After a decent sleep, I quickly geared up. Shame I couldn't trek with Vikas, but I knew I had to get moving, so after our little tea session we both got to our diverging ways. At Gurdwara, the breakfast today included puri-sabji and kheer, I know right! On the charts today, was a trek down to Govindghat and a 'to be made decision' about 'where to now?' On the way down, something, there was this conversation with a Gorkha man, who came all the way from Nepal every year around this time to earn some rupees, picking up Kilos of weights on his indefatigable back. He was an expert mountaineer, understood English rather well, could set up tents, but the job he had to do that barely held his family out of economic crisis was lift weights for ungrateful tourists. And that conversation got itched in my mind. Rest of the trek had vibrant colours for me, but those parts aren't exactly best for scripting. After around 4 hours of gentle trek, and a bit of contemplating meanwhile found me waiting for a transport to Joshimath, from where I was going to take the ropeway to Auli.
The ropeway, contrary to what you might have read, operates even if there is only a single passenger. And if you're a group of, let's say of more than 5 people, even the last departure time can be amended, with some luck. At 750rs for both sides (I enquired about one way option, but it wasn't there), the ride is not exactly cheap, but if you want good aerial views, you should definitely consider it. While booking the tickets, you will be asked if you are going to stay the night in Auli or, you're gonna come back the same day. If you do say you're planning to stay, you can be asked about your accommodation arrangements.
The ride lasted for a smooth 25 minutes and the view of Nanda Devi peak, at times, was majestic. When I reached the last tower, I was greeted by two gentlemen,who asked me if I was interested in renting the tent, which was a great deal, but I had planned to look for the dorm. Since it was already 15:30, I was adviced to explore the meadows first rather than wasting my time looking for accommodation, which I could do later on,hopefully. So after taking out my water bottle, and sellinge down my rucksack, I was all set to go on the hike. The trail, considering it was a jungle trail looked well laid out, and I walked.. pursuing some beautiful open spaces between the magnificent golden oak forests. When I found my first meadow, quite small in area, I knew it wasn't the one I was told about, so I carried on to the second and then the third one. Even from that distance the last ropeway tower was quite visible. So I thought to explore some more, and when I eventually stopped and decided to turn back, I took some shortcuts that my mind mapped out. After trekking for some time, I felt, may be I am not on a right path, it was a not ideal but I wasn't worried as such. At one of those coming infinite turns, when I took a step and settled my feet on the semi- dry leaves, thet rustled, and at the exact same time a huge boar turned its head, looked right at me and scared me to the core. I panicked, faked calm to myself and took a step back, that look made sure I fall back completely. I checked my phone and, there was network of airtel, but realised I had ousted my balance just a couple of hours ago, so I collected all my calm, accepted that I was lost and tried to think straight, not having my rucksack, enough warmers and water wasn't helping . But I needed to walk, which I did, I kept walking but with every step I was getting deeper into the jungle, I could see fresh footmarks of boars and was hoping not to see any bear footmarks. Whenever I thought I found the way out I had to fall back. There came a time when I lost it, said to myself that this won't end well, but I had no option but to put those thoughts to coffin and walk, so I did and found a stream , the best sign in a long time, and I felt immensely happy. A happiness that didn't last long, as sooner than later, I reached a near dead end, had no option but to turn back and try another way. By now, trees had started blocking a fair amount of sunlight, the clock was definitely ticking for me. I was probably more tired than, I was after the 17 km trek of the second day, but the fear was triumphing, luckily so. After another countless turns, slipping on slopes and falling on my back, I finally found a pipeline, definitely the most reliable hope and I held on to it, but still expecting despair. But this time I was taken to the largest opening in the woods, I could see human establishments in the distance. Now it should have taken hardly half an hour to walk dowm the slope, cross a small stretch of forest, and just lay flat on the ground, but it didn't. The moment I reached the arboreous stretch, I panicked and came back to the top again to mark my path and not falter again. Eventually, I did get out of the situation.
The two gentlemen waiting, quite worried told me some scary stories of recent deaths, the real threat of bears(ever more as it was their breeding season) and delightfully told me how lucky I was, they had already searched the areas of the jungle where they thought I might have been. We shared loads of stories and at the end I felt this unique bond and a sense of safety sitting at that picturesque spot, sipping on some tea while shivering badly, because I didn't have time to take out my Hoodie while telling my story!
I decided to not look for any dorm or anything so I stayed there, ate with them, got the hospitality I hadn't experience before and slept better than any of the previous nights.