June 5, 2009

Valley of Flowers: A Day in The Valley

Garhwal Route covered:
Delhi
HaridwarRishikesh – Devprayag – Srinagar – Rudraprayag – Karnaprayag – Nandprayag – ChamoliPipalkoti JoshimathAuli GovindghatGhangaria
Valley of Flowers


"In my mountain wandering I have not seen
a more beautiful valley than this...
this valley of peace and perfect beauty
where the human spirit may find repose."
- Frank Smythe

Thanks to Google

It is almost ten months since I have returned from the Valley of Flowers. As I go around grinding through my daily life far away in another country, I have a charming place called the Valley of Flowers to think about, and am delighted to have had a chance to be there.

I’ve heard from a few visitors to the Valley that it is not as beautiful as they expected it to be. I beg to differ. Perhaps it is not difficult to please me when it comes to beauty and romance of nature.

To get a better idea of how and where I’ve reached so far, you may wish to read my Introductory Post and subsequent posts on my journey through high-altitude western Himalayan towns of Govindghat and the trek to Ghangaria.

After ascending 14 kms from Govindghat to Ghangaria, it is then mostly an uphill trek of about 4 kms to reach the Valley of Flowers. From the entrance, trekkers can explore another 3-4 km of the marked trail out of the 20 square kms of the Valley. Camping in the Valley is forbidden, so the return journey to Ghangaria, the base camp, must be done the same day.

