Bags were packed, Tickets were booked, Holidays were approved. It was time to embark upon our long awaited holiday. My wife and me were off to explore the unexplored Uttarakand

Uttarakhand is a state in the northern part of India. It is often referred to as the Devbhumi due to the many Hindu temples and pilgrimage centres found throughout the state. The state is divided into two divisions, Garhwal and Kumaon, with a total of 13 districts

Pilgrimage was not however something which was topping our priority list during the trip. We were more of some young blood bored of running after the local trains of Mumbai seeking some different kind of adventure and of course to enjoy nature’s pristine beauty. We decided to visit the Garhwal range of which we handpicked three destinations – Shivpuri (Close to Rishikesh), Chopta & Auli for our trip. The rule was simple – Not to visit any of those places which is highly commercialised and to go to destinations lesser travelled by the tourist

Come April 02, 2015 we boarded Rajdhani Express from Mumbai Central and headed to Delhi from where we were supposed to stay for one night and start for Rishikesh the next day morning. Delhi has been a place very close to both of our hearts. We have spent our formative years of our professional life in this city has been reasonably good to us

April 04, 2015 – Day 1:

Our day started early. After a sumptuous breakfast, my wife and me headed to the Inter-State Bus Terminus (ISBT) in Delhi to board the bus for Rishikesh. It was pouring heavily but still we managed to be on time. Soon we started off for a 10 hour long journey to Rishikesh. Tiring it was! But thinking of the fun awaiting us we never cared for the physical strain

Rishikesh is about 232 Km from Delhi. The roads are good till Roorkee. However it can take ages to cover the last 70 – 80 kms due to bad road infrastructure coupled heavy traffic. A smarter idea is to use to train till Haridwar and then then reach Rishikesh by car which is about 20 Kms away. Multiple number of trains ply between Delhi and Haridwar throughout the day and night. It takes approximately 6 – 7 hours to reach Haridwar by train from Delhi

We reached Rishikesh in the evening around 8 PM. Our very friendly hotel owner Rajinder Ji was present at the bus stop to drive us till the Campsite in Shivpuri which was about 16 Km from Rishikesh Bus Stop

Entire stretch was through the hills - dark roads, little vehicular movements and retro music in the radio. The atmosphere was definitely exciting. Me and Rajinder Ji kept chatting. Soon we reached Heaval’s River Cottage – the place which would be our home for the next two nights. We reached reasonably late at night. We were tired after a long day journey. Temperature had dipped after heavy rains the previous day. We had an early dinner and decided to call it a day

April 05, 2015 – Day 2:

The Next day morning I woke up early and came out of the cottage. Pure Bliss it was. Mountains on all three sides and stream of Ganges flowing by. The Hotel was run by the local villagers. No professional Hotel Management trainings. Yet they knew how to take care of their guests with a smile on their faces. We had planned to try our hands on rafting that day. While I had little experience in the past my wife is absolutely new to the game

We got ready fast. It was 22km of sheer excitement waiting for us. We headed to a place called ‘Marine Drive’ in a rickety Jeep with a huge raft tied to the top. The raft would accommodate eight members along with two trainers. I failed to analyse why all jeeps carrying rafts are always rickety in nature. May be as locals say ‘Yeah hamara istyle hai’

The Journey in the river soon begun. We would be witnessing Grade IV and V rapids during the stretch (For those who are not aware, Rapids are internationally graded from I to VI, with I being the easiest grade and VI being the toughest). Our raft was filled with rather experienced rafters each of whom had their own story to tell as how they had fallen off the raft. During our stretchwe witnessed some 5-6 major rapids. Each of the rapids had a name – ‘Black Money’, ‘Crossfire’, ‘Three Blind Mice’, ‘Golf Course’ were some of them. The smaller ones had rather cuter names like ‘Good Morning’, ‘Mickey Mouse’ and the last one was called ‘Thank You God’ rapid. The trainers who came along with us were really nice people. Unfortunately they earn peanuts for risking their lives. They also had their weird ways of entertaining like for shouting ‘Twinkle Twinkle little star, Ganga Maiya Super Star’ and similar such lines. After about 1½ hours of rowing the stretch ended. The stretch, surely exciting taught us how to literally survive in turbulent waters

That evening our resort had scheduled a small trek for us to a nearby waterfall. The locals call it to be Patna waterfall named after a small village called Patna located just behind the waterfall. Surely it was nice sitting in front of waterfall and having some hot Maggi and sipping on hot coffee. Oh I forgot to mention!!!!! It seemed that 50% of Uttarakhand’s Food and Beverage industry thrives on selling Maggi. I wonder what has happened to all of them with the ban of Maggi set in

