed bridge

Near the river

Panchachuli shrouded with clouds

Back at the village, I wandered around. Many houses were locked and there was hardly anyone around. I guess most had started their daily routine and were busy with that.

One of the few open houses in the village

An old woman walking to her herd of cows

An abandoned houses in the village

A glimpse of the Panchachuli above the my home stay

Nandi, pet dog of my host, enjoying the sun

Back at my home stay, I had a breakfast of maduwa choli roti, chach and ghee (ragi dosa and buttermilk). Then I hung around enjoying the warm sun and talking to my hostess and her daughter.

I was planning to walk up to the Panchachuli base camp. However, my host’s daughter persuaded me to skip that and take an alternate route. According to her the trail on Dantu side of Nyuli Yangti River offered better views of the Panchachuli and took one closer to the glacier, compared to the official and more popular trail which starts from Dugtu. Due to local politics, the official trail started from Dugtu and the base camp was built on that side.

Not one to follow the herd, I took her advice.

Shepherding – my host and her daughter

Walking with the sheep

I started off following the sheep that were being herded for their day’s outing. Soon I overtook then and followed a narrow trail which followed the course of Nyuli Yangti river high on the slopes. It was mostly flat with a slight rise in elevation.

Village of Dugtu

Nyuli Yangti flowing down from Panchachuli

Selfie on the trail

Keep walking

Dugtu village, Bon village (far off) and Brammah Parvat

After walking a while, I realized that the clouds were getting darker and the Panchachuli were getting less and less visible. Coming to a fork I turned right. The trail would take me higher but not closer to the peaks. At this point I wasn’t sure I wanted to get very close to the peaks. Just wanted to have a super relaxed day.


Taking a break

Searching for a place to lie down, I found a nice flat area and settled down for a nap. The warm sun and a gentle breeze acted like an instant sleeping pill. I am pretty sure I was snoring with in minutes. The clouds drifted in and out of the sky as well as in my dreams.

I don’t know how long I snoozed. A large dark cloud covering the sun lowered the temperature and woke me up. Lying there I relished the shadows cross me and warmth of the day slowly returning.

Feeling hungry, I decided to head back. Dark clouds were lingering over the hills and I wasn’t planning to get caught in a drizzle or snow drift.

Panchachuli – a closer look

Autumn colors

Dark clouds over the valley

Nandi guarding her flock

Back at the home stay, Nandi was busy guarding her flock. I played around with her and the lambs. A little later I went in for lunch of rice and local rajma.

By now the sun was completely gone and it was getting cold. Going up to my room, I reviewed the pictures from last couple of days. Wasting battery was a concern as there was no electricity or charging point in the place. I did have a power bank and a USB charger which was very helpful.

Nandi, having gotten friendly by now, posing

When I stepped out, the last light of the day was fading. I sat on the verandah and listened to local gossip over a cup of tea.

Dinner preparations

Tea break

The sky was completely clear by now. I decided to head down to the foot bridge to take some pictures of flowing water with Panchachuli in the back drop.

Walking down I realized how pitch dark it was. In spite of the bright stars, nothing was visible without the torch I carried. Down at the gorge where the small bridge crossed the river it was even darker.

All attempts to capture the river were futile. The bridge was also swaying with in the wind making it impossible to place the tripod stationary. The surprise find was the milky way over the Panchachuli. Without the moon it was bright and beautiful in the sky.

After almost an hour trying to get something good, I gave up and started back.

Milky way from the foot bridge in depth of the valley

Reaching back at the home stay, dinner was still under preparation. So I went behind the house to take some more pictures. Moon was coming fast and milky way was going away.

As the first rays of the moonlight hit the snowy peaks, the view transformed. The orange glow that lit up peaks was nothing short of magical. I stood there mesmerized watching one peak after other glow a fiery orange in the light of the moon.

Moonrise and the milky way

All the four peaks glowing in the moonlight

Returning back to the kitchen I had a satisfying meal of roti, rice, cabbage and dal. It was wonderful sitting there in the warmth of the fire culminating a wonderful day – just the way I would have liked it to be.

Coming up

The ride back

The long awaited water fall


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Day 4 - Munsyari to Lohaghat

The morning in Munsyari was disappointing. There were clouds all over. Several times I peeped out of my window, hoping to see clear skies but to no avail.

Munsyari to Lohaghat

Eventually I stepped out into the terrace and waiting for luck to change. However that was not to be. I drank two cups of tea on the terrace and then prepared to leave.

Clouds over Panchachuli

View from the bed

Packing my bags, I went down to check out. There were chaos at the reception. The large group of students were also leaving at the same time. After 15-20 min I was on my way out.

Stopped at Thamri Kund trail head to take some pictures. Because of the cloud cover it was quite cold. I dug out another T-Shirt from my bag to add another layer for warmth.

