Words AMRITA LALL
Photographs T KRISHNA PRABAKAR
Out of Delhi (430 Km)
Men huddled over lazy afternoon card games with fluffy dogs snoozing around them outside small, quaint shops that sell candy you last saw as a child. Lush, green terraced fields draped over the Himalayas like patchwork quilts. Fresh, crisp mountain air. The four-hour drive from Kathgodam to Binsar serves as the perfect indicator of what awaits you in the sleepy little town located in the district of Almora. Expect all things good for the soul – a rustic, no-frills way of life, languid days filled with birdsong and treks, and breathtaking views. At the Club Mahindra Binsar Valley Resort, expect all that and a warm, homey sense of belonging.
The resort, with its 31 elegant, well-appointed rooms, each with a splendid view of the mountains, serves as the perfect base from which to begin your exploration of the idyllic surrounds. Choosing to spend most of your time at the resort is a good decision too – there’s plenty to keep you engaged. Sign up for the wide range of activities including tree climbing, zip lining and horse riding, or seek out your favourite spot on the lawns and get some reading done with a breathtaking view of the Himalayas when you raise your head from your book. If you have kids in tow, they’ll love the activity centre that’s generously stocked with board and video games. While the Valley Resort is perfect for families, the Club Mahindra Binsar Villa Resort, a 10-minute drive away, nestled higher up among the pine trees, is better suited to travellers seeking some quiet downtime.
No matter which of the two resorts you put up at, head to Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, to kickstart your day with an easy trek up to Zero Point. Take Jack, the resort’s in-house naturalist, along and he’ll help you identify by sight (and sound!) the 200-odd bird species that call the sanctuary home, including Eurasian jays, white-tailed macaques and oriental turtle doves. When you do get to Zero Point, drink in the view – if the skies are clear, you’ll enjoy a panoramic view of Kedarnath, Shivling, Trishul and the group of Nanda Devi peaks.
While the entire district of Almora is blessed with stunning natural beauty, it isn’t the only thing that it has built a reputation for. Case in point: the tiny hamlet of Kasar Devi. While the Kasar Devi Temple that dates back to the 2nd century is the star attraction, the region’s mystic appeal has attracted many spiritual and creative thinkers through the ages, including Swami Vivekananda, Bob Dylan and American poet Allen Ginsberg. If you’re seeking more spiritual experiences, drive to Jageshwar. The gorgeous stone-stacked temples, counted as one of the 12 jyotirlings of Lord Shiva on the ancient route to Kailash Mansarovar, might not look extraordinary but lend a sense of otherworldiness to the atmosphere, with the towering deodar forests serving as the perfect backdrop.
Being out and about in Uttarakhand implies long, sometimes exhausting drives along winding roads and plenty of hiking, so it makes sense then that you arrive at the resort back in time for dinner and call for some sumptuous local fare. The traditional thali is an absolute winner if you want to taste all things Kumaoni, but, if you’re a serious non-vegetarian, the bhang chicken is a must-eat. A resort specialty, the dish includes a whole chicken generously coated with a marinade of bhang (hemp seeds) and char cooked, and serves as the perfect end to days spent in the pursuit of all the rustic joys that Binsar has to offer.