Thursday, 30 August 2018

To the Valley of Flowers and Beyond! Vol.1

"Let's go to Valley of Flowers." 
"We have a long weekend in August, and I'm up for another trek.", she asserted.  
I wondered why it has to be the valley of flowers. I have done high altitude treks, and this one was never on my bucket list. I was eyeing either Rupin Pass or Kashmir Great Lakes to be my next destination. However, I had to concede seeing that everyone agreed and we went ahead with the valley of flowers. 

No matter how well you plan your commute in Bengaluru to avoid traffic, it always gets to you. It took me 2 hours 45 minutes to reach the airport, and I could have missed my flight to Delhi, but luckily I didn't. IGI airport, T2 arrival was our rendezvous point, and we waited for everyone to join. The clock struck midnight, and we had a little surprise birthday celebration on the road before boarding the cab to Haridwar. 

The drive to Haridwar was short and comfortable, and there we met the larger group at the railway station. A quick introduction and we were all set for another journey to our first base camp, Govind Ghat. I hate travelling on the hilly roads but can't escape it for all these destinations I keep planning. It was an excruciating 11 hours of spin, and we reached base camp in the late evening. It was almost dinner time and soon after that everyone gathered including trek leader, support staffs and all of us. I realised it was the first-time high altitude trek for most of them, and I again contemplated why I chose 'Valley of Flowers'. "Would it be worth it?", I thought to myself. A bit disappointed I discreetly strolled the street from one end to another. 

The next morning, after a quick breakfast, we were all geared up to begin our adventure. It was a 4 km bumpy ride till Poolna, and from there it was 9 km trek to Ghangharia. The trail was well defined, and it goes parallel with a river. It was a delight to walk next to the rushing river amidst lush green cover and rain pouring over my head. The trail has umpteen number of dhabas along the way, and we stopped at one to savour Himalayan Maggi. I know it is the same Maggi by Nestle, but it tastes so distinctively delicious at high altitudes. The journey continued, and we reached an open space just before entering Ghangharia. A mountain with clouds nestled over its peak, a cascade of white water falling from a height on the far side, and the green meadow offered a feast to the eye. I was soaked in the beauty as I kept looking back while moving towards the hamlet. It was a long tiring day, and I had plans to explore the place, but the body said, "Not Today". 

"It is raining outside", announced my roommate in the morning. 
"We might have to change today's plan if the weather stays like this", said our trek leader during breakfast. 
It seemed it wasn't a good start to the day, however, things turned out well in the next half an hour, and we were on to the valley of flowers. It was a short trek of approx. 4 km but we had to return to Ghangharia same day as campings are not allowed inside the valley of flowers. It didn't take long, and we saw a carpet of colours spread across the place. It was nice to have Yashpal bhai, the flower expert, with us who kept telling the local names of the flowers and I tried to take mental note of it, but very soon I gave up. As we reached halfway, we made a quick stop beneath a huge rock and waited for others to catch up. It had started raining again, but we continued going further inside the valley crossing one stream after other. It wasn't now just the flowers, but also the waterfalls. One waterfall, next to another waterfall, next to another waterfall, and I saw it in all directions. It appeared to be like a scene from planet Pandora in the movie Avatar. 

I stopped at the memorial of Miss Joan Margaret Legge. She was a botanist from England who died here while collecting flower samples. Her sister built the tomb, and it had a beautiful quote inscribed on it. 

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills
from whence cometh my help.” 

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