Monday, December 26, 2011

Kumaon - Visiting Munshiyari

Kumaon – Munshiyari
View of Rajrambha peaks from Munshiyari in the evening
Munsiyari, meaning ‘place of snow’, offers a breathtaking view of some of the HimalayanPeaksand is situated at an almost desolate location (612 Kms. from Delhi – one way), close to theTibet (China) & Nepal border, at an altitude of 2135 meters. Generally known as Johar valley, the area was inhabited in ancient days by the Shaukas who led a semi-nomadic existence actively engaging in trade with Tibet across the difficult Himalayan passes. It took them 20-25 days to reach Tibet from where they carried back mainly salt. In those days, this was the only source of salt in the entire Himalayan region. At present Munshiyari is visited by tourists, the main attraction being the magnificent views of the Himalyan peaks of Pancha Chuli & Nanda Devi visible at almost hand shaking distance (15 Kms. crow flight). The famed Pancha Chuli reveals a whole new aspect each time you look at it, sometimes revealing itself in glory and at times only peeping from behind the cloud covers as a coy bride. At night it takes over a different hue altogether in the moon light.
View of sunrise from Munshiyari
Nanda Devi temple in foreground with Panchachuli in the background

View of the statute of Mother Goddess Nanda Devi inside the temple

Another view of the Panchachuli ranges from the Nanda Devi temple
There is nothing much to do in this lazy township, except to watch the Himalayan wonder. The sunrise is an event that is to be witnessed to be believed, it appears as if the rays of the sun ever so gently kissing the peaks one by one, traveling down snowy inclines, it is as if a river of molten gold is rolling down the silver slopes, until the whole range shimmers in a golden haze. Later, in the day one can visit Nanda Devi temple, a small white structure, tucked into solitude in the lap of mighty Himalayas. A still under construction watch tower offers one a mesmerizing 360 degrees view of the whole valley housing Munshiyari and the mountains surrounding it, the experience is awesome except for that harrowing unearthly sway at the top, each time a strong gust of wind kisses by it or some other adventurer is trying to get atop it. Here nothing stands between you and the peaks.
View of the Nanda Devi Peaks
Close-up view of the Panchachuli peaks
Another view of the Nanda Devi peaks
Another facet of the Panchachuli Peaks closeup
Panoramic view of the Panchachuli Peaks
Panoramic view of the Panchachuli peaks - view from Nanda Devi temple
Other tourist attractions of Munshiyari include the high gentle sloping meadows of Khaliya Top, 8 km from Munsiyari — ideal for skiing and adventure sports, one requires to trek for about 5 to 5½ hours to reach Khaliya top. Betulidhar, a big garden of Rhododendron, is situated about 5 kms. from Munshiyari, which also takes a more seasoned trekker to complete the circuit. I neither had the time nor the resources to do the trek and have left this to be covered by the more adventurous lot or maybe I will do it once absolved of all my family obligations. Apart from these two spots, situated in vicinity of Munshiyari, the other famous tourist spot is thesmall ‘Tribal Heritage Museum’ situated in the lower market area in Nanasen village, built single handedly by one Dr. S.S. Pangthi (fondly called ‘Masterji’ by the locals) and was a school teacher by profession. He has put together interesting antiques, where one can have a look at the original documents, which enabled trade between the JoharValley and Tibet and the personal effects of the traders. However, we were late and due to an ongoing local football tournament the place was closed. Munshiyari is also a place where many a local medicinal plants alongwith local spices & condiments are available and traded by the local Bhotias, having procured them from Alpine meadows in the Himalayan ranges above. A colleague of mine, Mr. Ramesh Ram hails from a village called Gora gaon, situated between Nachani & Tejam and I had called him up from Chaukori for advice and he in turn had advised me to get some of the local condiments from Munshiyari, which is known in the region for it. On his advice I had procured two condiments called ‘Dhungar/Jakhiya’, which is a form of some dried green plant parts that is used to impart a distinctive flavour to the ‘Dal’ & Vegetable preparations. The other being ‘Chipi’, which is essentially some form of dried up stem of some local plant, that is used by the locals as anti-congestant by brewing it as tea and also used to ease stomach cramps, by keeping a small bit of the stem in the mouth and slowly sucking in its juices. The other condiments were not available in the market and I was informed by the local shopkeeper that the same are brought back for trading after the monsoons, when these gatherers descent from the higher reaches of the Himalayas, with the impeding winter approaching gradually.
Flowers galore at KMVN Tourist Rest House in Munshiyari
The academician couple we met in Munshiyari with my kids in Nanda Devi temple
View of the Khalia-top & Betuli Dhar from Nanda Devi temple view point

Apart from the above, Munsiyari is ideally located for high altitude trekking to Milam glacier, from which emnates the Gori river, meandering in the depths of the valley below and the Nanda Devi base camp. We came across a bunch of school going American kids, returning from a trekking expedition and were engaged in animated conversation at the KMVN rest house dining area sharing their experiences. The receptionist informed me that during the summer months and at times even extending upto October, these kids from some American schools come over in batches for trekking every year.
You may also experience some moving visuals of Munshiyari in video below

© S Roy Biswas., all rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy reading your blogs which I have bookmarked on my computer

    Thank you very much