The alarm rang a bit too loudly; I staggered out of bed to turn it off. It was a little after 4 a.m. A bit later, B, Junior, and I trooped out of the room, sleepy but excited. On the terrace, a few people had already arrived. We found ourselves some seats and waited with anticipation. Junior pulled his cap over his ears to keep the chill away. More folks arrived at the scene, some wide awake, others half-asleep. A palpable sense of excitement pervaded the air.
Someone gestured toward the east. All heads turned. It was SHOWTIME! As the sun made a grand entry on the horizon, a marvelous scene unfolded. One by one, several snow-capped peaks became visible, illuminated by the first rays of the morning sun. Panchachuli, Nanda Kot, Nanda Devi, Mrigthuni, Trishul, … The Himalayas in all their grandeur. In the distance, where there had been nothing the evening before, were a range of majestic snow-covered peaks. On the terrace, the chatter had ceased, the eyes had widened, the anticipation had given way to awe. Magical. Surreal.
And then, we found our voices. In English, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil… Is that Nanda Khot? Where is Annapurna? Can you really see Kedarnath? What is the name of that peak?
Furious clicks of the camera. Thrilled voices. Fingers pointing toward one peak and then another. Forgetting names and then remembering them.
And just as suddenly as the peaks had appeared, they started disappearing. One by one. Gradually enveloped by clouds. Gradually giving way to the nothingness we had seen the previous day. Could we stop that from happening? We waited, watching, clinging on to the images that remained, clinging on to the last views of every peak, observing the mountains disappearing from view, one after another. The show was drawing to a close. It would play out again the next day.
Steaming cups of chai were served on the terrace. The beverage offered some much-needed warmth on that chilly morning. As we sipped our tea, our eyes stayed riveted to the horizon, eager for another glimpse of the mighty Himalayas.
It was just after 6 a.m. at the KMVN Tourist Rest House in Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary. And we had witnessed a spectacular scene at sunrise, one that will remain etched in our minds for a long time.
It’s Showtime: The Splendor of the Himalayan Peaks at Sunrise
At TRH Binsar, the terrace offers unhindered views of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks. The views are the best at sunrise (if you offer sincere prayers the previous night). So, wake up early, bundle up in warm clothes, and head to the terrace before sunrise. Treat yourself to hot cups of tea after the spectacle unfolds.
Forest Trails: Hikes to Zero Point and Sunset Point
During the day, we headed out on a forest walk. The trail from the Tourist Rest House to Zero Point is beautiful. En route, we paused to identify birds, stopped to examine ferns and spores, and rushed to viewpoints to try our luck at sighting the Himalayan peaks we’d seen that morning. Zero Point has a tower that offers views of the sanctuary, the valley, and the peaks in the distance (if you are lucky). We retraced the trail back to the rest house, taking breaks whenever we found a log that could serve as a good seat. A few tourists passed us, inquiring whether there were chai stalls at Zero Point. No, we replied, it’s just you and nature :).
In the evening, we followed the path to Sunset Point. This trail is much shorter than the one to Zero Point. Although cloud cover prevented us from watching the sun go down, we enjoyed the pleasant stroll through the forest.
Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary: The Location
To feel at one with nature, to experience some magic, to indulge in walks among mighty oaks, and to catch sight of majestic Himalayan peaks, we visited the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttarakhand. We stayed at the KMVN Tourist Rest House in Binsar; it is located inside the Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, at a distance of approximately 10 km from the forest entrance. At an elevation of about 2400 m, oaks and rhododendrons create thick foliage in the forest. The forest is home to birds such as the Cheer Pheasant, Kaleej Pheasant and Koklass Pheasant, and animals such as the leopard and Himalayan black bear.
At TRH Binsar, electricity was available only from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.; that’s when visitors recharged their cellphone and camera batteries.
– Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is located about 30-35 km from Almora town.
– We stayed at the KMVN Tourist Rest House inside Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary.
– Summer is a good time to visit the sanctuary. We heard that winters can be severe. However, the vistas of the mountains are much clearer in the winter months.
– The rhododendrons bloom in March-April. We are keen on returning during those months to admire the red blooms.
– Forest entry fees must be paid at the entrance to the sanctuary.
– Tourists often make a day trip here. If you are looking for some rejuvenation, I’d recommend a stay of at least one night.