Auli, Uttarakhand: Expect the Unexpected in the Lap of Himalayas – thetheiffyexplorer

Auli, Uttarakhand: Expect the Unexpected in the Lap of Himalayas 

Urgam Valley to Joshimath

I took shared sumo from Urgam Valley to return to Joshimath. It costs about 80 INR to cover 29 kilometres.

From Delhi, one can catch an overnight bus till Rishikesh, then a shared taxi or another bus till Joshimath.

The homestay where I was supposed to stay in, was located a few kilometres above the main Joshimath market, somewhere in between Auli and Joshimath and on the way to Manoti village on Parsari road. My homestay owner, Rana ji came to pick me and some groceries too.

Mountain View Abode Homestay

I was about to stay at this piece of heaven near Auli in a village called Ravigram or Manauti Auli. Mountain View Abode, a 400-yr old wooden property looked charming being surrounded by all these giant mountains, which were completely covered with fresh snow that fell a week before my arrival.

Mountain View Abode homestay which also comes under NotOnMap homestay revival initiative has 4 rooms. The cottage-looking like stay can host up to about 10 travellers and is made in traditional stone and mud style of construction.

My happiness knew no bounds. I could feel it. Seeing the snowy mountain tops and heavily clouded skies, snowfall could have happened anytime. The weather turned pretty cold and I took all my winter clothes out that I got with me from Delhi.

Mamta Ji, Ranaji’s wife, prepared a few cups of tea on her mud stove for us to relish. The couple is jovial and makes you feel instantly at home. They both love to interact with travellers. And Ranaji is a Kishore Kumar fan. I was given local wine the first night with his favourite songs and a bonfire to seek comfort.

A delicious breakfast was being prepared the next morning. They asked me to eat well because we were to depart for an important work-related hike. I was told that they needed kerosene oil for the coming days and it’s better to stock up since the weather looked unpredictable.

A thin trail took us a little above the homestay to another home, Ranaji’s neighbour. We made a quick stop in between to see the village temple. Our steps synced with Ranaji’s stories of how mercilessly it has snowed this year. I was made aware of how we are just 30 minutes below Auli.

Upon reaching, we quickly filled the 5-litre canister with kerosene oil, had a little tea with a small chat and instantly everyone saw my mood swing. Suddenly I felt like going even higher, up to Auli. I don’t know, what made me change my mind, I suppose it was the weather or maybe I just wanted to take the risk and experience what it felt like getting stuck in a storm. Whatever it was, it just thrilled me from inside-out.

“If only I could live here forever”

A little above the village I was staying at, one of India’s best ski destination is Uttarakhand’s winter wonderland seemed to call a snow-loving person like me.

The Untouched Trail to Auli

I then took an untouched trail to Auli. Trying to reach before the sunset in my newly bought yet cheap rubber shoes, I managed to reach the top in 30 minutes, not to forget with the help of a wooden stick that Rana ji handed me at the last moment and the rubber shoes that Nitin ji from my last homestay in Joshimath, advised me to buy.

On a white carpet, looking at the gorgeous snow-clad mountains, under heavy clouds which were about to fall and just not being able to believe the surroundings, I was in awe, with a gaping mouth and wide eyes, heart full, my day was made there and then, even before reaching the skiing slopes of Auli. I was surrounded by the peaks of Mt Nanda Devi Kamet, Mana Parwat, Dunagiri, Beethartoli, Nilkanth, Hathi Parbat, Ghori Parbat and Nar Parbat.

And I never even planned to be in Auli. Yet again my most impromptu plan etched something amazing in my memory.

Auli is located at an altitude of 2800 metres above sea level.

One can enjoy the views of the Himalayas from an even higher location by experiencing the chair-lift which charges about 500 INR per person. There were ski and snowboarding instructors present on the spot. I could see many newcomers falling hard and thinking about how much of the sport they can learn in an hour. The instructors charge 800 INR for 1-hour training.

