Munsiyari, a Tehsil and Sub Division, is a winsome hamlet in the Pithoragarh District of Uttarakhand. Lying at the very base of the Himalayas, at an elevation of almost 7500 ft, it's the cherry on the cake of our trip. It's the absolute Utopian destination not just for normal tourists and nature lovers but also for adventure lovers, trekkers and mountaineers. The town is surrounded on all sides by snow-covered mountains with the key attraction being the trekking route to Khalia Top.
Munsiyari is at a distance of almost 200 kms from Kausani with a 5 to 7 hour drive depending on the weather conditions. As a result, we had to take our lunch on the road at a place called Phal. It was then that I had noticed the Himalayan Range suddenly seemed a lot closer than at Kausani. After that, during the drive, I had fallen asleep. When my eyes had opened next, I had woken up to another overwhelming and heart-stopping sight - the Himalayan Range enveloped in sparkling white snow, was closer than ever; so close that you could just reach out and touch it. I have been to many hill stations in North India but never had I ever seen the glorious, legendary Himalayas so much at a stone's throw away. Luckily, the hotel room that we had reserved, had the view of the whole landscape just like back at Kausani. Munsiyari is known for it's quite low temperatures and since it was already evening, the 'cold' weather had turned to 'chilly' and 'freezing'. Our guide advised us to not exert ourselves further and go to bed early that night. Unfortunately, that night my sleep hadn't broken at all, but, the positive side of it was that I woke up in the morning feeling fresh and exhilarated. The whole morning was spent by in touring the local market. Following that, the most anticipated and most favorite part of the trip finally arrived - after an early lunch, we set out on a camping expedition along the route to Ralam Glacier. It took us over two and a half hours to reach Lilam Gaon from where the camping site was another half an hour trek; our camping site was a small grassy hill at a slightly higher altitude than Lilam Gaon. The trek was really very taxing with the air thinning out more and more and the weather getting chillier, with every step; but when we reached our destination, the reward was more than worth it. As I walked over to edge of the hill, what I saw was doubtlessly incredible - the clouds that were, until now, floating aimlessly above in the sky, now clustered below me along the mountains. It was a splendid sight with the sun just about to disappear behind the peaks, the sky as if painted with varying shades of pastel orange, yellow, red and pink and the accumulated clouds slowly growing denser by the minute as the snow took on the various colors of the setting sun.
The night was freezing but thankfully the wind wasn't too high. The result was a peaceful sleep under a starry sky and waking up next day to a glorious morning.
Before leaving Munsiyari, that morning, the guide took us to an open mountain top from where the the whole 360 degree panoramic view of the Himalayas could be experienced. Among all the peaks, the most important and closest is Panchchuli or the Five Peaks. According to Hindu mythology, in the Mhabharata, Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, is said to have cooked for the five brothers on the five distinct peaks; hence the name 'Panchchuli'.