Before I begin narrating about our holiday experience, perhaps I should mention here that Binsar has been on our bucket list for over a decade and this is why – In 2002 just after my second child came along, my husband and Sid, then all of four had visited the place with a few friends and had returned with stories and anecdotes galore. Thirteen years hence, we were back there as a family of four.
Enroute to Binsar, we’d pass New Delhi and Kathgodam. For me, this was the first time in Delhi after twenty three long years when I was here to attend an interview. New Delhi, at that time, was experiencing summer at its peak and I have vague memories of visiting Rajpath, eating cardamom flavoured ice cream and then shopping at one of the many popular areas. This time when we arrived, winter was just setting in and the weather was still pleasant enough for a visit. But we’d not be staying long enough to enjoy it.
That very night, we boarded a train to Kathgodam from the old Delhi station. The pre-festival traffic was bad and we thought we’d miss our train. But we managed to make it in the nick of time and boarded the Ranikhet Express. An overnight journey and we arrived at Kathgodam station during the wee hours of the next morning.
The weather was nice and the locals had light winter wear on. It was going to be much cooler where we were going. Our destination was still four hours away from Kathgodam. A short stop to freshen up and gobble down some breakfast and we were on our way. There were many interesting sights on the long journey into the hills. Women filling pots of water by the water pump, women carrying bundles of straw on their heads, children on their way to school, the healthy shades of greens, oranges and purples on the organic vegetables sold on roadside stalls. We passed the Bhimtal Lake, a favourite holiday destination before starting our ascent towards our resort near Binsar.
Club Mahindra has two resorts in Binsar. Binsar Valley Resort is situated at the foothill and boasts of more rooms and space, Manipur Villa is situate atop a little hillock which can be accessed using the private shuttle and the view from there is spectacular. We had rooms in the Manipur Villa. It is a quieter place too. Like with all Club Mahindra properties, the location was perfect. We were taken to our room where we left all our bags excepting for one suitcase into which we’d packed all our warm woollens. We were going to spend that night at Binsar Forest Reserve. After lunch we left for our evening in the wild.
The Binsar Wildlife Reserve is popular for its birds and the wonderful sunset and sunrise. Leopards are sighted frequently by the locals and those that work there. We reached in time to see the sun set and even as the evening turned several degrees cooler, we got into our sweaters, wrapped shawls for further warmth and sat down to watch the sun as it melted into the twilight mist.
Darkness fell and all the doors were shut tight because animals are known to lurk around in the vicinity. We were to have our dinner at KVN. Popular among tourists who wish to stay within the reserve, the place also serves some simple but delicious food that was filling enough to beat the winter chill.
The temperature that night, according to an app on the mobile phone, went as low as 5 degrees C or less. Returning to our lodging after dinner, Abhi, Sid and I stood and stared at the night sky marvelling at how clear the Milky Way appeared. Even as Sid turned around to call my husband, Abhinav and I spotted a shooting star. We forgot to make a wish though in all the excitement.