Monday, 20 August 2012

Reaching Valley of Flowers

Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; if there are none, travel alone."


   I don't know exactly where to start from, as I have never written anything in past about my travel experience and this is the very first time I am writing about my journey.  I would like to describe in few words about my journey, my experience. There would be lot of mistakes in my writing, so please I apologize for the same.
 I always had a dream of visiting north India once in my life time, but never thought of such opportunity would come up so early.
  And after planning things out and places to visit, I shortlisted The Valley of Flowers (VOF) national park of Nandadevi BioSphere Reserve an UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE which is situated in Garhwal Himalayas of Uttaranchal, known for its meadows of alpine flowers and botanical wonderland. It is also home for few endangered species of animals like Asiatic black bear, snow leopard (yes, snow leopard), blue sheep and many others. I won't tell the rest of the geographical part and besides this, the only fascinating thing about this place is its beauty, in its own. 
So here in Mumbai, the backpacker was ready for a solo adventurous journey without any bookings from Delhi and so on. I felt strong urge to drop and forget everything and run to the mountains .. some where far from the hectic metro world to the open spaces and lose myself in the open arms of the nature.


DELHI ( 23rd, June , 2012)

I met an old friend Arun, upon arriving at Tis Hazari Metro Station. After 3 years of our college farewell. After spending some time and  gup-shap  with Arun, I arranged for my ticket online website, and as per information, as maximum buses ply to Rishikesh in night. After  spending ample amount of time with Arun for the whole day, I rushed to ISBT Anand Vihar to get into the bus as it was scheduled at 2230hrs, I couldn't wait any longer in Delhi as the temperature was rising every moment you breathe and for my fate the bus was late too, Damn!. I made two friends on the way,who were on vacation like me and for my surprise, they too were heading to Chamoli dist. up in the Himalayas, but they had different destiny , unlike me who wanted to explore the nature alone.

RISHIKESH( 24th, June)

Ganges as seen from Rishikesh town

It was 7 in the morning, when we reached the Yoga capital of the world. The sound of river Ganges rushing towards south can be heard randomly in the town. Being situated at the foothills of the Himalayas, it was also known as (The Gateway to the Himalayas) & one could see plenty of  foreigners(Thank you BEATLES) who visit to explore the world of yoga and meditation and other domestic tourists who come usually come in big flocks either to visit temple or for the world famous White Water River Rafting , which is  considered to be one of the most famous to do Tough and Adventurous rafting off medium to rough rapids of class 3 and 4 where one can raft upto 36 kms. Amazing! 
For my surprise, there was one more person, who joined us in Rishikesh early in the morning and found out that this three were childhood pals.I befriended with them Tewari, Vivek and Gaurav who hails from Lucknow and I took a room for refreshment and short rest as we did not wanted to spend the day in Rishikesh. Later on by noon, we called for a cab( Tavera) , who charged Rs.5000 as car rent till Joshimath located at 261 km up. We charged our camera and mobile batteries completely and fully to avoid any future disappointments on the way.  
I became very friendly to them, as I finally realized that I won't do this journey alone.By the time we were in Devbhoomi(The land of gods).Beautiful rocky mountains, clouds playing hide and seek and as you slowly ascent on these zig zag roads, you see the world opening up on the other side with Ganges still giving company to you.Due to high terrains, no automobile would go beyond speed of 30 - 40 km/hr. 

options available from Rishikesh
R&D via lenses of Ganges midway
at Srinagar(Uttaranchal) - the KITKAT shaped was made by India in recent  years and one sustained was by British.
         Devprayag- Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers confluence to become a official  Ganges

Note: Do carry a camera to capture the beauty on the way to Joshimath , because you never know what all surprises from Ganges and Himalayas are waiting for you.Travelling in a car or bus or whatever, it could be dizzy and much tiring for one's journey due to zigzag hilly high roads. So my suggestion for one would be that to take ample amount of rest down the hills before you turn up and medicines along to avoid throwing up. 

My first click of Himalayas

JOSHIMATH (1900mts above sea-level)-25th June, 2012

     We reached Joshimath late in the night and took a room in a budget hotel(dont remember the hotel's name) as we were too exhausted , we did not waste time in the cold dark night searching for a deluxe accommodation.
    To say, I was too excited to get up early in the morning to take a glimpse of himalayan peaks which surrounded hrough this town of Joshimath.Joshimath situated in Chamoli dist.and is famous especially for its Math or Matha found by Adi Shankara a century ago. Its proximity to Badrinath temple , Hemkund Sahib, VoF, Auli makes it like a base camp for travelers and this is the only place where you encash ample amount of money from functional ATM's and last town to receive mobile signal.

