Any fan of surrealistic art-forms must have seen Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel, that one where a bunch of people meet inside a mansion for a soiree but realize that they cannot leave the place even if they want to.
This is something that generally keeps happening to me. There are certain places in Delhi where I have felt this decadent energy keeping me tied to one place and away from any meaningful work. However, I have always associated the Himalayas with activity and adventure. But all that changed in Kasar Devi.
So, just to clarify the context, I have left home again. After the middling attempt at living out of the backpack during the #60daysofsummer last year, this time I was looking forward to #90daysofspringandsummer (but this hashtag looks ugly and ungainly and so I am not going to use it in the future posts). Just to kick-start the adventures, I left Delhi just as the torturous summer arrived. Kumaon was one of the areas in my mind because I’ve yet to do anything worthwhile in that region.
I reached Kasar Devi with certain plans and targets in mind. More importantly, I also secured a cost-effective room, which was essential for my long term plans. But as days passed, I realized that there is a strange placidity in the place. Of course mountains are always placid but there was something about Kasar that made me completely inactive. I thought of visiting Binsar that was just an hour away but I could never walk past the 500 meter radius around my homestay. Even reaching the temple atop the nearby hill took a lot of determination. I thought of going down to Almora too but soon resigned to clicking photographs of the pine trees and staring at the sunset like a pathetic romantic.
Yes, I have read those stories about this place falling on the Van Allen Belt but I never really believed them. But after spending a week there I am beginning to question my very ability to question things. Is it a mere coincidence that this place has always attracted hippies, philosophers, and authors but not adventurers and explorers?
Initially I was also considering Kasar Devi to be a place for long-term stay but I am no longer sure. It made me grossly unproductive and this is not going to help my cause. Anyway, after around a week, I managed to finally pack my bags and check out of my room with one herculean thrust and headed towards Himachal, the state that never disappoints. I still want to explore more of Kumaon but I think I will use a different base next time. I also thought of making quick trips to nearby places could never get going.
Since leaving Kasar Devi I have knocked down half a dozen of my wishlist items in barely a week. I will share them soon. As far as this place is concerned, I will still recommend it to those who are looking for a tranquil vacation without doing much. Accommodation here is inexpensive and food options are good. As far as the views are concerned, have a look at the photographs and decide for yourself. However, don’t expect your adrenaline to roar. All you are going to hear is Ginsberg’s Howl.
Kasar Devi Travel Guide
Understanding Ksar Devi
Kasar Devi is more of a village that grew to be a hippie retreat. It is not a place for loud music and intense activities. It is also starkly different from other nearby tourist destinations. It is what Jibhi probably was 10 years ago. It is mostly for those who like slow travel. If you want to think, write, or simply relax, this place is ideal. It is also very affordable with nice homestays and that is why many stay here for weeks and months (although there are luxury options too). Kasar Devi, and the village ahead called Deenapani, and Binsar sanctuary ahead of that, should be enough to keep you occupied. I mean, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, George Harrison, etc have been here. What more can you ask for?
How to Reach Kasar Devi?
Ksar Devi is barely 20-25 minutes from Almora town on the road between Almora to Binsar. So, if you are going from Delhi, just take an overnight train to Kathgodam and then find a bus or shared car to Almora, which is around 100 KMs/3 Hrs. You will find local shared cars from Almora market to Kasar Devi. If you want to stay at a local homestay, don’t get down at the temple but go ahead for another KM and you will start seeing them.
Where to Stay in Kasar Devi?
The cluster of affordable homestays for backpackers are located by the side of the road, around a KM ahead of the Kasar Devi Temple. Once I got a room with an attached bathroom forINR 300, although prices may have increased now. Still, there will be anough options in three digits. Just get there and ask around. Some places are also located in deep inside the jungle or downhill from the road.
A lot of expensive luxury stays have also come up in this region stretching from Ksar Devi to Binsar. Luxury isn’t my forte but let me tell you that there are scores of options.
What to see and do in Kasar Devi?
The eponymous temple is the main attraction here. As mentioned, it is more of a place where you simply relax and walk around the Crank’s Ridge. On a good day, you will have great views of the snowy peaks on the horizon, but that depends on the weather (Somehow I never got it right). There are some other interesting attractions and small hikes that you will be able to find out once you settle down out there.
Binsar is a few KMs ahead of Kasar and you can visit it easily.
Where to go from Kasar Devi?
There are scores of places in this region of lower Kumaon including more places like Almora, Nainital, Sattal, Ranikhet, Mukteshwar, Kausani, Someshwar, Bageshwar, etc. You can go further to the likes of Pithoragarh, Chaukori, Patal Bhubaneswar, Gangolihat and Munsiyari if you have time or explore more offbeat places like Champawat or Dharchula. You will also come accross the lake town of Bhimtal en route to Almora. Here is a different blog on Bhimtal that you can read. Also, you can always take a detour to the Corbett National Park & nearby areas if you are looking for a jungle adventures.
Phone and Data Connecivity in Kasar Devi?
Connectivity is generally good in Kasar and so you can stay and work in this region easily. I have been there twice. Once I stayed by the side of the road and had no issues. On the second time, I ended up at a homestaydownhill and my phone was struggling to catch netwrok. However, the INR 500 homestay had Wi-Fi.
In case you have not watched Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel (1962) and looking to get it, just be careful and don’t opt for The Exterminating Angels (2006), which is a French erotic film that I once downloaded by mistake. I did enjoy it but I should not discuss that part here.