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Auli – Nature’s Necklace

Garhwal is known for the charming little places dotted all along its name from aalu (potato) is one such place on a slope semi-circled by high snow-peaks.

Auli has not been explored as a summer resort as yet. At a height between 2600-3600 metres, it is cooler and more comfortable in summer than the popular hill stations.

However, there are plans for making Auli an excellent resort for summer. Auli has a peculiar location. It is on a slope which rises continuously from Joshimath up to a point a little beyond Auli. The road, branching off from the main Badrinath route, spirals up quickly and suddenly from Joshimath, ascending more than 3000 feet in just 16 kilometres. More than half-way up, as Joshimath completely goes out a sight, a few snow-peaks hidden from view at the base, seem to rise up from all directions.

It is a prelude to what Auli offers. One is suddenly transported to a region of high snow-peaks, wide and open view, and green meadows, in direct contrast with Joshimath where the hills close in from all sides.

The mountainous stretch of the route beings from Rishikesh at the bank of the sacred Ganga (the Ganges), and follows its course up to Devprayag where Bhagirathi from Gangotri and Alaknanda from Badrinath join to form the Ganga. The road, then running along Alaknanda, zig-zags is way through Rudraprayag, Karnaprayag and Nandprayag, located at the confluence of Alaknanda and its tributaries. Travelling 272 kilometres up to Auli, the road remains at an average height of 800 metres. Even in winters, it remains open except near Auli. Land-slides do pose problems during the rains, particularly near Nandprayag. By and large, the road, a fine metalled one is open throughout the year.

There is another route too, through Kumaon, which, if combined with the first route, can make a very satisfying circular trip to Auli. This road via Nainital or Almora, Kausani Baijnath, Gwaldam etc. presents some exquisite scenic beauty – wide river valleys, colourful terraced fields and some ancient temples, and joins the first route at Karnaprayag.

There are also plans to develop a tourist village with five star amenities. It will mainly cater to the elite section of tourists. Health club, indoor/outdoor games, shopping complex, emporium for handicrafts will be a few enticements apart from nature’s bounty.

For trekkers, Kauri-Pass, also known as Curzon’s Trail, may be one of the best they have ever attempted. According to many experienced travelers, this is the finest trail which displays a panoramic spectacle of the higher Himalayas perennially covered with snow.

Auli is a place for those who seek out lesser-known places, not yet commercialized nor crowded, but enchanting. It compares favourably with some other small but famous spots in Kumaon and Garhwal.

Binsar, a tiny hamlet near Almora, has some fine jungles and an expansive snowline running more than 300 kilometres, while Auli has a negligible area covered with forests and a much smaller snowline. But at Binsar, the snow-peaks look distant and inaccessible. At Auli, one can go personal about peaks. They look nearer and so much larger.

Auli does not have a dramatic sun-rise like in Chakauri which is a small village perched on a plateau near Verinag at the border of Almora and Pithoragarh. As at Auli, the snow-peaks at Chakauri look quite near. But Chakauri does not create an awe of height, which Auli does. One feels a sensation of height at Auli. Similarly, Duggalbitta, not very far from Auli via Gopeshwar, has features of both Binsar and Auli, yet it lacks a sense of height about it.

And for those who simply love to be in a place endowed with beauty, Auli offers a lot. Its meadows face some of the famous peaks – Nanda Devi, Kamet, Dunagir Hathi-Parbat, Gauri-Parbat all about 20,000 feet (7000 metres) or more – which appear, as though planted and chiseled by divine hands. The snow-peaks, though immobile, are by no means inset. Hiding behind the clouds, they wait to be discovered. Changing colours subtly, they exude a charm of golden hue towards the evening.

As the night comes on the contours of the meadows, the trees, the hills, all dissolve into one big mass of darkness. This is the time to look at the peaks, for the full moon may be emerging silently from their midst.