Coming into bloom

Coming into bloom

At this time of the year, the Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand makes for a glorious sight with exotic flowers.

If you ask any itinerant traveller to make a list of top 10 dream destinations in India, the Valley of Flowers will surely figure very highly on it. And if you have been planning for it, but never got down to doing it, the time is now! The Valley of Flowers, in the foothills of the Himalayas, beckons visitors from far and near in thousands from mid-July to mid-September, when the blanket of snow melts and a spectacular range of flowers starts blooming on the hill slopes covered with fresh greenery. It is a sight to behold, which reappears in one’s dreams for several nights thereafter.

Flower power

Stretching over a vast expanse of 87 sq km and complemented by rugged mountains all around, the valley is like nature’s kaleidoscope of moving paintings — as the guides accompanying the constant stream of tourists say — the flowers and the sceneries change almost every week. So, what you see on a particular day is what is written in your karma, unless you decide to become a guide for a few seasons!

Valley of Flowers
Valley of Flowers

According to Dinesh Kunwal and Deepak Joshi of Himalaya’s Heaven Adventure, who organise regular trekking in the area, about 520 varieties of flowers bloom from June to October, depending on weather conditions, and one may sight around 40-50 types at any given time, which itself is mind-boggling.

We were lucky to come across the Himalayan daisy, which resembles the sunflower, the balsam family of flowers, followed by the Himalayan markshood in deep blue. The meadow rue, dwarf globe, slender tape vine, golden lily, marsh marigold and rows and rows of Himalayan avemore and rock more were among the varieties visible. The blue poppy with golden yellow stamen was a sensational beauty, as was brahma kamal.

Starting early in the morning from Ghangaria, which is the base camp, and walking a distance of around 5 km, one needs to spend at least four to five hours to soak in the magnificence of nature in the valley, and begin the trek back to reach the exit gate mandatorily by 5 pm, which the accompanying guides will ensure. 

The next day, it is a fairly tough but gradual climb to a height of 14,700 feet to reach the Hemkund Lake and the Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara on its bank, which attract Sikh pilgrims from all over the world. Surrounded by seven mountain peaks, the pristine lake is serenely beautiful. There are mules available at reasonable rates for those finding the trek arduous.

The journey to the Valley of Flowers begins from Haridwar, which can be reached from Delhi or Dehradun. An overnight stay in Haridwar is desirable as one can have a dip in the mighty Ganga, which flows with full force, and then watch the exhilarating ‘Ganga aarthi’, a spectacle of about 90 minutes which is not to be missed.

From Haridwar, it is a 320-km journey by road to Pandukeshwar near Govindghat. It can be extremely hazardous as landslides and roadblocks are quite common, though the Uttarakhand Public Works Department employees work efficiently to keep the traffic moving as quickly as possible. Travellers are advised to reach Govindghat before dusk to avoid being accidentally hit by boulders, or being thrown into the deep valleys along the narrow mountainous roads.

A trip to the Valley of Flowers gives one the added advantage of visiting popular holy places like Badrinath, Rishikesh, Jyothirmath (set up by Adi Shankaracharya), Devaprayag, Rudraprayag and also Mana, which is the last village on this side of India-China border. 

Riverine wonders

But, the real bonus, to my mind, is to be able to experience the might of the River Ganga and its tributaries all along the route and marvel at its strength and volume, as it cascades down with tremendous force. Pushpawati river comes from Tipra glacier and joins Lakshman Ganga at Bhundar; Lakshman Ganga then joins Alaknanda at Govindghat, while Mandakini traverses from Kedarnath and meets Alaknanda at Rudraprayag; Alaknanda is also joined by Pindar Ganga at Nandaprayag, while Bhagirathi comes from Tehri region and joins Alaknanda at Devprayag to become the Ganga before it begins to sweep the plains.

Anyone in fairly good health up to the age of 75, or kids above six or seven years, can make the trip to the valley. All that they need to do is to brisk walk regularly, or jog for a month or so, and keep up the fitness level. Then, with a decent pair of good quality shoes to wear, you are ready to go and explore this wonder of nature.