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Old 6th August 2012, 23:23   #1
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Default Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited

I am planning a Kumaon trip end of October. A 5000 km roadtrip from Bangalore to Kumaon and back. This is what I have decided as of now:
  • 19th: Bangalore - Nagpur
  • 20th: Nagpur - Lucknow (flexible)
  • 21 Sun Kaladunghi | Camp Corbett Resort
  • 22 Mon Kaladunghi | Camp Corbett Resort
  • 23 Tue Kaladunghi | Camp Corbett Resort
  • 24 Wed Sitabani Forest| Sitabani FRH
  • 25 Thu Pangot | Mountain Quail Camp
  • 26 Fri Pangot | Mountain Quail Camp
  • 27 Sat Kunjakharak or Vinayak | Most likely Kunjakharak FRH
  • 28 Sun Binsar or Edadeo | Most likely Edadeo FRH
  • 29 Mon Munsiyari | Munsiyari FRH (has one of the best views of Panchachuli) or Wayfarer or another hotel.
  • 30 Tue Munsiyari Munsiyari FRH
  • 31 Wed Munsiyari Munsiyari FRH
As you can see, I am planning to turn back the clock by 100 years and experience the bygone days in some of the old forest rest houses. Most of them are situated in beautiful locations, and have great birding and views - and possible sightings of wildlife.

The rationale for deciding on these places:
  • Kaladhungi: experience the places mentioned in Jungle Lore. Tigers are still found in the Kaladhungi jungles, and the places mentioned by Corbett haven't changed much. Plan to do lots of walks and drives.
  • Sitabani FRH: since Corbett is closed, this is the one option for experiencing the jungle at the foothills. Is great for birding and wildlife, I hear. and the drives within the forest are fantastic, from what I have read and seen in the photos.
    Pangot (resort + FRH): great for birding, though I am not too much of a birder. But I have fond memories of this place when I stayed in a ramshackle tent complex 6 years back. Great for walking around. The FRH is at an altitude of over 7000 feet far away from civilization. Last time I went to Pangot area, I was kept awake for 4 hours in the night because of a leopard calling 200 metres from my torn tent. And my wife and I were the only occupants of the entire tent complex - the caretakers stayed 50 metres away in locked huts.
  • Edadeo FRH: read good things about it in Outlook Traveller. Seems like a heritage building. And I have a soft corner for those old bungalows - old furniture, high roofs, comfortable easy chairs. a campfire and a lantern, sounds of the forests, a cold breeze from the mountains. Not to mention the breath of the pines and the firs.
  • Munsiyari: always wanted to visit this far flung part of Kumaon. Plan to hike up to Khaliya top and get some good photos of Panchachuli. Maybe camp at 11000+ feet in a Bugyal for one night. Seems the FRH has one of the best views in Munsiyari, as per net research.
  • Why FRHs? Well, I love the atmosphere of these places. And I want to see if I still can rough it out (to some extent) at this age. Since I will be driving a SUV and carrying a tent, mattress, bed sheets and a sleeping bag, I figure I can make myself comfortable in most places. I am not traveling with my family - will be with a friend or will be alone.
However, I am still undecided about a few things.

1. Has anyone stayed in these forest rest houses (FRHs), or is knowledgeable about the Kumaon FRHs? If so, can you tell me which ones are better (from a nature immersion point of view) among the following:
  • Vinayak FRH vs. Kunjakharak FRH (both beyond Pangot, 7000+ feet altitude, in the forest)
  • Binsar FRH vs. Edadeo FRH
2. Anyone knowledgeable about what's happening in Corbett: do you think Jhirna will be open late October? Right now it is shut due to the court ruling. If so, I would like to stay there.

3. 1st night from Bangalore, I am planning to stay in Nagpur. Will reach late, since I will start from Bangalore airport around 9.30 AM. What would be a good hotel on the main highway/road passing through town? Decent room and safe parking place are of high priority.

4. Would it make sense to stay in Lucknow for the 2nd night? What would be a good hotel for a 'crash late night and leave early next morning' stay?

5. Munsiyari: anyone stayed in Wayfarer or any of the other hotels that have a great view? KMVN is fully booked. After Khaliya Top, I would prefer to spend the last night in some luxury so that I can relax and prepare myself for the long drive back to Bangalore.

6. Most important: I am thinking of directly reaching out to the DFOs to book the FRHs. Does it make sense going through an agent because of obvious reasons? Would anyone have good contacts with the senior forest officers of Kumaon?

