On the magic carpet of flowers

Travel tales

On the magic carpet of flowers

The Valley of Flowers National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, is on the wishlist of any adventure seeker. In early August last year, I set off for this heaven. I caught an early morning flight to Delhi and then took a bus the same day to reach the holy city of Haridwar; in time for the ‘Ganga Aarti’ spectacle.

The next day was a long journey in a bus to reach Govindghat by nightfall. Stopping enroute at every town, meeting new people and savouring the beauty of the Garhwal Himalayan ranges complimented the statement that the journey is more beautiful than the destination. I spent the next day visiting the temple town of Badrinath and took a dip in the cold waters of the mighty Alaknanda river. Considering the monsoon season, the tourist inflow was very less and so were the roads — broken and missing at many places between Govindghat and Badrinath. Hiring a porter to carry my backpack, I set off the next morning from Govindghat towards Ghangaria, a 13 km hike passing by the villages of Pulna and Bhyundar. A road is newly laid for the initial three kms and jeeps ply on this small distance. The villages of Pulna and Bhyundar were devastated during the floods in 2013 and you can see traces of the old bridges in the river surviving the carnage that happened. I took it easy with numerous pitstops for clicking photographs and catching my breath; it took about four hours to hike till Ghangaria. I had pre-booked my stay at the GMVN guesthouse in Ghangaria and everything including the food was great for the three nights that I stayed.

The next day was even more eventful as I was hiking to the Valley of Flowers so I started early from Ghangaria. You need to enter your details at the checkpost paying a nominal fee; then a 3 km hike and you are in the National Park. The weather was cloudy and there was mist all around reducing visibility; the sights of the valley below, as you ascend, were magical and the flower blooms all along the path added to the magic.

Along the way, you cross a couple of streams, glide across glaciers, negotiate boulder-ridden paths and ascend steep elevations till you hit a relatively flat valley extending its view as far as your sight can take it. Depending on the season and with clear skies, you can see the valley dotted with either white, yellow or pink flowers, truly making it a spectacle worth a visit at least once. The far distant glacier was all dried up owing to less snowfall. I spent a good 10 hours hiking to and from the valley and spending time there, capturing the colourful flora that dots it.‘White-leaf hogweed’, ‘Himalayan fragrant orchid’, ‘yellow star of Bethlehem’, ‘roundleaf bellflower’, ‘hill geranium’, ‘cheerful senecio’, ‘trailing bellflower’ and ‘Himalayan balsam’ were some of the mind-boggling beautiful flowers that I could sight in the valley. Owing to a tiring day, I opted for a pony ride to Hemkund Sahib the next morning, the place that houses the highest gurudwara in the world at 14,000 feet. The six km hike is steep but at the end, you are rewarded with a pristine sight on the top. The ‘Brahma Kamal’ flower adorns the hilltop at the higher elevations and the ‘blue poppy’ is another small little flower not to be missed. The hot ‘khichdi’ and tea served in the gurudwara offer you the much required energy. This place remains closed for more than six months in a year and is submerged in complete snow.

I retraced my way back to Govindghat the next day, bidding farewell to the valley with a hope of returning again.  How to get there  

  • One can then take a train or bus from Delhi to Haridwar. From there, you can opt for a bus or shared jeep to Govindghat or Joshimath.
  • Hike options: By foot / pony ride / palanquin / porter / helicopter ride till Ghangaria. Ponies are not allowed inside the Valley of Flowers National Park.

Places to stay

  • I stayed at Hotel Badrish in Govindghat and GMVN guesthouse in Ghangaria. There are other options based on your budget.
  • The overall cost for my solo trip including travel, stay and porter charges was approximately Rs 20,000.

  (The author can be contacted at santosh.badri@gmail.com)

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