  The sky was blue,snow capped mountains were covered allover. We hired a car for Auli which was one of the spectacular and best ski resorts in Asia which was situated some thousand meters uphill from Joshimath. There was a direct cable car from town of Joshimath to Auli , but was not functional. We have to drive through the military base to get there. After half an hour journey , you feel the thinness in the air, but the 180 degrees view of the Valley was just mesmerizing.Gaurav suffered a lot on the way, Vivek was deep in some romantic Hindi songs ,Tewari was playing with his SLR taking loads and loads of pictures and I was doing the same thing, besides looking at these three musketeers.
 We took a cable car to reach to the top, after reaching the entrance of GMVN Auli Ski Resort, who charged just 200rs per person for just 5 minutes ride of the rope way. Although, it was good ride, I couldn't digest the amount of fee. Whatever!
On the way

If you login to their website they have wonderful pictures with snow slopes and skiers all around as you see in movies.Unfortunately we were unable to glance even a single amount of snow on this place, as summer had already arrived.

Entrance Auli Ski resort.

The ropeway

We did some photography up there ,as we did had anything to do along with some maggi noodles( the only noodles known in the hills) and chai. On a clear day one can see the Elephant mountain(Haathipahad) well the colour and shape resembles an real elephant and Mt.Nandadevi , the second highest mountain in India, unluckily we were unable to capture photographs of this peaks, as mist was playing hide and seek with these hills.
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Ropeway as seen from the top

So, we started coming downwards and moved towards Govindghat which is 23 kms from town Joshimath , it serves as the base camp for trekkers and pilgrims going to VoF and Hemkund Sahib resp.. We also experienced a landslide on the way near Vishnyprayag . The rolling stones falling up from hills on the roof of our poor Alto car couldn't be worse. For a moment, I started counting my days back. But,slowly as the rain stopped, we moved further towards Govindghat. 
Vishnuprayag- Confluence of Alaknanda and Dhauliganga

Landslide near Vishnuprayag

Goodnight for the day

We took a room at Badrish hotel, the best room , clean , neat , good food and above all a room with a good view just for Rs.1,200/day. It had one of the spectacular views and one can make bookings for helicopter ride to take you to Ghangria in just 3 mins. 

Badrinath and Mana ( 3415 mts above sealevel)- 26th June

Neelkantha Peak at 5.30am

 10 hrs ;Badrinath temple , the most important pilgrimage spot in Char Dham , lies under the shadows of  Neelkanth peak(6560mts), where Alaknanda river originates. The architecture of the temple resembles Buddhist temples being main Lord Vishnu as a main deity.
Alaknanda River

Badrinath Temple

 Temple opens early at 4 in the morning. It usually takes long queue hours to get the darshan, but eventually pilgrims were few in the temple premises and our darshan was peaceful and unexpectedly quick. There were few hot springs around  and chilled Alaknanda flowing just few feet below. 

Temperature remains 8- 10 degree Celsius throughout the year and falls below 0 degree Celsius in winter. So always carry warm clothes for this place.

Mana village is the last Indian habitat in Chamoli dist and from here one can drive to the world's highest motorable road known as Mana Pass(18399ft above sea level) built by BRO( Border Road Organization) breaking the previous world record of Kardung La(18380ft above sea level) in the state of Jammu & Kashmir 

A signage by BRO at the entrance

That's me 

Sadhu tripping

The Saraswati river originates from Mana village and according to mythology, the river disappears after falling from a few feet. Some people says, it flows underground and appears to be somewhere in plains in north west . Personally we did not know truth, its myth behind it and the reason behind it was history. 
Yes, we bought something from this special Indian shop

A 5km trek route to Vasudhara Falls starts from this village. Legend has it that the Pandavas are said to have bathed here. Locals believe , the spray from the fall falls only on the good persons and evils are shown their way. We four never wanted to take this quiz. Don't ask me why?

NIKON speaks

One of my fav clicks

 We headed back after gulping few bowls of maggi noodles, again :( & coffee ( first time in this trip). It was good day for all of us, a good darshan , the feeling of being in the last village of our nation and its shop , highest motorable road in the world, and few caves inside the village. It was evening by the time when we came back to our base camp in Govindghat and my eagerness to visit my final and last destiny kept me awake for the whole damn cold night. 

