April 27, 2009

Valley of Flowers: Reaching Govindghat

Following my Introductory Post, I shall continue to write hereinafter some more posts on the details of my journey to the Valley of Flowers.

Map borrowed and modified

Route covered so far:
DelhiHaridwarRishikesh – Devprayag – Srinagar – Rudraprayag – Karnaprayag – Nandprayag – ChamoliPipalkoti JoshimathAuli Govindghat

I take a night train from Delhi to Haridwar. Haridwar early morning is enigmatic. Then I embark on an almost 300 kms journey up the mountains that includes a morning stroll and a tuk-tuk ride to Rishikesh and a long bus journey of almost 6 hours via Devprayag and Srinagar to Rudraprayag for an overnight stay in the Government-run GMVN hotel.

The next day, in a ‘sharing taxi’ the rest of the journey from Rudraprayag through scenic Himalayan landscape keeps me spellbound through Karnaprayag and Nandprayag - at the confluences of the beautiful mountain rivers. The tributaries of the Ganges River gives company most of the journey. Reaching Chamoli, and overcoming the landslide episode, I reach Joshimath and have the choice to continue up to Govindghat. But something within me opts to stopover at Auli.

Locals chatting up - a long range shot from moving cable car

That has been a good decision I must say for the awesome experience in Auli from the time I ascend to the place in a cable car till I return through the same ropeway next morning.

Auli at 5:35 am

The trekking day begins on a beautiful morning from Auli. The Nanda Devi National Park is about 20 kms away from Joshimath, from where the trek to the Park can begin. A ‘sharing jeep’ that squeezed in about 10 people from Joshimath covers a distance of 21 kms to Govindghat. At each turning I feel like pulling out my camera and shooting photographs. But give up on the thought of doing so from the moving vehicle and then simply begin to enjoy the passing mountain scenery and the cool breeze.

Reaching Govindghat

I reach Govindghat and sit down to have some maggi noodles and tea as I am soon to commence the first leg of my journey to the Valley of Flowers by foot. From the window of the tiny roadside restaurant I can see the mesmerizing views of the majestic mountain and it is surprising to see quite a few people in this small mountain town.


I can see most of them are pilgrims who are either: going to or returning from the Hemkund Sahib, holy to the Sikh religion; or on their way to or from Badrinath, holy for Hindus. So Govindghat is an important junction for pilgrims of Hindu and Sikh religion. A minor road branches off as the roadhead towards Ghangaria, so it is an important point also for nature loving travellers like me heading to the Valley of Flowers.

Finishing tea, I walk the one kilometre stretch ambling through shops selling souvenirs, trekking gear, colourful warm clothing and a lot of fancy items to catch the eyes of tourists. I pass through the bridge under which the Alaknanda flows churning its waters into white foam.

View of Govindghat from a height

The rest of my plan for the day is to ascend a distance of 14 kms from Govindghat to Ghangaria to reach before sunset, and after a night’s rest to trek further right into the Valley of Flowers early next morning.

To be continued...

How to Reach Govindghat:

By Air: The nearest airport is the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun at a distance of approximately 270 kms.
By Rail: Rishikesh is the nearest Railway Station to Joshimath, which is at a distance of 250 kms connecting to all the major cities of India.
By Road: Govindghat can be reached via Joshimath which is well connected by surface network with Dehradun, Haridwar, Rishikesh and Nainital.

April 22, 2009

Valley of Flowers: Introduction

No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or
sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway
for the human spirit. - Helen Keller

July. Frank Smythe, a mountaineer, botanist, explorer, photographer, author, romantic and much else that he is, is returning from Kamet Peak expedition with his group. They lose their way and accidentally discover an enchanting valley in full bloom.

Overwhelmed by what he had seen six years back, Frank Smythe returns to the Valley and explores it extensively together with R. L. Holdsworth, another botanist.

Smythe writes a book and titles it “Valley of Flowers”. The Valley gets christened with the name. The book is published and the world comes to know of this natural wonder of about 90 sq km situated at a height of 3,342 m - 3,658 m (10 to 12,000 feet), with one of its peaks towering up to 6,675 m (21,899 feet) above main sea level.

