Valley of flowers/Hemkund trek (in August of 2015)
4 of us met at South Ex in New Delhi and got in our Scorpio for our second Trek of the year, the Valley of
flowers trek. All of us could drive so it wasn't difficult to head straight to the starting point, Govind Ghat
in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.
We started driving at midnight from Delhi and made it to Rishikesh in next 6 hours comfortably. Roads to Valley of Flowers were in great shape (other than some stretch in the Muzzafarnagar, Uttar Pradesh part). Because of the char dham yatra and many pilgrims travelling to Badrinath, the roads are very well maintained almost throughout the year.
After spending a few minutes at the confluence of Bhagirathi & Alaknanda in Devprayag, we continued towards Rudrprayag. You should know you will be crossing all the prayag (confluences) to reach Govind Ghat. Once at Goving Ghat, there are many options to stay at. We chose to stay at Hotel Bhagat which is an above average hotel from city standards. One can also explore the home stay options (there are quite a few). Govind Ghat also has a Gurudwara if one wants to visit. We were tired so we spent some time at the terrace of Hotel Bhagat and dozed off. The food served is also above average. Next morning, we got up at ease and got ready for our trek trek. After breakfast, we started for Ghangaria (also known as Govind Dham), which used to be a 13 km trek from Govind Ghat but since last two years, there is connectivity beyond the bridge and the actual trek till Ghangaria is now about 10 kms. The trek is moderate and extremely scenic with river flowing right by the side and number of waterfalls. There are shops on the way for quick bites id one wants to stop. As a thumb rule, I told the fellow trekkers that they take more stops but of lesser duration. From my trekking experience, it really helps. Also, at this point, important is to understand that there is no point making it fast to the destination. So manage your pace and just keep walking.
We made it to Ghangaria in about 5 hours (which by trekking standards is pretty good). Infact, to check my endurance, I trekked with my backpack on. Two of us also took a pony to Ghangaria. Ponies are available for this stretch. If one is short on time and wants to JUST make it to Ghangaria, there is an option of taking a chopper from Govind Ghat. As of now, Deccan operates from Govind Ghat to Ghangaria at a cost of 2900 INR one way. The chopper service although is available depending on the weather and number of people travelling. Chopper takes about 3 minutes to drop you at Ghangaria. I suggest trek till Ghangaria because enjoying nature and trekking is the sole purpose of this trip. Once at Ghangaria, we checked into Hotel Devlok. The hotel is just about average just like the other available options or home stays. Because of electricity constraints, the hotels have no geyser facilities and so hot water to bathe is served in a bucket at a cost of 50 INR. For food (only Veg available), Hotel Deepak is a good option. There are other "limited" options as well. If you are on BSNL, it might work, else Ghangaria has not connectivity. There are PCO shops available though. The place serves as a base for both Valley of Flowers as well as Hemkund Saheb. All of us were tired so after taking a nap, we got together for some drinks and enjoyed music on our Bluetooth speakers.
We slept around midnight and it was cold by then. Would have been around 3-4 degrees in the night. Make sure you are properly covered or else the weather can make you unwell. We started at ease after having our breakfast of eggs and bread for Valley of Flowers. To the starting point, it is about 1 hour from Hotel Devlok. We reached the registration point and paid the forest fee of 150 INR each. The trek is moderate and there is no option of Pony on this stretch. The trek is outstandingly beautiful with waterfalls and river flowing and making thunderous sound throughout. At a good time, you will see flowers throughout the trek. It took us about 2 hours to reach Valley of Flowers. The valley starts as soon as we cross the river. Most of the trekkers halt here for their afternoon meal. Remember, you need to carry food from Ghangaria along with a sipper. There are no shops whatsoever on this stretch. Fill up your bottle wherever you see a running stream. Keep yourself hydrated at all times. The view on the top is extremely beautiful. The valley on a clear day looks magical and loaded with flowers of various (over 300 variety of flowers) kinds. Blue Popeye is the king of them all. We took some rest here after strolling around and then continued to the grave of Joan Margaret Legge. She was a botanist from the UK who came here for research work. While looking for flowers, she fell and died. Her sister came and buried her there in the Valley. For sure, there was no place better for Joan Margaret (also known as Merry). If you are a real nature lover, make sure you continue to walk to the other side of the valley and come down to where the river flows. It is absolutely magnificent view from there.
After spending more than an hour there, we retraced our steps back to Ghangaria, the trek down is relatively easier and quick. Made it back to Hotel Devlok and enjoyed some Jalebi (Indian sweet) from a local shop to keep us running. The evening again was cold and we had a great time sitting in the balcony of Hotel Devlok. About midnight, we went off to sleep.
Next morning was an early start. Everyone other than me chose to take a pony to Hemkund Saheb while I chose to trek. The Hemkund Saheb to Hemkund Saheb is better than Valley of flowers but it sure is difficult than Valley of Flowers trek. It is much steeper right from the beginning. It is said to be about 6 kms from the starting post but it surely is about 7 kms for someone starting from main Ghangaria area. The trek is moderate+ and it is suggested that one works a little bit on fitness before attempting. There is also an option of taking stairs for last 1 km. That brings one to right at the top and at the doors of Hemkund Saheb gurudwara. To view the sarover (lake) is mesmerizing. On a clear day it is absolutely blue/green and it is one of the best view of your life. Surrounded by 7 different peaks, it is simply incredible. We offered our prayers, had Kichdi (meal made of rice and lentils) and a cup of tea. After spending an hour at the top, we started to ascend. It is a quick trek back and takes about 2 hours to get down. With those scenic views in my heart, I reached Ghangaria. We celebrated that evening at the Hotel and had a gala time for what we achieved and what we saw. With music, drinks and food, we also called upon new friends of ours who were staying at the hotel and had a grand time.
Next day our trek back to Govind Ghat from Ghangaria was relatively quick. We took about 4 hours to get down and checked into Hotel Bhagat.
Drive back to Delhi for me is always difficult. My heart was still beating in the Valley and I didn't feel like coming back. But then again, there is more to explore and with that thought, we reached back to Delhi.
Hope to see you there sometime. Until then..