TRIP TO AULI – DISCOVERING BEAUTY(Part I)

A trip to the Uttarakhand Himalayas had been in the offing for a long time. It was realized during the long Easter weekend(10th April to 13th April). The destination agreed upon was Auli, a well known skiing resort in the Garhwal Himalayas. The itinerary, the route and the mode of transport were agreed upon and arranged for before our departure from Noida. We left Delhi on the 10th of April by the Hazrat Nizamuddin –Dehradun AC Special at 11:55 pm. The train was on time and we alighted from the train at Haridwar at 4 am on the 11th. Our cab, a Tavera, and our driver, Rajesh, were waiting for us at the railway station. We bought some packets of potato chips and had a few slices of bread butter before we started on our 300 km journey to Joshimath.
Rajesh is an exprienced and seasoned veteran of the Garhwal roads and soon we were speeding up the long and winding NH 58 that terminates at Mana, the last human settlement on the Indian side of the Indo Tibetian border. Mana is 4 kilometers north of the holy shrine of Badrinath. The climb became steeper after Rishikesh which is 24 km from Haridwar. The highway follows the Ganga by keeping on the sides of the valley that the river has carved in the rocky landscape of the Garhwal Himalayas over millions of years. The Ganga in the Himalayas is a sight to behold-youthful and pure, she is the embodiment of everything that is pure and beautiful. Her emerald green waters give the impression of extreme serenity but the impetuous nature of the current is exposed at the many rapids that she encounters throughout the Himalayan leg of her journey.The white sand banks are a stark contrast to the dark rocky cliffs that rise almost vertically from her banks.

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The Ganga in her journey through the Himalayas. The NH 58 makes use of the valley carved out by the river and presents strikingly beautiful views of the river

Before 7 am we were at Byasi which is a string of dhabas about 70 km from Haridwar. The dhabas here serve some of the best prepared Maggi we had ever tried and a meal of Maggi is highly recommended. After having filled ourselves we continued on our journey with renewed energy and enthusiasm. The NH is cut through the mountains that rise from the right banks of the Ganga and afford some of the most inspiring views of the river. The sight of the water shimmering as the first rays of the Sun touch the waters of river goddess is a treat to the eyes of the city dweller. It is almost as if the day is seeking blessings from her. The highway consistently gains in altitude after Byasi but the Ganga is never out of sight. Over centuries she has guided many a pilgrim to the holy temples that are nestled deep in the Himalayas. After about 90 minutes of continuous driving we reached the holy settlement of Devprayag where the two holy streams of the Bhagirathi and the Alaknanda meet to form the river that provides life, nourishment and salvation to a billion people. The two streams give into each other and the combined stream created is officially known as the Ganga. The confluence of the sparkling green waters of the Bhagirathi and the muddy green waters of the Alaknanda is a sight to behold. Legend has it that when the Ganga descended upon the Earth her stream got distributed into two currents,i.e, the Bhagirathi and the Alaknanda. The Bhagirathi flows out from the snout of the Gangotri glacier which is widely recognized as the source of the Ganga. The Alaknanda rises from the Satopanth and Bhagirath glaciers a little above the holy shrine of Badrinath. It must be noted that the Alaknanda carries a greater volume of water than the Bhagirathi and the all the holy Panch Prayags(Devparayag, Rudraprayag, Karnprayag, Nandprayag and Vishnuprayag) are confluences of the Alaknanda with other streams. The famous Tehri Dam is constructed on the Bhagirathi.

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(Left)The Alaknanda taking the bend to meet the Bhagirathi at Devprayag. (Right) The confluence of the Bhagirathi(bright green) and the Alaknanda(muddy green) at Devprayag

At Devprayag we crossed the Bhagirathi and then moved up the Alaknanda valley towards Joshimath. The Alaknanda is a constant companion to all travelers all the way up to Badrinath. At a distance of 34 km from Devprayag is Srinagar, the ancient capital of Garhwal. Here we crossed over to the left bank of the Alaknanda and kept going up the valley. Srinagar is a fairly large settlement and also boasts of a university. A hydro electric project is coming up at Srinagar of the Alaknanda construction of which is underway.

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(Left) The meandering Alaknanda at Srinagar. (Right) Construction of a hydro electric project on the Alaknanda at Srinagar

Situated at a distance of about 35 km from Srinagar is the second of the holy prayags, Rudraprayag. Here the holy stream of the Mandakini flowing down from Kedarnath gives herself into the Alaknanda. Rudraprayag has also been immortalised amongst wildlife enthusiasts by Jim Corbett in ‘The Man Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag’. From Rudraprayag we continued on our way alongside the roaring Alaknanda and reached Narkota village. Here we took a break of about 15 minutes and then set off for Karnprayag which is the junction of the Alaknanda with the Pindar, an icy stream which originates in the Pindari glacier in Kumaoun. The next settlement on our route was Nandprayag which is located at the confluence of the Alaknanda and the Nandakini, a glacier fed stream that originates somewhere near the Nanda Devi mountain. After Nandprayag the terrain became even more rough and the road got even more dangerous with boulders of all sizes strewn all over reminding travelers that landslides are a regular feature here. Here the Border Roads Organization deserves a special mention whose jawans and engineers toil through the year to keep the road open and in motorable condition.
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(Left) The state of the road through some stretches of the highway. (Right) The Alaknanda flowing deep below
After an hour of driving from Nandprayag we reached Chamoli. At Chamoli the road descends almost to the level of the Alaknanda and offers a magnificent view of the river. We made full use of the opportunity and headed for her banks. The current was extremely swift and we were careful to stay away from the main current. One can only imagine the torrent of the Alaknanda when she is in spate. Alaknanda is a beautiful river and is blessed with the divinity, the grace and the power that only the feminine can possess. Naturally it did not take us long to fall in love with her.
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The Alaknanda at Chamoli as she roars down the valley that she has shaped over the millenia
Joshimath is a steep 55 km up hill climb from Chamoli and is situated at a height of about 6500 feet above sea level. It took us a little more than an hour to reach there where we put up in a guest house run by the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam. Legend has it that the town was founded by the Shankaracharya in the 8th century AD. Joshimath is also the winter abode of Lord Badrinath and is also the base for some of the most beautiful Himalayan treks which include the Valley of Flowers, Hemkund Sahib Auli and Badrinath. We spent the evening and the night at Joshimath before leaving for Auli the next morning.

3 comments to TRIP TO AULI – DISCOVERING BEAUTY(Part I)

  • Abhigya  says:

    Thanks. Have a nice time. It's a beautiful place.

  • Anonymous  says:

    thanks for the beautiful preview as we are visiting auli in April
    anu

  • RAVI  says:

    I wish I was taught the Geography and History of India with such beautiful pictures and well written documentation. I have read parts of this post multiple times. First read was just a sweep, the following reads have given me greater appreciation of your descriptions and a longing to go to this place. I wish I could live there….

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