By 01:54 , , ,

"We will plan a trip to Auli soon."

"Where is it?"

"It's near Kedarnath. It's a beautiful place. Wait till you see it."

I had this conversation with a friend three years ago that's when I heard about Auli for the first time. Thanks to smartphones, these days, the moment to hear about something new or unknown, you google. I googled the place and was instantly mesmerised by its beauty. I have travelled to many places and there is one thing I have learnt - most destinations are not as beautiful as they appear in the pictures. And Auli pictures were all about snow, snow and more snow.

For the first time, I was not too convinced about the destination, but I did trust my friend for travel plans. We cancelled and rescheduled the trip many times and finally decided on dates, booked tickets and we were ready to go. The plan was Delhi-Auli-Delhi. After a stopover at Rishikesh which was one of my favourite cities to live in India, having spend awesome time there, we left for Auli. It's around 250 kms from Rishikesh, but since it's a hilly area, it takes around 10 hours to reach Auli. (8 to 9 if you hire a local driver. Our driver was a chomu.)

We reach Auli by 4.30. The sky is clear and we are sipping tea, discussing our plans with Vivek, the owner of XRA cottages in Auli. We were to go for skiing the next day. And snow trek on the day after. We were looking forward to the entire experience. Weather was quite favourable too. Or so we thought. We were about to finalise the plan when it started to rain. Now, the cottages are located seven kms from the skiing point. Rains there meant snowfall at the top. We were excited as well as worried. 

But fortunately, we did get lucky. The weather next morning was good. Cloudy, but it wasn't raining. We reached at the peak for our skiing lessons. This is something you must experience. And there be no better place than Auli. The reason is simple - it's not an explored place. Not many know about it. On day one, we were the only ones skiing there. There was nobody else around. The snow was clean. Unlike the one I had seen in Gulmerg. 

I found something funny there as well.
Yes, skiing was done.
Yes, a few techniques were learnt. I was too lazy to continue skiing all day and thus I decided to relax on the snow. Yes, I never thought I would ever do that considering my Kashmir snow experience. And it started to snow. And that was probably the highlight of that day. Apart from skiing of course. And apart of chatting with those guys of course.

Why would one do anything else when this is happening!
And it snowed a lot on that evening. That was good, but that also meant that we wouldn't get to do the trek next day if it continued to snow. The trek was through snow, forests and reaching at the peak for a 360 degree mountain view. It sounded like a dream. Since we had gotten the snowfall experience, we were now praying for a clear sky the next morning and not too much snow through night.

I woke up at 7 am next morning to a heavy snowfall. We were not exactly at the height and yet there was heavy snowfall. And it was beautiful.

This is how the cottage looked after the snowfall.

 And of course, you have to go out in the snow and give the dream pose right?

And it did stop snowing post lunch. We couldn't have trekked in the fresh snow anyway, thus we decided to ski some more. Since the roads were full of snow, it was impossible to drive down to the peak. So we went to Joshimath and took a cable car from there. And chair lift as well. Again, chair lift is something you MUST experience. The feeling is completely different. Because it had snowed recently, you could see nothing but white sheets all around you. Even the white we know is not really white - the snow was that white. Yes, sounds weird I know!

Yes you travel on those.
You just cannot get enough of this view.
We spent a few hours in the fresh snow. Snow would reach our calf with every step in fresh snow. It was tiring but worth every effort. We decided to walk down instead of taking the cable car so that we could spend more time in the snow. Yes, walking 7 kms just to be there for 40 minutes extra. That's what a good place does to you.

We did walk. Accompanied by Pramod who is Vivek's brother and he has also won a medal in snowboarding (these guys are so bloody talented!). He asked us if we wanted to take the shortcut. That involved a trek. We were happy. It was a difficult trek. I fell down four times, sprained my wrist and other injuries I didn't even realise. But again, it was worth every step and fall. 

I didn't want to come back to Mumbai for the second time in my life after a trip. It happened in Pahalgam first. And it happened in Auli now. Why would you want to leave such a beautiful place? Our last evening there, we were talking to Vivek till 1 am. His life, his achievements, his stories - there was so much to learn from him.

Especially when you see this outside the cottage!

And this as well!
 Oh did I mention that you get a 180 degree view of Himalayas from the cottage? The pictures posted above are of half the side. This place is beyond beautiful. If you like nature, and adventure, then you must visit Auli. And if you like to meet interesting people, then meet Vivek and Pramod. They run XRA Cottages. It's a one point solution for your stay, good food, skiing training and other activities. Not to mention some amusing stories that don't cost you anything at all. You can always contact me to know more about the place, dos and don'ts and tips. I think I will sign off with some more pictures. 

That's Vivek with all his medals and trophies.


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  1. wow! Although I am probably headed there in summer and so wont get the snow but I am sure whats left after the snow melt will be equally pretty! :)