Unwinding in Auli
Auli is a cocktail of an ideal holiday in the mountains, rolling green meadows (known as bugyals by locals) carpeted with an array of multi coloured...
Auli is a cocktail of an ideal holiday in the mountains, rolling green meadows (known as bugyals by locals) carpeted with an array of multi coloured grass flowers, slopes with sentinel like forests of century old oak trees, quaint easy treks into the heart of nature and culminating into picnic lunches in the company of snow peaks Sriparna Saha Auli. Pronounce it "Oli" as locals do, roll the name in your mouth and try to savor the flavour of the place �aroma of pine-scented air brushing your cheeks, an array of un-spoilt undulating greens topped with vanilla peaks against a blueberry sky. The beginning of the trip wasn't exactly uplifting � it was peak summer and though the major part of the route from Haridwar to Auli lay through the heart of the mountains, it was quite hot and unimaginably dusty. The endless twists and turns through brown, barren mountains which would magically turn green once touched by the monsoon rains, soon tired us out. It was only after reaching Joshimath in late afternoon that it felt like we had come to the hills for a holiday. The air had begun to cool off and the sight of golden snow peaks against a sunset sky lifted our sunken spirits. Joshimath is a one- road town which has seen explosive growth in recent times because of being an Army base and increase in traffic to Badrinath, one of the four Chardhams, being just 45kms away. From Joshimath, Auli is only half an hour drive through dense forests of pine where leopards still roam. If you are lucky you might spot one of the clan as you drive on the road after dark. We were not, but as we reached Auli and stepped out of the car under a jewel-spangled sky, the disappointment and hardships of the journey just melted away. The next morning, a set of sun kissed snow peaks right outside our window welcomed us into the arms of Auli. After an early yummy breakfast of country eggs, freshly- made paranthas liberally coated with dollops of undiluted ghee, it was calorie-burning time. We began by boarding the chair lift which would take us up the grassy slopes over tops of oak and fir trees to the edge of the forest, from where we would trek to Gorson top. The journey had just begun when the lift suddenly stopped. Suspended in mid-air, our midriff stiff with anticipation and anxiety, we survived the ordeal by munching chocolates and cracking morbid jokes in the middle of a breathtaking mountain view all around us. The sky was a deep blue and the famous Himalayan peaks of Nanda Devi, Trishul , Kamet and Dunagiri resting against it were happily posing for a perfect photo session. The best things in life are really free. After ten minutes of being stranded, the lift leapt back to life. We were extremely relived to get off the man-made machine and engage God given ones for the trek, an easy three kms uphill walk through forests of golden oak and ancient maple. The exercise, though initially somewhat exhausting, was absolutely worth the effort. Summer had set in full strength and the entire walk was a cushiony carpet of grass and small wild flowers. The gentle slopes at varying angles coupled with an intermittent cloud cover gave the impression of varying shades of green at Gorson top. It was not only beautiful, but very beautiful. In the late eighties when insurgency in Kashmir was at its peak, the little known pastures of Auli were developed into a winter skiing destination. Kashmir's loss has been Uttarakhand's gain. In Auli , though the entire skiing area is only about 6-7 km, but since it is located between 9,500 and 10,500 ft, the skiers are automatically provided with clean stretches of snow-covered mountain slopes. And as you swoop down the slopes, you do not need to worry about trudging up- the baby slopes have a 1,640-foot ski lift, while the advanced ones have a 2,620-foot chair lift ( the one which transported us) to haul you to the top from where you can again descend in delight . Skiing is a wonderful exercise � the tummy disappears, muscles tone up, and the skin shines with good health. But be warned - it could become addictive. Before Auli was developed as a ski resort, its slopes were the training ground for the ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force). Among the peaks surrounding Auli, the 23,490-feet-high Trishul peak was once the base of a memorable expedition. The mountaineers took around four days for climbing the peak and just 90 minutes for skiing down to base camp. Three days later, like the way all good things in the world eventually end, it was time to get back to the grind, of course loaded with memories of the place and a promise to myself of getting back in winter to the quiet serenity of pristine, powdered, snow resting in the shade of resplendent, regal mountains effortlessly extending to the firmament. Auli is a cocktail of an ideal holiday in the mountains, rolling green meadows (known as bugyals by locals) carpeted with an array of multi coloured grass flowers, slopes with sentinel like forests of century old oak trees, quaint easy treks into the heart of nature and culminating into picnic lunches in the company of snow peaks. Fast Facts
- Location: in the state of Uttaranchal.
- Altitude: around 10,000 ft
- Nearest Railhead: Rishikesh (250 kms)
- Distance (from Delhi): 525 kms
- Route: Delhi-Rishikesh-Srinagar-Rudraprayag-Karnaprayag-Chamoli-Joshimath-Auli. From Joshimath, Auli can also be reached by a 4 km long ropeway, the longest in Asia.
- Accommodation: Devi Darshan Lodge at Auli managed by Mountain Shepherds is a community owned and operated responsible tourism enterprise. The place was winner of Travelers Choice Award 2013. For further details, visit http://mountainshepherds.com/2012/08/introducing-the-devi-darshan-lodge/
- Food: All meals are provided at the lodge. Snacks and simple pahari meals are available at wayside outlets.
- Clothes: It is advisable to carry woolens even during summer as the nights can get chilly and foggy.
- Best time to go: The place is open round the year. During March � April, the surrounding green meadows are ideal for trekking. For skiing, January and February is the best time.
- Activities: Auli has emerged as a preferred destination for winter sports. The Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) offers skiing course for both amateurs and professionals.