Sunday, 22 April 2012

Hemkund & Valley of Flowers – An Overview


(Summer progressing, tourists, who are planning or already booked their Hemkund & Valley of Flowers Yatra for June to September, will find this blog useful. Only important info has been compiled, so it serves as a quick guide.)

1) Travel Package / Own itinerary
There are plethora of travel websites who provide a travel package as per their pre-determined departure dates and itineraries. Along with Hemkund & Valley of Flowers, they also have a day’s tour to Badrinath thrown in. The Uttarakhand Govt. provides a package tour which can be booked online www.gmvnl.com. I had two tours to this region, once availing of gmvnl package and once my own itinerary by hiring car from Rishikesh. The advantage of booking through gmvnl is getting best possible accommodation owned by Uttarakhand Govt. enroute.

One can have his own itinerary covering all the destinations as above by availing of car/jeep at pre-determined rates per day basis. The tour typically starts from Rishikesh, Haridwar or Delhi. As a thumb rule small car like Maruti Alto costs Rs. 2,000/- to Rs. 2,200/- per day and larger vehicle like Tata Sumo around Rs. 2,800/- per day. A typical touring period in this region is seven days. During monsoon in the months of July/August, it is better to keep an additional day, in case there is landslide in this region. 

2) Timing: The Hemkund as well as the valley of Flowers are open to tourists from 1st June to 30th September. When one should visit depends on one’s priority. Hemkund is visited best in first week of June, when the portion of route is through snow. One experiences some extra-ordinary landscapes en route; also the weather being cool, trekking is lot easier. Ironically the Valley of Flowers is best visited between 15th July to 15th August, during monsoon, when maximum number of flower species are in full bloom. Since base for both the destinations is Ghangaria (also called Govind Dham), one rarely wants to make two trips in the same region. Accordingly, one should decide his priority and journey date.   

3) Things to carry: Early June can be really chilly at Ghangaria, hence one needs to carry warm clothing, including thermals, jackets, woolen lined wind cheaters and Cap. A poncho (once use and throw type rain coat) helps in case of rain. 

4) Food: Only vegetarian food is available. Breakfast is Aloo Parathas and pickles or Maggie noodles. The meals are simple vegetarian fare. At Ghangaria, the base for Hemkund as well as valley of flowers trek, there are a few well stocked restaurants (Himalaya Restaurant, opp. Gmvnl guest house)with variety of food and a few dhabas as well. Apart from vegetarian food, egg preparations are also available. Hot Gulab Jamun, will rank as the specialty in this town. 

5) Trekking en route:
a)Day 1 Govind Ghat to Ghangaria( 13 km ): those who have done Kedarnath trek of 14 km will find this trek no big deal. One can cover the distance in 7 hours by taking several breaks. One should not miss River Point with a small island, river branching off in two streams. The place offers a good view of river and resting place with food served from restaurant. There will be a lot of tourists on this route, mostly Sikh community from Punjab and other parts of the country. Those who cannot foot it out, can hire pony, kandy (cane basket for children). A bamboo stick with spiked at one end purchased for Rs. 20/- at Govindghat, does ease the load on legs.

b) Day 2 Ghangaria to Valley of flowers (2km): Valley of flowers, which is much easier trek compared to Hemkund, can be visited first to acclimatize. A 2 km trek on a gentle gradient brings one to Valley. The valley extends another 5 km. But many do not explore too far. It is possible to return by early afternoon. The entry gate to Valley opens at 7.30 am and there are entry charges as well as fee for still and video camera. If there are glaciers en route to valley, the authorities take care to scoop the snow to get a firm foot hold. In this route ponies are forbidden and one has to foot it out.

Day 3 Ghangaria to Hemkund (7 km): The gradient is steep at most of the places as one climbs nearly 5000’. One can make it in 5 hours by starting very early in the morning. Some Yatris start even at 5 am. There are ponies available; however ponies are hired in pairs. So, one may have to wait for some minutes to be finally on the way. The last two km of the journey had stone steps sometimes back as an alternative to stone stitched route. It is better to take the sloping track route rather than steps – which could be really tiring. While returning one can avail of the stepped route partially, if it is in good condition. En route there are many dhabas (eateries) who cater to Yatris need of mineral water, soft drinks and food like Aloo parathas. The mineral water cost goes up as one goes to higher altitudes. On arrival one generally take a bath or wash hand, feet and face in the holy lake and then enter Gurudwara covering one’s head.

There is a langar run by Shrine committee who supply Khichdi – piping hot but somewhat on liquid side on stainless steel utensils. There are kar sevaks who continuously wash the used utensils in running stream water near the Gurudwara. One can have some hot tea as well. By 2 pm all the tourists are required to resume return trek to Ghangaria. There is no staying facility for tourists at Hemkund.

Accommodation: At Govindghat one can stay at gmvnl guest house by booking online. There are private hotels also. Those taking tour package are mostly halted for the night at Joshimath, which is one and half hour drive from Govindghat. At Ghangaria there is gmvnl guest house, a lot of tented accommodations, gurudwara hall and some private guest houses.

Full Blog On Valley of Flowers

My Handycam recorded visual of Hemkunt Yatra can be seen from following captioned link:

Sri Hemkunt Sahib Yatre, Garhwal Himalayas, Uttarakhand 

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2 comments:

  1. Hemkund Sahib is really incredible place in Uttarakhand . It is surrounded with beautiful valleys . Thanks for this sharing . Mansarovar Yatra

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