Monday, January 30, 2006
Day 2, 3 : Joshimath, Auli and back
Joshimath is one of the four great 'maths' established by the Adi Guru Shri Shankaracharya in the 8th century AD. And given its proximity to Auli and winter sports like skiing, Joshimath has become a hub for adventurers and pilgrims alike. The religiously aligned can make excursions to Badrinath, Kedarnath, and Hem Kund sahib Gurudwara from Joshimath.
Auli can be accessed either by road or through a ropeway operated by GMVN from Joshimath. Access by road is usually blocked by snow in the winter months. The ropeway is the only way to reach Auli during the months of January, February and March. GMVN charges 200 rupees for a return journey and you will be rewarded with aerial views of the picturesque valley from the cable car. The ropeway is a state of the art system with remote controlled hydraulic and pneumatic braking system for safety. Also incorporated are sophisticated electrical and electronic circuitry with telemetry and storm warning devices to minimize human error. It has a capacity to carry 25 passengers at a time and the travel time is 20 minutes one way, covering a distance of 3.96 Kms. Altitude wise, this is the second highest ropeway in the world.
You can alight at either tower 8 or at the ending station. We went all the way and got down at the last point. As soon as we got down, we were almost gheraoed by vendors renting out skiing equipments, sun glasses and anything you need for traversing the slopes on skis. Charges are very reasonable; for 200 Rupees, you can have the skis and an instructor for a whole day. They will teach you the very basics on a flat stretch before letting you go up a small slope and try it out there.
Seasoned skiers can go down the slopes and make use of modern facilities like ski lifts for the great skiing experience that Auli has on offer. But for the uninitiated, skiing can be a tiring experience, though it is great fun. If you are really serious about getting on with skiing, the Mountaineering and Skiing institute run by ITBP conducts certificate and non certificate courses that you can sign up for. We saw some of the ITBP men practice on the slopes and they showed us what skiing is all about.
Manik gave up after a few runs up and down the slope, while I persisted with it a bit more. It was good fun gliding down the slope, but it was a drag going back up the slope with the skis on to have another glide. I gave up soon after. We then returned the skis and took a hike up the slope.
Some way up the slope, the alpine forest ends and the ski slopes start. Auli is surrounded by lofty mountain peaks on all sides and we had a spectacular view of the surrounding peaks from the slopes we were on. The slopes, carpeted by the fresh powdery snow and the lofty peaks all around are a treat to the eyes of the tourist and the photographer alike.
It was 1:30, and the slopes were deserted by now; perhaps it was time for lunch. We headed back to the ropeway for our journey back to Joshimath. I had a good look at the snow covered roads on our way back and I decided that its time for some adventure on bikes now. <100_7351,>. I have ridden in snow before and the experience has always been challenging and good fun at the same time. This was another chance to work out and put my FKR 120/80 rear to good use.
We were back in Joshimath by 3 PM, had lunch and headed back to our hotel to pick our bikes and gear for the ride to Auli. The roads were decent and we cruised for about 9 Kms after which we first encountered snow on the road. We got through the first stretch of snow without much fuss and it was about a kilometer later that we came across some deep snow. Manik had little experience riding in the snow and I acted as an icebreaker, with him following me closely. The snow was about a foot deep at places. We stuck to the tracks made by other four wheel drives and army trucks that had passed through here before. All the same, the only way to keep the bike upright in such conditions is to ensure that the front wheel doesn’t skid from under you, while the rear goes sliding all over the place. Again, the 120/80 FKR at the rear helped a lot in these conditions. We made very slow progress over the snow clad roads and it took us about an hour to cover the 15 Km stretch to Auli from Joshimath. Going straight would get you to the small ITBP township at Auli. You are greeted by ITBP’s Mountaineering and Skiing institute signboard at the beginning of the township.
A right turn some way before the ITBP township took us to Auli. A flight of stairs leads to the chair lift that’ll take you further up to the ski slopes. There are many restaurants and cottages all along the stairs on the way up to the chair lift. We had tea and hurried back down to our bikes, since we didn’t want to tackle the snow in the dark on our way back.
The ride down was easier than the climb and we stopped and I took out my camera to capture the moments and the fun we had riding in the snow. I had some anxious moments when I tried to give way to a jeep that had to overtake us since we had stopped. The Mahindra just slid past centimeters away from me and my bike, all wheels locked, hunting for the traction that simply was not there. I experimented with my camera even as it was getting dark, and finally decided to wait until dark to capture some night shots.
We reached Joshimath by 7:30 to find it enveloped in darkness; of course, it was the omnipresent power cut. We had dinner at a dhaba and headed back to our hotel. The trip was coming to an end now. All that was left was to spend the night and start the long ride back home. We started at 8:40 next morning and rode into traffic at most of the towns that we encountered on the way. Some way after starting from Joshimath, I found my speedo dead. An inspection revealed that the speedo cable had come loose from the connector in the front wheel and the inner cable had fallen off. I backtracked some way to retrieve the cable and fixed it back. This was the only snag that I encountered from my 34K old Pulsar 180 during the whole trip.
I am crazy about snow. I just love it up close. This trip gave me everything that I could do with snow and that I couldn’t. I skied on snow, hiked on it, had fun throwing snowballs at Manik and finally, rode quite a bit on snow. This trip gave me all that I wanted and more. I returned home satisfied, looking forward, in high spirits at the week that lay ahead at work.
Day 1 : Noida to Joshimath
Day 2, 3 : Joshimath, Auli and back
And of course a nice blog ;)
Cheers and ride safe!
Hats Off Folks!!