Girls’ Trip from Pune to Joshimath(Auli)
One fine afteroon in December, I, Rajshree and Saumya (if you want to know who they are, you may read my blog on Pawana Lake Camping) just thought of going on a trip, just the three of us. We considered south, as in Kerala, Wayanad initially but the itinerary seemed too hecticplus the transport and timings seemed too uncomfortable. Dalhousie, Dhanaulti, Khajjiar were a good option,but, again both money and time were a constraint. The dream of a girls’ trip seemed to fade out as the days passed by and all three of us had different opinions.
One of our friends works as a branch manager of a reputed bank in Joshimath. So Rajshree suggested about Joshimath; I had heard that name for the first time. After googling, I wondered how I didn’t know about this heaven. Joshimath is a beautiful city in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand and Auli (most famous skiing destination in India) is just a one hour drive from there. My eyes brightened because I am a lover for cold snowy weather and finally every one of us was on the same page.
Preparing the itinerary was the next big challenge. Traveling from Maharashtra to Uttarakhand is like going from one corner of India to another. Hence Rajshree and Saumya gathered at my place during the weekend, opened the Map of India, took a pen and a diary and started to plan. We had two options to start the journey with; Delhi or Dehradun. And two things were clear in our mind:
– We had one week with us.
– Our budget was of 15k per head.
By Train or By Air?
Nearest Airport – Dehradun
Pune to Dehradun – 5 hours approx. Fare – Rs.8000 (The rates are subject to how early you book the tickets)
Dehradun to Joshimath – 8-10 hours bus journey: Fare – Rs.650
- Pune to Delhi – 27-hour journey: Fare – Rs.1770 (3rd AC) ,Rs.675 (Sleeper)
Nearest Railway station to Joshimath is Haridwar
P.S.No direct trains are available from Delhi to Rishikesh. One has to go to Haridwar station only.
- Delhi to Haridwar – 6 hours approx. : Fare – Rs.505 (3rd AC), Rs.185 (Sleeper)
Dehradun Shatabdi Express reaches in 5hours but it’s a seater train.
- Haridwar to Joshimath bus journey – 11 -15 hours : Fare – Rs.470
- P.S. No train route till Joshimath, only bus is the option.
1st option saved money but it was literally a waste of time.
2nd option was appealing but it was exceeding our budget.
Though our final destination was Joshimath, we wanted to explore nearby places too because what’s the use of going so far and visiting just one place out of the whole Uttarakhand!
Pune to Chandigarh By Flight – 6-hour connecting flight with a 2-hour halt in Delhi. : Fare – Rs.4500
- Start time from Pune: 3.15 am
- Reach Delhi by 5.00 am
- Departure from Delhi at 8.00 am
- Reach Chandigarh by 9.30 am
Chandigarh to Rishikesh – 5-6 hour journey by cab.
- Ola outstation – Rs.3000 for a Prime Sedan (excluding toll tax).
P.S – no direct buses from Chandigarh to Rishikesh. One has to go either Ambala or Dehradun and then again take a bus to Rishikesh. Hence the cab option was more convenient for us.
Reach Rishikesh by evening and take a night halt there.
Rishikesh to Joshimath By Bus– 11-hour. Fare – Rs.470
P.S. Book the first bus that starts from Rishikesh so as to reach Joshimath before sunset. The first bus starts at 4.00am
Visit Auli and enjoy the snowy adventures
Trek and a night camp near Joshimath.
Roaming around the streets of Joshimath and visit the famous places.
Joshimath to Haridwar By Bus: 13-hour .Fare – Rs.470
Booked a 6.00 am bus so as to reach before sunset.
A night halt at Haridwar
Visit famous places in Haridwar.
By 11.am, start from Haridwar to Chandigarh by cab (Ola outstation Rs.3000)
Spend a night in Chandigarh.
Roam around Chandigarh.