Here’s my account of my trek to the Valley of Flowers describing how the countless images of the grandeur of the majestic mountains and the Valley of Flowers have left an indelible mark on my mind. I must add this is just an attempt for, as Helen Keller said: The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, described or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.
~~~

It is a cold and cloudy morning in Ghangaria. Packing some nuts and raisins in my daypack, I have a quick breakfast at a tiny restaurant and in reduced visibility through the mist, I set out to the Valley of Flowers. It begins to drizzle lightly and the raincoat I bought in Govindghat becomes useful again.

A few meters away from Ghangaria, the trek path bifurcates: the one on right leads to Hemkund Sahib where most of the people passing through Ghangaria head to, and fortunately for me today, it is the path to the left. At the entrance gate of the Nanda Devi National Park, there are three friendly government officials who appear pleased to see us. I guess after watching most of the visitors to Ghangaria trudging towards Hemkund on the right, they must be glad to find at least a few nature lovers heading towards their route. After a quick registration and payment of nominal fee at the check-post, I begin the ascent to the Valley of Flowers.

Soon, I cross a make shift bridge through a stream and as I continue ascending, at each turning, I see before me magnificent mountains and low clouds hovering around their peaks.

Climb to the Valley of Flowers

In the deep ravine, the roar of the River Pushpavathi can be heard. I glance back and stop to espy the beautiful mountain town of Ghangaria from a height. I know there is no chance for exhaustion on this beautiful route.

Continuing the climb, I get closer to the River Pushpavati flowing. A short descent and I cross a bridge over the gushing waters. Then the steep ascent begins. Before long, I chance upon a remnant of a fascinating Himalayan glacier. It reminds me of a decorated cake with its icing.

Part of the glacier

As I continue ambling, I find myself on a wide shelf littered with boulders. I come across a bunch of creamy yellow fungi. They seem to be reveling in the warmth of a niche in the rocks. Other rare plants flourish on these mountains. There seems to be enough nutrients in the soil of the meadow for their sustenance.

I clamber on and stop to admire a Bhojpatra tree, and think about how its bark was used in ancient times to write on. I can recognize sal and birch, and a variety of magnolia and rhododendrons among the rich vegetation. A bird darts in and out of the trees before I am able to identify it. At one spot, I come across a swarm of butterflies, and stand spellbound watching a kaleidoscope of colour fluttering around.

Very different from the bridle path to reach Ghangaria, the path leading to Valley of Flowers is free from pilgrims, guides, porters, tents, shacks, animals and dung. Unlittered and natural, the path does not show signs of abuse and has a fragrance of freshness.

I come across very few trekkers. There are two couples from Mumbai and a few more in a small group. I can't quite describe the awesome feeling of having the entire surrounding mountains to self amongst magnificent landscape in the quietude of nature.

At the entrance of the Valley

It drizzles again and then follows the sun peeping through the clouds unexpectedly. Through the rest of the day the pattern continues: following sunlight, intermittent drizzle, mist, and more precipitation. The misty mountains through the sun rays give me glimpses of the enchanting beauty around. The continuous change in the intensity of light at that height is enthralling.

Valley view and cloud covered peaks

At every turning, there is a new surprise. The sight of the snow clad peaks particularly make my heart leap with joy. The cascading waterfalls is a sight to behold. At certain places, the path is narrow, and slippery. I see a few locals working at a spot where there has been a recent landslide because of rains. Nodding heads in acknowledgment, exchanging smiles and accepting a few word of advice from them to be cautious and to ensure an early return, I proceed further.

The treacherous path at a few spots is kinda scary. I think to myself that no one would ever find out if ever I miss my step, and fall in the deep gorge. It would then be a case of “one blunder, and six feet under.” Oh the latter, only if the body can ever be retrieved! Twice, I take help of my hands and walk on fours for a couple of metres, and feel that time like I am doing a Jane Fonda workout for pregnant women!

Part of the trek path

Yet through it all, I enjoy myself. I guess am now so hooked to mountains and trekking that these days when I hear the name “Hillary” I think of Edmund though he is long dead and gone, rather than Mrs. Clinton and white house scandals.

I continue trudging the final ascent to reach the entrance to the Valley. A variety of flowers, dominated by pink and purple Balsam fill to the brim on either side of the narrow trek path. I reach the entrance and look up, and stop abruptly, speechless at the breathtaking sight! I hear my fellow trekker gasp and whisper, “It’s heavenly!”

Rataban peak

Picturesque mountain landscape of rich vegetation with the ephemeral clouds wrapping the mountain tops is an amazing sight. The mountains are of different shades of green, some bare and the peaks of ones at a distance, snow-clad. Within the Valley itself there are different smaller valleys. Streams of water flow right down into the River below. There are areas of treeless green meadows which are as charming as the wooded areas.

Treeless meadows

Hundreds of species of wild flowers are everywhere and these fields in the misty mountains has a mesmerizing effect on me. No matter how carefully I walk along the narrow path, a few sadly get crushed under my feet. Wild buttercups, Himalayan Knotweeds, Gentians, Rhodiolas, wild daisies, and from what I recognize, varieties of Campanula, lilies (also cobra lilies), milk parsleys, primulas, potentillas and balsam are found aplenty. I recall reading the Blue Himalayan Poppy and Brahm Kamal are rare species found only at these great heights.

Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopsis species)
(this picture shot on the way to Hemkund next day)

I feel sheer joy amidst the variety of flowers in the enchanting Valley. Time flies in the resplendent fields of wildflowers. I watch the snow clad Rataban peak and the gleaming Nilgiri Parbat posing majestically in the distance.

Wildflowers

As I head towards the grave of Margaret Legge, the botanist who fell to her death in the Valley while collecting plant specimens, I glance back and see the trekkers from Mumbai returning to Ghangaria right from the entrance of the Valley.

Grave of Joan Margaret Legge

Nearing the grave, before crossing a stream of clear gushing waters, I sit down on a small stone at first and then I get an urge to lie down on a small patch of grass. Initially I stretch, face upwards, and watch the sky scattered with indolent clouds. Cool breeze blows. When the sunlight gets into my eyes, I turn my face sideways and see a field of flowers: Primula, Potentillas, Geraniums, Campions, Bellflowers, Rhubarbs, Whorlflowers, Balsam, and a variety of other flowers, some quivering and others gracefully swaying in the cool breeze.

Wildflowers swaying in the Valley

The picture of the Valley with its scenery of the mist on the trail, the sea of flowers, melting glaciers, streams with gushing waters, green meadows, snow-clad mountains and their peaks looming against the horizon is aesthetically stimulating. It permanently etches a deep impression on my mind. The beauty and serenity of the place captures me in a spell. I am completely connected with the surroundings. I feel then every bit of effort that I took to get to the top is well worth the endeavour and the weary feet.

The Valley and the flowers

It is now time to get back, and I remember Ruskin Bond’s words:
...the infinity of mountains, the feeling of
space - limitless space - can only be
experienced by living in the mountains...

Though I feel like staying there forever I have to return now for I am hungry. As camping in the Valley of Flowers is prohibited I have to reach the base camp before sunset. I make my return journey, stopping often on my tracks, gazing at the magnificent mountains, absorbing in its beauty and finally descend from over 12,000 feet above sea level to Ghangaria.

~~~

At twilight that evening over cups of tea with another trekker in a tiny roadside restaurant in Ghangaria, there was more silence, than talk.

“I’ve never felt anything have such a powerful impression on my psyche,” I said.

