It was again the time for me to plan a trip to the Himalayas. I am blessed enough to be a resident of Delhi from where a mere 12 hours of drive lands me to the areas of opulent greens, clouds, and the mighty peaks. Watching the first glance of the morning hills becomes an addiction to me, smelling the sweet scent of wildflowers becomes an obsession. And those nights longing for the next dawn and those sleeps not knowing what the next morning will look like, become my passion. After two hours of plentiful discussion with my travel partner, heavy research and plenty of emancipation, we decided on our next destination – Binsar. A quiet Himalayan hill station floating dreamily amidst the cloud and mist.
It was a winter morning. I looked around. The village by the mountain was not awake yet, and the steep and lofty cliffs around were also sleeping peacefully. I rolled down the car windows to feel the morning breeze, the sight and the smell of the mountain landscape. A narrow road with deodar trees lined both sides welcomed us to Binsar and I could feel the same frisson of excitement run up my spine, something that I experience every time I am in the hills.
Many popular hill stations in India are experiencing a slow death, be it Shimla, Nainital or Mussorrie, where the experience is anything but tranquil. With increasing business and tourist attraction, these hill stations have fallen prey to the onslaught of commercialization. A sneaky uphill drive up from the Almora town took us to Binsar, still untouched by the tourist hullabaloo, probably because there is nothing to “do” here, as people insisted us when they heard of our travel towards Binsar. Not much happens here and that is precisely its charm.
With a couple of pitstops for Maggie noodles and chai along the way which is a staple in this neck of the hills, after 11 hours of a drive (around 375 km from Delhi), we reached Binsar Echo Camp, our halt for the next two days. From the super helpful owner duo- Ravi and Gaurav to the humorous travel guide Nandan and the cook- Ramesh who had some delicious hill delicacies up his sleeve, we already knew that three nights and two-course meal were going to be one of a kind.
A leisurely afternoon stroll around the deodars and rhododendrons with the winter sun mesmerized us, the grass looked a little greener, and the air was a little more refreshing with the sweet scent of wildflowers. We took a trek up to the hilltop known as zero-point, and if I had ever imagined what heaven looked like in my childhood, the view from here came the closest. We sat at a wooden house for hours, staring at the distant peaks of Nanda Devi Mountain, clouds passed through us and chirping birds gave us company. And in the stillness of that afternoon, we felt that our lives took a pause. The descending darkness with the sun hiding behind the distant mountain brought us back to the present. Letting up for the day we therewith walked down towards the camp.
After two hours of a trek down the riverside, we ravenously stumbled upon a plain traditional Kumaoni lunch organized by the camp. For me, the bhang (Cannabis) chutney was the main attraction which is quite popular among Kumaoni dishes, and the sour taste makes it mouth-watering. This chutney is prepared with roasted bhang and cumin seeds, mixed with lemon juice. Though the food was simple, having that cooked in an open jungle by the river and eating the same amidst the sleepy green landscape was a beautiful experience altogether.
Those few days in that sleepy hill gave us a memorable experience. Waking up to the friendly chirping on the window, away from the honking cars and alarm clocks, long talks over the morning tea with your favourite one for hours together, watching the sun playing peek-a-boo with the clouds, unhurried strolls exploring the nearby villages and their exotic cuisines, lazy afternoon spent lounging around outside with your favourite book, and cosy nights spent sitting on the cottage balcony discussing every topic possible on earth. We experienced it all.
Mountains always give everything to us and nature’s show is eternal. We just need to be a sincere audience, being thankful always.
On our way back to Delhi, I smiled after realizing that- mountains to us, before everything it is and can be, will always be happiness.