The Valley of flowers is situated in Uttarakhand near Joshimath. It is a unique place for its natural beauty and characteristic features. I had heard about this place in my college days from a travel freak woman. She informed me that it was the most heavenly place she had ever seen.
The valley is at a height of about 3600 meters or 14,400 ft. The valley remains under snow from October to May. In the month of June, the snow starts melting and the seeds that were buried under the snow start germinating and bloom in different phases till August, and dry up in September.
In October again it starts snowing and the valley is cover with snow. The time to visit it is from mid-July to mid-September. August is the best month to visit there. It is called Nanda Devi National Park and is a UNESCO world heritage site.
JOURNEY BEGINS TO THE VALLEY OF FLOWERS
I planned to visit this place at the end of July 2015. I had booked a GMVN package which was canceled due to a natural calamity; they refunded the money. Although I was disappointed, I did not cancel my train tickets and started alone.
I was pretty scared but could not resist going there. I reached at 4 AM at Haridwar by Doon Express from Kolkata. Being a novice traveler I had no idea about reaching Joshimath from there. I told a rickshaw puller that I want to go to Joshimath.
He took me to a shared jeep stand and loaded my luggage on a jeep that was going to Joshimath. I waited there till 7 AM for the jeep to be filled up keeping myself busy with tea and chips.
BREAKDOWNS WITH TWISTS
The jeep started OK but before reaching Rishikesh the suspension of the car broke. After repairing, it started again. The second time it broke again at Kodiyala, a picturesque place beside Ganga, few kilometers before Devprayag. We waited and had breakfast at a roadside Dhaba. At 10-30AM we started again.
The third time the suspension of the car broke at around 1-30 PM. I don’t know the name of the place. There were two small motels on both sides of the road, I entered into one and had lunch. Then again we started.
The car had to reach before 6 o’clock Joshimath as per their rule. So the driver was driving very fast; at the same time, he was continuously talking to some people informing about the breakdown of the car. I felt scared and at every stiff turn; it seemed to me that we would fall into the gorge of the Alaknanda river.
After reaching Joshimath I found out about the GMVN tourist rest house and got a room there. It was near to the jeep stand. I was very tired.
After having a bath I cried like a baby and prayed to God that it did not matter to me whether I could be able to visit my desired places and I wanted nothing except to go back home safely. I ordered my dinner: roti and aloo gobi; had it early at 8 PM and went to sleep.
GOBINDGHAT: A SUGGESTION
The next morning I went to the jeep stand to go to Govind Ghat. I shall suggest my readers take a bus from Haridwar for Badrinath and get down at Gobind Ghat, or at least try to reach Govind Ghat by evening. Even if you go by shared jeep try to reach there paying few extra bucks or taking another shared jeep from Joshimath.
Here also it took a lot of time for the jeep to fill up because the news of the natural disaster spread and many people canceled their trip. When the jeep dropped me at Gobindghat it was 11 AM. I got down and started walking towards the Alaknanda Bridge.
The volunteers of Govindghat Gurdwara registered my name and told me that hiring pony would cost 800 Rupees. I went to the other side of the bridge. I found a pony owner who had two ponies. I agreed to pay for both as I had no other choice. I was already late and I had to cover 14 km and the road was broken at some places.
On the way, we took a break for lunch where I got rice and tur daal. It is always better to start early in the morning. Ponies are also available at that time. It is a 14 km distance from Govindghat to Ghangharia.
I reached Ghangharia around 4 PM and settled in a hotel with the help of the pony owner. It was workable and within my budget. People can stay free in the Gurdwaras at Govindghat and Ghangharia for one night. There is a GMVN Tourist Rest House and tent accommodations also.
They helped me to arrange a guide cum porter as I was not very confident about trekking alone. Later I realized that one can do it easily by oneself as there is no chance of losing the way. It is a 14 km trek. No one is allowed to stay there at night. One has to take a ticket from the entrance gate of the valley showing an identity card. It
REACHED VALLEY OF FLOWERS
In the early morning, I started with my guide. He was very helpful and intelligent. He understood that I had the problem with balancing on the uneven path. We proceeded very slowly. After walking more than two hours I witnessed the long-desired valley. It was like a dreamland. There were different types of plants, trees flowers, shrubs, and herbs on the way.
A group of people came with an expert guide who was demonstrating to them their name and medicinal values. I did not get much interest in them because I knew I would forget such things and I was not interested. Initially, I was taking pictures of all plants, but later I realized that if I kept on doing it, my tired leg would not allow me to get back before evening. It was a heavenly feeling to watch around. Paradise can not be a better place than this.
There were countless species of flowers. Some were bloomed, some were about to bloom, some were just growing. A Myriad of streams, large and small, could be seen. I carried some food with me. My guide and I shared them sitting beside a stream and then decided to come back because it started drizzling and there were lots of black clouds above us which might burst at any time.
MISSION SUCCESSFUL TO VALLEY OF FLOWERS
When I reached the hotel my legs were trembling. After having some food I asked the hotel owners to provide me with two buckets of hot water, one for my foot bath and another for bathing. I called my home to inform them that I was well. Then I took painkillers and lay on the bed.
