People say the journey is more important than the destination. It seems obvious the the hundreds of kilometers we travel to reach our destination may have more to show us than the place we finally park our wheels. And thus it has always been clear to Bulleteers that whatever the destination we have to work to find the most interesting route to it.
And sometimes, we do end up finding ways to get to our destination which surprise us, scare us, test us and fill us with awe. The road to Malari was one such road. A road with all the twists, turns, roughs, smooths, dry’s, wets, easy and toughs that we wanted to go through.
The destination, Malari Village is a small, old village near the tibet border in Uttarakhand. Its a cluster of wooden houses built on a mountain slope, which is inhabited by people who are collect herbs for a living. The village may seem simple, but the people are well to do, financially, as they earn good money by selling highly priced herbs which work as sex-drugs. The people were happy to see visitors and had no issues with us roaming around the village, taking photos.
Lets break this journey down into point wise information :
The Route :
We started from Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, so the initial part of the route can be different for people coming from other places. But the route from Bhimtal onwards will be the same for everyone. The part from Bhimtal to Malari is a fun part, the part which I praised at the start the article.
Gwalior -Agra – Bareilly – Bhimtal – Almora – Kausani – Gwaldam – Simli – Karnaprayag – Chomali – Joshimath – Malari
If you are coming from Delhi side, you can directly reach Bhimtal via the moradabad route. Normally, people take the Rishikesh – Karnaprayag route, which is crowded and boring. Try this one, its much better. Although go in a group, as there is a no traffic here and forest gets very thick in parts.
The Stops :
We halted at Bhimtal and Chamoli on the way up and at Gwaldam and Nainital on the way back. The route is amazing all through and thus you can camp or stay anywhere you want. The hotels were cheap but nice. We either paid around 200 per person in hotels on average or camped for free.
The roads conditions :
Gwalior – Bareilly : Mostly good road with the some rough patches. Basically, this road has been under maintenance for a last two decades, so the bad parts keep shifting around.
Bareilly- Bhimtal : Again, mostly good. Small and few bad patches
Bhimtal to Almora : Very good road all through. The road goes along a river, very scenic and great tarmac
Almora to Kausani : Very good road all through, the vegetation becomes thicker on both sides. Very scenic
Kausani to Gwaldam : Road gets narrower and vegetation gets thicker. Even more scenic. Plus its gets tricker with landslide hit parts and rough patches.\
Gwaldam to Simli : Narrow roads, thick forest, river flowing on road side, no traffic at all. Bad and wet patches all over. Land slide hit parts, where road gets uneven. This part is most scenic, very peaceful. Proper ride material.
Simli to Karnaprayag : Good roads. Mainstream traffic starts to join from here. Delhi side traffic is not yet here, but you are now on a national highway.
Karnaprayag to Joshimath : Delhi traffic comes in via Rishikesh. Very crowded, with cars racing to get to Badrinath and Hemkund. But good tarmac, fun to ride through
Joshimath to Malari : This part is around 80 km. Half of it is good with some bad patches and mildy scenic. The later half is all gravel and bad patches, but very scenic. The roads get narrow and the climb demands more engine power. With luggage and pillion, it got slow for me in some parts.
Malari to Niti Village : We could not reach Niti Village for some reasons, but we went up to 6 km ahead to Malari, the road is very scenic and very ride material. Although, on the day we went there, petrol was in shortage in the entire region and we could not get petrol anywhere, so could not go ahead due to fears of getting stalled. But we were told that after 10 km from Malari, the hills start to recede and after Niti the valley is quite plain and tibet can be seen visually.
An ITBP officer, also mentioned at the road from Malari to Niti is very ‘Switzerlandly’. I hope we could have gone ahead, but getting stuck without petrol on a road with zero traffic did not seem like a bright prospect.
Unlike some other posts I read on the internet. You can get food, water, accomodation and a STD PCO in Malari. We camped, so didn’t didn’t ask about costs. But the village people said that we could stay in a village house or in the govt guest house. So, if you reach Malari late in the evening, good behavior will probably get you a room in a village house easily.
The village is very beautiful. A river flows from under the mountain it is built on, there are terrace fields just aside it, the tree under which the pandavas hid their weapons during ‘vanvaas’ is nearby, the maggi and omlette taste good, the dogs and kids are friendly. Overall, a great place to pass time at.
The best time to visit Malari, as per locals and army people, is August end, just after the monsoon. The vegetation gets thicker and scenes more scenic. Plus there is a place called ‘Valley of Perfume’ nearby. We did not visit it, but ITBP officer told us that motorcycles can reach there and its a beautiful valley with hundreds of kinds of aromatic flowers.
Overall, I will say that this ride and this destination are totally worth the time. The route justifies the 5 days that you spend through the ride. Even if you are heading to Badrinath, don’t take the awful rishikesh route, take this one, you will be much more satisfied.