Valley of Flowers
In the summers of 2016, I booked myself on a batch of Valley of flowers trek with Wanderers. I got their reference from one of my friends who trekked Chadar trek in Ladakh with them.
I was lucky enough to get a seat for myself in the July batch. It is that time of the year where the Valley of Flowers Trek if flocked with travellers, explorers and nature lovers from all over the world. We were picked up in a traveller from Haridwar where all the 12 trekkers met. There were 5 trekkers who came by road but everyone made it to the meeting point in time. We met Lokesh, the trek leader from Wanderers who was going to be our trek leader for the trip. He really knew the in and out of the valley of flowers trek and was extremely enthusiastic to lead us as well. Through the five prayag (confluences), it took us about 10 hours to reach Govind Ghat. We stopped mid way three times for meals and washroom. We also spent a few minutes clicking pictures at Devprayag, which is the confluence of Alaknanda & Bhagirathi and from where it becomes the holy Ganga.
We reached Govind Ghat and checked into the hotel by the road. We were allotted rooms within a few minutes and were called for briefing for the trek the following day. We were given demos on how to pack and what all to carry. It was a great learning experience and we realized the importance of packing and having the right weight in the bag so that it should not cause stress to the shoulders. We were briefed about how the trek was going to be, what kind of ascents, about the meal breaks and the group trekking pattern, which was based on the prior trekking experience. The other great thing about Wanderers was the way they planned the itinerary and the entire plan. We were only 2 people in one room, which was a great comfort as well. Additionally, Lokesh told us about how we can ensure as a group that things go right and what are the kinds of things that can go wrong. So the briefing session was an incredible learning experience for beginners like me.
Next morning we were told to be ready by 8 and meet at breakfast. By this time everyone in the group became friends. And to my surprise (as I am generally on time) everyone else also made it to the table by 8:15. We had breakfast and were all set for the trek. We walked till the bridge that would bring us to the trek beginning point. We followed the trekking line up as suggested by Lokesh. The trek initially was gradual and there were also some small kiosks throughout. We got some chocolates and a mango drink. We were told the trek was about 10-11 Kms from the bridge till Ghangharia which was our destination for today. The initial 5-6 kms were relatively moderate ascent and descent and as a group we maintained a reasonable pace. The last 4 kilometers are more or less only ascent so it became a little difficult for quite a few in the group. As Lokesh was the last in the pack and managing the overall pace and well being, he ensured every one kept going with small breaks of just about a couple of minutes in between. A small helipad welcomes you to the small town called ghangharia.
Ghangharia has only small hotels and homestays. It has a lot of options for local food and some kiosks as well. For information, Ghangharia has a small dispensary as well but it is always good to be equipped. Wanderers team was carrying a complete set of medical kit and other equipment. So for us, we were pretty sorted. We were scheduled to stay in a small hotel called Hotel Devlok. It had small rooms to offer but for the location and for the fact that they open only for about 3-4 months, It was quite alright. There is no point expecting much from a facility standpoint in Ghangharia. We got buckets of warm water to bathe. Wewere all ready and set to engage and socialize in the evening. We shared our own travel experience and experience of our previous treks to call it a night. Lokesh told us to be up and ready to leave by 8 in the morning to valley of flowers. He also explained that while the trek is about 5 kilometers one way, we as a group would trek further ahead making it about 7 kms one way. We met at 8 am and had our breakfast. Packed lunch, chocolates and beverage was given to us to carry ourselves in our day pack. We were all set to leave by 9. We started the trek crossing the gurudwara and the shops to reach the forest check post. The Wanderers team already sorted all the permits and we were good to go. I can say at this point that the view became magical right after crossing the check post. The trek to valley is about ascent throughout but it is not too tiring. A small tributary accompanies you till the top when you reach the meadows. It is known as himganga and in the summer months, flows ferociously. After crossing a small stream, a huge piece of rock/cave welcomes you to the valley. There is absolutely no doubt that there is no place better than Valley of flowers if you visit it in the months of july and august.
One can walk down deep into the valley through series of exotic flowers. It is simply unbelievable when explored in the months of late July and mid august. Lokesh also took us to the grave of Joan Margaret Legge who was a botanist from Edinburgh and died by falling from a height while doing her research work. Her Sister performed the last rights and took permission for her Grave to be in the valley. As per Lokesh, there is also a guesthouse in her name where she used to stay.
We spent good 1 hour and had lunch in the valley. We were all carrying our own packed lunch in the daypacks. We all gathered as a group and had lunch together. Post clicking some pictures we started descending. It did not take too long for us to get back to Ghangharia. By early evening we were back in our Hotel.
A couple of hours later, Lokesh called us for a quick briefing for the following day. The plan was to trek to the Hemkund Sahib gurudwara. It is the highest sikh temple and trek is also somewhat difficult. Although as per Lokesh, it was only moderate+ kind of trek. We all agreed to start early the following day. Plan once again was to start at 8:00 in the morning. We were all at the breakfast table and had stuffed paranthas with tea in breakfast. We started to for Hemkund Sahib at 8 in the morning. Initially the ascent was manageable but I would like to still callout that after a while of continuous ascent, it gets tougher from the mid point. A trekker also has an option to take stairs midway till the top, which also isn’t really easy. Lokesh told us that we will all follow a pattern which is 10 stairs and 10 seconds of break. I think it really worked as a key. The trek for me was definitely not easy but we were at the top quite quickly. One I reached the top, the view was magical. The temple/gurudwara is set right next to this serene pond (called sarover) and surrounded by snow-capped mountains. It’s magically serene. We prayed fr a while at the temple which by the way also broadcasts on one of a local channel live. We were given Khichdi and tea at the gurudwara and we also carried out lunch with us. So the meal helped us regaining strength for our trek back.
We started ascending and it took about three hours for us to reach ghangharia. Lokesh suggested that we should not take stairs while coming back, as it is quite steep and therefore dangerous while coming down. So we carried on through the regular trail. We reached back the hotel and relaxed for sometime. Everyone gathered in the evening to socialize and share his or her experiences. Everyone was very happy taking the trek and successfully making back to the hotel. We all spoke for long that evening also because we agreed to start at 9:00 am the following day.
The next day was quite relaxed. Although the trek was for 10 kms, but we were all confident of making it by afternoon, as it was either flat or only descends. We made it back to Govind Ghat in time and checked into the hotel. Some of us had drinks to mark a successful finish. We all then gathered for the closing ceremony where we shared our experiences with Wanderers and Lokesh. Followed by a certificate distribution ceremony to conclude. The next morning we boarded the bus and travelled back to Haridwar with extremely fond memories and loads of new friends.