Valley of Flowers: A Day in The Valley


Garhwal Route covered:
Delhi
HaridwarRishikesh – Devprayag – Srinagar – Rudraprayag – Karnaprayag – Nandprayag – ChamoliPipalkoti JoshimathAuli GovindghatGhangaria
Valley of Flowers


 

“In my mountain wandering I have not seen
a more beautiful valley than this…
this valley of peace and perfect beauty
where the human spirit may find repose.”
– Frank Smythe

Thanks to Google

It is almost ten months since I have returned from the Valley of Flowers. As I go around grinding through my daily life far away in another country, I have a charming place called the Valley of Flowers to think about, and am delighted to have had a chance to be there.

I’ve heard from a few visitors to the Valley that it is not as beautiful as they expected it to be. I beg to differ. Perhaps it is not difficult to please me when it comes to beauty and romance of nature.

To get a better idea of how and where I’ve reached so far, you may wish to read my Introductory Post and subsequent posts on my journey through high-altitude western Himalayan towns of Govindghat and the trek to Ghangaria.

After ascending 14 kms from Govindghat to Ghangaria, it is then mostly an uphill trek of about 4 kms to reach the Valley of Flowers. From the entrance, trekkers can explore another 3-4 km of the marked trail out of the 20 square kms of the Valley. Camping in the Valley is forbidden, so the return journey to Ghangaria, the base camp, must be done the same day.

Here’s my account of my trek to the Valley of Flowers describing how the countless images of the grandeur of the majestic mountains and the Valley of Flowers have left an indelible mark on my mind. I must add this is just an attempt for, as Helen Keller said: The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, described or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.

~~~

It is a cold and cloudy morning in Ghangaria. Packing some nuts and raisins in my daypack, I have a quick breakfast at a tiny restaurant and in reduced visibility through the mist, I set out to the Valley of Flowers. It begins to drizzle lightly and the raincoat I bought in Govindghat becomes useful again.

A few meters away from Ghangaria, the trek path bifurcates: the one on right leads to Hemkund Sahib where most of the people passing through Ghangaria head to, and fortunately for me today, it is the path to the left. At the entrance gate of the Nanda Devi National Park, there are three friendly government officials who appear pleased to see us. I guess after watching most of the visitors to Ghangaria trudging towards Hemkund on the right, they must be glad to find at least a few nature lovers heading towards their route. After a quick registration and payment of nominal fee at the check-post, I begin the ascent to the Valley of Flowers.

Soon, I cross a make shift bridge through a stream and as I continue ascending, at each turning, I see before me magnificent mountains and low clouds hovering around their peaks.

Climb to the Valley of Flowers

In the deep ravine, the roar of the River Pushpavathi can be heard. I glance back and stop to espy the beautiful mountain town of Ghangaria from a height. I know there is no chance for exhaustion on this beautiful route.

Continuing the climb, I get closer to the River Pushpavati flowing. A short descent and I cross a bridge over the gushing waters. Then the steep ascent begins. Before long, I chance upon a remnant of a fascinating Himalayan glacier. It reminds me of a decorated cake with its icing.

Part of the glacier

As I continue ambling, I find myself on a wide shelf littered with boulders. I come across a bunch of creamy yellow fungi. They seem to be reveling in the warmth of a niche in the rocks. Other rare plants flourish on these mountains. There seems to be enough nutrients in the soil of the meadow for their sustenance.

I clamber on and stop to admire a Bhojpatra tree, and think about how its bark was used in ancient times to write on. I can recognize sal and birch, and a variety of magnolia and rhododendrons among the rich vegetation. A bird darts in and out of the trees before I am able to identify it. At one spot, I come across a swarm of butterflies, and stand spellbound watching a kaleidoscope of colour fluttering around.

Very different from the bridle path to reach Ghangaria, the path leading to Valley of Flowers is free from pilgrims, guides, porters, tents, shacks, animals and dung. Unlittered and natural, the path does not show signs of abuse and has a fragrance of freshness.

I come across very few trekkers. There are two couples from Mumbai and a few more in a small group. I can’t quite describe the awesome feeling of having the entire surrounding mountains to self amongst magnificent landscape in the quietude of nature.

At the entrance of the Valley

It drizzles again and then follows the sun peeping through the clouds unexpectedly. Through the rest of the day the pattern continues: following sunlight, intermittent drizzle, mist, and more precipitation. The misty mountains through the sun rays give me glimpses of the enchanting beauty around. The continuous change in the intensity of light at that height is enthralling.

Valley view and cloud covered peaks

At every turning, there is a new surprise. The sight of the snow clad peaks particularly make my heart leap with joy. The cascading waterfalls is a sight to behold. At certain places, the path is narrow, and slippery. I see a few locals working at a spot where there has been a recent landslide because of rains. Nodding heads in acknowledgment, exchanging smiles and accepting a few word of advice from them to be cautious and to ensure an early return, I proceed further.

The treacherous path at a few spots is kinda scary. I think to myself that no one would ever find out if ever I miss my step, and fall in the deep gorge. It would then be a case of “one blunder, and six feet under.” Oh the latter, only if the body can ever be retrieved! Twice, I take help of my hands and walk on fours for a couple of metres, and feel that time like I am doing a Jane Fonda workout for pregnant women!

Part of the trek path

Yet through it all, I enjoy myself. I guess am now so hooked to mountains and trekking that these days when I hear the name “Hillary” I think of Edmund though he is long dead and gone, rather than Mrs. Clinton and white house scandals.

I continue trudging the final ascent to reach the entrance to the Valley. A variety of flowers, dominated by pink and purple Balsam fill to the brim on either side of the narrow trek path. I reach the entrance and look up, and stop abruptly, speechless at the breathtaking sight! I hear my fellow trekker gasp and whisper, “It’s heavenly!”

Rataban peak

Picturesque mountain landscape of rich vegetation with the ephemeral clouds wrapping the mountain tops is an amazing sight. The mountains are of different shades of green, some bare and the peaks of ones at a distance, snow-clad. Within the Valley itself there are different smaller valleys. Streams of water flow right down into the River below. There are areas of treeless green meadows which are as charming as the wooded areas.

Treeless meadows

Hundreds of species of wild flowers are everywhere and these fields in the misty mountains has a mesmerizing effect on me. No matter how carefully I walk along the narrow path, a few sadly get crushed under my feet. Wild buttercups, Himalayan Knotweeds, Gentians, Rhodiolas, wild daisies, and from what I recognize, varieties of Campanula, lilies (also cobra lilies), milk parsleys, primulas, potentillas and balsam are found aplenty. I recall reading the Blue Himalayan Poppy and Brahm Kamal are rare species found only at these great heights.

Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopsis species)
(this picture shot on the way to Hemkund next day)

I feel sheer joy amidst the variety of flowers in the enchanting Valley. Time flies in the resplendent fields of wildflowers. I watch the snow clad Rataban peak and the gleaming Nilgiri Parbat posing majestically in the distance.

Wildflowers

As I head towards the grave of Margaret Legge, the botanist who fell to her death in the Valley while collecting plant specimens, I glance back and see the trekkers from Mumbai returning to Ghangaria right from the entrance of the Valley.

Grave of Joan Margaret Legge

Nearing the grave, before crossing a stream of clear gushing waters, I sit down on a small stone at first and then I get an urge to lie down on a small patch of grass. Initially I stretch, face upwards, and watch the sky scattered with indolent clouds. Cool breeze blows. When the sunlight gets into my eyes, I turn my face sideways and see a field of flowers: Primula, Potentillas, Geraniums, Campions, Bellflowers, Rhubarbs, Whorlflowers, Balsam, and a variety of other flowers, some quivering and others gracefully swaying in the cool breeze.

Wildflowers swaying in the Valley

The picture of the Valley with its scenery of the mist on the trail, the sea of flowers, melting glaciers, streams with gushing waters, green meadows, snow-clad mountains and their peaks looming against the horizon is aesthetically stimulating. It permanently etches a deep impression on my mind. The beauty and serenity of the place captures me in a spell. I am completely connected with the surroundings. I feel then every bit of effort that I took to get to the top is well worth the endeavour and the weary feet.

The Valley and the flowers

It is now time to get back, and I remember Ruskin Bond’s words:

…the infinity of mountains, the feeling of
space – limitless space – can only be
experienced by living in the mountains…

Though I feel like staying there forever I have to return now for I am hungry. As camping in the Valley of Flowers is prohibited I have to reach the base camp before sunset. I make my return journey, stopping often on my tracks, gazing at the magnificent mountains, absorbing in its beauty and finally descend from over 12,000 feet above sea level to Ghangaria.