Govindghat to Ghangria( 3049 mts above sea level)-27th June

  TREK-We all got up early at 5 in the morning. We thought , we were more early to trek , but when we saw outside , majority of Sikh pilgrimes were on the way to Ghangria. We were late actually.Even after so much of preparations and plans we were till. But the morning yummy breakfast made my apex to cool down. 
Rs.60 for too much 

At 5.45 am, a glimpse of unknown peak
 We further headed towards the Gurudwara near the entrance of trekking route, which was bit populated. Here any person can keep their luggage's in the cloak room maintained by Sikh community, without any charges and that's why this place is special. I had huge backpack  which was impossible to carry on back for continuous 13 km steep ascent trek and so does my friends. We carried winter and rain gear for the this trek and some personal belongings in a much smaller bags. One can also buy basic medicines like pain killer, balm,  etc. The surroundings of the place was filled up small shops for cheap winter clothes and trekking tool kits, religion souvenirs, etc.

>People who can afford, they can take a Rs3,500 helicopter ride directly to Ghangria.

Initial stage of trekking route as seen from Govindghat


Another mode of transportation

Govindghat as seen from the bridge

The entrance towards VoF and Hemkund Sahib
The route is completely polluted with tea stalls at each and every corner, charging the double rates for any damn products. The mule droppings is another one big pain  for the whole trek. SO MIND YOUR FOOT STEPS GUYS! 

After completing 6 - 7 kms of steep ascent of trekking Me and Tewari ran out of breath, and the other two were far behind us. We took numerous breaks in between, exchanging our bags after several intervals. We finally bought a cane a trekking stick with iron tip, as even Sun was hitting on us very badly.  I was huffing and puffing and due to this we had to buy bottles of water. Due to an high altitude and no motor transportation, Vendors charge a bomb, even for a bottle of water. There are infinite number of volunteers who keep cleaning trek path for walk-ins. They are pushy and annoying all the time, asking fro some donation. 

 Still no visibility of Gaurav and Vivek,  Tewari was confident about his childhood buddies that they had no stamina and what they might have done to climb this mountain. We took a break for maggi, and my dedication to visit this place through trekking made me stronger than before ( don't know exactly, whether it was "maggi magic" or my "inner voice")
Even kids were faster than us. Well we still had ' MULE' as an option to reach the base camp  but we did not wanted to give trouble to the poor animal. It was 3 in afternoon , we would find the thinness in the air again and temperature decreasing gradually. The route became more beautiful and Pushpawati river rushing down the hill.  As we were close to Ghangria , we found our lost friends in jovial and energetic mood.

chale chalo!

pilgrimes taking break at random tea stall

We found you !
 The pilgrims now content to chant 'VAHE GURU' whenever they could spare a breath from steep climb.  After Maggi , its glucose which dominates among tourists and pilgrimes. This keeps you going.
Sun rays hitting
We completed our trek successfully without any cheating. Tewari supported me when my legs gave the answers, when I lost faith in my breath and vice verse. He was more oriented person, his geographical knowledge was tremendous( more than me ) and his love for the travelling,nature and whereabouts  had already won my respect for him. 
We booked a room for Rs.1,500/ day , which was unhygienic, but had 4 different beds with attached bathroom, which had running ice water. 
No mobile network , as I said before , it feels completely out of the world when you reach this place. But I wanted to call my friends out there and tell them screaming .......I MADE IT!!!!!!!
Voila ! My dream is slowly becoming into reality. I couldn't wait for the next day. We did Rs.50 massage on our legs after ascending the mountain, which relaxed our legs and minds.
1$ massage 

 The temperature was falling below 3 degree Celsius at this elevation and nothing can make one happier about it. We began to wander around the place, as you could hear the continuous prayers from Gurudwara at Ghangria. Gaurav was very jovial person, his patience are upto the heights and his frequent wars with Tewari will go make you go crazy and his arrangement for food, the way he decides the menu , can even beat any good F&B Host. As usual either a Dal and Roti or Maggi printed on our psychedelic colored menu. Although, we had some good aloo parathas with curd. After sumptuous meal , the three musketeers later that night started a Debate over VoF or Hemkund Sahib. I did not interrupted as I had made  myself clear  to them about my trek to VoF. We listened to some audio jokes and songs pre- recorded in our cellphones as there was no other mode of media or source for spending time.

Govindghat as seen from Entrance of VoF

VALLEY OF FLOWERS NATIONAL PARK( 3650 mts - 6700 mts above sea level)- 28thJune

Later in the morning, one could simply feel the less amount of oxygen, cold and headache. The temperature, where one could go frozen in the morning. I did not dare to take a bath, but others did, as they were heading to a religious shrine. I wore two tees , two trekking pants  and two socks along with sweater and a jacket , a woolen gloves and ear muffs but still I got freeze. Not bothering about the climate, I packed some parathas in paper kind of container. Some chocolates , dry fruits as it gives more energy to climb the mountain as there was no human habitat inside the park. No shops, no camping, no plastic, inside the park.

