Valley of flowers trek- the ultimate floral destination

Brahmakamal at Hemkund Sahib
Brahmakamal at Hemkund Sahib

“Chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains.” Every time I look for a place to escape, it’s definitely the mountains that come to my mind and as surreal and fascinating the Valley seemed in pictures and videos, no one could’ve been more excited than me when I got the opportunity to go to the Valley of flowers.

It was the perfect week, with a mix of never-ending rainfall and beaming sunlight. The name itself clears the space for my excitement. A trek nestled amongst the peaks of Himalayas, it is the ultimate destination for trekkers and botanists. Surrounded by peaks like Gauri Parbat (6,590 m) and Rataban (6,126 m), and passes like Kunth Khal (4,430 m), the trek is also a suitable destination for mountaineers and experienced trekkers.

Starting from Delhi, I prepared my backpack hurriedly. I packed all my essentials and took an overnight bus till Dehradun. On reaching Dehradun early morning, the company’s guide Rishab received me from the railway station. After picking up all the guests, we headed towards Joshimath as early as we could to avoid traffic and landslides. It is quite risky to travel in Uttarakhand during the months of August and September as the monsoon is in its peak and the roads are fully under expansion work for the Char Dham Yatra. Crossing Rishikesh, Devprayag and Karnaprayag, we finally reached Joshimath at around 07:30 in the evening. After a long and tiring drive, everybody slept early to start the next day with good amount of energy. The rain started pouring late at night and did not stop till the morning. Nobody knew that the fall would continue for the next 3 days!

To reach the starting point of the trek, that is Pulna, we had to drive till Govindghat for 45 minutes. Gushing river and rainfall accompanied the ride. I had never seen a river so ferocious as we kept driving towards Govindghat. After registering our identities at the checkpoint, we took a cab to Pulna.

Pulna to Ghangaria

The settlement of Ghangaria
The settlement of Ghangaria; PC: Ambika Bhardwaj

The 10 km trek began from Pulna. The paved path on the way to Ghangharia was full of trekkers and pilgrims. The pilgrims were heading towards the very famous Gurudwara Hemkund Sahib. Trekking in rainfall in the beginning did not seem like a big deal, but after a while the raincoats rendered useless and all my clothes were wet. The shoes weren’t in any great condition as well. There were various outlets of water flow in the trail and how many could one dodge after a while?

After 5 km, we stopped for an hour for lunch. I had some hot lunch and rested for a while, hoping for the rainfall to subside a bit. That clearly did not happen and hence I proceeded on the trail crossing a make shift bridge which seemed to be standing still with some luck. On my way, I also saw a landslide which of course gave me mixed feelings about my decision to trek during the peak of monsoon season. I took a lot of breaks because everything seemed to take time that day - crossing the water outlets, fixing raincoat again and again and the slippery trail. I finally reached the Ghangharia and reunited with the guide. From there, we headed towards the hotel together and got settled in the rooms. My hair was drenched, all my clothes were wet and my socks itchy. I was tired and exhausted to my spine on first day itself. After taking a bath, I went out for a while and spent my time talking to other trekkers. We finally had dinner and went to sleep in hoping for a drier morning.

Ghangharia to Hemkund Sahib

Hemkund lake
The lake of Hemkund; PC: Ambika Bhardwaj

The next morning, I woke up early to have a proper breakfast before departing. The rain hadn’t stopped but it did not stop me from starting the day. According to the company’s itinerary, we were supposed to head towards the valley on second day, but because of red alert and heavy rainfall the officials closed the valley for the day. So, we decided to head towards Hemkund Sahib, which is 6 km ahead of Ghangharia. The hike was steep at a few places and comfortable in the rest. All wet, we reached the gurudwara and had the most amazing halwa one could get at an altitude of 4,633 m. I sat by the Sarovar for a while and clicked a few pictures. We also went to the small temple by the gurudwara and then headed back towards Ghangharia. On reaching Ghangharia, I had the sweetest Gulab Jamun I’d ever had and took a quick nap. I, again, spent the evening with the amazing people that I met on the trek and we did nothing but sat together and spoke for hours till dinner time.

Ghangharia to Valley of flowers national park

Balsams in Valley of flowers
Balsams in Valley of flowers; PC: Ambika Bhardwaj

After three days of continuous downpour, the weather finally cleared up and gave way to the beaming sun. I woke up early in order to sit outside in the sun for a while and to dry my shoes. We started at around 8 o’clock and took the same route towards Hemkund Sahib, before diverting towards left. The trail was quite crowded that day because everybody seemed to be rushing towards the valley. After a while, the flowers started to appear! I spotted blue poppy, orchids, primulas, Himalayan bell flowers, Stephania, Meifolia and Geraniaceae. The trek to the valley was slow because of all the traffic but that had its own perks. I got ample of time everywhere on the trail - near the falls, at the bridge, while climbing up and at every corner. I kid you not if I say that I was blessed that day.

Lush vegetation in Valley of flowers
Lush vegetation in Valley of flowers

The trail opened up to a vast valley blanketed with endemic alpine flowers. The clear sky, the sun kissing the valley, the flowerbed, the peaks in the background, the glacier and the river flowing through the valley made it perfect. Words cannot do justice to the views. After reaching the destination, I spent good amount of time just soaking in the sun and the serene views around me. I wanted nothing more and nothing less. I did not trek till the grave or the river bed. It seemed worthwhile but the valley itself seemed to overwhelm me. The entire time I sat with my new friends and enjoyed the surroundings. After two hours or so, we headed back towards Ghangharia as the clouds were gathering and the weather seemed too risky to play with. The walk back to Ghangharia was quite fun as I was rushing down to grab some lunch! Like rest of the evenings, I spent the entire time just chatting around with the group.

Ghangharia to Karnaprayag to Dehradun

We tried to leave as early as we could to reach Joshimath by lunch time. The morning was warm and clear and so on this day, everything that we couldn’t see on first day was visible. The trail was beautiful and the views were magnificent. It was also clear of all the traffic since we left early and everything around was silent. I could only hear the bells of the mules, the birds chirping and the helicopter occasionally. The morning mist, the sound of the river, the birds singing and the bells made the progress very swift. On reaching Govindghat, we boarded the vehicle and left for Joshimath immediately. We had a quick lunch at Joshimath and left straight for Karnaprayag. After a small break in Karnaprayag, the long journey towards Dehradun began. Around 11 pm at night, we finally reached our destination. Some of us stayed in Dehradun for the night and few left that night itself.

I cannot do justice to Valley of flowers trek with just a single blog. Magical, mystical and spiritual; peaceful, tranquil and content. It is worth travelling and hustling for every second. The best time to visit the park is during the months of July, August and September when the flowers blossom. In October, the valley closes and stays shut till spring next year due to heavy snowfall. At such a high altitude, there are some particular items that you may require for the trek. A raincoat and a few pairs of socks being some of the most essentials.

Here is a list of extra essentials that may come handy while trekking in monsoons:

  • Raincoat: is a must without which the trek can become a nightmare
  • Socks: it is essential to carry at least 3-4 pairs of socks if you’re trekking during monsoons
  • Towel: a lot of times while trekking we neglect the need to carry a towel. But Ghangharia has good sets of hotels with proper washrooms where you can clean up nicely. The towels definitely come handy during the monsoon season
  • Newspaper: if you have some space left in your bag after all the packing, carry a few pieces of newspaper. This helps in drying the shoes overnight.
  • Paper bags: Your waste is your responsibility. The valley is an Eco sensitive zone and any form of litter will disturb its balance. It is highly recommended to carry your own little dustbin to avoid any form of pollution.

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