Panchachuli from the Thamri Kund trail head

A seasonal waterfall on the way

The road from Munsyari is in a pretty bad condition. Patches of tar followed by long stretches of broken road with some very large potholes. Given the popularity of Munsyari in the tourism circuit, I would expect the road to be good. I guess the Uttarakhand government does not care.

Navigating around the broken road took quite long to reach Birthi falls. Long ago there used to be only a KMVN guest house. Now there are multiple shops and a large parking like structure is also coming up. It wasn’t too tempting to stop and hike up to the falls.

Birthi falls

The view of the falls was quite nice from across the valley a little down the road. I stopped there for a little break and stretched my legs.

I was also starting to feel hungry, having eaten nothing since morning. Long ago there used to be a shack under a tree, near the junction of Tejam/Munsyari/Kapkot roads. There they served excellent fish, freshly caught from the Ramganga below. As I drove towards Tejam, I wondered whether that shack was still there.

Evolution of a shack

Fish and roti lunch

At that junction the shack had evolved into a nice restaurant with a public toilet and a shop. Fortunately the place still served fish. Roti with fish curry was to be the first meal of the day.

After a hearty meal I was inclined to take a nap. But I had long way to go along uncharted territory – eastern Uttarakhand.

Ramganga river near Nachani

Soon I was at Thal. The roads improved after that. Driving to Berinag was a breeze, especially with the jungle being that of pine.

At Berinag, I made the mistake of not taking the bypass and went though the city to get caught in traffic.

Weaning my self out, I went towards Gangolihat. I could have taken a shorter route towards Almora. However, I wanted to go via Gangolihat, Lohaghat etc. The road till Gangolihat is on a ridge, having excellent view of the Himalayas. On this day the clouds played spoil sport and all I could see were clouds and nearby hills.

Toward Gangolihat

The road is also a mess. Long stretches of broken road are adequate to bruise the bum. Boy, I was glad to reach Gangolihat. The town is larger that I had thought. The road improved significantly once I crossed the city.

Town of Gangolihat

As I descended to lower altitude, views became better. The hills were gently sloping and terraced field started showing up. This was the highlight of the day.

Terrace Farming


The road was excellent till the Panar bridge and then all hell broke loose. A wide highway is being build to Pithoragarh via Tanakpur/Champawat/Lohaghat and immense amount of hill cutting is going on. This means dust, debris and blockages every where.

Panar Bridge at Timta

Rameshwar Temple near Timta

Breathing immense amount of dust, I turned towards Mount Abbot – a few Km before Lohaghat. The map showed a KMVN which was not operational.

A local offered to put me up at a bungalow where he was the caretaker. That did look like a good option till I saw the bungalow. It was a nice old colonial bungalow, much like the ones in Nainital. However, the place had an eerie feeling about it, which increased further when I was shown the room. Making an excuse on high price, I hightailed it out of there.

Nature in Action

Lohaghat was the next stop. Got a room at Hotel Cedar Plaza. Other than the manager there was no one there. Everyone had gone to watch a local football match. Between stepping out for tea and taking a nap, I decided to do the latter.

I was woken up an hour later when the cook brought me tea. After tea, I went to the market to buy a drink and some snacks. Later I sat in the room watching T.V. before dinner.
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Day 5 - Lohaghat to Nainital and end of ride

Last day of the ride. I planned to leave early and reach home by lunch time.

Lohaghat to Nainital

Lohaghat market

Lohaghat market was starting to get alive when I left. Turning towards Devidhura, I quickly left Lohaghat behind. There was low lying fog between the mountains and sun was just rising behind me.

Foggy Morning

Most satisfying sight in the hills. See here: Future

Pretty soon the pine jungles started. The roads were excellent and I has a lot of fun riding the curves. There was a bit of fog which required a bit of careful riding.

Ahh! the jungles of Pine trees

This was also the day when the panchayat election votes were to be counted and results to be declared. At several places police had blocked the road and were inquiring before letting vehicles through.

Fog followed me all morning

Village house

nack time at Devidhura

At Devidhura, stopped at a tea shop for a break and something to eat. The town was much smaller than I had imagined. I am guessing that the only thing famous about this place is the stone pelting mela.

At Devidhura

Village School

The road goes through several villages. It felt as if driving though the backroads with village huts and villagers going about their daily life alongside the road.

Given the season, Marigolds were in full bloom adding a dash or orange to the winter sky.

Cleaning the grains

Village life

Himalayas from near Dhanachuli

Dhanachuli was a surprise find. The Himalayan ridge was faintly visible. I can imagine that on a clear day the views would be wonderful. Back of my mind I filed a route option for a future trip.

Ladfora Bridge

Houses in the hills

Pretty soon I was in Bhimtal and on my way to Nainital. It was surprising and concerning to find many hotels in Bhimtal to advertising themselves as being in Nainital. Way to fool the tourists.


It was an hour past noon when I reached Nainital. Just in time for lunch after a wonderful ride.