Voila, the week is over, the luggage is ready. Tomorrow is the big departure to North India. Auli is located at 2,500 meters and very close to the Nepal and China border. Anyway, whether there is snow or not, the important thing is to be there.
We just landed in Delhi, after 3 hours in flight. It is 29 degrees and wet. I take the taxi. It is 3:40 pm and after spending 2 hours between the two bus stations I am finally at the bottom of the bus for an unknown destination. The trip itself is likely to be epic with luggage on the knees.
At 7 we reach halfway. We have a 30 minute stop in a kind of dhaba to rest after a village. Around 10 we reach Hardwar, and the bus gets empty in a full and lively street, with noises everywhere. We still have 1 hour before the next stop. We leave, cross two bridges spanning large rivers. The bus stops again at the entrance of a village, a crossroad or in the middle of nowhere.
At 11 we reach Rishikesh. Our next bus is at 3:30 am. After negotiating with a rickshaw we go to the bus terminal and wait at the stop. It is not really cold, and we are not alone.
I learn our bus does not leave at 3:30 but at 6:30! I therefore run around to find a driver and a car to do this last step more quickly. It was not counting on the local mafia drivers. We are found a Tata Sumo but as it is shared we need another 10 passengers and the luggage will be on the roof.
This is not possible and we have not seen the bus yet. So I get back on this parking lot. It looks cleaner and better maintained than the public bus of the first stage. It's reassuring but it is night. We go inside. We are the first to see the time and decide to sleep while waiting for the departure.
It leaves on time. First, the bus, finally a mini-bus that we suspect have been a school bus. Indeed, the seats are not very spread and the rows are very close. I managed to keep the place next to me empty for a good time but there was the stops and newcomers. I tried to sleep on this 11 hour trip. The state of the road and the bends no longer did not facilitate this task.
Here we are roaming the mountains along the Ganges. The landscapes are beautiful. We went from the agricultural plains to terrace farms. The green Ganges is bordered by large hills and mountains. At times we have the impression to discover beaches of white sand. They are beaches of gravel whitened by the sun. The contrast is striking. We have our eyes full and we live some thrills.
The road winds along hills and mountains. We climb to the pass passes then down to cross a bridge at water level. The roads at the edge of cliffs has no guard. Sometimes I look out the window and I see a road edge lace or the rear tire seems to flourish with the emptiness. It is impressive considering the height. In addition, this road is mainly used by construction trucks, and freight transport.
It was a trip that was thrilling by the conditions but beautiful by the landscapes. It is 4:30 pm. At the detour of a mountain I see in the distance the eternal snows of the Himalayan summits. But this remains in the distance because there is still 2 hours of travel towards Joshimath, our last stop before Auli.
At 6:30, we finally put our bags on the ground. More than 14 km to get to Auli, we search the driver who will drop us. It is necessary to negotiate again. The mafia is there. It is difficult to discuss without anyone around who plays the number and which imposes the tariffs. From Joshimath we take a cable car to go to the ski resort.
Here we come finally, after 34 hours of travel. I have a desire to take a shower and eat something hot. Regarding the temperatures, we went from 34 degrees in Delhi to a few degrees below 0 at Auli. From wearing tee-shirt I am almost in ski suit now.
Auli is neither a city nor a village. It is rather like a ski resort. The main town is Joshimath. In Auli there are 2 types of comfort, government or private accommodation. We had opted for the government one. We reserve a cottage. The cottages are called huts and has only one room in addition to the bathroom.
What incredible landscapes! The cloud ceiling was low and in the morning, we find the clouds hanging on the mountain like a scarf knotted around the shot. That's wonderful. We see clouds surrounded by peaks, as if in retreating. It had created a cottony lake. The goal for us was also to see for the first time the Nanda Devi, the second highest peak of India at 7800 m, Mana at 7200 m and Khamet at 7750 m.
The contrasts are striking. We even note the demarcation of snow and rain on the peaks, as if a line. There is little snow with some patches at the level of the surviving dwellings of the previous glaciation. We are more than 2500 meters. The sun is hitting harder. Enjoying the ski slopes will be difficult, so we decide for the hike.
We tramp in the woods, on snow, and see a mini lake. We crossed ski schools that had the courage to ride with the skis or the ski lifts were not planned. The area is very large and wide. It must be very different under snow. We arrive at 3000 m altitude to discover the panorama with 360 degree view on all the surrounding peaks. It's simply grandiose! On the other side is Tibet. The weather is beautiful and sublime. I do not want to go down.
We went down to Joshimath to negotiate a taxi to Badrinath for next day. The negotiation was not very fruitful, as none of the drivers were willing to take us. This is our last evening in Auli. The weather is overcast. We call our room boy for the last time (the one who lights the wooden stove) and he assures us that we will get a car. We go to bed early as we have to wake up at 6 am.
Our driver is on time. We quickly take the road, as we do not want to waste time. We go to Badrinath. Located at over 3100 m altitude, this small village will close its doors tomorrow for the winter. The villagers will go down a little lower in the Valley. Here the climate is too rough, without means of heating.
On this occasion a great religious festival is organized. A group of tourists that we meet on site make us discover this ceremony from inside. Since the beginning of our trip we have real beautiful encounters. We still have the warm heart of these friendships. As contact is not always easy in these places, when an emotion passes, it is even more strong!
The fighter jet pilot in the Indian Air Force will be our guide during our pilgrimage to Badrinath. So much so that we will travel together the next day. So here we are to share the jeep! On the way we often stop at temples we cross. We gain red powder and grains of rice glue on the forehead. And then we stop to drink a chai or eat a thali.
We leave our new friends in Karnaprayag because we now want to go to the Kumaon region. They go back to Rishikesh. We leave the cold steep valleys of the Garwhal to join the Kumaon, which also offers superb views of the Himalayas, but in a much greener environment. We see rice fields and tea plantations on the terrace. We cross hamlets of villages. The green and the blue are side by side. We came from a world of gray and stones.
The road is well endangered finally. We cross mostly trucks. There is work everywhere and what strikes after a week away from everything is the world. There is people everywhere, walking along the road, sitting or waiting for a hypothetical bus, as there is no stop.
And above all, on the edge of the chasm, on the landslide, people break stones tirelessly to maintain and repair the roads. They break pebbles all day long, to reduce them to crumbles and they are thousands! The rocks detached from the mountain become gravel under the blows of hammers. Everything is handmade. It's like in the Middle Ages. It breaks the heart to see them working in these conditions.
It is 4.30 pm when we arrive at our destination. The hotel we found in Kausani is a small paradise on earth. From our terrace it is an invitation to admire the giants of snow and rock. This stop is relaxing and really very appreciable in the pine forests. We hear even the cicadas! The sun also warms us up a bit more.