The Valley of Flowers is declared a national park. Many restrictions are clamped on tourists. Camping is not allowed in the Valley. Collecting plants from the Valley is banned. Grazing of animals in the Valley is banned to protect some of the rare species of plants. (That there is a controversy on the latter decision is another matter.)

The Valley of Flowers is inscribed to be on the list of World Heritage Site.

The Valley of Flowers, one of the seven natural sites, is added to the list of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.
I read on BBC's In Pictures website about the Valley of Flowers getting the status of world heritage site. The more I read about the Valley of Flowers, the more fascinated I get. That day, I decide to visit the Valley someday for an up close and personal experience of the natural wonder.

Online, I outline plans with fellow travelers to meet up in Delhi and spend two weeks in Garhwal, trekking right up to the Valley of Flowers. The time that I choose is July end as July-August is supposedly the best time when the Valley blooms in full abundance while through most of the year it sleeps in a thick blanket of snow.

To be continued…

April 16, 2009

SWF: Auli Pastures

Enjoy views and skies from all around the world at SkyWatchFriday.

Trip to Garhwal
July-Aug 2008

I shot these photographs at daybreak in
Auli, Uttarakhand, India

This weekend is comparatively not as busy, and I have made up my mind to give some attention to my blog. I intend to continue writing more on my Garhwal trip, in particular, on my hike to the Valley of Flowers.

I’ve already posted some photographs shot during my trek to the Valley of Flowers in a previous post. I have lots more to share. Those interested, stay tuned. To those who would like to have a peek at my previous posts on Garhwal, here’s a list of those:
This post would probably serve as a prelude to what is to follow, at least, as far as my trek to the Valley of Flowers is concerned. Here's a map of the route that I took to reach the Valley:

Map borrowed from Google

April 2, 2009

Himalayan Saga

Enjoy views and skies from all around the world at SkyWatchFriday. Here are some of my pictures of skies from different parts of India:


The Himalayan range is home to the world’s highest peaks, and that includes over 100 mountains exceeding 7,200 meters (23,622 feet) in height.

Mt. Neelkanth from Badrinath

The main Himalayan range runs from the Indus river valley to the Brahmaputra river valley forming an arc 2,400 km long.

Ladakh Landscape

Some of the world’s major rivers (Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra) originate from the Himalayas. Around these river basins live more than a billion people, and so the Himalayas have profoundly shaped the culture of South Asia. Some of the peaks are sacred in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Descending from Dzongri-La

I’ve seen a part of the Himalayan range from different states of India: Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Sikkim, Jammu & Kashmir, and Uttarakhand. That includes:
  • from the distant hills of Kalimpong and Darjeeling;
  • from the hill stations of Shimla and from Manali to the heights of Rohtang-La pass that connects the Kulu Valley with the Lahaul and Spiti valley, to the Keylong Valley towards Darcha, Zingzingbar passing through the Baralacha Pass;
  • to continue towards Sarchu, Pang, Upshi while passing through the high altitude passes of Lachalung-La and Tanglang-La enroute Leh, Ladakh;
  • from the high altitude pass of Chang-La on the way to Pangong Lake near the borders of China;
  • from the so-called highest motorable road at Khardung-La on the way to Nubra Valley, Sumur, Panamik, Diskit and Hundar of the Ladakh region;
  • from the mountain towns of Jorethang and Yuksom, towards the base of Mt. Kanchenjunga;
  • from the trans-Himalayan hill stations of Nainital, Noukuchiatal, Sattal and Bhimtal of the Kumaon region;
  • from the Garhwali regions of Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts and additionally, up and close and personal from Badrinath and Mana.
Sumur, Nubra Valley

Every trip has been sublime. Each bit of the travel has been stimulating. Travelling to the Himalayan region is something that I look forward to.

Valley of Flowers

The region’s topography, biodiversity, culture, scenic beauty and especially the mountains, valleys, lakes, glaciers, rivers fill me with admiration and awe for the majestic Himalayas.

Mana Village

What part of the region have you been to and what effect does the Himalayas have on you?