Road trip to Auli
The whole idea behind this trip to Auli actually conceptualized due to a fortunate stroke of serendipity. Prior to this, there was a different plan with more people which luckily for me, didn’t materialize. Thanks to the inevitability that college life brings along with it. So the cancellation led to a scenario as per which there were just two of us guys and a week’s time to wander. Now you’ll wonder why I call the above mentioned events a stroke of serendipity. Well because of two reasons:
1. Now we didn’t have any fixed plan in mind – Sounds weird but turns out that this way of travel assures you way too many thrills and surprises.
2. The mode of travel to be taken in the initial plan was a cab – Now we’re just the two of us, what better mode of transport than a motorbike?
Bike – Of course
So yes as it turned out, we hired a pulsar 220 from New Delhi. We chose stoneheadbikes to rent a bike as we had heard some really good reviews about it from friends and on reaching there the experienced owner, Mr.Khoman corroborated the reviews that we had heard from our friends. After a long assuring bike check and necessary paperwork Mr. Khoman gave us the keys of the scrambler.
It was a bittery cold night in the month of February and it was highly advised to not travel during the nights. We left Delhi at around 10 PM against the advice of most. I don’t want you all to be under the impression that it was our boyish insouicance manipulating our decision, we just wanted to make most of whatever time we had. So we set off in the dark, sort of prepared to face the dank vagaries of cold.
As i told you before, we had no certain plans in mind. We were wanderers in the true sense of it. Oh by the way just so that you know, it was our first ever road trip on bike and the guy accompanying me didn’t know how to ride. So I was the only driver and the distance to be covered in the entire trip was 1000 Kms ‘only.’ Filled with effervescence and wanderlust we covered the first 100 kms of our journey in an hour and a half.
We took our first pit stop after crossing Meerut. A good meal, hot tea and we were on the road again. This time round we stopped only after have traveled for another 150 odd Kms. It was the holy town of Rishikesh, situated on the hallowed banks of river Ganges. We literally walked into the first budget hotel we saw, checked – in and then just crashed.
We had covered just about half the distance and had a long way to go. More importantly keeping in mind the terrain from there on, it ought to be a challenging task. So we left Rishikesh the early morning next day. The road from Rishikesh to Auli is rather beautifully precarious. Mountains made up of slippery rocks to our left and a deep gorge down to river Ganges to the right. A really pleasing and awe inspiring sight only untill you see those
markings that read “Land Slide prone area” and a thought of a rock hitting you and throwing you right into the chilling waters of Ganges haunts you. To avoid such thoughts the pillion rider started playing loud music on the portable speakers that we were carrying with us and we were good.
The number of pit stops increase significantly in the mountains due to quite a few reasons. We would stop whenever we saw something exceptionally beautiful, to gulp down hot tea or just to rest our asses which by then were in some real pain! Yes sitting on the bike with heavy rucksacks on our backs for long hours on such terrain takes a toll on the ass. It was all in all a comfortable ride until the rain gods decided to shower their blessings on us. From there on things got a bit tricky. The bike tyres would not grip on certain occasions, especially the places that had recently witnessed landslides. So we continued with caution and that came at the cost of speed and eventually time.
We managed to reach this small town called Pipalkoti, 40 odd kms from Auli. By the time we reached that small town near Auli, we were exhausted, drenched and cold.We luckily found a decent room at a government guest house of Garwhal Mandal Vikas Nigam. Our sojourn at the guest house was comforting, we ate a substantial dinner, spent a night and had a healthy breakfast. All that cost us a mere thousand bucks. At that point all that seemed like an affordable luxury.
The last stretch
The last phase of our journey was a mere 40 Kms long. The road from Pipalkoti to Auli proved to be the toughest stretch of the entire journey.
The slope being the steepest, the grey of the road mottled with occasional whites that were constituted by the patches of snow. The snow increased as we neared Auli. After 2 hours of cautiously maneuvering our scrambler on the challenging roadway we reached the town of Joshimath.Jyotirmath at Joshimath is the uttaramnaya matha or northern monastery, one of the four cardinal institutions established by Adi Shankara, the others being those at Shringeri, Puri and Dwaraka. From here you can reach Auli through a ropeway, which is also the second highest as well as longest ropeway of Asia. The 4Kms long cable car takes you up to a height of 3100 metres above sea level.
Skiing on the slopes of the Indian Switzerland
The two of us had thought of spending a night at Auli but it didn’t work out that way. When we reached Auli’s skiing resort we were amazed to find out that we were literally the only tourists there. Everyone present there other than us were locals, most of them were students of the skiing academy. After eating a maggi and omelette we rented skiing equipment and went up to the skiing instructor, who was also coaching all the students present there. Since it was our second or third try at skiing, we weren’t that bad at it. We bailed on the track once, maybe twice but otherwise we did well. Skiing down the
slope at those altitudes is exhilarating, I must say.
The only thing that was literally degrading and made us feel terrible was the way and the ease with which school kids wafted past us,carving their way through the snow at high speeds, twice our speed to be very frank. From the skiing slopes we could easily sight the grand peak of Nanda Devi, standing at an imposing height of 7816 metres, the second highest peak in India. We also heard from the locals that the border to China is not far away. The Nanda Devi Devi National Sanctuary is home to myriads of trekking routes and quite a few peaks ranging from 6000 – 7500 meters.
Since it was off season and there was not much to do, we decided to leave Auli the very same day. We left Auli around lunchtime and reached this place called Karanprayag by late evening. We chose the cheap comfort of another Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam guest house. It was situated right next to the river and offered scintillating views. Had spent a night there, we still had a couple of days left at our disposal. We decided to spend them at the town of Rishikesh, the town of temples, Yoga, Sadhus, Rafting and intrigue.
A memory to cherish for life
That was pretty much it. It was a great experience altogether and i would like to end it by saying that. “We can’t know what’s going to happen. We can just try to figure it out as we go along.”