“Mine too,” was the solemn response.
~~~

Previous Related Posts:


If you like this post, and wish to check out more photographs of the trek to the Valley of Flowers, click here.

27 comments:

indicaspecies said...

This is hopefully my last post on the Valley of Flowers.

It turned out long because I preferred to make it one post of a day spent in the Valley of Flowers.

I had more than 600 pictures of that day alone, and had to sort out and choose only some to share here.

My interest in the flora and fauna, especially Himalayan, continues and having been a botany student in the past, I have tried identifying certain plants posted at the link given at the end of this post.

I hope you enjoy this post.

- celine

Final_Transit said...

Hi Celine,

Although this was a year back, the narration, pictures and your personal experiences are timeless. I found it very enjoyable, thanks very much.

The picture from google is impressive. How much is the entrance fee for the valley? I like that there is registration involved, for the reason that you write later. Your 'monkey walk' description is funny and scary. The last thing I want to happen is to die anonymously, but then I also want to die in a sexy place like this and not in a hospital with tubes all around. So I dont know! The Bhojpatra trees are seen in Canada too, a different species but similar. I havent been to VoF but my parents have. Finally after such a long comment, I like the Hellen Keller quote, very true!

cheers,
Priyank

Vinita said...

Hi Celine,

Been waiting for this post ever since I read the last one(on VoF). It was worth the wait!
Am spellbound when I see all the pics, and I wonder how I'll feel when I'm THERE. Reading this post has me badly wanting to go there. And this looks like one place where I wouldn't mind getting lost. Thanks for sharing this with us!

Lakshmi said...

celine,

was thinking abt you this morning and wanted to visit your blog..what a refreshing post..I can feel your passion for VOF..if only my knee gets well..

GMG said...

Hi Celine! It was almost ten months since your last post (at least it felt like that ;)), but it was worth while waiting!! Wonderful travelogue: lovely pictures, excellent text!! Anyhow, I'm getting too old for a trekker... ;))´

Want to see Trakai? Blogtrotter has it and is highly missing you… Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Vipul said...

Hey Celine,the expressions you used in the post along with the pictorial descriptions are well, as already mentioned,timeless.Never been more interested in a place to visit and the quotes by Frank Smythe and Helen Keller are wonderful.I am at a loss of words to explain the feelings,that have created an aura of this place on me.Have you seriously considered being a writer and sharing with the world all your travelling experiences,A Travel Journal.Its' always good to know that free spirited people,other than me, are enjoying out there.:-)
A quote to salute your spirit:

There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal--Lord Byron
take care and god bless.

Arun said...

Very vivid Celine. Your pictures tell me how beautiful the place is.

Vamsee said...

Celine,
This was a very beautiful. It has been a year, but the way you wrote it, feels like you went last week.
Very well written and I could almost feel the cold air (maybe that was my AC)from the mountains.
The green from your pictures is unbelievable!
Hope to write about my trip to VOF later this year.

rabbit said...

the entrance to valley is awesome...

i have so many places to go.

thank you for sharing this

tc n hugs

indicaspecies said...

Hi friends,
Been a busy weekend for me, slogging at office on a Saturday (hey, the weekend in the Middle East is Friday and Saturday..mostly). So a belated response to your lovely comments, and thank you for going through my post.


Priyank,
I like long comments.
I like any comment for that matter.
Delighted that you enjoyed this.
It's been ten months or so but the memories will always remain fresh in my mind.
The entrance fee was nominal, if I recall right, it was approximately Rs. 130 or so.


Vinita,
Thank you.
A pleasure to share my experiences and sorry about the delay.
Go to VoF and hey, don't be lost..come back safe!


Lakshmi,
Thank you.
I hope your knee heals soon, and all the best.
(I can guess why you thought of me. Will email you soon.)


Gil,
I’m glad you liked the post.
Thank you for the kind words, and I shall be over to see Trakai soon.


Vipul,
Thank you for dropping by, and pleased to interact with another nature lover.
Oh yea, when it comes to travel, my spirit is free, and awaiting another opportunity to soar high..
That this post got you interested to visit the VoF gives me a sense of satisfaction that I have been able to convey a part of my feelings.
I should be quitting my present job and become a Travel Writer, no?
I’ll liken it then to the pleasure in the pathless woods.;)
Seriously, you've made my day with your kind and encouraging words! Thank you very much, especially for the lovely quote…
Indeed, I love not man the less, but Nature more…


Arun,
Thank you very much.


Vamsee,
The memories are fresh in my mind, that’s why.
