By- Sunil Kanwal
The dream of travelling the entire region of Kumaon on a bicycle, which I had harboured for many years, came to fruition in October 2018, when a friend expressed his interest in the idea. I had met Rajesh P, a resident of Bengaluru, during the basic mountaineering course that I was taking at National Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports (NIMAS), Arunachal Pradesh. The discussion began with charting the routes with the help of Google maps and chalking out a few rough itineraries. After a few days, we finalised a 17-day trip route covering all the districts of the Kumaon region. Being a local, I tried to find the best route that would allow us to witness the beauty of the region and leave an everlasting impression on my friend.
Haldwani – Bhimtal - Sattal – Dhanachuli - Pahadpani – Saharfatak/ Shahar Phatak -Mornola - Champawat – Mayawati Ashram – Pithoragarh – Didihat – Askot – Jauljibi – Dharchula – Narayan Ashram – Dugtu – Panchachuli Base Camp – Dharchula – Munsiyari – Chaukori – Bageshwar – Kausani – Almora – Nainital – Haldwani
On the first day, we covered Sattal, which is famous for its seven lakes (saat in Hindi means seven and tal means lake). It’s a haven for nature lovers, bird watchers and adventurists.
On the second day we reached Mornola, where Swami Vivekananda had stayed during his Kumaon trip. The route to Mornola via Padampuri, Dhanachuli, Pahadpani and Saharfatak was lined with oak, pine and other beautiful trees. We were lucky to catch a glimpse of the majestic Himalayas on the second day of our trip.
We reached the town of Champawat via Devidhura (famous for its Bagwal festival) on the third day. Champawat is the district headquarter of the eponymous district. During the journey, we came across a place called Khetikhan, which is a beautiful valley. It is around 13 km from Lohaghat and if you want to enjoy a peaceful stay, you can book yourself into the KMVN Guest house here. http://kmvn.in/hotels
On the fourth day, we visited the serene Mayawati Ashram, located about eight km from Lohaghat. Surrounded by lush forests and cocooned in peace, the site is worth the visit. We paddled on to Pithoragarh and arrived there around 10.45 pm. The road is steep and requires extra caution. Receiving a warm welcome at 11 pm at the cosy KMVN guest house was the highlight of the day. http://kmvn.in/hotels
We reached Didihat on day five. The scenic, pine-lined route from Pithoragarh to Didihat goes through Kanalachhina and Ogla. Kanalachhina, situated at the mouth of the valley, was once a trade centre and ponies used to traverse its rocky terrain. Ogla is a small scenic village at the crossroads of the Kailash Man sarover pilgrimage road.
On the sixth day we reached Dharchula. It is the last big town before we move up to the Indo-Tibet border. The route, which took us through and past Ascot and Jauljibi (where Gori Ganga and Kali rivers meet), is mesmeric.
Day 7 & 8
On day seven, we reached Narayan Ashram, a popular attraction among those spiritually inclined and nature lovers. The last 25 km before the ashram were tough owing to off-roading. So we decided to stay an extra day to get some much-needed rest and explore the place.
On the following day, the ninth day of our journey, we moved to Dugtu, a small, quaint and charming village. A major chunk of the route was off-road and was peppered with many glacial streams, which turned it into one of the most challenging days of our journey. At Dugtu, the temperature dropped to -5 degree Centigrade at night but putting up at the KMVN huts was surely an experience one shouldn't miss. http://kmvn.in/hotel_search
On the 10th day, we visited the beautiful Panchachuli base camp before retiring to Dharchula, where we reached around 9 pm. The trek to the base camp starts from the village of Dar, which is around 40 km ahead of Dharchula. The road is good for cycling as well.
The next day, we started our return journey and arrived at Munsiyari, one of the most beautiful hill stations of Uttarakhand. We stopped for a day here and trekked to Khaliya Top, one of the most famous treks in Munsiyari. The top offers spectacular views of the Himalayas.
Dat 12, 13 & 14
After resting for a day, the next day we reached Chaukori via Nachni and Thal. Chaukori is one of the most charming hill stations in the Kumaon region. We cycled through the holy towns of Bageshwar and Baijnath on the 14th day to reach Kausani, locally referred to as the jewel of Kumaon Himalayas.
Day 15, 16 & 17
On the following day, we reached the cultural capital of Kumaon, Almora. The stunningly beautiful town has an alluring charm. Its history, culture and beauty are unmatched. We visited the Kasar Devi temple and Almora's marketplace before moving towards our last destination Nainital on the 17th day. We arrived at Nainital via the famous Kainchi Dham. Nainital is known for the stunning Naini lake and numerous temples. It welcomes tourists and visitors from across the world in large numbers.
The 18th and last day of our trip had us returning to Haldwani with unforgettable memories of our adventurous and once-in-a-lifetime road journey. During this journey we covered about 1,000 km at a budget of about INR 10,000. At most of the places, we stayed in KMVN guest houses, which are affordable and clean. We sincerely thank all the staff of KMVN for their hospitality.