Return connecting flight at 7.15 pm from Chandigarh to Pune (Rs.4500).
Reach Pune by 1.00 am.
Day wise Experience of the Tour
9.30 am, we arrived at Chandigarh airport and quickly booked an Ola Outstation from the airport till the Rishikesh hotel. We were hoping to reach Rishikesh early so that we could attend the Ganga Arti at Triveni Ghat. 5min before the cab arrived, the cab driver canceled the ride and our adventure had begun from there. All 3 of us kept trying for Ola cab, but no luck. Lastly, we came out of the airport and asked the prepaid taxi drivers; they were charging Rs.5600 including the toll tax. The situation became critical when, an Ola driver, finally accepted the request, asked us to come near the exit. As soon as we got there, his phone was unreachable and the ride got canceled again. Seeing us tense, the Pradhan (the owner of all taxi drivers) came to us and told that there was an indefinite strike of Ola and Uber in Chandigarh due to which no one was accepting the request. There is no direct bus between Chandigarh and Rishikesh, one has to go till Ambala and then change the bus till Rishikesh. Somewhat disappointed, at 11.30 am, we decided to go by taxi to Rs.5500.
This is called Expectations vs.Reality. Sleep-deprived, disappointed due to the unexpected budget rise, we started the 5hour journey. The worst part was the cab driver behaving too weirdly all the way and driving too fast. But we ignored him, slept for a while (two at a time), played some nice songs and cheered each other for showing the guts and coming this far. We crossed Punjab, Haryana, and Dehradun and reached Rishikesh by 6.15 pm. An adventure awaited us there too! I had booked a zostel as I was curious to know what a zostel actually was. Somehow we managed to reach there; our room had 3 bunker beds i.e. 6 beds for 6 individuals. We were three and the other were three guys! Rajshree and Saumya looked at my face; the host understood our discomfort,he convinced that everyone minded their own business and that we needed not to worry. We saw each other’s faces again and shouted in excitement “Welcome to the girls’ trip babe”.
If not Triveni Ghat, we were certain to visit Laxman Jhoola, which was hardly a km from our zostel. Though we had less time and we were tired, my girls didn’t give up. I agree some things didn’t meet our expectations, but seeing the positive side in every bad situation is common between all three of us, which makes our bond even stronger. Hence, we geared up and started walking towards Laxman Jhoola. There are many colorful shops and many mouth-watering hotels along the way. It feels completely different roaming in an unknown city; for a girl the emotions are mixed, excitement, confident, surprise, independent and a little fear(I know all the girls reading this can relate to it completely.) Laxman Jhoola was fully decorated with lights all along the bridge. We spent a little time there and moved ahead for a tasty dinner. Completely exhausted, we hired an Rs.20 auto till our zostel and went for a much-needed sleep on the bunker bed
We had booked a bus till Joshimath at 4.30 am. The zostel was very near to our pickup point, hence we walked till there. As we stood, waiting for the bus, the chilly winds were hitting us so hard that I had to open my suitcase at the roadside, to take out my jacket (I was wearing a shawl already). The bus arrived, the conductor kept our luggage at the backside of the bus and left for Joshimath. It was an uncomfortable seater bus whose seats were too straight to sit; but with no other options left, we closed our eyes and tried to sleep.
There is hardly any straight road in a 12-hour journey; they are like a mountain at one side while the Ganga river flowing below on the other side. Road condition is very bad and dusty as the construction work is going on .
P.S. Plan to leave Rishikesh or Haridwar from the 1st-morning bus otherwise the bus could be stuck in a long traffic jam.
As Joshimath came nearer, we could see snow-covered mountains. By 2.30 pm our bus ended up in Joshimath’s last stop (Shivam’s home was just opposite to the bus stop). Most of the bus crowd got down one stop before the last stop of Joshimath and only 4-5 of us remained. We got down to take our luggage out. But, to our surprise, there wasn’t a single bag left! We thought it was a prank, but no..it wasn’t! We shouted at the conductor and he gave a blunt answer that he wasn’t supposed to know each and every individual’s bag. We were blank completely! The conductor asked us to go down the hill where the majority crowd got down as he had unloaded all the luggage there!