Main Entrance

Jaw dropping glimpse in real!

the 2nd giant glacier

L-R-Mt.Rataban(6126mts) and Mt. Gauriparbat(6590mts)


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Further The 3 musketeers started climbing towards Hemkund Sahib, which was 6 km toughest trek upwards as what they mentioned later after completing their journey. I came to the entrance, where two routes bifurcates to Hemkund Sahib and VoF. A forest ranger greeted me with an register to fill up and checkings for plastic items in my bag as the park was plastic free zone. I was the first person to enter the VoF at 6.30am. It was amazing feeling, when you know the first person to enter the so called Paradise. I started walking through lush green forests, the smell of plants, river Pushpawati, I could not imagine something better to happen. After few steps a huge giant glacier came across to be crossed. The first time ever I saw an big peice of ice. I stepped slowly, with my shoe lace intact properly to avoid any mishaps and with intense care and I crossed it successfully. The real climb starts now, I had already lost my breath and being alone made me both happier and gave me a setback. But the natural surroundings, kept me moving.

Pawan, the second entrant to the park followed me on the trail, I thought I have someone along with me now, who can help me even if I collapse on trail. OK OK THINK SOMETHING ELSE. He was from Chandigarh, a nature lover and a person who did not brought food to the valley except loads of chocolates, mints, peanuts or cashewnuts ( I don't remember exaclty). Slowly we came across a bridge under constructed made up of metal sheets and wooden planks on Pushpawati river and you complete a 3 km trek at this point.

 It was so shocking and amazing to see this in India.  One could not believe that this was the blessed placed on earth. Snowy for the rest of the year, the park remains open from June to September.It is situated at a height of 3650 mt above sea level. It is indeed a botanical wonderland and photographers paradise. My journey to the VoF was rough, tiring back there. But as soon as you enter the plains of the valley, You leave everything behind and you see the most beautiful place on earth.
There were hardly any flowers, but if you see in closely, you will be able to see small various colourful flowers. We walked for a while, say 3 kms more,  munching chocolates and pampering about the place. Let me tell you, the beauty of the valley is only for those people, who appreciate nature in any form and luckily I fall under this category. 
At the other end of plains, A memorial for Ms.Joan Margaret Legge has been erected by her sister. After reading the Frank Smythe's(The explorer and mountaineer  who accidently discovered this place) book "THE VALLEY OF FLOWERS" ,she came for research and ended up dying due to various reaons from various source of localities. Previously, it was called Bhyundar Valley, playground for fairies.
 I could not see any animals, but only few insects or some sort of creatures which were feasting on flowers and one of them bit me also on my wrist. I could not click much pictures of this place as I was lost in the beauty of the valley and so does Pawan. Even the pictures are unable to explain the real beauty and feeling of being here. The chirping birds, river flowing, the smell of nature and flowers. It was truly a worth and amazing experience for me who came so far just to see the nature. The valley gets closed by 6 pm in the evening and before that you have to trek back. We reached early to Ghangria as it was easy trek downwards, faster than I can imagine. I met my friends at the hotel and we shared our experiences about the day. Hopefully they gave positive response about Hemkund Sahib.  We stayed back in the same hotel that night and left the very next day early in the morning. It hardly took us around 3 hrs to trek descent to Govindghat and we booked a car to Rishikesh.
The journey back was good though and finally came to know Vivek's secret behind this journey in the car.Sshhhhh that is past. But now he has come over it, leaving bad memories somewhere in the hills.

On the way back

I just want to go places which is easy, calm, pleasant and natural. If you want to party hard, drink martinis, then this is not your place.This place has  has played a significant role in my life. I would have gone to meet my friends, my relatives down there, done something as usual, but I did something else. I found four new people over here and climbed one of the highest mountain ranges. I know I will never get over it in future.................................and keep on exploring world!!!!


  1. Wow Rohit the place is truly beautiful and thanks for sharing your experience as it has lot of information which I can use in my next trip to VOF
    BTW excellent photography :)

  2. A very honest and beautiful post. Good write up Rohit and awesome clicks. Hopefully you would visit places like these in the future as well and share your experiences with us. Keep up the good work.

  3. thank u yathikesh and rakesh ... lots of climbs and treks coming up in future .. ur welcomed to join me as well!!;)