April 06, 2015 – Day 3:

It was time to bid adieu to Shivpuri and move ahead. Chopta was the next destination to be headed to

Chopta, located at a distance to about 175 km form Shivpuri is a village located in Uttarakhand state and a base for trekking to Tungnath, third temple of Panch Kedar which is at a distance of 3.5 km. The place is also called the Switzerland of India and truly lives up to its name. We reached Chopta towards the evening and crossed Rudhraprayag and Devprayag on way. Rudhrarayag is the point of Confluence of Alaknanda and Mandakini River while Devprayag is the point of confluence of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi River

It seemed since Tunganath was closed due to snow there were hardly any trekkers in the village. The beauty of the village was virgin and untouched and there was Rhododendron flowers blooming on both sides of the road. The snow capped Nanda Devi range could be seen at a distance. We were staying in Swiss tents with very basic amenities. No mobile connectivity, no room heaters, not even electricity after 10 PM at night. Wow !!!! That was fun

April 07, 2015 – Day 4:

The next day morning we woke up to the cold chilly breeze. Treking was on the cards. Post breakfast we set out for Tunganath base location by car from where our trek would start. We of course had to return from a distance of 1.5 Km subsequent to which the place was filled with snow. Playing on snow, making snow balls and throwing at each other was surely fun!!!! The teak though short was however very scenic and a paradise for photographers. We also managed to click some nice photographs as memories from the trek

The same day we headed for Auli from Chopta after the trek. Auli, located in the Chamoli district in Uttarakhand, at an height of about 9000 ft above sea level at a distance from 147 km from Chopta and 288 Km from Haridwar. The slopes of Auli are the training ground for the Indian Paramilitary Forces and Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force. The place is known for its snow covered slopes and panoramic views of the surrounding lofty peaks of the Himalayas like Trishul, Nanda Devi, Kamet, Mana Parvat, Beethartoli, Nilkanth, Hathi Parbat, Ghori Parbat and Dunagiri

Auli also boasts of having the 4 km long ropeway connecting itself to Joshimath which is the longest ropeway in Asia. Joshimath is a temple town where the deity of Lord Badri Vishal is kept every winter when the Badrinath temple is closed for 5-6 months due to heavy snow

We reached Auli late in the evening. The weather was definitely not one of the best weather we had witnessed during the trip. It was cloudy and it was raining. The temperature was Sub Zero!!!!! One of the challenges faced by tourists in Auli is its erratic climatic conditions. While it can be sunny it one point of time, it may start raining the next hour

We stayed in Auli Ski Resort, which is owned by the ‘Garwal Mandal Vikas Nigam’ (GMVN). The hotel is located at the highest level in the valley. The chair lift which takes you till the Ski point also starts from the Hotel. There are not many staying options in Auli. The hotel is one of the better options for the Mid Segment travellers

April 08, 2015 – Day 5:

We woke up early. God Almighty had heard our prayers. It was a pleasant sunny morning. I came out of our room to see the mighty Himalayas encompassing the valley from all sides. I went out for a walk. The Green meadows dotted with pine trees and the winding roads looked like a picture postcard to me. The day we were planning to do something new and exciting – Skiing!!!!!!! Auli acts as a very famous skiing destination along with Gulmarg and Manali. GMVN does skiing programmes from January to March. We went in April, GMVN had already closed their programmes. However there were a couple of local operators who were still operating

We took the chair lift to the ski point. Chair lifts are an elevated passenger ropeway, which consists of a continuously circulating steel cable loop strung between two end terminals carrying a series of chairs. Travelling by the chair lift was real fun. On way to the Ski Point we crossed the Chattrakund Lake which is the world’s highest man-made lake. The government has developed this in view of creating artificial snow on the new ski slopes in the event of low snow fall. The water from this lake is used to feed the snow guns stationed along the ski slopes and thus provide a good skiing surface and extend the ski season

We had our ski guide with us who taught us the basic lessons of skiing. It was an all-new experience for us. We skied, we fell, we had lots of fun

April 09, 2015 – Day 6:

Our trip had almost come to an end. We spent our day climbing down from the mountains to Haridwar and taking a train back to Delhi. Flights to Mumbai where booked for next day morning. We ended our trip with fond memories and promising our selves an equally exiting trip for our next annual vacation


Dwaipayan Ghosh

Dwaipayan Ghosh Deputy Manager with Business Develpoment Team, IL&FS Financial Services ( IFIN ), based at Mumbai

 

 


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