"Travel is glamorous only in retrospect." ~ Paul Theroux


Auli : Ideal Holiday Resort

Romola Butalia takes a ropeway ride from Joshimath to Auli to enjoy the awesome views from there.

Joshimath In the morning, I walked the short distance from the hotel to where the cable car for Auli leaves, as soon as I could get my legs to move after trekking 25 kms from the Valley of Flowers the day before. I would have to wait an hour and a half before the appointed time of departure, as all the prior carloads were full. Instead of hanging around at the café, I decided to meet the operations manager of the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam, Auli, whose office is located there.

More on Uttaranchal

Discovering Auli
Haridwar to Badrinath
Week at Mussorie
Dhauli Ganga Valley

Valley of Flowers

Madhyamaheshwar,Panch Kedar He turned out to be a mine of information. We had a common love: Uttaranchal, where he belongs and which I have long regarded as home. I spent a pleasant hour and a half discussing travel and tourism, destinations that were crying to be promoted, facilities and the lack of them. He suggested I go on the Panch Kedar trails, giving me detailed directions, several names of people to meet at different places and invaluable tips. Armed with the germinating plan of heading towards Kalpeshwar after my visit to Auli, I stepped into the cable car to enjoy the longest, and without doubt, the most awesome views from any cable car in India.

From the car lift, it was like watching a film, I usually envision when remembering the Himalayas - a myriad images of unparalleled beauty. I could see the bugyals, or high-altitude meadows below,the grazing sheep and the coniferous tree cover. In the distance, I could espy the snow-clad peaks of Nanda Devi and Chaukhamba, peeping from behind the gathering cloud cover.

At 9000 feet above sea level, Auli is the perfect setting for a family holiday as much as for the adventure lover. The meadows slope downwards in shades of fresh green, with the occasional wild flower adding colour. For several hundred years, the nomadic Bhotiyas walked the sheep trails of Auli, locally called Thatauli. In the winter, the terrain transforms itself into perfect skiing slopes.

Nanda DeviAwaiting me at Auli were panoramic views of the giant mountain peaks of Nanda Devi, Dronagiri, Beethartoli, Mana Parbat, Hathi Parbat and Ghori Parbat. I could clearly see Neelkanth, and the path to the glaciers I had walked a couple of days before while at Badrinath. Behind me were oak forests that were a compelling invitation for one drawn to walk in forest paths.

I ate an appetising dosa with coffee, while sitting silently soaking in the atmosphere. Then I walked away from the plastic chairs and the handful of camera-clicking tourists with their incessant chatter, to feel the earth with all my senses, as I sat in a grassy knoll on a gentle slope dropping 500 metres below. Absorbed in looking at the distant peaks, I barely noticed a man who came to ask me the names of the peaks, which I pointed out to him. He left after apologising, "I think I disturbed your contemplation." Probably not. We are not disturbed by a passing question. When we are silent and still, no-one stops long enough to disturb us.

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.