Travel story contributor: Mridula Dwiwedi
When I compare the trek to Valley of Flowers with Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal, I understand why the former is considered easy. But on its own, I feel no trek is ever easy since all require some degree of effort.
There are three legends associated with the place. The first says that Gods showered flowers on Lord Lakshman; they later flowered and thus came to existence, what is today known as the Valley of Flowers. The second legend is that flowers were showered on Guru Gobind Singh ji and then it became a valley full of flowers. And, the third one says that it was the garden of Lord Indra. The legends may claim different origins, but the Valley Of Flowers is undisputedly a mesmerizing place and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Joshimath is the nearest town and base for many who wish to do this trek. Reaching Joshimath from Rishikesh takes some effort. From Joshimath to Govindghat, the start of the trek is a short drive. People usually take a break in Joshimath before starting the trek.
Joshimath Town | Photo Credit: Keshav Prashanth
The walk from Govindghat to Ghangaria is 12 km long, but relatively flat. There are stretches where the tree cover is absent because of which on a sunny day this stretch can get hot. River Lakshman-Ganga flows by the trekking path. It is a pleasure to stop by and gaze at it when you get exhausted. The path is dotted with small tea shops that serve excellent parathas too.
People who trek to Valley of Flowers also go to the holy lake- Hemkund Sahib and the gurudwara. It is an important pilgrimage for Sikhs. So trekkers and religious devotees share the path up to Ghangaria. Some take a pony on this route. There is a helicopter service available up to Ghangaria, provided the weather is good. Ghangaria is the base for both the Valley Of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib. I would strongly recommend that if you have gone that far, you do both.
Govind Ghat to Ghanghria | Photo Credit: Dev
Valley of Flowers is a tea house trek. Those of you who may not have trekked in the Himalaya may be a quizzed about my mention of tea house trek. It basically means, there are tea-houses of small hotels that serve tea and a place to sleep. If you want to live local stay at a tea house and give tents a skip! The walk to the Valley Of Flowers is beautiful. The valley is huge and it takes some effort to explore it in one day. I could not see it all! You may actually like to devote two days to explore every nook and corner! I saw the coveted blue poppy much before the actual valley and then I never saw it again till the next day! Can you beat that? I saw brahma kamal only on the route to Hemkund Sahib! So it is not that just the valley has flowers, flowers are everywhere. You’ve got to keep your eyes open as you may bump into them, when you least expect!
Through the Valley flows the River Chandravati and on the way you can see countless waterfalls from a distance. During monsoon everything is green and bursting with life and if you plan to trek at that time, carry rain gear.
You would be disappointed if you expect the valley to be a well-manicured garden. Know that it is a wild place with brooks, river, streams and flowers where the flowers grow in here, there and everywhere! There might be a rare beauty right next to you hiding behind something bigger!
Photo Credit: Arjun Gabriel
I asked people which is the best month to go when you could see most of the flowers. They said different flowers bloom in different months. So you have to visit more than once! I could not visit the grave of Joan Margaret Legge, the French lady, who died exploring the area in 1939. Instead I walked straight to the park.
People usually start early in the morning for the valley and come back late in the evening. They usually carry packed lunch inside the park as there is absolutely no place within the park where you can get food! Do remember to bring back every scrape of plastic you took with you. Do not litter. And, if you find one that was thrown by someone else, bring it back with you.
The valley walk is not as strenuous as the trek to Hemkund Sahib. That walk is all uphill for about 6km and can test your physical fitness. Wouldn’t discourage you because it is very much doable, but then it takes some effort. Be patient, and keep waling. As the path is used by pilgrims, many horses ply on the route carrying the people who don’t wish to walk all the way. Palkis and pitthus are also available. And, since it’s a pilgrim route, you will find it quite congested at times.
Govindghat to Ghangaria| Photo Credit: Dev
On the route you get a faraway view of Ghangaria. The river which looked so mighty while we walked next to it, now looks like a thread of white silk! In the larger scheme of things, even a river can appear like a thread, think about humans!
Once again there are many dhabas on the route to Hemkund. I sat down twice for tea and chocolates before I could reach to the lake! The devotees offered me glucose and orange toffees, which the hungry me gladly accepted! Although there is an NGO which works in the area to keep the valley plastic free, I only wish that people were responsible enough to not throw plastic water bottles with abandon.
At the gurudwara langar is served for all. That is where most people have their lunch. Men can bathe in the lake whereas women have an enclosed area devoted to them which offers privacy. For me, the nature itself offered a glimpse of divinity. The beauty of the high altitude lake was stunning. There is a temple devoted to Lord Lakshman next to the gurudwara.
Hemkund Sahib | Photo Credit: Dev
After you have taken your fill of nature and religion, there is a 6km downhill walk waiting for you. For some it could be a simple affair, after all you don’t get as tired while walking down. But, for people with creaking knees, like me, the descend can be challenging. Food acquires a special taste after walking for 12 km in a day, for three days in a row!
The next day even though we walk back the same path from Ghangaria to Govindghat, but the memories of the trek lingered in my mind and heart, alike!
Don’t forget to check out this link, if you wish to trek to the Valley of Flowers!