Binsar: A Captivating Destination to enjoy Hiking, Birdwatching and the Himalayas
I am always in search of places that are less crowded and that offer fulfilling recreations. Going to locations that are far from the hustle and bustle of the crowded tourist hubs are a lot more refreshing sometimes. I keep visiting Uttarakhand whenever I can because the state offers a lot of variations in terms of travel and exploration. I was looking for a destination where I can have a rendezvous with the mountain forests, raw nature, flora and fauna. Binsar satiates all of this travel hunger if you are a nature-lover.
The distance of Binsar from Almora is merely 38 km. Surrounded with oak, pine and rhododendron trees, the snow-capped Himalayan ranges stretching from east to west for a distance of 340 km are clearly and beautifully visible from Binsar. The winding mountain paths, captivating beauty of nature, diverse flora and fauna make this place an alluring destination.
Recently I visited Binsar and was both glad and unhappy. Glad to find that nature is still untouched here; however, I could see a lot many hotel constructions. Last time when I was here two years back, there were very few hotels and the place was squeaky clean. And I was definitely not very happy with the current sight because more hotels mean more tourists, more garbage, more vehicles and a persistent disturbance to the wildlife and nature balance. There are still a huge number of tourists who does not care to use the litter boxes and used plastic mineral water bottles can be seen rolling here and there. Despite signboards and litter boxes up to the Zero Point, such irresponsible act is very disappointing indeed.
For great location and views, I had vouched for KMVN Rest House in Binsar. Previously in that location, only the Forest Rest House was the other option which could be booked from Ramnagar, the entrance to Jim Corbett National Park. But now, many private hotels are coming up at the top to house more tourists that offer incredible views.
It was around 11:30 am when I entered Binsar driving from Almora. It takes another 11 km drive through the forest from the Forest Office check post to reach the KMVN Rest House. At that time of the day, quite obviously, one cannot expect to see the much talked-about wildlife but the odour of wild flowers, various species of birds and the shrill chorus of insects permeates the air and alerts you that you have entered their kingdom. If you are fond of jungles and wildlife, this would surely give you goosebumps.
The forest scenario came to a halt about 3 km before reaching the top. An enclosed open ground has the Bineshwar Temple (Lord Shiva), a sacred place of worship of the locals. It is believed that this place has got its name Binsar from Bineshwar. Two old small temples comprise the temple compound of Bineshwar. It is surrounded by varieties of ferns, various types of medicinal plants including an abundance of Stinging Nittles or ‘Bichhoo Ghas’(Urtica dioica) that are said to contain medicinal properties and are profusely used by locals.
The KMVN Rest House is right at the top of the hill. The location is great and gives one a sense of recluse and excitement. My executive suite offered a great view of the hills and mountains outside the window. Freshening up quickly, I had my lunch and decided to go to the Zero Point a bit early so that I can spend more time exploring.
The Zero Point offers a panoramic view of the Himalayan ranges – Kedarnath, Chaukhamba, Trishul, Nandadevi, Nandakot, Panchchulli, Miraghunti, Devidarshan and many more. It’s actually a 3 km trek from KMVN Rest House, though officially it says 2 km (one-way). The winding path goes through the middle of the forest. There is a kind of ominous charm as you walk through the silence, occasionally broken by the insects call and the sound of your own footsteps. The thick dense forest of pine, rhododendron, oak with odorous wild flowers and various species of birds make the hike an out-of-the-world experience. The Zero Point has a two-storeyed watch tower that welcomes one to have an incredible mountain viewing experience. I spent almost two hours here.
Sunset occurs much early here. Just after 4 pm, the sky loses lustre and the forests start getting dark. You need to plan your timing to get back because you will have to trek 3 km down again to get back to the rest house. I had planned to view the phases of sunset from the Forest Rest House, a minute distance away. So, I had to get down quite speedily. The sun goes down behind the mountains more quickly than you can expect and it gets dark within seconds. Fortunately, I could enjoy the last phases of sunset and could be a witness to the surprising colour changes of the sky from golden, orange, pale red to blood red!
The whole of Binsar runs on solar power after it gets dark. There is no electricity during the day. Solar power is turned on after 5.30 pm and is turned off sharp at 9 pm. After 9 pm, one will have to survive with candlelight. If you gaze out at the night sky, it seems like you can touch the stars; they appear so near! Being at Binsar on a full moon night is one-of-a-kind experience.
Night safaris are available especially if you have a booking from Jim Corbett; however, if you have a car, you are free to drive at your own risk. I was extremely lucky that my dear driver was very enthusiastic to take me on a drive through the forest right up to the Forest check post amidst pitch black darkness. In the morning when I had talked with some locals near Bineshwar Temple, I was told a number of tales of leopard attacks. It is also advised not to take a walk outside at night due to leopards and other wild animals. However, I was not fortunate enough to spot a leopard that night. But I did spot a porcupine, a wild cat and probably a fox. Just like me, people out on night safaris on Corbett jeeps were disappointed.
I came back to my rest house 5 minutes before 9 pm and then had to light up candles in my suite. I had left my camera and phone back in my room for charging. So, after a bit of settling down and packing, I went to sleep to get up before sunrise. Sunrise here is beautiful and I kept my camera right beside me so that I can just grab it and run. I got up around 5.30 am and rushed to the open terrace. It was chilling cold outside. Around 5:45 am, the sky started to light up and the clouds at the fringes and ridges of the ranges looked outstandingly beautiful. Not before 6:10 am pink and golden hues filled the sky. The rays fell on the Himalayan ranges from the opposite direction and the snow took a bewitching golden hue. Within five minutes the sun was up with its full glory, already too bright to capture. Last time when I visited here, the sky was cloudy and the sunrise offered a different scenic beauty, starting with wonderfully hued clouds and the whole spherical sun becoming visible pushing the curtain of clouds. You got to be here to see this!
This morning I had enough time to spend my time hiking and birdwatching. Various species of birds can be seen which makes for a delightful session and time just flies by. I had a well-spent time till the evening. After enjoying the sunset, I took refuge to my room and started packing my bags. I took some time to write down my experiences and memories that Binsar gifted.
Next day, I left Binsar for my next destination, Dhaulchina. One can trek to Dhaulchina from Binsar and I was not prepared for it this time since I had my car. I will be back here next year and take the trekking route to Dhaulchina. This path is exceptionally beautiful offering panoramic views of the Himalayan ranges, forests, flora and fauna, ancient temples – raw nature at its best! As I hit the road, I thanked Nature for being so beautiful, wild and refreshing.