Updated: Sep 26, 2019
So off we were to the valley of flowers, from the beautiful hill station, #Nainital. But first it was a mad scurry for people to join us. After a lot of planning, searching for a means of transport, bargaining and convincing, it was off to this beautiful valley situated 270 kilometres away.
We set off from Nainital at around 8 in the morning. On hindsight, we should have left earlier as in the course of the journey a lot of unfortold events took place. Anyways, we left at 8 in the morning in a nice shuttler driven by one of the nicest persons you could have ever met, Bablu, and then on it was just a long long road trip.
We were supposed to travel right up to #Joshimath and halt there the first night, however as mentioned, the unforetold events slowed us down. So we were off time by a very precious couple of hours. We halted at #Pipalkoti, a tiny village about 20 kilometres from Joshimath. This is a very popular halting spot for those travelling to #Haridwar and #Hemkund.
We managed to reach Govindghat at around 11 am and quickly got shared cabs which dropped us at the base of the trek. We travelled in the month of June and along that trek, there are a number of pilgrims visiting the Hemkund Sahib situated at the top of the Ghangharia trail. Formally known as Gurudwara Shri Hemkund Sahib Ji, Hemkund Sahib is a place of worship and pilgrimage site devoted to the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Govind Singh and finds mention in Dasam Granth.
The 6 odd kilometres hike up is an awesome experience with well maintained paths with beautiful scenery to match.
It took us about 3 hours of uphill walking to reach the seasonal village of Ghangaria. This place remains open only for a few months to cater to the tourists and pilgrims making their way to Hemkund Sahib or to the #ValleyOfFlowers. There are quite a number of permanent structures that function as hotels and shops, and one tourist information centre that you can visit for queries about the area. You get this strange aura about this place, knowing that for most of the year, it is uninhabited. And everything, every little thing is transported here by ponies or carried by humans. There is no other means of transportation once you cross #Govindghat except the ponies, the chopper that has been introduced recently and of course, your trusty own two feet. And you can always hire a porter to carry you to get to Ghangaria or Hemkund.
Ghangaria remains bitterly cold throughout the year, and as mentioned earlier remains open just for a couple of months that is from May to around September. Basic amenities are provided in the hotels and guest houses, like electricity, running water and proper food.
Our initial plan was to hike only to the Valley of Flowers, but on reaching there, we thought we should visit the Gurudwara as well, after all it is the #HighestGurudwara in the #world. So the first trek was that. We set out early in the morning, right at the break of dawn to be more precise. A few of us were too tired to walk another 6 kilometres, and also considering the fact that the trek up to Hemkhund is a lot more difficult than the one to Valley of Flowers, so we rode on ponies while the rest, stronger lot, hiked up again. And the ride was surely an unforgettable one. Really uncomfortable :P
It took us about 2 hours to reach Hemkhund Sahib and boy was it cold. Chilling to the bones. It is situated at the height of 4632 metres above sea level, and with the cold wind, it gets very difficult to even breathe. But the route was awesome. It felt like you were walking up to the heavens. A beautiful glacial lake is situated right next to the Gurudwara which is visited by thousands of devotees every year. We saw quite a number of devotees take a dip in the icy cold waters of the lake and of course, we did not dare to do that.
We spent quite some time there at Hemkund, lost in the mesmerising beauty of the snow capped mountains. The very gracious hosts of the gurudwara serve langar to all pilgrims and visitors there, so we were fortunate enough to partake in that. After a delicious bowl of khichdi, we made our way back down to Ghangaria. Exhausted after our walk, we lazed around and explored the market area and got ourselves some umbrellas, raincoats and woollens.
The next day was the one we had travelled for. The hike to Valley of Flowers. The valley of flowers is nestled in the west Himalayas covering an area of 87.50 square kilometres. It lies at a distance of about 5 kilometres from Ghangaria. It is a part of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, and was declared as a national park in 1982 and holds the distinction of a World Heritage Site declared by #UNESCO. Home to hundreds of endemic species of flowers and plants, this valley is a haven for adventurers and nature lovers. The route is scenic and moderately steep. You pass by numerous streams, tiny cascades, rocks and hundreds of wildflowers. The water flowing through the rocks and crevices is so clean that we had no qualms in drinking it right from the source. The path, though well defined was not paved. We were told that due to the frequent landslides, the paths need to be repeatedly dug and repaired. Proper hiking shoes are a definite must to hike here as some stones on the path are quite slippery and uneven. After walking uphill and downhill for about 2 hours, we finally reached the paradise we were heading to, and we were left spellbound. Definitely the most beautiful place I have ever been till date. We were all stunned by the sheer beauty of the place and I think we all were at a loss for words on reaching there. There were not a lot of flowers in the valley and were told that that year and the year before, not many flowers had bloomed there, but that did not lessen the beauty of the place. Climate change dare I say.
We halted there for an hour or so and then headed back to Ghangaria.
Early the next morning we set off from this quaint little settlement and walked back down to Govindghat where we had our shuttler waiting for us to take us back to our lives, knowing for sure that this trip would be etched forever on all our minds.