Valley of Flowers: The Approach


 

Route covered so far:
DelhiHaridwarRishikesh – Devprayag – Srinagar – Rudraprayag – Karnaprayag – Nandprayag – ChamoliPipalkoti JoshimathAuli GovindghatGhangaria


Govindghat to Ghangaria:

One kilometer away from Govindghat’s main road, the zigzag mule track begins at Pulna and I notice it has a mark of being 13 kms away from Ghangaria. Journeying from Govindghat Ghangaria would mean an ascent of 1,220 metres (over 4,000 feet).

It is past 11:30 am. Filled with enthusiasm, I am so enamored with the beauty of the place that, save for a brief stop by at a roadside kiosk to buy a plastic raincoat, I begin the trek right away. The raincoat came of use as it kept drizzling on and off during the rest of the journey. Though it is cool, the looming noon sun beats down on me mercilessly, and makes me wish I had begun the trek early that morning. But then I take solace in the fact that I had a glorious time during my overnight stay at Auli.

I trek relatively easy carrying my backpack for the first two hours during which I ascend about 400 metres or so. At one point, during a steep climb, I suddenly realize that I’ve got to ascend more than 800 metres for the day and then begin to acutely feel the strain of the weight of my backpack. Then I recalled Murphy’s law that backpack strap width decreases with distance hiked. To compound that, I feel its weight miraculously kept increasing. Not just that, as if it is meant to ease my woes, its weight load kept migrating up and down my back as I continue walking. I felt at that time that 80% of its contents could have been left behind at home, but then who knows, the 20% left behind might be just what I need.

Mountain Village

Jokes aside, my backpack weighed about 7 kilograms and on hindsight, had I known that it was nothing but an upward incline all the way, even for that little weight, I’d have taken the help of one of the porters right from Govindghat itself. After trekking for 3-4 kms, I cross the beautiful Bhuyundar village, a cluster of modest houses with the backdrop of misty mountains. I chance upon a porter – who was to charge me only Rs 200 or so to carry it up to Ghangaria – and toss my backpack at him with relief. Thereafter my ascent gets easier and I am comparatively more relaxed to enjoy the rest of the journey.

Pilgrims on animals

For those who are not in the mood for trekking, there’s a choice of hiring an animal. For that matter, there are crudely assembled palanquins available for the benefit of the faint hearted (pilgrims mostly, as I believe hikers are tough); and to carry children, also pittoos. Pittoos, porters of mostly Nepali origin, carry kids of the pilgrims in cane-woven baskets on their backs.

A pilgrim being carried on a palanquin

Whether a mule is hired, or a palanquin or a pittoo, one ought to be ready to balance well, because those paths can be treacherous at times. I’d strongly suggest to trek, and enjoy the opportunity to stop at free will to absorb in the splendor and beauty of bountiful nature. It is definitely worthwhile trekking at one’s own pace to soak in the beautiful Himalayan experience.

I come across many pilgrims on their way to or returning from Hemkund Sahib. When compared, trekkers going to or returning from the Valley of Flowers are far and few. The path is, at places, strewn with mule dung. I often hear the pilgrims chanting ‘Waahe Guru’ when able to spare a breath; some of them filling palms of climbers with glucose, toffees, and to those who need it, words of encouragement to egg on. Little do they know that I am one of the few on my way to the Valley of Flowers, not Hemkund, where most seem to be obviously heading. I am quite surprised to see some of these pilgrims undertaking the arduous journey barefeet! But then I often feel the power and strength of religious sentiments is beyond my comprehension.

Brahma Kamal, a rare Himalayan plant
(it was misty when I shot this picture)

I stop often to admire the exotic flora and the many spots of cascading waterfalls from the great heights into the valley before joining the roaring waters of the flowing Lakshman Ganga. The river flows almost parallel to the trek path and gives me company most of the way. The long journey is a bit tiring but beautiful all the way.

River Lakshman Ganga flows

Twice, I take tea-breaks at shacks during the 7 hours trek. I watch pilgrims looking dreamy through the mist plodding along the steep trek path, wearing colorful raincoats. Both times, I choose a spot that has the River Lakshman Ganga running close to the shacks. The effect of the gurgling river has a soothing effect. The marvelous feeling of sipping tea in such surroundings is something that I can’t experience even in 5-star surroundings.

I continue trudging along. Tired towards the end, the journey of the last 2-3 kms only gets more steep but there is no time to rest my weary feet as I am intent on reaching Ghangaria before sunset. Then I come across a helipad area, and a cluster of tents. I know from what I had read online that this is an indication that I have almost reached.

Approaching Ghangaria

Finally after 6 pm, I am glad to reach Ghangaria. Being a base for hikers and pilgrims going to either Valley of Flowers or Hemkund, I find the place is crowded for mountain dwelling standards. I intend to stay at the GMVN accommodation, though fully aware of an unsuccessful attempt at making an advance reservation with them. Their website stating booking can be made only 3 days in advance was also of little help as I had left on my journey by then. As I head towards the GMVN quarters, I notice a major part of their building gutted by fire. Upon inquiries, I learn that their remaining wing is fully booked as their dormitory was destroyed by fire. I sincerely hope it is not a case of arson at this great height in the Himalayas!

The sun having set now, I scout around and fortunately find a damp-walled but tidy lodge with clean attached bathroom and promptly check into it. It is getting dark, and the mist enveloping the area gives me little idea initially of how actually the place looks like.

In the twilight, at one point, I watch the fog clearing up and voila..I see before me just a few feet away from the lodge a huge mountain side, like a tall wall looming right in front of me. I feel it real close like a spectacular wallpaper on my PC monitor but this is real and beautiful nature! It is an exhilarating experience spending time in the midst of these towering peaks some of which are at a height of more than 20,000 feet above sea level.

Ghangaria from a height

I cover up well to protect from the freezing weather to go out for some early dinner in anticipation of having an early night in Ghangaria. I am just one night away from the day that was to dawn when I would be in the Valley of Flowers finally. With pleasant thoughts of anticipation of that day, I fall asleep.

“Towards the end, the mountains have appeared nearby,
yet not close enough not to be in awe of them.”

To be continued…

Previous Related Posts:

[ Published under the author’s permission ]   

[ Original publication at http://indicaspecies.blogspot.com/ on May 03, 2009–the readers are requested to express their comments on the original Blog as mentioned above ]

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