Pithoragarh  : 6 December,  2015

It is an immeasurably vast carpet of green everywhere on the mountains. Early morning dew shines on the blades of green grass and leaves of trees. Slight blowing breeze is heavy and cold. The pleasing sight of green verdure welcomes you at  the Balati farm (2,743 metre) situated on the Munsiyari to Thal road. You begin to trek to the Khuliya Top passing on green slopes and ridges. It is very cold in the mountain shade. You take enthusiastic steps on a relatively easier track. The sun shines teasingly as you move out of the mountain shade to a warm stretch. You take a turn and see the potato farms of Balati below. The track ascends gradually and the tree line begins to thicken. You are moving through an oak forest. Tall trees look jaded with cold. It is a dense forest and you realise rhododendron trees have begun to appear alongside oaks. Gradually it is all rhododendron trees wearing red and pink hues. You are reminded of your earlier trekking from Chopta to Chandrashilla and to Devaria Tal. You now follow those cherished memories while moving through the forest. There is no view of mountain peaks as yet. You have been trekking for more than two hours.

You don’t wish to rest and continue to move up. As the track curves and you take a turn, a splendid view of the mighty Panchachuli and Rajrambha mountain ranges appear for the first time. You pause for a while to marvel on the serene scenery around. You often glance at the snow-bound peaks though you also cautiously watch your steps. It is a dense forested ridge and the nature’s profound gravity has already enamoured you. The walk through a mountain forest is always a special occasion. It is a continuous ascent and you realise the tree line has suddenly fallen behind. Feeling tired, you decide to have a cup of tea and snacks at the tourist resort of the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam at Bujani. You are reflecting on the journey and want to reach the Khuliya Top before the sunset. 

The trail after a kilometre leads to vast meadows of Khuliya over a connecting ridge. These meadows run right up to the pinnacle. Munsiyari town is visible from here. You have been trekking for nearly six hours and are engrossed in nature’s charm. The lush green meadows have set the stage for the greater realisation. You begin to feel the divine activity and participation in nature. You are quietly watching outward of stifling perception and loving things. You are rightly bereft of charity of judging nature lest it starts a spiritual upheaval. 

The splendid 360 degree view of the Panchachuli, Rajrambha and other mountains at the Khuliya Top (3,505 metre) is the reward of an enervating trek for long hours. You sit silently enchanted by the unbeatable sight. Your eyes have climbed the great ladder out of the pit of yourself. Things here are beautiful and your love follows your eyes. Things here are the ultimate reality. You love God and not in vain, for what you love, you grow to it; you share its nature.
The setting sun has begun to play its yellow and red colours on the mountain peaks. It is one of those intensely golden sunsets which kindles profuse joy. You decide to camp at the Khuliya Top for the night that is a parlour of sparkling stars and a snoopy waning moon that has borrowed its light golden hue from the sun. All things are in quiet silence and the night is in the midst of her swift course. The stars and the moon seem to have leaped out from heaven. The right impulse of nature has illuminated your understanding and set in motion its hidden springs. Nature wears the veil of God’s secret sanctuary. God hides Himself behind His own creation.

The morning is cold and your mind is refreshed by the changing colours of the sunshine on the mountain ranges. You prepare to leave for the Balati farm so as to reach Munsiyari in time. It was a successful trek in a remote corner of the Himalayas of Uttarakhand that presented life-time memories.

The Khuliya Top track situated in sleepy Munsiyari town of Pithoragarh district is a perfect place for anyone to learn trekking. Lush green meadows along the track can  be used to train people  for tough Himalayan treks. “Those willing to spend the night at the bugyal can rest at Lal Singh Gair in tents  provided by local trek and tour managers,” says Puran Pandey, a journalist and trekker at Munsiyari. On the way to the Khuliya Top (3,505 metre), there are widespread meadows rich in varieties of flora and fauna that are easily approachable from Munsiyari town in a day. “There are several hotels in Munsiyari that provide good accommodation facilities to tourists,” says Pandey.

According to KMVN sources, the Khuliya Top is the highest point around Munsiyari town, which could be visited round the year except the four months of the monsoon. For trekking to the Khuliya Top from Munsiyari, a tourist can take a vehicle to reach the Balati bend, which is 8 km away. “We have a five-room tourist lodge at Bhujani for trekkers who want to trek to the Khuliya Top or go beyond,” says DK Sharma, KMVN officer. The picturesque Khuliya Top is mere 1 km from the Bhujani camp.

The Khuliya Top is an experience  worth remembering lifelong  for a  maiden trekker as it presents a glimpse of wide Himalayan peaks  in Kumaon.  “One can  see Himalayan peaks of Panchachuli, Rajrambha, Hardeval, Nanda Devi, Nandakot, Trishuli and Banakatia standing out tall around him,” says Sharma.

Around 4,000 tourists and trekkers visit the Khuliya  Top every year from July to September 15 every year. They could watch varieties of birds, including state bird monal and Bhoj patra (birch) at the 3-km wide meadows. “Tourists wanting to visit the Pindari, Namik and Hiramani glaciers now prefer the track from the Khuliya Top to go there, as it is picturesque and rich in Himalayan flora and fauna,” says Pandey. Chief Minister Harish Rawat has assured local trekkers of developing the Khuliya Top as a monal watching centre.

Track routes developed by the British could be used in winter
Several new destinations have been identified that could be developed as winter tourist spots in the Kumaon region. Most of these destinations are tracks developed by the British during 131 years of their stay in the region. The government is working on running tourist activities round the year to generate jobs for youths in hill villages.

According to KMVN sources, there are some 100 track routes in Kumaon that could be developed for use from November to May. The most viable tourist track in Kumaon is the Jim Corbett track that the well-known hunter-turned wildlife lover used in search of man-eater wild animals. The track to Mukteswar begins at Kaladhungi in Haldwani, where the legendary hunter used to live. “The camping sites could include Kaladhungi in Haldwani, Chuka, Tak, Champawat, Kalagar ridge in Champawat district where the hunter killed  several man-eater animals, besides Pangot and Mukteswar in Nainital district, which have been named as a mountain quail trail. Famous ornithologist Salim AIi had seen monal at  mountain slopes  of Pangot near Nainital last time in 1936.

The Sherring Road could be another main winter tourist track for nature lovers. The British developed the track to link outer Himalayan regions with Nainital where their officers used to reside in those days. British Commissioner Charles A. Sherring after whom the road was named  in 1905 developed the track to link habitations situated in outer Himalayan regions with the British power seat at Nainital. “The Sherring Road is one of the longest track routes that the British had developed. It goes to parts of Garhwal beginning from Chukka village near the Sharda valley in the Kumaon region. Its main track from Chukka village in the Sharda valley to Sukhidhank village in Champawat is an ideal trekking route from November to May,” says Dr Ram Singh, a local historian who has written on Kumaon river valleys. The Tribune

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