I literally felt the sense of immense anger and fear at the same time because we had just entered an unknown city and our 3 major suitcases went missing. Saumya called up Shivam immediately and told the whole scenario. Meanwhile, we requested the conductor to guide us to the stop where he unloaded the luggage. We started running towards that address, calculating the number of valuables inside our suitcase, when suddenly Saumya’s phone rang. It was Shiva consoling that he got the luggage; it was lying at the roadside. Oh God! This was the horrifying incident that had ever happened to me. There was a little smile on our pale faces; on reaching Shiva’s home, instead of greeting Shiva, we ran and hugged our suitcases! I know that was rude…but all is well that ends well. Like Rishikesh, Joshimath also welcomed us with a heart-throbbing adventure.
Two ways to reach Auli:
By Roadways – Auli is only a 16 km drive from Joshimath. Hire a cab and enjoy the picturesque view of snow. It may cost up to Rs.2000-4000 for the whole day.
By Ropeway – Enjoy the helicopter view for half-hour. Auli has the highest and longest ropeway in Asia after Gulmarg. When there is heavy snowfall, the ropeway is the only medium of transport from Joshimath to Auli.
Ropeway to and fro charges – 1000/ per person
We were ecstatic to visit Auli; the famous skiing destination in India. Shivam had instructed us very well about the ropeway timings, how to reach till the ticket counter and from where to rent the snowshoes. We had a heavy breakfast of Alu parantha (we were told that all eatables are too expensive up there) and started walking towards the ropeway ticket counter (hardly 1km from Shivam’s home).
The first ropeway starts at 8.30am and the last ropeway is at 4.00pm. We took the ropeway tickets, both to and fro: going at 10.15 am and returning by 1.45 pm. I had been to ropeway in Gangtok before; I knew that to be able to enjoy the beautiful sight, you ought to stand in the corners. So we stood in the first row, but as soon as the ropeway arrived, everyone rushed to the corners. Thankfully, I managed to get a corner, but poor Saumya and Rajshree were being sandwiched in the middle! There were 20 people plus the 2 operators accommodated in a single ropeway. But all of that was worth it when we saw the snow which looked like vanilla ice cream with chocolate toppings in it and the Himalayan mountains that looked blue as the sun rays hit them. It’s true that nothing can ever beat the Himalayas. Auli is at an altitude of 9896sq ft; as the ropeway went up, it offered the alluring views of the Himalayan peaks and everyone was equally stunned! The operator instructed everyone to gather by 1.45 pm at Tower 8 otherwise we wouldn’t get a place in any other ropeway.
There are some adventurous things to do in Auli, one of which is Skiing. After Gulmarg, Auli is the most popular Skiing destination. Auli has very limited resorts to stay and those are costly too(Rs.3000 per night). Hence, people generally stay at Joshimath, only the ones which have come to learn and practice skiing prefer the Auli resort. For skiing for 1hour, the charges are Rs. 500. We saw some newbies falling flat while practicing skiing, hence we avoided doing that.
Instead, we opted for sliding through the tube, basically for two reasons:
- To take complete advantage of sleeping over the tube, shout and roll all over the snow!!
- The chairlift is the second major attraction in Auli after skiing. To do that, we had to walk at least 2km to reach the chairlift ticket counter. By sliding through the tube, we would easily cover that distance and then only had to walk 600m till the counter.
The tube owner had tied the rope to handle the direction and speed of the tube. I was feeling as if I was a free bird, but within a few seconds, I realized that the speed had increased. I asked bhaiya to slow down a bit without looking at him, but no response. I shouted again to slow down and looked back; he was running towards me and the rope was not in his hand anymore! I was so scared that I tried to put brake through my legs, but the tube didn’t stop and I shouted ” bhaiyaaaa bachaao”.Bhaiya ran and came and took up the rope; I was relieved yet angry at him for leaving the rope. It was an epic yet frightening experience!
