Our tryst with a paradise lost

Our tryst with a paradise lost

Right from our college days in Kolkata, we have been keen travellers. My wife (then girlfriend) and I always looked for even the tiniest window of opportunity to escape from the haphazard city life and find tranquility in obscurity. It was always our dream to visit the fabled Valley of Flowers that sits majestically in Uttarakhand but we never managed to chalk out a definite plan. Once we were married and the discussion for the honeymoon was laid down on the table, both our minds immediately went to this particular corner in the Chamoli district that has a true record of Mother Nature’s unblemished beauty.

The ideal time to visit this haven is between July to September. We went in the middle of August to be safe and not encounter too many road blocks. Initially, we took a car from New Delhi to Haridwar from where our climb would start. We chose to overlook the sights of Haridwar, saving them for the return journey. To be honest, neither of us could wait to get to the Valley first and have it leave our jaws open.

From Haridwar, our next stop was Govindghat, a town situated on the confluence of the Alaknanda and Lakshmanganga rivers. It is till Govindghat that one can find a motorable road. Having been through an energy sapping car ride, we decided to stop for the night at Govindghat to recuperate and go out firing on all cylinders the following day.

The next morning, we hired a guide and left the hotel at 7 am. The road from Govindghat looked more like a mud track than a road, owing to the combined efforts of the altitude, the elements of Nature and the terrain itself. One can go beyond Govindghat by foot, mule or even helicopter. We chose a couple of sure-footed mules for Rs 800 per head and set off towards the Valley of Flowers which was 14 kilometres away.

The path was a tortuous one and had it not been for the mules, we may have had a difficult time getting up there. While our mules treaded the steep track with nonchalance we could never have been able to muster, we caught a glimpse of the Patalganga, a tributary of the Ganges that is known to disappear under the ground only to resurface in Haridwar and join the main river.

Our mules finally trudged up to the valley at around 2 pm that afternoon and we instantly went to the Valley of Flowers National Park to avail tickets. One ticket is valid for a period of three days. Once that was done, we set about exploring the incredible valley by ourselves. We did not get too far on the first day as we had to retreat and be at the gates by 4pm. There is a Government of India mandate that states anyone who stays after 4 pm can be fined Rs 15,000. The next morning and the one after that, however, were fruitful, to say the least as we encountered the infamous ‘Himalayan Blue Poppy’ among a horde of other species that we could not name but just be enthralled by. Visitors are advised to not touch any of the flowers that grow there on account that there could be life-threatening consequences from unknown species.

On the final day, we still had some time on our hands so we decided to invest it in a trip to Hemkund Sahib, a Gurdwara situated 15,000 feet above sea level and it proved to a magical experience on its own.

The Valley of Flowers suffered irreparable damage in the floods that ravaged the state of Uttarakhand. Hopefully they can be restored to their inimitable best, sooner rather than later.

As told by Debanjan and Smita Tulip to A Ayush Chatterjee

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