There is this Hanuman temple here which is known as the resting point of Lord Hanuman when he came to the Himalayas to procure Sanjeevani, and provides a stunning of the mountains and the valley below. My rubber shoes proved to be the most helpful while climbing the frozen stairs of the temple. My newly made friend followed me everywhere, I treated him with biscuits in the end.

Auli hosted the first South Asian winter games in 2011. November to February is the best time to visit Auli. The world’s highest man-made lake is also said to be existing in Auli.

How to reach Auli?

By road one can travel from Delhi to Dehradun/Rishikesh/ Haridwar via private or government buses. There onwards, Joshimath is 16 kilometres away and can be reached via shared taxis or local buses. Then private or shared jeeps to Auli can be hired. A 5-kilometre trek can also be undertaken from Joshimath till Auli. The climb is via a staircase that takes you from Joshimath market till the Auli temple.

I hiked for a kilometre from my homestay till Auli, instead.


The trip ended on such a happy jubilant note that till date while narrating this story to you, I can’t contain myself from beaming ear to ear. This 12-day long trip to Uttarakhand has restored my faith in something most of us tend to forget.

Aren’t the happiest moments are found in the simplest of the things?

The simple homestays and even simpler owners served me like their family member, everything felt just complete right there. This is travel.

Travel to experience! Travel to live and re-live moments!


Leh Ladakh Travel Guide

How my Delhi to Leh Ladakh trip turned into an extreme and unplanned adventure in the remotest part of the world

How my Delhi to Leh Ladakh trip turned into an extreme and unplanned adventure in the remotest part of the world – Changthang – Archana Singh


The downside of living abroad , is homesickness that hits you like a ton of bricks. I have a good job and a balanced life. But I still feel homesick, not so much for my family or the food but for the Himalayas. The urge to return was so strong at the beginning of the year that I brushed aside a serious threat of losing my job. I didn’t know which home was calling but I was hearing a call – O nadaan parinde ghar aa ja! But as the cliché goes, “When mountains call, you must listen to them.” I did exactly that.

The calling this time was different. There was a different tune to it. I sensed a deeper meaning, probably more than just the travel. Too often, traveling becomes just an itinerary on paper to squeeze as much in as possible. Rushing from place to place to get the boxes ticked, to snap the picture-perfect sunset and to hit the next scenic spot. Sometimes it feels like we are acquiring experiences rather than experiencing them. I had a super crammed itinerary but this time I was determined to travel slow and relish the experiences and not just gather them. As they say, the best dishes are cooked on slow and low flames. I wanted to do something different, go offbeat and live the unique experiences, for they are not found on the beaten track. And guess what, I discovered happiness in the remotest part of the world – Changthang.

Unlike my last three trips from Delhi to Leh Ladakh , this was completely impulsive. And the credit goes to nostalgia. I was going through my picture gallery on phone (not on Facebook) when suddenly a  picture clicked in the Changthang plateau in 2014 arrested my attention. Eureka! My eyes glittered with excitement. I called my Ladakhi friend right in the middle of the night. After a brief conversation, I discovered that he was posted in the very place that I wanted to be. Looks like destiny was working super hard for me!. The up-in-the-air-plan was made. But there are many slips between the making of a plan and its finalization. The plan got finalized only a day before I was to fly and I ended up paying a bomb for the flight tickets. The heart doesn’t understand the pain of a wallet. If it decides to go, it decides to go 🙂

My plan was limited to fly from Delhi to Leh Ladakh. I decided to leave the rest to serendipity and the local conditions. All I knew was, I was going to visit the unexplored Ladakh – the Changthang plateau. I had no clue beyond that. Locals are the unsung heroes who turn your good trip into a great one. My case was no different. The credit for an unforgettable trip goes to them – some I knew beforehand and some I made friends on the trip.

Time to buckle up folks! Hope you have your seat belts locked and have your munchies ready because this will take you through the stories of a lifetime.