Sliding through the tube – Rs.400 per person but we managed to bargain for Rs.300 per person
Auli has another attraction, the artificial lake, but that was fully frozen. We reached the chairlift counter but had to wait for a little as there was no electricity. After some time, finally, we sat on the cair, with no seat belts! There is a huge difference between a ropeway and a chairlift; ropeway is packed and secure! While a chairlift is just a chair, open from everywhere! It was just out of the world experience; you must put this in your bucket. That was indeed the best day of my life with my girls. I am so blessed to have such friends which make me think “Kuch ache karam zarur kiye the jo mere naseeb tu aaya!”
Chairlift to and fro – 500/ per person
We came back to Tower 8 and got in the ropeway with a happy face. After reaching Joshimath, we rested for a while and then, on Shivam’s suggestion, we went “Food N More” cafe. I was in love with the way the owner had made the space so creative. There was everything a 90’s kids desired of, in their child age. We ordered two varieties of momos (one fried and one saucy momo), played snakes and ladders, tried on chess and shared our feelings about life. It feels so good to keep your phones aside, and talk or gossip about anything, to get to know each others’ secrets and come closer to each other in person. After almost 3 hours, we left for home. I recommend you to have a visit to this cafe; its the coolest cafe there!
Shivam had decided to take us to a night camping and some trekking but didn’t disclose the place. We were just told to pack some warm clothes and be ready by 1.00 pm. The best part was, he was going to the trek for the first time with us. A car arrived by 1.30 pm,we sat on it and picked up Shivam directly from his office. We met our guide Mahavir Singh, who kept everything that would be needed for the trek, including the trekking sticks! The roads were dangerous and scary yet offered breathtaking views. After a 30minutes drive, we reached Tughasi Point, the base of the trek. Mahavir,then disclosed that we would be staying at Guling for a night. Although it was hardly a 2km trek, going up is always a difficult task. Thank God to the previous Pune treks, I was prepared somewhat :-). Plus the colourfiul landscape, the flowing spring, small cabbage farms and cute small cottages just kept me walking. Shivam gave all three girls a name, Alpha (Arya), Beta (Saumya) and Charlie (Rajshree). Mahavir told many nice stories of his 18 + years of trekking experience along the way .
We were astonished to see the place where the camps existed! Right in front of us, stood the beautiful Garhwal Himalayas! All of us shouted in joy as if we climbed the great Himalayas. We were welcomed by a cup of tea and some hot pakoras. The camping area was taken on lease by Mahavir; he had set up everything very nicely. After clicking many photos, while the sun was still up, we sat in our tents, quietly adoring the Himalayas, which had turned golden. It looked as if the sun had melted there and painted it all golden.
It became colder as the sun slowly was going to sleep. So, to keep our bodies warm, we started dancing like kids, as if no one was watching us. We were too happy to handle it, hence dancing helped us to control our happiness too. The bonfire was lit after the sun completely went down. Apart from Mahavir, Shivam, Rajshree, Saumya and me, a chef and a helper also accompanied us. Hats off to Mahavir’s team that stays there all the time; they go down to the city to purchase the food items and climb up every day. Yet they never complain and are always content with what they have.
It became dark ,there was no electricity in the nearby villages. We sat in a circle across the bonfire, kept our phones in the bag and listened to Mahavir’s interesting stories. I looked up and saw so many stars; so many that one could hardly count it! I kept looking up for a long time, quietly sitting, thanking God for letting me see that. We insisted the chef and the helper to sit with us and they sang a Nepali and a pahaadi song. It was the most beautiful and unforgettable day of my life. At 10.30 pm, we returned to our tent which had a sleeping bag and a big quilt. Coming to Joshimath was the best decision of our life and all our efforts were paid off.
