The twin destinations of Hemkund and Valley of Flowers, have their base as Ghangaria in Garhwal Himalayas. The tourists visit these places between first week of June and last week of September. Since both these destinations fall on the Badrianth route, a day’s program of Badrinath also gets thrown in. After visiting valley of flowers twice and Hemkund once, I realized that best time to visit both these places differ. Hemkund is seen at its best during the month of June and Valley of flowers between mid-July to mid-August. In other words, ideally, one should not combine these places in one tour. But, one does not want to have a tour too many. My two visits to Valley of Flowers took place in month of June in 2008 and 2009. Not being best time of the year to visit the Valley, it was not disappointing either.
We started from Rishikesh in early morning and arrived at Govindghat by evening traversing some 273 km distance. The next day we had a 14 km trek to Ghangaria (also called Govind-Dham). Arriving at Ghangaria we got holed up at gmvnl guest house since we availed of gmvnl package tour.
The 23rd day of June, 2008 dawned with another bright, cloud-less morning. We took our time and packed our back packs and headed along the cement paved track, crossed the steel bridge over river Laxmanganga, and walked on till the board indicating the direction to Valley of Flowers and Hemkund made its appearance. We veered towards left and came to the check post. The door to the modest office maintained by forest authorities, was just being unlocked by two persons, who were in charge of issuing passes for the entry to Valley. The entry fee costs Rs.50/- and for still camera Rs.100/-. We sat down on the benches across the office as those office people started some repair work to their office entrance. It was good 15 minutes, before we could be issued our entry passes, and we hit the trail. The first impression that hits you, on the stone paved, tree covered track with beautifully maintained railings, is the absence of horse dung, as horses are not allowed inside. The aroma of fresh vegetation in air was evident. As we proceeded the very tall 'jungle rose' bush with profusion of flowers, greeted us. The initial half a km was simple downward trek amidst plants and bushes aplenty; the tall trees stopping the sunlight almost completely, the moist soil and leaves, leave you with a kind of freshness, we seldom find in our cities. As we descended further a roaring sound greeted us. The mountain stream visible at a distance, was to be crossed. About 30’ from the bridge, the track suddenly ended. We simply had to squeeze between huge rocks while going up, sometimes making use of our hand to get a grip. A lone tourist was returning from his early morning trek to the Valley. We carefully crossed over the iron sheets placed over the furiously flowing river Pushpawati, and after a rise of couple of metres, hit the trail for the Valley.
|Make shift bridge|
The early summer species of flowers ( if you can call it a flower ) to greet us was ‘Cobra lily’, which is green in colour and absolutely resembles the reptilian species.
We yet again crossed another make-shift bridge over flowing rivulet. The trail there after was stone paved with a gentle upward gradient; the constant roar of the flowing river, among the melting glaciers, kept one company right through. At some point we come across a spot where the river was emerging below a glacier; the glacier extending to the mountain opposite. There was a lot of dust scattered across the glacier, somewhat marring its beauty otherwise.
|Glacier on way|
We came across a glacier right on top of the trail. The forest authorities seemed to have scooped the snow at suitable location for the foothold, big enough for ‘yeti’ to cross over! None the less, one by one, we crossed over. Sandhya took her own time scooping some snow here and there. The trek appeared to be so different from Hemkund trek, in a sense that, one tries in vain to fill the huge void in this part of Himalayas, since the visitors were conspicuous by their absence, at this time of the year. We came across some small scattered flowers here and there, but nothing as significant as we read about.
We took the narrow trail, some time stone paved, sometime over plain soil. The cement based seating pedestals, created at suitable locations, was an ideal for taking a breather. On next one hours leisurely trek we had several snap shots of flowers of species blooming in early summer.
As we arrived at the valley, the sign board reading Bamandhaula, at 3,450m, heralded the beginning of Valley. The Valley extended further 5 km; which we decide not to negotiate. The narrow trail with both sides having dense bushes of plants with exotic names with their sigh boards, like Saussrea fastuosa, Primula Macrophyla, and others, waited for the blooming season in July/August.
We found a small pipe jutting by the side of trail with clear fresh water emerging from it. We drank the spring water to our hearts content and sat down to admire the nature around. The valley itself, flowers, or no – flowers, was enchanting. The dark clouds vying with each other to caress the hills, with a lot of vegetation, was an eye soother. The distant snow peaks, added a grandeur to the valley. The peace and tranquillity of the place was astounding. A group of villagers passed by; so beautifully blending with the surroundings and make it more lively.
Valley of Flowers - visuals in youtube
1) Valley of Flowers is open to public from first week of June to end September.
2) The best time to visit the valley is between 15th July to 15th August.
3) Be prepared to come across some landslides in Badrinath route in July/August. One or two additional days as cushion could prove to be helpful.
4) GMVNL Ghangaria offers decent accommodation which can be booked online.