Comments? Suggestions?
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Old 7th August 2012, 09:04   #2
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Default Re: Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited

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Old 7th August 2012, 10:00   #3
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Default Re: Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited

what is the route you've planned to lucknow. The roads are quite bad and you might want to break this over 3 days rather than 2.
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Old 7th August 2012, 12:41   #4
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Default Re: Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited

Kilbury FRH near Pangot is something you should try.

Corbett opens on November 15th

I'd not plan for more than one night at Kaladunghi. Too much traffic and not enough forest. If you can get Sitabani FRH for more than one night you'd do good. In any case both are near to each other.
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Old 7th August 2012, 18:53   #5
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Default Re: Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited

Quote:
Originally Posted by wanderluster View Post
what is the route you've planned to lucknow. The roads are quite bad and you might want to break this over 3 days rather than 2.
I have done Nagpur in 14 hours before. Nagpur-Lucknow (or Kanpur), that I need to check. I will have a SUV so can maintain decent speed over bad roads. But I don't know what the road conditions will be after the monsoons. In any case, I have some flexibility for Day 2, and can stop before Lucknow if progress is slow.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sudev View Post
Kilbury FRH near Pangot is something you should try.

Corbett opens on November 15th

I'd not plan for more than one night at Kaladunghi. Too much traffic and not enough forest. If you can get Sitabani FRH for more than one night you'd do good. In any case both are near to each other.
Yes, that is why the compromise with other FRHs.

I am planning to stay at Camp Corbett that is right beside the reserve forest, is supposed to be great for birding and also has wild animals visiting the grounds. But will consider dropping one day at Kaladhungi and staying for one more extra day at Sitabani FRH.

I am planning to stay at Kunjakharak FRH that is further away from Kilbury, much wilder and deep inside the forest. Didn't opt for Kilbury FRH since that is too close to Mountain Quail Camp where I am planning to stay.
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Old 7th August 2012, 19:27   #6
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Default Re: Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited

I am already envying you!

Some tips from my side:

1. Has anyone stayed in these forest rest houses (FRHs), or is knowledgeable about the Kumaon FRHs? If so, can you tell me which ones are better (from a nature immersion point of view) among the following:
Vinayak FRH vs. Kunjakharak FRH (both beyond Pangot, 7000+ feet altitude, in the forest)
Binsar FRH vs. Edadeo FRH

The Binsar FRH is in awesome location further from the KMVC TRC. Though give a thought to the KMVN TRC as well, since the valley view is great from there, which you might miss at the FRH. Though, do not expect any services from the FRH employees as they care a damn about who's coming as long as it's not the top officials. And the only electronic equipment out there is a wireless set running on car batteries. Bear in mind that Binsar is a no electricity zone. The electricity is available at TRC from 7PM-9PM via gen-set.

2. Anyone knowledgeable about what's happening in Corbett: do you think Jhirna will be open late October? Right now it is shut due to the court ruling. If so, I would like to stay there.

Entering Jhirna would require a special permission. Let me know on the dates will pass on some numbers of my friends who might help you out with this.

3. 1st night from Bangalore, I am planning to stay in Nagpur. Will reach late, since I will start from Bangalore airport around 9.30 AM. What would be a good hotel on the main highway/road passing through town? Decent room and safe parking place are of high priority.

No Comments!

4. Would it make sense to stay in Lucknow for the 2nd night? What would be a good hotel for a 'crash late night and leave early next morning' stay?

Lucknow to JC can be tiring, it's a treacherous route with max traffic. Suggest you leave Lko early in the morning between 4-5 AM. There are several places to crash late at night at Lko,look out at decent places rather than budget places,but if you can make it to Bareilly skipping Lucknow, is advisable.

5. Munsiyari: anyone stayed in Wayfarer or any of the other hotels that have a great view? KMVN is fully booked. After Khaliya Top, I would prefer to spend the last night in some luxury so that I can relax and prepare myself for the long drive back to Bangalore.

Munsiyari , a very beautiful place but drive can be tedious. The roads are Okay guess your SUV would be able to tackle it, but again a suggestion, stop over at Pithoragarh and move on the next day towards the destination.

6. Most important: I am thinking of directly reaching out to the DFOs to book the FRHs. Does it make sense going through an agent because of obvious reasons? Would anyone have good contacts with the senior forest officers of Kumaon?

