For Christmas 2019, 20 strangers went to the snowy land of Auli. Just a week later, this is what Deepak Pinninty had to say about his trip:
“Niyati, Auli and Us…..
Mountains have always excited me although I’m the first to catch a cold. So when OHOT published their end of year trips, I chose Auli over Sri Lanka.
I have been flowing OHOT for quite some time and although I didn’t know Neeraj personally, I have always connected to him at a personal level with his stories and experiences, so grounded yet so mighty. His stories never felt like a tripper’s account of a travel. They felt like visuals of humanity dipped in words straight out of his heart to the reader’s soul. That’s when I decided to have the OHOT experience. In the course of time, we interacted quite a few times. Many itineraries received, plans made and cancelled. And finally, I decided to spend my New Year at Auli and travel with Neeraj. With seats booked out, Neeraj suggested me to try the Christmas Auli trip with Niyati. Although initially a bit put down on not being able to travel with Neeraj, I went ahead and booked.
Little did I know that I was in, for something fantabulous. We all reached Rishikesh at different times and off we went for an unplanned river rafting in 2 batches. So as a team, we met up only at the end of the first day. Instant connections were made. Friendly smiles, casual banter commenced with no time wasted. And there was a tall girl with a broad wide smile, a confident gait and a humble demeanor. Niyati, was her name. Little did I realize that it was the beginning of a lifetime friendship.
Niyati ensured that everybody wriggled out of their shells from the word Go. Lucky Café proved really lucky for us as we created a cemented bond. As we embarked on our journey, our traveler vehicles sprang up with life. Goofy selfies, edge of the seat Mafia games, dumb charades to dreams, aspirations, joys, sorrows, the traveler and 20 hearts were witness to everything.
2 treks to Tungnath and Gurso Bugyal got each of us close. For many of us seeing snow for the first time. It was a visual delight. Friendships were made. Hands were extended to help each other. And we got to see the best ever sunsets ever witnessed in our lives. Of how the light touched the snow kissed mountains. As if philosophically mentioning that no matter how cold life gets, the Light of the universe would forever keep touching us. Forever. Overwhelmed hearts cried out on finally making it to the top. Our trek downhill was in pitch darkness and the snowy oath was damn slippery. Humanity won over as strangers from other groups congregated with us and we trekked down with cell phone torch lights. Lifting each other with every fall. Encouraging one other with every kilometer we came down.
Auli got the child out in all of us. Snow and skiing. Falls and laughs. Boomerangs and Slo-Mo fall vids. Snow balls and snow fights. Christmas and the snow would never be so memorable again.
Every evening was precious. Tugged into one room, cozy under the blankets, no filter conversations, “Never have I ever”, “Truth and Dare” found their way, no bars held back. Thresholds being where your imagination ends 😀
We sat around Bonfires to keep us warm at -5 degrees. The fire went shy with warmth of 20 beautiful people singing and dancing their hearts out amidst the snow and mountains.
All these were punctuated over the week with heart to heart conversations on life, worries, insecurities, ways of the world life battles, of wins and losses, of smiles and frowns, Shayaris. You name it. We did it.
Amidst all this was Niyati, like a fulcrum keeping 20 other spokes of the wheel in unison. Be it ensuring our comfort all the way, without a frown and without a whimper. Just smiling her way through and through. During treks, she ensured she was at the last pushing everyone that the end wasn’t far and constantly encouraging that they could do it. From dancing on roads, to crazy selfies, from crazy no brainer banter to intellectual heart to heart conversations, this girl is a rockstar. A leader in the truest sense of the word. From silently checking on each other with eye gestures, to those walks in Tapovan at the head of the herd, discussing gender clichés and stereotypes et al on the chair car to hurried last minute shopping for each other’s Secret Santa, Niyati I am still short of words. Funnily, we share a few common life goals. So here’s wishing my fellow future published-author, the very best. I am already visualizing bumping into each other in a Roman cathedral or an Egyptian pyramid, enchanted by the magic, living their life. But before that, cheers to our friendship and hopefully many many more trips together. Auli Christmas trippers owe Neeraj big time. Cos’ had the New Year trip not been booked out, Niyati wouldn’t have happened to all of us.
Keep dancing in the snow, singing with the wind, getting clicked with a Rudolph noses in the signature Niyati pose and making memories for you and innumerable trippers as they journey with you, Niyati. And for all you future trippers with OHOT, one thing you would richer by at the end of the trip will be newer close friends, heart to heart conversations to remembered for a lifetime, hugs, joys, tears and the feeling of being human again! The trip, the views, the beauty of the place are all a bonus.