I went to the Garhwal late July-early August in the rainy season, perhaps that's why so green.
Cool breeze you shall get soon with the monsoons around the corner there.:)
Looking forward to reading about your trip to the VoF.


Rabbit,
My pleasure.
Thank you for dropping by.

Rajesh said...

From whatever I could see through your post the valley is certainly beautiful and life time experience not to be missed. The snaps of scenic valley landscapes are breathtaking as usual.

Arnab said...

Hi Celine,

Actually I am at a loss of words...I didn't only read what you wrote, I could actually see it, smell it & sometimes touch the flora...

Are you sure you wrote the account after 10 months! It seems you are right there & writing...Loved every word, all the depictions, lovely quotes, fabulous pictures and most of all, expression of your feelings at every crossroads...

I am sure I am gonna read it one more times...and then may be a couple of times more...Thanks for sharing your exeperience with us...Cheers...

Unseen Rajasthan said...

This is really so beautiful !! I certainly enjoyed the valleys..Kailash Himalayas are really fantastic !!My Spiritual Master has gone for Kailash Mansarover Trip and i m so happy that some part of it i have found in your blog..Thanks for sharing..Also I Have Started My Own Website And Would Like You To Have A Look At It.I Would Love To Have Your Comments On That Also.Unseen Rajasthan

GMG said...

Hi Celine! Just to tell you that Blogtrotter has a nice lunch location for you. Enjoy and have a great weekend! I’m having the benefit of the holidays in Portugal this week... ;))

San said...

A place of pure enchantment. How could anyone feel let down in such a place?

Shantanu said...

Enjoyed this series of posts. That's what I need to do next, get up close to a glacier or a volcano!

Saibal Barman said...

The beauty of the Nature lies in its divine offerings...touch them, hold each, smell sweet fragrance of its virgin soil, look above the sky and those smiling clouds, some birds and endless flow of that stream...they are all yours...Do I have anything so near to me? So dear to me? It only defines my existence, I can see my own face, touch my soul, smell me from within...it is all for the Mother Nature. Silence only takes me to those beautiful moments of floating upon tranquil flow of love---I could hear all sweet tunes of giggles, half-expressed dreams and tales that all meant for me...I did not utter a single word...just enjoyed...it was all for me...for love of my mother...

I loved, Celine, those last few words...there was more silence, than talk...and let us feel it...

Regards,

Trotter said...

Hi Celine! Hope everything is fine with you. And that you got excellent results on those exams of some months ago!!

The Republic of Uzupis. Never heard? Blogtrotter has it for you… ;) Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Zhu said...

I personally find the place beautiful and unique, through your pictures. It reminds me a little bit of far Southern Patagonia, in Chile and Argentina.. remote, still wild and lonely.

I'd love to visit!

AJEYA RAO said...

Hello celina...have you been to Kinnaur? wanted some info

indicaspecies said...

Rajesh,
It certainly is. Glad you felt so.


Arnab,
Welcome aboard. Your encouraging words has made my recounting the trek worthwhile. Thanks a lot. I wish you happy travels.


Bharat,
Thank you. What happened to your KMS trip? I’ll visit you and will email you.


San,
Indeed. Thank you for your regular visits.


Shantanu,
Glad you did. All the best with your glacier/volcano adventures.


Saibal,
I am aware that you, being a nature lover yourself, do understand the significance. Delighted that you enjoyed this. Let’s rejoice at the beauty of nature.


GMG:
Oh yes, Gil, all fine here. Just that been busy, and thanks for inquiring about my results. I passed all 5 subjects in the first attempt. :D


Zhu,
You sweet girl, you’ve enjoyed quite a bit of those mountains of South America.
I’ve been through some of those pictures and find it absolutely marvelous! Wish you many more travels.


Ajeya,
Hi. I have not been to Kinnaur, but been to Shimla and Manali. Have also passed through the Rohtang Pass on to the valleys of Lahaul, Spiti, and Keylong on the way to Ladakh.

Namita Chandra said...

I just came across your blog today and it was a great treat to read about and see photographs of the valley of flowers.

indicaspecies said...

Namita,
Thank you for your visit to my blog Dr and am glad that you liked this post.:)

bendtherulz said...

Heya , beautiful post ....thanks for completing with all the pictures.Loved the Blue poppy pics, and some of the scenes were so awesome...it transported me back to valley...!!
I think more you see the pics of valley more you fall in love !!
And I totally agree with one of the fellow blogger that it really felt as if you were writing sitting in valley....!!
Thx once again for sharing ~~
Tk care ~~

indicaspecies said...

BTR,

My pleasure. The memories of the VoF shall always remain fresh in my mind. It is a place that we'll perpetually be in love with!!

Regina said...

Such a great place. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Кажется, это подойдет.