Monday, March 12, 2012

The Himalayan Diaries - Day 3 – Birahi To Auli, March 4, 2012

We got an early start from Birahi after what was an eventful night. The mellow morning sunlight bathed the entire mountainside and the valley where we were, the balmy air was highly refreshing and we were all set to head further up into the mountains - to Auli where the skiing resort was.

The Ganga flows by behind  - Kiri, Vasu and Ranjan
We checked out of the GMVN resort and headed out in the two cars on roads that were considerably narrower and worse for wear of landslides and such. 
Happiness - Ranjan, me and Koni

I saw many families drive by in cars, mini buses hurrying by and jeeps ferrying people. In the mountains one can see small settlements of houses, once in a while a lone dwelling. 
The Riverside Resort from the road

The people here climb up and down rapidly, sure footed and carry heavy loads easily. I saw many women bent almost double, carrying loads back home. The men? Children walked the roads to school, some as small as three or four it seemed, skirting the steep falls of the mountains.

A winding road. Ranjan took over the wheel of the Innova and we all hopped in with him.
Another view
The resort deep in the background, Vasu in the forefront

 For breakfast we stopped at their site just outside Joshimath where a fine South Indian breakfast of vada and dosa alongwith a North Indian spread of hot paranthas were on offer.
Stop for breakfast
Looking down from breakfast point to the cars
We came up this way
Cricket in the hills - I played a while
Kiri caught Koni and engaged me in some pointless discussion as usual

 In the nice chilly environs the food was welcome and we gulped down some coffee before we headed out. A few kms and it was Joshimath - we took the bypass and then upwards to Auli, the skiing resort. We hit Auli at 1230 or so. 
The Himalayas

It was sunny but the slopes were full of hardened snow that clung on like lumps in a most ungainly manner. 
The mountains all round were of sizes that I could not imagine, majestic and magnificent in their bearing, as the winds howled around them. We soon arrived at the GMVN resort at Auli, checked into very comfortable rooms and after a short while headed up to the ski slopes. 
The lift that takes us up to the ski slopes - 200 bucks round trip

The walk up to the lift was demanding enough and we wondered how we'd manage the rest. To rub salt into our wounds were youngsters racing up and down the slopes. 
On the lift freezing

We took the lift up to the slopes, sliding along the cable wires high up. We plodded through the snow, and stopped for chai (the few joints there serve Maggi noodles which seems to be the staple food up there). The skiing for the day seemed to have been suspended - all activity closes a 4 p.m. and it must have been 2 p.m. There was also some championship happening there with kids, some as young as six or seven, skiing like professionals and whizzing past us. We were introduced to a skiing instructor, pretty looking lady, and visions of Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara arose among the ranks. The skiers - Vasu, Aditya and Koni - soon found out that there would be no skiing for that day from the official sources.
Auli apparently means the 'meadow' - Maggi noodles and chai

After wandering about for a while, we walked down to another hut at the bottom of the slope where chai and Maggi was had. It was nothing but a hut - a swing of the flap and out came a smow mobile kind of a machine - spanking new. The mountains are fgull of surprises. An adventurous young man offered his services to help ski and Vasu, Aditya and Koni hired him instantly. Skis were hired, slopes identified. The only sad part was that there were no lifts on their ascent. This tired out everyone – even me who was watching. Some slipping and sliding and falling and soon everyone had a good time and we were headed back to the rooms. At 4 even the lift that takes us down to the hotel would stop. In fact at 4 I think everything out there stops because of the cold and the winds.
Koni did better skiing than that
Walking back up with the skis
Vasu and Aditya going down
And up
Change in weather
From the Auli slopes they say one can see the peaks of Nanda Devi, Nanga Parbat and others. Someone pointed vaguely into the clouds and said that Nanda Devi was behind that. Anyway with toes and fingers freezing, the nose almost non existent, we made it back to the comfort of the room. We enjoyed the sports facilities of the GMVN, table tennis, caroms, pool and then retired for tea and some snacks. The table tennis was tiring as well speaking volumes of our fitness. This GMVN stuff is good I must say though. The weather outside changed drastically from the nice sunny weather early afternoon to dark and cloudy. There was rain as well giving the whole sight a rather sombre look. At 5, Vasu, Aditya and Koni went to pick up their skis for the next morning. Koni looked direly in need of some instructions.
Back in the rooms - happiness uncorked

By 7 p.m. the bottles were out and everyone was cackling and laughing away as only boy gangs can do - in a rather mindless manner. We ate Karachi biscuits of all things. GMVN’s heaters were extremely effective and the party continued once again well into the night, with one small break for dinner where the non-drinkers, Vasu, Aditya and I, headed down for some small meal, joined by Ranjan. Back in the room Koni was relentlessly reeling off his theories, stories, ideas and opinions and we listened, amused to death, our strength dwindling as sleep overcame us.
A classic picture - Kiri looking in and looking out, man's eternal dilemma

 It had started raining and one wondered if there would be snowfall, if there would be skiing at all. But up in the mountains apparently the weather is far more capricious. Before going to sleep Vasu and I planned to get up at 6 (another ambitious plan for me especially since Koni would keep me up till 230 with his stories). Alarms were set.

No comments: