An offshoot of the motor able road from Almora to Kafadkhan, is a narrow tarred path which marks the entrance to the Binsar Wildlife Reserve. This path, like a persistent vine, clings to the oak covered hill side and climbs in curvy hair-pin bends to the settlement of Binsar. The hallmarks of civilization have a meager presence here and nature, with all its care and indifference, reigns at will. To the north, snow capped peaks span the horizon; to the south, their lesser cousins nonchalantly disappear in the dusty plains of the Terai. Here the mighty peaks of the Himalayas, visible in unsatisfying glimpses from the lower reaches of the Kumaon hills, bare themselves with pompous ferocity. Binsar offers none of the quintessential hill station experiences; but it embraces with nascent affection one who craves the camaraderie with nature.
A leisurely walk along the numerous trails amidst the oak and rhododendron forest is therapeutic; particularly the trails to Jhandi Dhaar and the Forest Rest House. In autumn the paths are carpeted with brown leaves; colourful flowers adorn the jungle floor, the langurs indulge in frivolous revelry and the barking deer gingerly tread the steep rock faces. On clear days, it is believed, one can view the Chinese border and the Terai plains from Jhandi Dhaar complimented with unobstructed views of the Himalayas. A stone structure has been erected here; one can relax in the shade and relish the music of the nuthatches.
The road to Binsar culminates at the Forest Rest House, a quaint building overlooking endless rows of hills dotted with terraced fields. The view of the sunset is particularly beautiful from here; one can be seated in the grassy courtyard and witness the tired sun slip behind the grey mountains and the sky turn a blend of orange and red and pink. Furthermore, a steaming cup of tea can sweeten this blissful experience. The forest surrounding the rest house is teeming with numerous species of birds and is a treat for people interested in birding.
Binsar is a treasure-trove of nature’s wonders but undoubtedly its most precious jewel is the sunrise. I will attempt to paint an honest picture of this event though words can faintly convey the actuality. The night is on its final stretch; countable stars ornament the sky, the moon sheds a feeble light on the snow covered peaks, the wind is hostile and the silent valleys are shrouded in mist. The silhouettes of the peaks are reflected in the dark blue sky; from the Nanda Ghunti to the Trisul, from the revered Nanda Devi to the distant Panchachuli; all rising above 20,000 feet and looking down on this petty world. And as the sun rises the golden rays bounce off the silky snowy slopes and hop from one peak to the next till all of them are illuminated in an infant glow; the valleys shed their misty cloaks to get on with the day and the air is infused with warmness. The script is perfect, the stage is meticulously set, the acting is succinct and the direction flawless!
This article first appeared here.