From a sweltering 35 degrees to -8 degrees, Leh was a welcome change. The change in temperature had already triggered my “happiness” hormones. Before getting into my cab, I longingly gazed at the beautiful Himalayas, in the same way as long parted lovers look at each other when they meet after ages. Happiness doesn’t require words. It can only be felt by the heart and the eyes. I was relishing my share of happiness. The mountains were mountains, smiling at me and waving at me through gestures that only I could understand 🙂


I had booked myself at the Zaltak guesthouse, a place where I’ve lived in the past. The Didi who runs the place is one amazing person. She was preparing for my homecoming. After a lovely hug and exchange of heartfelt pleasantries, I was treated to my favorite Jasmine Kehwa and Ladakhi Roti. Memories of my previous trips hit me hard and off I went dreaming.

As a part of acclimatization, I wasn’t supposed to go out on the first day but I had no option. I had to secure my inner line permit from the DM’s office to visit the restricted areas of Ladakh. James, one of my good Ladakhi friends had done all the hard work in securing the necessary permissions, while I just signed the document.

And like clockwork, I fell sick. I was continuously throwing up, had a terrible headache and fever. When Didi saw my condition, she went out to get Diamox, a tablet that helps in acclamistisation. All the shops were already closed. But she still managed to get the medicines. She made khichdi and asked me to drink a lot of green tea. She checked on me several times during the night. And voila by morning I was back to my cheerful self 🙂

Next day early morning, I was on my way to Changthang. Around 3 pm, after a long and bumpy ride through the beautiful sights and sounds of frozen Ladakh, I arrived at Chumathang. A small village that is at the junction of many routes


My last minute call to an Army friend, who was posted at Leh, got me a comfortable stay at the Army Guesthouse at Chumathang. From a bathtub to comfortable cozy bed to room heater to cable TV to hot meals and packed lunch, I had all luxuries of life in a place where even getting potable water was difficult. That’s the perk of being associated with the Indian Army. The impossible word doesn’t exist in its dictionary.

The guest House in-charge introduced me to the village Sarpanch – Skarma. He was the most respected man in a village of 50 houses and ran Lamying Hotsprings Restaurant on the banks of the mighty Indus river on the Leh-Hanle highway. The all glass restaurant gave a greenhouse effect, amazingly warm in a cold barren land where temperatures plummet to -40 degree in winters. Almost everyone traveling on this highway stopped at his restaurant.

In case you didn’t know, Chumathang is a place famous for Hotsprings. There is one particular hot spring that hardly anyone knows about – it stays in the riverbed for ten minutes, the water looks very calm and suddenly it oozes out with full force. And the same loop continues. I would have been contended by seeing the usual hot spring site and would have never known something like this exists had Sarpanch not showed it to me.

They say mountain life is not easy. I experienced that first hand. Though the water is so hot here that you can boil eggs in 5 minutes, it leaves a pungent smell and taste to the food. That’s why the Sarpanch’s staff walks for four km uphill to the Chumathang village to fetch water for cooking, every single day. And it’s not a few liters. He gets water to cook for at least 100 people every day.

I spent a lot of time talking to villagers, army personnel, Ladakhi Scouts, and locals taking a break at Sarpanch’s restaurant. I was listening to all kind of unheard of stories, like a child glued to her grandparent’s bedtime stories. One of them I spoke to was the headmaster at the Puga Nomadic School. His stories about the school and the difficult life lived by the pastoral nomads inspired me to visit the place, which had nearby not-to-miss-at-any-cost attractions like Tso Morori Lake, Sumdo and Karzok Tibetan nomadic villages, Puga hot springs, and Chumur.

The only problem at hand was finding a cab. There were only two personal cars – one of a government servant working in Nyoma and other of the Sarpanch. Both were busy with their own schedules. Despite being out of bounds, I had to try! Nobody was ready to accompany me on this daredevil stunt. Even money failed to lure them. Reason – the area was completely frozen and cars would often skid. No connectivity. No help. But where there is a will there’s a way.

Curiosity takes you to places where no map or app can take. Are you curious enough to find out what happened next? How did I manage to witness the frozen wonders of Tso Moriri and the beautiful villages?