Life is so unpredictable, just like this journey, read on to find out how a failed journey got converted into a mesmerizing travel tale.
It was a bright day, the sun slowly and steadily adding warmth, the thick carpet of snow everywhere, as far as eyes could see, the pine forest adding pigmentation glow to the whole scene, the dream of being in the lap of nature without any intervention from anyone is a reality, a real-time visualization of these four lines, an impossible dream, a travel of ~2000 KM and a wait of 144 hours leads to this vast expanse of snowy land…the ultimate goal.
Destination Auli - The little back story
My first acquittance with Auli happened in 2008, this was the time I was looking for offbeat yet beautiful destinations for my travel website, those days the place wasn't that popular, the reach was difficult.
Fast forward 10 years, a rather usual day of November 2018, comfortable at my Hyderabad home, more than 20 days of quitting the so-called Mumbai-based IT job. A start-up idea, couple of more IT job offers and the urge to travel – with so much of uncertainties around I made a promise to myself that will embark on a week-long snow trek after a couple of months. I floated this idea of snow trek to one of my close friend’s group – the idea got instant like – we decided on a place & date – booked two-way tickets to base Delhi and were eagerly waiting for the big date. In the interim I signed-up for yet another Mumbai based job – supposed to join this in 1st week of December.
Things were going fine, the new job, with every passing day the excitement of doing 5-day long snow trek was getting higher and higher, it was almost like dreaming with eyes wide open. There was sudden jolt with the group unexpectedly backing out – personal emergencies – one seldom has control over them. Our travel idea was doing the Kedarkantha summit climb. Though the peak is 12500 feet high, the ascent is rather flat, easy trek and due to snow settling from 10000 feet this is one of the favorites – hence things get booked lot early – stay, potters, guide, transport. With very little planning done, doing this solo looked a little risky. I blocked a week’s holiday while accepting the new job offer hence in no way wanted to back out. Tickets now stand canceled, 10 days holiday and no clear sight of any destination.
Snow trek was still bouncing back in thoughts – this helped in restricting destination search to the states of Himachal & Uttarakhand. The weather report on harsh winter and good snowfall drew my attention to the destination of the past Auli - a ski and hiking destination surrounded by pine & oak forest, laden with snow mid-January.
Without a second thought, Auli was locked. The itinerary was set for Joshimath – 10 days, 3802 KM – Mumbai-Delhi-Rishikesh-Joshimath-Haridwar-Delhi-Mumbai.
Joshimath - The ideal base camp
The 24 hours of non-stop journey started boarding an evening flight from Mumbai to Delhi and then boarding a UPSRTC Volvo bus from Kashmiri Gate ISBT to Rishikesh.
The bus reached Rishikesh 30 minutes early, this helped me grab a seat on the state transport bus to Joshimath, this is a 10 hours long journey so only one service at 530 AM. It was rather cold when the bus departed from Rishikesh – Mumbai was 33°C whereas Rishikesh 7°C.
The town of Joshimath, 12 KM before Auli is a better option for both transport and accommodation (the latter part costs a bomb at Auli, a big no for a solo traveler!). The govt. run Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) provides a good option for an affordable stay, they're always located on strategic vantage points offering astonishing views of the surroundings. Luckily there were two of them at Joshimath, the newer called the Joshimath TRH (Jyothir Tourist Complex) is slightly better. I stayed in the dormitory costing INR 200 per night. GMVN has online booking, link to this property here.