Difficulty level: Medium
Distance: 6 km
Time: 3 hours
This is a walk for the views. A section of this walk is named after the Panchchuli peaks for the magnificent views of the five peaks. This is a well-trodden path and you are sure to meet fellow hikers along the way.
Starting from the Retreat, we first descend down to the Veeneshwar temple. After a short walk along the tarred road we branch off at the water tank that stores water from a Sroth (natural spring) to ascend a steep trail to the Forest Rest House. Most Himalayan people depend, for their water needs, on rivers and streams fed by melting snow. With rolling hills for the most part, Kumaon denies this luxury to many if its inhabitants. Here, water flowing through the hills is channelled to the surface by natural means and supplied to the sorrounding villages, a tradition as old as its inhabitants. Binsar Forest Retreat also depends on a Sroth deep in the forest – our only source of water in addition to harvested rain water. Keeping this pipeline in good order is our MOST critical and challenging task at the Retreat.
The trail from the Sroth tank up to the Forest Rest House is a stone path. Tiles of stone laid flat on a hill slope become mossy and slippery during rains and also come loose due to soil erosion from running water. The stone tiles are instead placed along their edges, perpendicular to the hill slope (a pattern that is known as “Kharanji”). This makes walking on them difficult one may find it more convenient to walk beside this stone path, on soft earth. It is a gentle climb of about a kilometer, with numerous short-cuts, fallen trees and langur activity.
Fallen tree across the trail
The Forest Rest House was constructed in 1902 by the British. It is a lovely old building with a veranda running along the sides, two large bed rooms with super-large bathrooms and a living room. It is sorrounded by magnificent deodar trees, which were planted by the British around their dwellings to prevent lightning strikes on the buildings (the deodars, which grow to prodigious heights take the strikes instead). We will take a brief rest at the Forest Rest House.
Retreat guests at the Forest Rest House
Rhododendron tree by the Panchchuli trail
To the right of the Panchchuli trail one can see the Himalayas, with unobstructed views of the Panchchuli peaks. A gorgeous sight in the evening, as the sun begins its descent and the hills change colours from orange to pink before the sun dips below the horizon and the Hiamlayas turn dull white. It is a leisurely and very enjoyable walk. Time for long conversations before reaching Zero Point, where the sight of the majestic Himalayas brings on silent contemplation.
From here, it is an easy climb down to the Retreat.