After being there last month, I can say with some confidence that 7.5 billion people living on earth can be classified broadly into two categories, One, those have seen the valley of flowers and Others, those who have not. Actually, those who have seen it, and they are not too many due to relative inaccessibility, are the persons who can claim to have seen the abode of Gods and no less. One has to see it oneself to realize it’s pure and pristine beauty. No amount of explanation and no configuration of words can explain enough or convey the feelings of a visitor/witness to the valley of flowers.
I had been planning to visit the valley for quite some time. The best time to visit the valley is also the peak time of the Monsoon. There are frequent road blocks too due to incessant rains during monsoons. The effects of big 2013 disaster have still not subsided enough. Last year only 83 persons could visit the valley. So, when I got a call from my brother in law, that he was going to visit the valley and would like me to join him, I did not think twice before saying yes and in fact invited my younger brother too, to join the adventure..
We landed at Rishikesh soon and stayed overnight at FRH Muni Ki Reti. It being the month of Shravan, we woke early next morning amidst the devout’s chants of ‘Bam Bhole‘. There were Kaanwariyas all around in Rishikesh and were returning to their homes with Ganga Jal. We proceeded to Josimath by road. It is a distance of almost 275 Km and since those were hilly roads, it took more than 9 hours before we could reach by late evening. How ever scenery on the route was quite impressive due to low hanging clouds in the backdrop of rain soaked green hills.
From Joshimath, we traveled to Govindghat and luckily found the helicopter services operational on the day. There are no motorable roads beyond Govindghat for trek to valley. One has to go on foot or ride the mules to visit the valley. By heli, it takes only five minutes to reach Ghangharia, while it takes almost 4 hours for a 10 Km trek. Interestingly they weigh your body weight before allowing you to board the helicopter due to rarefied air. I was the heaviest in the group and everybody around me smiled and gave me a lot of advice subsequently to reduce my weight. We reached Ghangharia therefore in no time and decided to start for valley immediately. Valley ensconced in Western Himalaya is spread over 88 sq kms is part of ecologically very sensitive, Nanda Devi Biosphere Park and therefore from Ghangharia, one has to go on foot only to reach valley. Unlike for Hemkund from Ghangharia, mules are not allowed for the valley.
The trek to valley is about four km, but its quite steep in almost half of it and one has to have really determination and big lungs to scale the trek. Notwithstanding my weighty limitations, I was determined to make it. The route to valley is almost unpaved and is restored every year after the snow gets melted. It was therefore slippery and rocky. Good shoes do help you, but you need lot of commitment to make it.
At the same, the route up the hills is quite beautiful and picturesque and one can not but be mesmerized by the beauty of hills. As you go up, you navigate through clouds at many places. As clouds encircle you and the base of the hills without covering its peaks, you feel as if mountains are floating over the clouds. It’s unbelievable and unmatched beautiful scenery. In fact I was reminded about the floating hills in the movie ‘Avatar’. In the movie on planet Pandora, the hills float in the air. Here too, it was almost the same scene. To add more mystery there were water falls from all possible nooks and corners of the hills.
As you scale up, you start noticing the beautiful flowers not seen anywhere else. There are lot many wonders of the nature to be seen including the ‘Bug-Leaves’ or ‘Pissu Ghaas‘. It is used to get the bed bugs out of the bed due to its pungent smell for bed bugs. There were also big mushrooms and other flora around. Then there were the trees of Bhoj Patra whose bark has been used since ancient times for writing letters and literature. I was enjoying the every meter of this trek despite panting for breath due to steep trek in last two km of the trek. Holding my breath, I kept on clicking the pictures of all those precious moments to store them permanently in my memory.
We reached valley by afternoon and as we entered the valley, I saw a huge span of valley covered with flowers. All these were natural flowers and had sprung from grass after snow melted from June onward. The valley has its own patterns of blooming flowers and the groups of flowers bloom at regular intervals to provide an almost two month window for all flowers to showcase themselves. The uniqueness and beauty of flowers at this heights is too much to handle and you can be spellbound by the scenes of young and petite flowers. The absence of any noise except those of hill bees and rain drops leaves you speechless. I closed my eyes many times to feel the environment and felt like floating in heaven. You feel like there may be fairies in this paradise and you may encounter one emerging from behind the next stone. You can actually get lost in the beauty. I had an apple with me and as I pierced my teeth into it I felt as if I was eating out of hands of mother nature. It was so seductive, yet so pure. The pictures, all shot by me can perhaps show with their limitations, the beauty of the paradise on earth, known as valley of flowers.