Delhi->Rishikesh -> Govind Ghat -> Ghangaria -> Valley of Flowers -> Hemkund -> Ghangaria -> Auli -> Ukhimath -> Tungnath -> Rudraprayag -> Rishikesh -> Haridwar -> Delhi
Continued from here
Day 5 : Valley of flowers :
We were woken up early by the sound of the downpour that only receded at dawn. Still nervous about the weather, we headed off at 7 AM after a hearty breakfast of alu parathas. The very first flower we saw was that of the tobacco plant.
The whole walk was characterised by the larger pieces of angular rocks that made up the path. With my recent muscle tear, they did make me a bit nervous over whether my foot would get twisted at some point or if my toes would hurt, but my shoes did a good job at keeping them safe.
We spotted the pink Himalayan Balsam flowers that would be the mainstay of the landscape, early on. As we continued to hike up in the light drizzle, the wonderland gently opened up to us. It was magical, lush green and positively dreamy throughout with moss-covered boulders by our side and mountains with their conifers still sprinkled with snow ahead.
Just a few of the legends of the place were that it was Lord Indra’s garden, Nandan Kanan. Another belief tells that it is here that Hanuman found Sanjeevani, the magical herb that helped revive Lakshman and some more legends were about the locals believing for several years that it was inhabited by ghosts and fairies of all sorts. There were rickety bridges across different streams that we crossed as the water rushed downhill from the mountains.
It was a delight to spot every type of flower that welcomed us into the valley. I was particularly moved by the sheer perfection of the relatively common, perennial Milk parsley. Since it was early in the day, some of its segments were yet to bloom and the others were out and proud. Each segment would exactly mimic the size and shape of the other as the day passed by.
Jacquemont’s Ligularia and the Horned lousewort added spots of brilliant yellow to the landscape.
The Large bellflower had a shade of purple that I instantly loved.
Our guide offered us some Himalayan Snowberries, warning us not to consume more than a couple. It had an aftertaste of a medicinal cold balm and was otherwise quite watery.
The Geraniums in brilliant hues dotted the landscape.
The unique ones were this brown thistle(that looked dried up but that was just the colour of the flower) and the bulbous delicate bloom of the Bladder Campion.
We had a packed lunch beside the gentler bend of the lovely Pushpavati river and rested there just trying to imprint our surroundings onto our minds. As we headed back on our way, we took a deviation within the valley itself to the tombstone of Joan Margaret Legge, the botanist to whom we credit the discovery of this haven. As we sat on the bench beside her, it was so clear to me why she’d never want to leave 🙂 But well, we had to, and after a while ,trudged down, now with our eyes a little more observant and appreciative at spots of beauty along our path.
We got back to our rooms, too exhausted, with an almost unanimous decision to skip the Hemkund trek and instead relax in Ghangaria the next day.
Day 6 :
But of course, we didn’t. By 6AM except for Lout, everyone else had a change of plans to actually do Hemkund too. We could possibly attribute it to the optimism of daylight. The trek felt relatively easy in comparison to Valley of flowers mostly because the surface was much smoother. With the rains, however, on the way down we’d have to be careful since it was also slippery. The people along the way were friendly and even jovial despite their fatigue. The higher altitude also meant we had to be careful with our hydration, breathing and pace.
What helped us, however, was the guide-Dinesh’s comment that we just might see a Brahma Kamal here. While nothing showed up along our way we plodded along till at some point when I happened to look up, I broke into a wide grin and pointed to Anand- there it was. Just by itself. It’s comforting that in an age when we can look up anything on the internet in a few seconds, the sight of something can still stir such joy in our hearts. Its petals had the appearance of crushed tissue, the outer ones tipped with a tender shade of green. We didn’t have our camera to capture it because of the rain, but sometimes your eyes are enough.Further ahead as we pushed ourselves almost towards the summit, we saw a small stretch covered with them, the white pods against the green of the grassy floor making up a pleasant contrast.
We were relieved to see a touch of civilisation right at the top. The volunteers dishing out runny hot khichdi and tea. They even had warm water to drink which was a pure luxury at that point. We helped ourselves to 2 servings each amidst the other devotees. The air seemed loaded with the kinship of a shared journey, both the exhaustion and the understanding smiles were in abundance. I realised I had the highest respect for the guys doing the dishes in that cold tirelessly. I managed to win half a smile from his tough appearance as I thanked him.
We went around to see the Hemkund lake but there was so much mist that we could just barely see a couple of feet off the water’s edge and nothing else. Those who had reached a half hour earlier had managed to have a great view, though.
We entered the Gurudwara, reluctantly taking off our footwear in the cold. However, the area was mostly carpeted and to our utter glee the main hall even had thick blankets to wrap ourselves with as we sat there a while and listened earnestly to the 3 performers on stage singing hymns in their powerful voices. The warmth of the place and the soothing music were quite an intoxicating combination in themselves but after a while, we had to leave and make our way back down.
Tip : There is one restroom on the way and another at the top. Both very clean. However, the one on the way was open only on our way back.
Clothes : I’m relatively petite and usually need warmer clothes – thermals, a full sleeve shirt down jacket, woollen cap, gloves, warm socks and the rain poncho kept me comfortable all through.
Since he stayed back at Ghangaria, Lout watched the Valley of flowers- documentary screening that happens every day at 4PM and confirmed it was quite interesting. That evening we decided to have dinner at a restaurant he had tried that afternoon, with a menu different from what we had been having since we got there – clear soup, fries, noodles and fried rice. Pragadeesh regaled us with tales of how he grew his hotel business and his encounters with Tamil movie royalty. We fell into an easy sleep that night after enquiring about the chopper ride back. It was dependent on the weather, and we’d only know the next day minutes before the actual flight with any certainty.
Coming up next : Our unplanned pitstops : Auli and Ukhimath