Munsiyari, a Quaint, Shy Jewel of the Himalayas

Archana Sharma

Archana Sharma

Archana’s resume speaks of a in HR, armed with a Management Degree, and a which spanned for more than 15 years. Now, she is following her heart’s pursuit on a journey from being a writer in closet to a published writer. Publications include articles in leading national newspapers and online blogs. An avid traveller seeking refuge and solace amidst Himalayan magnificence and sublimity.
Archana Sharma
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Munsiyari, a quaint yet popular spot among Himalayan enthusiasts, is an idyllic picturesque hill station, in the Pitthoragarh district, of Uttarakhanḍ. It shares its border with Nepal on  trekking from Munsiyari to Lilam, which is downhill with Gori Ganga on the side. Then Bugdiyar to Rilkot, Rilkot to Milam Glacier. This is one of the most trek routes. Nanda Devi temple, 2kms from Munsiyari, offers some panoramic views. The local market caters to the items of daily needs. Saras shop is a venture of hill women to sell their crafts. Another short car ride and we were standing in front of , a haven of Kumaon culture. It’s the best way to know about the transition, trend in the lives of Kumaoni people. Archana takes us through the Himalayan cities, in this narrative, a regular , exclusively for Different Truths.

An early morning start to the foray in hills always fills a renewed sense of joy and exhilaration. This time we chose Munsiyari, a quaint yet popular spot among Himalayan enthusiasts for our trip. It is an idyllic picturesque hill station, in the Pitthoragarh district, of Uttarakhanḍ. It shares its border with Nepal on the east and Tibet in the north. The best way to go Munsiyari is by road as there are some amazingly beautiful spots all along the way. These need to be pampered by your unhurried, undivided attention. Air and rail connectivity is a challenge in the hilly terrain of Uttarakhand, so road route is the best choice. We chose to hire an Innova, from Delhi to Munsiyari, as it was a long way, 552kms.

We started from Delhi by road and reached Kathgodam in five hours. Then we had to brace up ourselves for a long cruise through the sliding, slithering, serpentine ways. We headed on NH 109, on the Bhowali-Bhimtal Road. We continued for some time and then took the Almora-Bageshwar- Munsiyari Road, on SH 37 and reached Thal. There hurriedly we gobbled piping hot aloo at the food joint run by an ex-army man. The pudina-imli (mint-) chutney served was much needed not only to satiate taste buds but to curb havoc raged on intestinal affairs by the frequent twists and turns all along the way.

The idea of distance in hilly terrains can be very misleading, as what appears to be close seems to be distant the very next moment. Another peculiarity is that spotting a sudden causeway or an exotic bird enthuses a childlike excitement and the pedal automatically goes on the brake. The best thing to do is to revel in the revelations through the way without bothering about the destination only.

Then we were on Munsiyari-Madkot Road to reach Munsiyari.

I would often be perplexed as to what does the name Munsiyari actually means and was amazed to know that it means collection of villages. The way to Munsiyari has some amazing play of nature. You come across many stunning breath-taking views. There is this amazing Birthi Waterfall, 125m in height. The sound of numerous water falls gushing every now and then just you spellbound. The music emanating from the nature is well received and recorded in mind as the notes are clear and soothing. The rivers which give you  along are Ramganga and Gori. Munsiyari lies on right side of the Gori River. The Panchachauli range, dressed in snowy white, was in a mischievous mood that day. The clouds at time embraced them, hiding it from our eyes, but the naughty rains soon drove the clouds away. The sun came out to assert its supremacy above all, and unveiled the snowy peaks for a clear view, much to our delight. This is an indication how rugged grandeur is overtaken by soft play of nature.

Rains kept playing welcome tunes on our arrival in Munsiyari. We settled for Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam Hotel though there were multiple options. The first glimpse of this small town highlighted how beautifully it lies in careless abandon and can be best explored on feet only. Munsiyari, is the base for trekking, in Pitthoragarh, for various routes. People often go trekking from Munsiyari to Lilam, which is downhill with Gori Ganga on the side. Then Bugdiyar to Rilkot, Rilkot to Milam Glacier. This is one of the most beautiful trek routes.

Nanda Devi temple, 2kms from Munsiyari, offers some panoramic views. The local market caters to the items of daily needs. Saras shop is a venture of hill women to sell their crafts. I chose to buy Angora wool cap and woollen runner unique to this area. Another short car ride and we were standing in front of Tribal Museum, a haven of Kumaon culture. It’s the best way to know about the transition, trend in the lives of Kumaoni people. Museum is the result of tireless efforts of Dr. Sher Singh Pangati and we had the pleasure of meeting him. He spoke at length how he sourced various collectibles from villagers and how much he loves this place. It was amazing to know that post-retirement he travelled to Kailash Mansarovar twice and has authored a book too. A green mat caught my attention at the museum, interrogation revealed that the wool-smiths specific to this, are centralised in Darkot village, the best place to make a purchase. Some 6kms drive and we stopped in front of a small shop and a surprise awaited. We bumped into Raju guide, who shared remarkable similarities with Bollywood actor, Dev Anand. He took us to his home where his mother is engaged in wool items business. Mostly all households of the village are engaged in this trade. The village houses Johari population confined to Munsiyari and are engaged in trading of woollens, herbs, agricultural products, some are guides to trekkers, some offer their place for home stay.

On our return from Darkot, we saw the colourful spread on the sky, a double rainbow, which is a rare sight. I kept looking at it without bothering much to click as I knew my daughter must be doing it. The more we saw of Munsiyari the more intoxicatingly delighted we were. More to come till we visit again!

How to reach Munsiyari?

Nearest Airport: Pitthoagarh

Nearest Railway Station: Kathgodam, distance 314km from Delhi

Road Route: Well-connected from all places.

Places to stay:

Several hotels, many lodges and homestay options

Places of Interest: 

Nanda Devi Temple, 2kms

Birthi Falls 18kms en route Munsiyari

Tribal Museum, Munsiyari, 6kms

Darkot Village, Angora woollens, 12kms

Madkpt Village, 22kms, known for hot water springs with cures for arthritis, skin disease, etc.

Khaliya Top, 7kms, site for skiing and sports

Milam, Rallam, and Namik Glacier, trekking routes

©Archana Sharma

Photo by author.

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