15 March 2010

The Valley of Flowers - a few visuals

Here are a few snaps from this excitingly beautiful valley. Thanks to my co-traveler Ram for capturing some of these.

A sneak into the valley. Nanda Devi peak in the background
A view from inside the valley, The peak covered with clouds.
River Pushpavati beginning its envious journey.

A lush green clad mountain, from within.

A pathway leading to the paradise, inside the valley of Flowers

A sample of flora grown specifically in this valley

Oher few varieties of flowers carpetting the valley
This breathtaking valley inspires one to make love with peace and simplicity. Hope you enjoyed the journey all along.

11 March 2010

The Valley of Flowers - Facts

Some tidbits -
Place - "The Valley of Flowers"
Located in - The Byundar valley of Uttarakhand state of India
Good time to visit - Right from mid-August to October - as variety of flowers bud post monsoon.
Commuting there - One has to trek to undertake this expedition, no other means is there at all!
Food - No food or accomodation available in this land of God, as this is a part of the protected Nanda Devi National Park.

Where exactly is this place?
Inside the Nanda Devi Natioanl Park, nestled high in the West Himalayan range. This is geographically located in the Uttarakhand state of India;
At exactly 276 KMs from the pilgrimage haunt Rishikesh, and is located in the Chamoli district of Gharval region of the state.

So, How do we get to feel the air of here?
1. Reach Haridwar/Rishikesh by train Or Dehradun by flight

2. Take a bus to Joshimath, a 10 hour drive from Haridwar.

3. Stay overnight there. It is a good town and comfortable accomodation and food options are available here.

4. Start early morning to Govindghat - enroute Badrinath Dham. It takes about an hour to reach Govindghat from Joshimath. Govindghat is the closest to the Valley one can reach by road.
5. Start trekking to Govind Dham/Ghangriya, which is at a 13Kms distance from Govindghat.
- A very strenuous trek, which is uphill mostly, would take anywhere between 6 hrs to 9 hrs - depending on the individual strength and capabilities.
- No night trek possible since the forest region this, is a leopard ground!
- Food/refreshments - are available throught the trek route.
- Human traffic can be expected - mostly the Sikh pilgrims doing the Hemkunt Sahib visit.
- Alternatively, ponies or dolkis are available for those who can not walk.

6. Stay at Govind Dham/Ghangriya - hotels are available that provide comfortable accomodation, sometimes food too.
- A Gurudwara gives good food and accomodation to all the pilgrims, free of cost.
- Everything is costly in this part of the world, because of the accessibility issues.
- Electricity is available for only 2 hours a day, for an hour early in the morning and another hour soon after the night fall.
- Telephone networks are a strict no-no, and a few satellite phones available operate on the ration basis, and at a hefty charge. No other option at all!

7. Next morning, leisurely start walking towards "The Valley of Flowers" -
- A leisure trek of 3 KMs amidst a wonderful landscape along the bank of river Pushpavati would land you at the gates of the Valley of Flowers
- The Valley of Flowers is spread over a huge area of 87.5kms.
- Altitude of this valley is roughly 4000 meters above the sea level.
- A well-maintained natural park is this. A decent road way made of stones is laid along the walking path.
- There are huge boulders at regular intervals for one to take a break from walking.
- To experience the paradise - one has to walk at least 4.5KMs inside the valley.
- There are quiet a few water bodies that crosses ones' path, for people to fill their water bottles.
- The whole environment is mostly clean, and there are dust bins provided at some places for the litter dump.
- Unlike the Ghangriya, the Valley is less crowded.
- There is no way a porter or a pony is allowed to carry you inside the park, it is just for the trekkers alone.
- Some venomous shrubs are also existing in the valley, so, the visitors are adviced not to go near the plants nor to pluck the flowers from here.
- Flowers here - There are about 80 different varieties of flowers that enrich the visitors' experience.
- Note: For people from Bangalore/ South India, these flowers might not appall as extravagant, as it might sound at the thought of the Valley of Flowers.
(I mean we get much more colorful and pleasing variety of flowers here. But when you see those wild flowers, spread as carpet - thats something special, and a unique feature of this National Park).
- Pack your lunch form Govinddham/Ghangriya itself, and have it leisurely inside the valley.
- Do not forget to carry back the plastic and other unorganic waste.

8. Walk back to the hotels at Ghangriya well before the sunset. Yes, Sun sets pretty fast here - by 5 PM. So, be home quick.
- Take a good rest - there would be no disturbance here except that of the hooters and the pony rackets.
- No mobile phones can be a blessing in such places!

9. It is best adviced that you continue to trek next day to the Hemkunt Saheb Gurudwara.
- At Hemkunt, which can be reached after a tougher trek of 6kms from Ghangriya, there is a modern building having the Gurudwara shrine where Sikhs worship the Guru Grantha Sahib.
- It is also believed that Lord Lakshman, Lord Sri Ram's younger brother, meditated at this spot when he was Vasuki, in his prior life. There is a temple dedicated to Lakshman besides the Gurudwara.
- Main attraction of this place is the lake named Hemkunt popularly or Lakshman Ganga historically.
- Nonetheless, it is revered by both Hindus and Sikhs.
- A dip in the chilling waters of this lake is said to cure all the illnesses, and wash away the sins of 100 lives of a person.
- Temperature here would mostly be around 09 degrees at 10AM on a given summer day. And it would go down to sub zero any point in time. So, no one is allowed to stay here after 2PM.
- Yummy Kichdis - both sweet and spicy variants are provided as prasad to all the pilgrims on behalf of the Gurdwara. A hot tea follows up the kichdi treat as well. One will feel stunningly fresh after this refreshment.
- The seven hills surrounding the lake gives a mystic appearance to the environment. The priest at Lakshman temple puts them as saptha rishis (Seven original eternal monks)
- This whole area closes every winter, after Deepavali. Opens only after April in the next year.
- This is due to the heavy snow fall in the region during winters.

10. If you start from Ghangriya uphill to Hemkunt at 4:30 AM, you would complete the 6kms trek by 8:30AM. If you start back by 10:15 AM, after the prayers and brunch, another three hours would take you back to your hotel in Ghanghriya.

11. From Ghangriya, back to Govindghat is again a strenuous trek of 13 kms down hill. Would take 4-5 hours, by when night would have come!
So, It is advisible to stay back for another night at Ghanghriya. Since this is a boring place for you to spend so much time, you can actually try the pony option which would take around 3-3.5hrs to reach down hill. That would give you enough time to reach Badrinath Dham or Joshimath by road.

12. From Govindghat, Badrinath dham takes an hour by road. You can also go back to Joshimath which is again at an hour's distance from here.

In all, it is a total three day hardship, at the least, which gives you an unlimited joy of experiencing the Valley of Flowers.

Wait for the pictures of this wonderful valley.