Though my interest in botany has never been more than just elementary, but I have always had a preference for the Valley of Flowers as a travel destination. Discovered by a group of British mountaineers in 1931 and declared a national park in 1982, the valley has been accorded a position in the list of the World Heritage Sites. The valley lies in the transit zone of Zanskar and the Himalayas at around 3352 to 3658 meters above sea level and remains mostly covered with snow from October till May, but during the Monsoon when the ice melts, it transforms itself into a home to a wide variety of alpine flowers, endemic to this region.
The Valley is accessible with relative ease and is possible to be covered within a short duration. Joshimath is the nearest town, which lies en-route to Badrinath, and is accessible through motorable roads from Rishikesh
Haridwar to Govindghat
The journey to Govindghat is essentially, tracking the course of Alaknanda (a tributary of the Ganges) in reverse. In Garwal region, a place where two or more rivers meet is known as a “Prayag” and there are five major prayags in the course of Alaknanda, making up the “Panch Prayag”. The first among these is Devprayag, where Alaknanda and Bhagirathi meet to form the Ganges, which flows south to escape the hills at Rishikesh. North of Devprayag, at the confluence of Mandakini and Alaknanda lies Rudraprayag, followed by Karanprayag, Nandprayag and Vishnuprayag where the river Pindar, Nandakini and Dhauli-ganga flows into Alaknanda respectively. For years the prayags had been important resting places for the pilgrims travelling to Badrinath and have presently evolved into significant hill towns.
The roads in these ranges are under constant threats of landslides, particularly during the monsoon. We faced landslides on a couple of places and even had to take a detour before Nandprayag, where the entire road was obliterated by a washout. By the time we reached Pipalkoti, it was quite late in the evening and there was a drop in temperature, making the weather much pleasant. It took us some nine hours to reach Joshimath, where we took a break for the night. The next morning we were to proceed to Govindghat from where the trek was due to begin.
Govindghat to Ghangaria
Govindghat, at around 1892 meters above sea level, lies at the confluence of Laxman-ganga and Alaknanda. Here, you have to diverge from the course of Alaknanda and take the Hemkund-Sahib Road, running along the deep gorge cut by Laxman-ganga. There is no motor transport available here and if you find the trek stressful, you would be left with the options of being transported by porters or ponies. In case if you want to avoid the trek completely, you can also opt for the Chopper services available at Govindghat. Nevertheless, we decided to transfer our luggage by a pony and trek this fourteen Kilometre route to Ghangaria.
Ever since the trek started from Govindghat, two things were persistent, the never ending ascent of the route and the gurgle of the stream. In fact, the only sound that I got associated with for the first few hours of the trek was the constant flow of water over the rocks, and it was apparent that I had to live with it for the rest of the trek. The route however, is well maintained and has resting areas at regular intervals. The last three kilometres of the trek takes a steep ascent and passes through a forest of pine and deodar until it unfolds into a flat piece of camping ground. The make shift establishment of Ghangaria is another fifteen minutes climb from this camping ground.
The Makeshift Settlement of Ghangaria
Ghangaria, at an altitude of about 3050 meters, is situated at the confluence of Pushpawati and Bhyundar-Ganga, from where Laxman-Ganga emerges. The settlement is active only during summer and is primarily used as a base by the pilgrims going to Hemkund Sahib or the trekkers to valley of flowers. In winter, when it gets covered with snow and becomes unconducive to human habitation, it is deserted and is mostly forgotten until the next season. However inconspicuous Ghangaria may seem, it boasts a Gurudwara and other hotels to accommodate all the tourists and pilgrims it receives.
Night falls faster in the mountains than in the plains. By the time we reached our hotel, Ghangaria was covered in a deep shadow. A cold mist started descending over the sleepy settlement from all corners making it quite cold. We had a quick dinner and retired early as another trek awaited us the next day.
Valley Of Flowers
The route to the valley of flowers ascends through a forested ridge before meeting the valley and is adorned with wide variety of flowers including the Blue poppies, Daises, Forget-me-not and the interesting Snake Lilies for the first few stretches. I was alsooverwhelmed by few queer shaped and exotic coloured fungi which grew here and retained my attention for a long time to slow my ascent. It took me nearly three hours to reach the valley.
The valley is spread over 10 kilometres and surrounded by rugged peaks on all sides while the tributaries of Pushpawati cut through it and forms a dashing waterfall downstream. Deep blue skies, hulking peaks at the backdrop of green meadows and plants swaying in a cool breeze along with their myriad flowers, offered a very appealing scene to our eyes. Every leaf here, seemed to be unique and had a wide variety of shape, size and contour. It is said, that the valley has some 355 varieties of plants of varying medicinal values and it changes its colours with every passing month, turning brownish in August/ September from green in June.
Of the two days, that we visited the valley, the weather was mostly sunny in the morning and changed to kind of misty in the afternoon. After we were done exploring the valley, we found a huge boulder to climb and relax for the rest of our time. We continued enjoying the sound of silence in the valley for quite some time unless it was time for us to leave the valley. Once soaked in it’s magic, the valley of Flowers seemed to fill our senses to the brim the experience of which will surely not fade away with time.
For More Pictures Visit to : https://heritagehiker.wordpress.com/picture-gallery-3/valley-of-flowers/
Nereby Places which can be covered:
Mana Village: The last village in India on Badrinath route
Badrinath Temple: One of the most reverend temples in India devoted to Lord Shiva. Forms one among the Chardham Yatra
Auli: Hill station and winter skiing destination