Tuesday, March 13, 2012

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

Late night again and on top of it one of the coldest and dreariest outside. Thanks to the marvels of the heating system, it was not too bad in the room at all. I had no hope of seeing a sunrise at all (which would have been magnificent on those snow peaked mountains) seeing the copious rain of the last night. But I woke up at 6 and saw the rain and cold outside. No sign of the Sun, so I snuggled back hoping Vasu would do the same. But Vasu being Vasu, was true to his word, (how perfect is this guy?) arrived on the scene at 6ish and I got out of bed. Ranjan was up as well and we surveyed the gloomy scene outside - the rain, the clouds and to make matters more interesting some hail. 

No hope for sunrises etc. I naively followed Ranjan outside the corridor where he wanted to smoke without my my shoes or socks, hoping to get back into the comfort of the room when Vasu suggested a climb to the temple. 'It's just here.'
Gloomy view of the morning

The icy winds soon took away all sensation from my feet, my nose and my hands. The one good thing was that I carried my camera. The temple was open though, minus priests as I believe is the fashion normally in the mountains, well kept, smelling of camphor and agarbatti, a Bajrang Bali temple, the second I have been to in the past two months. 
View from the temple
Another view from the temple
Vasu returning after the temple expedition

The slight rain and the winds, added to the drama. We paid our obeisance to the monkey god, read the first few lines of the Hanuman Chalisa written over there, took some pics. No sign of the Sun. Up in the mountains it appeared that it was snowing. The clouds were floating around below us ponderously, pregnant with rain. Skiing was under threat. Unfortunately we had got all the gear this time. When I returned I was funnily immune to the cold. What is it with the weather here?
Temple in brighter light

Post breakfast, again a decent effort by the GMVN chappies, toast, omelettes, paranthas and so on, we headed back to the rooms. We met a group from Bombay, a fifty year old bunch of guy friends, a Chartered Accountant, a Bharat Gas Agency owner and a Studio owner. The CA had something in common with Vasu as he had been in Canada for a while too, but it was Koni who subjected him to his views of the ills of taxation in India. Post breakfast Ranjan and I got into some table tennis activity, Kiri and Koni got into some card games, and Vasu and Aditya started preparing for skiing. 
View of the ski slope from the top

Koni ditched them at the last moment and preferred to stay back with cards and Kiri. Ranjan and I volunteered our camera and videography services and went up the big slopes - we had plans of walking up to the trees that bordered the ski slopes. With the ski lift on today, the slopes were much more fun for Aditya and Vasu. It had snowed last night and we could see the trees covered in white.There was a slight snowfall as we walked - and on top of that, owing to snowfall at night, we had to walk through one foot deep snow. Ranjan, Vicky, Mohan and another chap I cannot remember, followed the skiers and took some snaps. 
Ranjan - happy in the snow

After taking some fine pictures and videos (which added to much laughter in the camp later due to the rather amateur nature of the video quality), Ranjan and I struggled up the slopes to a spot near the trees where we would get a breathtaking view of the slopes and the mountains. It took a while and we got there - almost. 
Our trekking target
This is where we stopped
View from the top
View from the top 2

The view was worth all the trouble though. Grand. Majestic. We sat for a while and then slipped and slid back to the slopes where Vasu and Aditya had just completed their quota of skiing. Vasu and Aditya seemed to have had enough of skiing and we decided to head out of Auli now. We'd head towards Rishikesh for the river rafting. Ranjan booked us into a forest guest house near Birahi and we packed up, ate lunch and headed back down the hills.
Children going to school
Cricket in the mountains - common sight
The father, the son and the holy...(can't cope with any expression of love?)

It was a lovely drive down the mountains and we stopped many times to click pictures. The drive was only three hours so we could take our time. By the time we reached Birahi and the guest house, it was twilight. A bonfire was set up near the gazebo, chilly winds and total darkness owing to a power cut. Add to it a fine rain and once again it was pure magic up in the mountains. 
Rare moment
Back in action
Another poignant moment (shortage of rum?)
Old friends, old wine, old books...

Songs were played, songs were sung. Aditya, apart from being a sportsman, and the sports captain of his school, also sings and plays for a rock band. He was the DJ for the evening and we all had a great time out by the fire until the rain picked up. Dinner and then we retired to bed. Once again Koni kept his end going till late in the night, well past midnight. Tired, I dropped off into sleep under the heavy quilts.

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