About this listing
The same group of three travelled to the Valley of Flowers in the same year, in July, at the height of the Monsoons. The Monsoons is the best time to visit the Valley as flowers for which the Valley is well-known, bloom plentifully only in this season. Like the last time, we took a late night train from Delhi to reach Haridwar early morning.
Our travel organisers had sent a car to the Haridwar station. So we began our 12-hour car ride. Soon after we crossed Rishikesh, as we were beginning to climb the mountains, we saw a huge landslide. It did not stop our journey but brought disquiet within us. While planning for this trip, we were warned about frequent and terrible Himalayan landslides in the Monsoons. None of us said anything to the others about this – we talked about other things. I slept through most of the journey. On our way we saw a few other landslides.
We reached Joshimath in the evening. It was rainy and cold. Kevi had brought some dark rum, which comforted us a bit. Quite soon we fell asleep. The next day, by 5 in the morning or so, we were up and running, and ready to travel to our next stop: Govindghat. The landscape, by then, had changed. We were deep into the Himalayas, surrounded by imposing mountains. The road from Joshinath split in one place: if you go right, you would reach Badrinath – a place of pilgrimage for Hindus. We continued our journey to the left, until we reached our destination.
From Govindghat, we began our 14 km trek upwards. I was super excited so completely overestimated my stamina. It took a bit of time for me to get into the rhythm. In fact after a while I was separated from my co-travellers, as I didn’t want to disturb my pace. I even reached Ghangharia- the base camp for the Valley of Flowers, earlier than them. Ghangharia did not have any running electricity or water but had a helipad. Rather they do have electricity connections but were in the middle of a multiple-day powercut when we reached. This meant the guys in the kitchen were boiling water and bringing us for our baths. It was still rainy and cold. Ghangharia is the base camp for Hemkund Sahib as well – a place of pilgrimage for Sikhs. Ghangharia itself had a Gurudwara where people can stay besides the many small hotels and camps. It didn't have much else.
We started for the Valley early in the morning next day. It was a 3 km walk up and down a mountainous trail. It was a remarkable trail: with dark green and heavy vegetation, tall trees and, interesting flowers and fruits. The Valley of Flowers is a protected area – people are not allowed to stay in it in the night without permission. We saw many other trekkers on our way. The trail – running alongside two rivers - at places was slippery and broken. Soon it began to rain very heavily, visibility dropped to almost nothing. In our heavy trekking shoes, which were wet, raincoats and jackets and sweatshirts, we became frustrated. At one point, there were talks of going back. It didn’t seem like we would be able to see anything as the valley was covered with clouds as far as we can see. In fact we were not sure whether we had reached the valley or from where the valley would begin.
The three of us didn’t give up and continued walking. Like magic, suddenly at some point the rain stopped and clouds lifted. And we saw the most amazing sight possible. Surrounding us were miles and miles of meadows full of flowers of different colours. These flowering plants were of low height so the view was spectacular. I have never seen so many flowers at one go. Probably never will. The valley was surrounded by high mountain ranges and glaciers. We were told that Badrinath lies on the other side of one of the ranges. Wet and cold, we walked a bit more, and reached a grave of a lady – Mary Legge - who had died in the Valley in 1939. After spending a couple of hours, we headed back to the base camp. We were so tired by the time we reached, even Kevi’s dark rum was not enticing enough. I did not drink any.
The next day we decided to trek up to Hemkund Sahib. More people were climbing up to Hemkund Sahib than the Valley of Flowers. However we did not quite manage as well as we hoped. Happy and excited, we were on a frenzy to click photos of flowers and plants we could see. The three of us were also looking intently at any interesting plants and trees, and trying to guess the names. After spending a certain amount of time like this we realised we haven’t gone far. We panicked and hired mules to take us to the top.
The journey on a steep upward slope was quite remarkable. In particular we were happy as our mule guide showed us two flowers for which the valley is reputed: one was Bramhakamal, which Renuka very much wanted to see and the other, famed and rare Himalayan blue poppy. We couldn’t have spotted these flowers by ourselves.