Tears of gratitude came out of my eyes for the overwhelming experience that God had showered on me. In the evening I took a stroll around the hotel and had dinner with two roti and one plate paneer masala in which there was hardly any paneer; just gravy. It was quite costly too.
VISIT TO HEMKUND SAHIB
The next day I went to Hemkund Sahib. It is a Sikh Pilgrimage. The distance between Ghangharia and Hemkund Sahib is 10 km. One can hire a pony or porter or trek to cover the distance. The path was steeper than Valley of flowers. It is at an altitude of about 15,000 feet. There is a fair possibility of suffering from mountain sickness. Lake Hemkund is situated there which is considered a holy place for the Sikhs.
I hired a pony to reach there. The road was beautiful but dangerous and full of snow. In the months of August and September, one can witness Brahmakamal there. After going halfway we had our tea break.
As we went by pony we reached earlier. I had an old sardarji as my company. He was very pious. There is a small Gurdwara. I entered the prayer room. There were lots of blankets for the devotees to sit there as it was very cold within the room. I sat for some time but I started coughing due to a cold. There was a donation desk where I gave some donations and came out.
The lake was crystal clear and turquoise blue in color. People were bathing in the semi-frozen lake. I appreciated their courage. I took few pictures there and visited the Laxman temple beside Laxman Ganga. Then I went to the langar and had khichdi, halwa, and kheer.
They were served hot and were tasty as well. I was hungry too. I roamed around the place. There was almost no greenery due to the high altitude. After that, I waited long for the old Sardarji who had been attending prayer because our pony owner was the same.
MEET WITH SARDARJI & GURUDWARA VISIT
After 11-30AM he came back from prayer. We started to go down. It was more difficult than to go up. It was extremely steep at some places. Both of us were very scared, and the sardarji had back pain sitting stiffly on the horseback. So we had to take a break. We reached Ghangharia at 1-30 PM.
I met my previous ponywala there. He asked me whether I was interested to go back. I wanted to stay there, but there was no mobile network available. There was a temporary telephone connection in the hotels but they charged 10 rupees per minute. My family members were worried about me. So I decided to get down after lunch. I packed my luggage and started. I came back to Gobindghat in the evening.
This was not a very well-planned trip. I bought tickets as per the schedule of the GMVN package; I had kept 2/3 buffer days. In their itinerary, there was Badrinath Dham. After coming down from Ghangharia in the evening I had to stay one night at Govindghat.
There was a large Gurdwara. I visited that place and got “halwa” prasad. The next day early morning I booked a car at the cost of 1000 Rupees for going directly to Badrinath Dham. The hotel manager had arranged it for me. Shared jeeps were also available there but I did not want to lose time.
TO BADRINATH DHAM
I reached Badrinath Dham in the early morning. I witnessed the deity and had the fortune of getting some celestial kheer prasad. Then I performed some rituals in memory of my family members who are no more in this world. I missed my father very much. He was fond of traveling. I had traveled Badrinath with him when I was young.
From there I took a shared jeep and reached Joshimath. I managed to stay at Auli too. The beauty of Auli in the monsoon is divine. I gradually came down to and saw Karnprayag, Rudraprayag, and Hrishikesh by shared jeeps and spent a night at each place. On the last day, I reached Haridwar to catch the train at night for Kolkata.
HOW IT WENT? PERSONAL OPINION
It was a 14 days trip from Kolkata to Kolkata. I enjoyed this trip very much. I realized that the people of Uttarakhand are very honest, sincere, and moral. They are helpful too. This trip increased my courage.
I found that it is easier to travel alone, especially in the Himalayas, than to find suitable like-minded companies or travel agents. This trip converted me into a solo traveler.
Hotels at Govindghat and Ghangharia have only basic amenities. When I went there in 2015, there was no mobile tower, only satellite phones worked. Recently I have heard that BSNL and JIO networks are available, although the connection is very feeble.
SUMMARY & CONCLUSION
NB: Valley of flowers is not an easy trip. Those who travel just for enjoyment and luxury should not attempt this trip. One must have the physical ability to endure the hardship of trekking or riding a pony. From Gobind Ghat to Ghangharia one can avail pony or walk. It is a 13/14 km distance. As it is not so popular as Char Dham so the number of ponies is limited.
The suitable time to visit Valley of Flowers is from mid-July to mid-September. August is the best month. Valley of Flowers trek is 7+7 km and Hemkund Sahib is 10+10 km distance from Ghangharia. Ghangharia opens in May as Hemkund Sahib Pilgrimage starts and it closes at the end of October. Due to heavy snowfall, the rest of the year it remains closed.
In Valley of flowers, it is a strictly forbidden and punishable offense to litter plastic packets or any disposable things. Weather is always variable during this period. It can rain any time. So one should take precautions for that and keep one/two buffer days while planning the trip.
Those who have altitude sickness should not try to go to Hemkund Sahib directly and should try to get acclimatized to high altitude at Ghangharia for a day or two before going to Valley of Flowers.
Before you go, hope you liked my article and personal experience on Valley of Flowers (VOF), if yes please rate the article by clicking the stars, or if you have any question, comment or need help, please put those in the comment section. Jhumka Bhattacharya