~~~

At twilight that evening over cups of tea with another trekker in a tiny roadside restaurant in Ghangaria, there was more silence, than talk.

“I’ve never felt anything have such a powerful impression on my psyche,” I said.

“Mine too,” was the solemn response.
~~~


Previous Related Posts:

If you like this post, and wish to check out more photographs of the trek to the Valley of Flowers, click here.

 

[ Published under the author’s permission ]  

[ Original publication at http://indicaspecies.blogspot.com/ on June 05, 2009–the readers are requested to express their comments on the original Blog as mentioned above ]

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4 Responses

  1. Celine,
    This is so funny – I started reading the post and was thinking “Celine did something exactly like this”. As I kept reading, I thought ” this is very close to what Celine wrote in her blog”. Then I was looking at the pictures and thought “OMG…these pictures are exactly like Celine’s pics….somebody is plagiarizing Celine’s post !!!
    A minute later, I saw the reference to your blog.

    Totally enjoyed reading it a second time…especially now that I finalized my trip to VOF in August.

    Like

  2. Vamsee,
    That is so funny..aren’t we glad that our brain stores away bits of information?

    Thank you for your comment. Delighted to know you “totally enjoyed” reading it a second time, and I look forward to reading your experiences at the Valley of Flowers.

    Like

  3. reading it brought back memories of my trek to the valley in 1984 with my wife.There were hardly a few trekkers and Hemkunf Sahib was practically empty except for handful of pilgrims.Govindghat was a lonely place.We had stayed at the forest bunglow.It is a small town now.We plan to trek to the valley with our son in August this year.Looking forward to it

    Like

  4. reading your blog was fun …reminds me of my trek

    Like

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