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Birdwatching with the kids

Birdwatching with the kids
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First Published: Fri, Jul 20 2007. 11 59 PM IST
Updated: Fri, Jul 20 2007. 11 59 PM IST
Businessman Arjun Kapur, 43, went away for eight days with his family and friends to Munsyari, 7,000ft high in the Uttarakhand Himalayas, in June. The destination was an overgrown town—but the magnificent view of Panchchuli made up the full quota of magic.
Why Munsyari? Where is it anyway?
It is in the Kumaon hills of Uttarakhand. We had heard it offers a gorgeous view of the five peaks of Panchchuli. We had decided to go there way back in 2004, while on another holiday in Binsar.
W ho makes up the “we”? Friends?
Yes, around mid-March every year, I call up my friend Rohit to make plans for a summer holiday. It takes a couple of meetings to finalize the place and then it’s a matter of deciding the route and the places to stay. For Munsyari, we travelled with our respective families in two Innovas.
So it was a driving holiday. How did you break it up?
We were away for eight nights in all. We met at Nizamuddin at 5.30am on a Saturday and took the road to Moradabad- Rampur-Rudrapur-Haldwani-Kathgodam. That’s where the hills started. We climbed to Ramgarh via Bhimtal and Bhowali and, around 2pm, reached Bob’s Place at Nathuakhan. This is a great place—6,000ft high, fruit orchards and stone and wood cottages to stay in. The kids had a great time plucking fruit off the trees; there are also lovely walks all around. The evenings were about bridge and bonfires. We spent two nights at Bob’s, and stopped there again on the way back. In retrospect, this was the perfect place to chill out.
And you reached Munsyari in one shot?
No, post-breakfast, we drove from Nathuakhan to Bageshwar through Sitla, Almora and Binsar and reached Vijaypur by 5pm. This is a small village located on a 6,750ft-high ridge overlooking the Himalayas. We spent the night at a tiny place called Wayfarer, a very friendly four-cottage set-up. The next day, we left at 11am, driving through Thal—located on the banks of the Ramganga river—Nachni and Quity and stopping at the 400ft Birthi falls. From Girgaon, the road is metalled only at places, but the drive to Munsyari is still beautiful.
How did you find Munsyari?
We were actually a bit disappointed, since we were expecting it to be a sleepy little place—instead we found quite a big town with a college and a football stadium. Surprisingly, though, there are no decent places to eat. We had to wake up someone in a dhaba to cook lunch for us. The Wayfarer place we stayed at, too, was a big let-down, since no one seemed interested that we were there. Munsyari definitely needs better resorts.
But at 7,000ft, the magnificent vista of the Himalayas makes up for everything. We were lucky enough to view the majestic Panchchuli—of the five peaks, the second towers over everything else nearby at 22,600ft—the same evening. The next day, we drove to a vantage point from where one is supposed to get a 360-degree view of the mountains. Unfortunately, it was cloudy.
We also stopped at a village called Darkot, where women make shawls, sweaters and carpets on handlooms.
So, the holiday was a bit of a washout?
Not at all, because we did some great birdwatching. I became interested in ornithology while in school; the interest was revived in Binsar, when I spotted the very rare western tragopan. My three kids are as keen on birds now as I am, and we spent some very pleasurable hours together all the way up from Nathuakhan, where we spotted the great barbet, verditer flycatcher, a wedge-tailed green pigeon, black partridges and the blue whistling thrush.
Higher up, in Vijaypur, over an evening and a morning, we saw the red-billed blue magpie, three kinds of woodpeckers—including the grey-capped pygmy—two kinds of bulbuls, the rufous-bellied niltava and the black-lored tit.
In Munsyari, our day was made by black-headed jays, white-capped water redstarts, grey-headed canary-flycatchers, scarlet minivets, white-tailed nuthatches and the yellow-billed blue magpie.
As told to Sumana Mukherjee. Share your last holiday with us at lounge@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Jul 20 2007. 11 59 PM IST
More Topics: Munsyari | Travel |