An account of our 9-day road trip to Badrinath – Day 7
(Note: This travelogue was written real-time, as the 9-day road trip to Badrinath progressed)
Badrinath to Auli
One of us three woke up early to visit the Badrinath Temple again in the morning and to take a holy dip in “Tapt Kund”, the enigmatic, natural hot water spring at the temple. The other two, including me, kept enjoying the warm electric blanket on our hotel beds till late.
Looking out of the hotel window in Badrinath is a mesmerising experience. You are surrounded by gentle green slopes which gradually merge with snow-covered peaks in the distance. You can see clusters of small houses on the slopes, and a few small temples scattered all over, with fluttering red flags accentuating their look. In almost all other hill towns, the surrounding mountains usually look very high and distant, but in Badrinath, you feel on top of the world, with the snow-clad peaks closer than ever.
4 km from Badrinath is the delightful little village Mana, which is officially the last Indian village on this route (National Highway 58); China lies beyond yonder. Vehicles can not enter Mana; there’s a parking area at the entrance to the village where we found a large number of cars and buses parked. We did not expect Mana to be so popular among tourists. As you walk through the narrow lanes of Mana, you get a glimpse of the simple life of the locals. Village women keep busy knitting sweaters and scarves, while the men run small shops selling these woolens, shawls, carpets and food.
There are a few temples one can visit in Mana. The highlight for us was the “Bhim Pul”, a natural bridge on a gushing river formed by two large tilted rocks supporting each other. We were impressed at how there’s a Hindu mythological story associated with the remotest of such unique geological formations and phenomena – they say the “Bhim Pul” was built by the powerful mythological prince named Bhim who put those huge rocks in place over the river with his bare hands to help his wife cross the river. Likewise, the road from Joshimath to Badrinath passes between two mountains (named Nar and Narayan) which are slowly drifting towards each other. When the two mountains meet, Badrinath will be rendered inaccessible; Hindus have already identified a place called “Bhavishya Badri” where the Badrinath idol will be shifted and worshipped after this phenomenon.
Right next to the “Bhim Pul” is a temple dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, and a tea shop branded as India’s last tea shop before China. It is a unique experience to get clicked next to this shop’s signboards!
After spending about an hour in Mana, we headed back to Badrinath to “take the 1.30pm gate”. We had already faced the rough stretches of this road yesterday, so we knew what was coming. After successfully navigating the broken part of the road, we were glad to hit the smooth part and picked up the speed. We hit a traffic jam at Govindghat where several buses parked on the roadside had made the road narrower. The weather became quite hot as we neared Joshimath. We were to now drive up to Auli from Joshimath, since the cable car from Joshimath to Auli was closed for the past one year for repairs. The road to Auli is quite steep, and you gain altitude very quickly as you traverse this 15 km distance. The road condition is fairly good, though it’s a bit narrow.
We had booked the GMVN Auli Ski Resort. This is one of the two popular accommodations in Auli, the other one being the Clifftop Hotel, 3.5 km further up from the GMVN hotel. One can easily drive till the GMVN hotel; the remaining stretch of the road till Clifftop Hotel is quite tough to climb and recommended only for vehicles with high ground clearance, such as SUVs. There’s a chair lift connecting GMVN Auli Ski Resort with Clifftop Hotel.
Our stay at GMVN Auli was very ordinary. The hotel was renovated last year for the South Asian Winter Games 2011, so the interiors looked new. But the service was completely missing. It took quite long for the person at the reception to check us in, and we had to carry the luggage ourselves from the car to the reception. Getting some immediate snacks to eat wasn’t easy either – the room service guy wouldn’t pick up the phone. So we walked down to the restaurant to order and eat. In the zeal to renovate, they have put sofas instead of dining chairs in the restaurant! There’s an indoor games room for table tennis, carrom and billiards, but the equipment is all broken. There was running hot water though, and we enjoyed a good hot shower.
There isn’t much to do in Auli in summers. You can see the barren slopes which will make great skiing surfaces after the winter snowfall. There’s a nice view of mountain peaks on the horizon. But for someone coming back from Badrinath, Auli’s scenery is nothing to write home about. There’s no market or shops, only a handful of hotels. The only fun thing for us to do was to take the chair lift to the top and back. But since the chair lift is operated only till 6pm and we were already late, we decided to ride it the next day.
Dinner was a funny affair too. We walked down to the restaurant only to find it fully occupied with the hotel’s guests. We were told that it would take some time to serve us dinner, so we should order the dishes and check back in half an hour. We ordered and retired to our room, and were happy to get a call in half an hour that the food was ready.
With nothing else to do after dinner, we hit the bunk. The most interesting portions of the trip were behind us now; the next two days would largely be about the return home.
Deluxe room at GMVN Auli: Rs. 3000 (plus ~13% taxes)
Day 1: Delhi to Devprayag
Day 2: Devprayag to Joshimath
Day 3: Joshimath to Ghangaria (via Govindghat)
Day 4: Ghangaria – Valley of Flowers – Ghangaria
Day 5: Ghangaria – Hemkund Sahib – Ghangaria
Day 6: Ghangaria to Badrinath (via Govindghat)
Day 7: Badrinath to Auli
Day 8: Auli to Rudraprayag
Day 9: Rudraprayag to Delhi