Very often, our notion of the perfectness of a hill station collectively comprises the quality of the mountain-scape it offers to its visitors. In the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, the flavour of landscape switches to a newer angle with every rising ridge or changing hillside but the prime focus of the show remains the snow-capped curtain of central Himalayas stretching roughly over 150 miles from Swargarohini in the west to Panchachuli group of peaks in east. Nonetheless, such an innocuous desire to be able to savour the picture-perfect grand Himalayan spectacle gets verbalized by supportive weather conditions prevailing at that point in time. I would say that I was very fortunate indeed to have been blessed by a near-perfect view of the glowing snowy screen which Pauri Garhwal is famous for.
Descending the Lansdowne ridge, the nicely tarred NH 119 takes about 150 comfortable-minutes to reach Pauri, the administrative headquarters of Pauri Garhwal district of the state. Looping an exposed hillside, the narrow highway passes through Gumkhal and Satpuli just as the white curtain disappears from the scenery giving way to the Nayar Gorge. Spread on both sides of the highway, the small trade centres of Gumkhal and Satpuli comprises, typical of a small Garhwal town, matchbox-sized shops many of which still retain their wooden framework. Ahead of the confluence point of Western Nayar with Eastern Nayar at Satpuli, the road gradually ascends and the narrow gorge opens into the richly fertile Nayar valley comprising one of the most scenically terrace-shaped agriculture fields. The delight of passing through the multi-shaded green landscape immediately got fructified at a bend near Buwakhal when the shining snowy screen made an instant appearance. Passing through dense woods, the remaining six kilometres till Pauri presented a short intro to the Great Himalayas where one by one each major peak announced its presence.
Previously known as the British Garhwal, Pauri has always been an important trading centre and was a staging post during the silk-route days. Spread on the terraced northern slopes of Kandoliya Range, at an average altitude of 1750 m, Pauri has gradually become the political nerve centre of Garhwal region. Possessing a rare scenic beauty and scintillating surroundings, the settlement of Pauri comprises a fusion of recently constructed houses as well as olden ones bearing signs of traditional architecture and a market that fulfils most needs of the region. Unlike most other hill stations developed by the British, Pauri has retained very little from the colonial past. In its place, Pauri is a confused manifestation of an expanded village gradually germinating into a Himalayan town. The character of the landscape shifts from being milder to a more rugged one as one enters the side valleys to reach snows.
The visitor profile to Pauri includes pilgrims who are either on their way to the famed Char Dham Yatra or visitors to the ancient temples of Pauri. Though, in the recent times, Pauri has been gaining popularity with adventurers, trekkers and para-sailors. Owing to the avenues generated by an influx of tourists, over the past few years, a few guesthouses, restaurants, eateries and a couple of ‘resorts’ have come up. I always say the state-run GMVN property could have been managed better. The best aspect of staying in Pauri is that almost every accommodation offers a splendid view of snow-capped Himalayas. However, the best views can be had from the Deputy Commissioner’s residence.
Fortunately, I was welcomed at the conveniently located Circuit House (CH). I particularly liked the accommodation for the views it commanded and the sumptuous home-cooked meals dished out by the cook. In winters, during the daytime, the open lawns of the CH complex would become favourite haunt of the neighbours who would spend their afternoons taking the sun. As the locals were gearing up to receive the first spell of snowfall of the season, the exceptional sunny afternoons were possibly their best bet to socialise.
Having offered a tea, I could not think of a better way to soak in the views of the Garhwal Himalayas. Barring a few inquisitive eyes, my presence was generally discounted by all. The region consists of a succession of gentle mountain ridges divided from each other by deep glens and climaxing at the snowy Himalayan canvas. Excluding the helm of Srinagar, the pasture of Panai on the banks of Alaknanda and the submontane tract, there was no level land visible from Pauri. The vantage offered by Pauri included the far-flung hills of Mussoorie, Chamba, Tehri, Rudraprayag, Srinagar, Karnaprayag and Chamoli regions. The panoramic view of enamouring snowy range included the peaks of Swargarohini, Bander Pooch, Gangotri Group, Kedarnth, Sumeru, Chaukhamba, Neelkanth, Hathiparvat, Nandadevi and Trisul etc. My eyes remained fixed on the spectacularly arresting mighty Chaukhamba massif. What more a Himalayan devotee like me would desire for than a noise-free civilised space and time to savour the holy glittering rocks?
The mystic sunlight in the morning and evening exhibits a glittering rebellion of colours on the sharp snow-clad rocks. The blue hues seamlessly merging into a shade better, ridge after ridge, produce a hypnotic effect during the two extremes of the day. The magnitude of habitation could feasibly be assessed in the night when the countless sparkling lights jeweling hillsides are viewed under a starry nightscape. I would regrettably say that no ridge or no corner as visible is spared from construction or the destruction.
Given the nature of the mountainscape, there can be little doubt that Pauri should be visited in a haze-free weather. The climate of the region is generally pleasant in summer, very cold in winter and heavy rainfall in monsoon. Apart from providing a considerate environment to a poet or an author or a photographer or a painter, Pauri offers some pleasing walks through dense woods full of flora and fauna. Such frivolous details would be covered in the next post.
Do not forget to load your photography gear with a wide-angle lens. In my case, sadly, my chief moped at the last moment.
Average Altitude: 1700m
Best time to visit: November to April, avoid monsoons
Travel Lure: Himalayan views
Accommodation: Mostly available