The next morning, after a heavy breakfast of puri aloo and a chai, we set our journey back to Joshimath (even though we didn’t want to). It was a cloudy day and an extra cold at Joshimath. It rained a little and the weather became super awesome. That day we decided to just enjoy the local market and do some shopping. So after lunch, we, first proceeded for Narsingh Temple. It is considered to be the main temple of Joshimath where all the tourists come after completing the Badrinath journey. After spending some quiet time there, we roamed around the streets and looked for some warm clothes to carry back to Pune. Shawls are beautifully woven and are super cheap in Joshimath. Rajshree, Saumya and I were heavy-hearted for leaving such a beautiful place; we wanted to stay more, but that wasn’t possible.
Early morning 6.00 am we bid goodbye to Joshimath and left for Haridwar. Same bumpy roads, but that time, due to construction work on the roads, the bus had to wait many times at the ghaat. It was like, our patience level was being tested because sitting for continuous 15 hours is a real pain in the ass! Around 9.00 pm, finally, we reached Haridwar. There we came to know that we were lucky enough to arrive there a day before Mahashivratri (21st Feb). We checked in our already booked hotel, freshened up and went in search of the dinner. Luckily we got a tasty thali for Rs.40.After that, we had a sound sleep on a cozy bed.
The next morning, it had rained and the weather was cold. We got ready for the Har Ki Paudi. Due to Mahashivratri, the place was heavily crowded so we did not get to spend much time there. Had a fantastic breakfast at the Dosa Plaza, just opposite to Haridwar railway station. We booked Ola outstation to reach Chandigarh for Rs.3000 (excluding tax). The roads from Haridwar to Chandigarh are awesome. We crossed a bit of Punjab and Haryana; the huge fields with small yellow flowers and nice rainy weather just added pearls to the trip.
After 5 hours, we reached Chandigarh .While the sun had not yet set, we decided to explore some parts of Chandigarh the same day. We went to Sukhna lake and Sector 17 (also known as Fountain market). Just name a brand and you will definitely get it at Sector 17. There wasn’t much for us there so we came back to the Homestay, had some fun there and ended the day with a good note.
For the last day, our first destination was the Rock Garden.It’s a photogenic garden mainly recommended for kids. The small statues carved out of pebbles or porcelain are amazing but scary. Just imagine, if all the dolls become alive at night and perform a dance! Rock Garden takes around 1.5 hours to roam around. From there we went to Rose garden but hardly see any roses there.So without wasting any time we left for some shopping in the famous Sector 22. There are many local shops there, mainly the suit pieces. We had a flight for 7.15 pm for Pune .As we were tired of roaming around, we booked a cab and went Chandigarh airport and the perfect trip ended.
This trip brought all three of us (me,Rajshree and Saumya) closer; we got to know each other much better. People say that the friends which are made in office, do not last long, but let me clear it, its a complete myth. We met during the induction of a new company and made a bond so special that we ended up going on a fabulous trip. You get some positive vibes from some people and whenever you meet such person in any stage of your life, don’t let them leave.
Some Essential Information And Recommendation
At Rishikesh – Moustache Hotel (It’s a zostel basically)
Price – Rs.948
At Haridwar – Hotel Thakurji
Price – Rs.899
At Chandigarh – New Chandigarh Holiday Home
Price – Rs.948
All the above bookings were done from the Booking.com website.
P.S – In Chandigarh (year 2020), Oyo Room Hotels were asking for cash while the oyo app asked for the payment first. In short, there was some misunderstanding between Oyo and the Hotels. Hence,the hotels cancelled our bookings and we tried booking.com website and the experience was pretty good.
– Cafe Food N More
– Trek to Guling (If you need more info on this ,feel free to contact me)
-Shopping for Shawls
-Dosa Plaza near Railway Station