On our way to Binsar, for the first time in my life I experienced forest fire. Many of the trees were charred and some were still burning. There was smoke everywhere and as we drove through sometimes it was even suffocating. Puran however told us that it is quite a common thing in those parts.
By the time we reached Binsar, it was evening and after paying entry fee at the forest check post we entered the sanctuary. We had booked the KMVN rest house which is located well inside the Binsar sanctuary. Actually I heard somewhere that Binsar refers to the sanctuary only and there is no town as such by the name. The road up to the hotel was winding to a large degree and to drive the few kilometres from the check post to the hotel almost took us an hour or so. The road was narrow as well and thankfully there was no car coming from the other side.
I had heard many good things about Binsar and the place lived up to my expectations if not exceeded them. But the weird part is our driver Puran was talking negative about the place from the very start. Even Joshi, another driver whom we befriended in Kausani spoke in a discouraging tone about Binsar. I am not sure about the reason of their apathy for this stunningly grand place. May be it is due to the fact that the drive to Binsar is very hard or perhaps the remoteness of the place makes them go nuts, but if one is a nature lover, this very remoteness and unruffled tranquility would attract one to the hilt.
I lost my mobile network just after I entered the hotel lobby and it remained illusive for the rest of our stay. Only Runa’s mobile network (like its mascot, the faithful dog) worked but that too from a particular spot inside the room.
The hotel had a terrace with a terrific view of the mountain ranges. And right after checking into the hotel we came over to the terrace to have a glimpse of the Himalayas. It was the time of twilight and there was a half moon up in the sky while it was still not dark and the sun did not set yet. That was a peculiar sight. Though it was cloudy, some of the peaks were visible and soon the sun set.
For the first time in Kumaon, I felt the chill at Binsar which stands at 2400 metres above the sea level and probably is the highest altitude tourist place in Kumaon. Since I was not carrying any heavy woolens, I took refuge in one of my cousin’s shawls. As night crept in, we returned to our room and after some more time lighted the candles. Yes, there is no electricity at Binsar, or so we knew. But the hotel staff informed us that there would be electric light available for a couple of hours. The source was solar power; we saw quite a number of photovoltaic mirrors or absorbers in the vicinity of the hotel. We went for dinner early. Non-vegetarian food is not allowed inside the sanctuary, except eggs. The food was literally bland but then again one should not expect anything better at such a remote place. Soon after we returned to our room after dinner, the electric light went off and we had to rely on the candle light again. And it started raining also. The atmosphere was perfect for horror story telling.
Sunrise was at five twenty the next day and we went to the terrace again for taking a view. I was virtually shivering in my light jacket and again borrowed Runa’s shawl. Within a few minutes, the sun came up gloriously and we engaged ourselves in taking quick snaps. After it rained in the previous night, the sky was quite clear. The peaks clearly visible were Trishul, Mrigathuni, Nanda Ghunti and Nanda Devi. One of the inmates of the hotel was sharing his experiences of Himalayas with the others. He was a regular trekker and had just returned from a trek near Munsiyari. He showed us some photographs as well and they were breathtakingly beautiful.
After breakfast, we started taking a walk to Zero Point, the highest altitude place within the sanctuary. It was a 2 km walk amidst the forest and at first we thought of returning from the mid way. But soon we were fascinated by the walk itself and the surroundings and decided to continue. We feared to lose the way in between but somehow managed to reach the observatory at the end. On our way, we came across many rhododendron trees, trees with thick layers of moss and heard the chirpings of many unknown birds, but could not quite locate them. Binsar, as a matter of fact is home to many species of birds. The feeling to be alone in the midst of the forest with no one by our sides was quite unique and we were totally enjoying the experience.
Once at the observatory at the Zero Point, we were totally exhausted and ruing the fact that we did not carry any water with us. But the close look at the mountain ranges made us forget all our bodily discomforts and rejuvenated us with new energy.
The walk back to the hotel was much easier due the downward slope of the road and soon we were in front of our hotel. Our car was waiting for us to take us to Mukteshwar, our next destination. We bid good bye to Binsar with the promise to return in near future and spend at least a couple of days to totally absorb the leisurely grandeur of the unperturbed nature.