My relative was the chief conservator in Kumaon, Retired now. Dont' think he would be of any help. Agents would be of hardly any help concerning FRH and TRC's either. Good idea to approach the DFO's directly.
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Old 8th August 2012, 23:30   #7
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Default Re: Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited

Dear Nilanjan,

Welsome to my land. Though I can't help much with the FRH bookings, let me know wherever a KMVN is involved.
Adit has tried to address most of your points in the previous post. I have put down my comments in bold.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nilanjanray View Post
  • Kaladhungi: experience the places mentioned in Jungle Lore. Tigers are still found in the Kaladhungi jungles, and the places mentioned by Corbett haven't changed much. Plan to do lots of walks and drives.
You really wont find a tiger there. However, it is a great place for nature walks.
  • Sitabani FRH: since Corbett is closed, this is the one option for experiencing the jungle at the foothills. Is great for birding and wildlife, I hear. and the drives within the forest are fantastic, from what I have read and seen in the photos.
Good decision.
  • Pangot (resort + FRH): great for birding, though I am not too much of a birder. But I have fond memories of this place when I stayed in a ramshackle tent complex 6 years back. Great for walking around. The FRH is at an altitude of over 7000 feet far away from civilization. Last time I went to Pangot area, I was kept awake for 4 hours in the night because of a leopard calling 200 metres from my torn tent. And my wife and I were the only occupants of the entire tent complex - the caretakers stayed 50 metres away in locked huts.
Great place for birding. Also, 7kms of driving and 3kms of trekking will take you to a place called Brahmasthal. A clear weather will allow you to see the entire himalayan range at one go. Dont miss it!
  • Edadeo FRH: read good things about it in Outlook Traveller. Seems like a heritage building. And I have a soft corner for those old bungalows - old furniture, high roofs, comfortable easy chairs. a campfire and a lantern, sounds of the forests, a cold breeze from the mountains. Not to mention the breath of the pines and the firs.
  • Munsiyari: always wanted to visit this far flung part of Kumaon. Plan to hike up to Khaliya top and get some good photos of Panchachuli. Maybe camp at 11000+ feet in a Bugyal for one night. Seems the FRH has one of the best views in Munsiyari, as per net research.
Awesome. October will provide you the most spectacular views.


Vinayak FRH vs. Kunjakharak FRH (both beyond Pangot, 7000+ feet altitude, in the forest)
I suggest Kunjakharak. Purely because its nestled in a beautiful forest.

Binsar FRH vs. Edadeo FRH2.
I would advise the KMVN rest house, primarily due to a better view, and great service (by govt. standards). Also, the booking process is online so has lesser hassle.
I have attached some pics from my travels. Hope they are of help.

The himalayan view from the Brahmasthal top, near Kunjakhadak.

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A litle close up.
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Mt. Hasling as seen from the TRC Munsyari.
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Sunrise as seen through the clouds covering Panchachuli, also from the TRC, Munsyari.
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Cheers,
Tapish
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Old 8th August 2012, 23:49   #8
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Default Re: Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited

Thanks for the inputs and the great pictures, Tapish! Will definitely try out Brahmasthal.

I am not really new to Kumaon, and have visited Binsar earlier, staying in KMVN. Don't want to repeat the same thing. Had also walked to the Binsar FRH that time. That is why I am favouring Edadeo - new experience.

P.S.: I don't really care to run into or take photos of tigers (or elephants, for that matter - they visit the Kalaghungi resort where I am planning to stay) at the moment - had my fill during the June Tadoba trip. 14 unique tigers. And have had too many elephant experiences in the Nilgiri forests. Want peaceful nature walks this time - for a change.
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Old 10th August 2012, 17:39   #9
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Default Re: Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited

Quote:
Originally Posted by nilanjanray View Post
P.S.: I don't really care to run into or take photos of tigers (or elephants, for that matter - they visit the Kalaghungi resort where I am planning to stay) at the moment - had my fill during the June Tadoba trip. 14 unique tigers. And have had too many elephant experiences in the Nilgiri forests. Want peaceful nature walks this time - for a change.
14 unique tigers .
Take a bow sir!
Luck favors the brave.

Cheers,
Tapish
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Old 11th August 2012, 21:09   #10
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Default Re: Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited

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Originally Posted by Tapish View Post
14 unique tigers .
Yep! Lucky timing too - just before the supreme court ruling came. Photos there in Team BHP if you want to have a look.

I have decided on most of the acco options but still undecided about Munsiyari FRH vs. one of the hotels e.g. Zara or Wayfarer. Also, wondering whether I should spend 2 days in Camp Corbett and 2 days in Sitabani FRH or 3 + 1 as planned earlier.

I was speaking to one of the DFOs, he said that acco shouldn't be the problem, but I will have to vacate immediately if a VIP comes. Lol. Wonder what folks who are not having their own vehicles or not carrying tent + sleeping bag would do if this happens at odd hours.

Last edited by nilanjanray : 11th August 2012 at 21:13.
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Old 12th August 2012, 13:20   #11
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Default Re: Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited

Quote:
Originally Posted by nilanjanray View Post

I have decided on most of the acco options but still undecided about Munsiyari FRH vs. one of the hotels e.g. Zara or Wayfarer. Also, wondering whether I should spend 2 days in Camp Corbett and 2 days in Sitabani FRH or 3 + 1 as planned earlier.

I was speaking to one of the DFOs, he said that acco shouldn't be the problem, but I will have to vacate immediately if a VIP comes. Lol. Wonder what folks who are not having their own vehicles or not carrying tent + sleeping bag would do if this happens at odd hours.
2+ 2 (Camp corbett + Sitabani) shall allow you to explore both places well.
VIP entry may create a problem, so I shall advise you to stick to Wayfarer or Zara, whichever you find better.


Cheers
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Old 12th August 2012, 14:31   #12
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Default Re: Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited

Quote:
Originally Posted by nilanjanray View Post
[*]Munsiyari: always wanted to visit this far flung part of Kumaon. Plan to hike up to Khaliya top and get some good photos of Panchachuli. Maybe camp at 11000+ feet in a Bugyal for one night. Seems the FRH has one of the best views in Munsiyari, as per net research.
It does. This is the only place worth staying at Munsiyari. Lots of other small hotels and lodges (including a few run by Bengalis, incidentally), but none of them provide the majestic views of Himalayas like KMVN does. If you want to hike to Khaliya top, call up KMVN ahead of your visit and ask specifically for information on trekking groups. There are guides who lead these groups on 2-3 day trekking trips, so try to get in touch with them and they will make all the arrangements.

Attaching some pics clicked from KMVN Munsiyari. This is Oct 2011.

Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited-kumaon168.jpg
That's KMVN Munsiyari

Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited-kumaon173.jpg
View from my room window

Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited-kumaon174.jpg
Close-up of Panchachauli

Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited-kumaon180.jpg
That's Nanda Devi temple, about 5 mins from KMVN by car


Quote:
Originally Posted by nilanjanray View Post
[*]Binsar FRH vs. Edadeo FRH[/list]
I haven't stayed in either, but you might also like to check out Mukteshwar KMVN, which is about 30 kms from Binsar. Apparently, Jim Corbett stayed at the PWD Guesthouse (which is just across the road from KMVN) when he was hunting the Mukteshwar maneater. The view is hard to beat, I would say better than even Munsiyari on a clear day. Also, the forest around KMVN is good for trekking.

Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited-kumaon122.jpg
That's the PWD Guesthouse

Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited-kumaon118.jpg
View from the Guesthouse garden

Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited-kumaon116.jpg
Another one

Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited-kumaon124-copy2.jpg
Tekking path upto Chauli Ki Jaali Temple

Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited-kumaon129.jpg
En-route to Chauli Ki Jaali

Last edited by Wimwian : 12th August 2012 at 14:36.
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Old 12th August 2012, 23:20   #13
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Default Re: Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited

Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos Wimwian.

Regarding Munsiari: the KMVN TRH is not available. I am actually considering the forest rest house (FRH).

Seems like the Nanda Devi temple complex is a great place for setting up camp :-)
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Old 13th August 2012, 11:18   #14
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Default Re: Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited

Quote:
Originally Posted by nilanjanray View Post
Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos Wimwian.

Regarding Munsiari: the KMVN TRH is not available. I am actually considering the forest rest house (FRH).

Seems like the Nanda Devi temple complex is a great place for setting up camp :-)

Oh, I wasn't aware that there is also a Forest Rest House available on rent in Munsiyari I thought you meant KMVN since the older wing used to be a Rest House (not sure whether Forest or PWD) before being converted into a hotel.

The temple complex is an AWESOME place for setting up camp, if only they allowed that!! Btw, the complex has an artificial rock-climbing wall and apparently classes are held on a regular basis, but there was no activity going on when I'd gone and I didn't enquire further.

The drive to Munsiyari is one of the best experiences you can have in this country... unending ghat roads with amazing views on both sides, sheer drops of as much as 500 feet, climbing right up to Kalamuni top and then descending a little bit into Munsiyari town. Do keep some time on your hand and stop at Birthi falls on the way... there is a KMVN at that place, plan it so you can have lunch there.

You can get in touch with Sabyasachi Dasgupta (XetaGLGRocks on team-BHP) for more info on driving conditions there... he drove from Kolkata to Kumaon and back in Feb this year. Also, I believe he stayed in Lucknow for a day on his way back... he should be able to guide you regarding accomodation there.

Cheers
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Old 22nd August 2012, 22:52   #15
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Default Re: Kumaon: roads less traveled and forests less visited

OK, since the core area tourism ban will continue, Corbett FRHs are out it seems. So it will have to be Sitabani night stay to get a flavour of Corbett Park.
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