Uttarkahand Update: Part III –1st trip to the Valley of Flowers
Ghangria is one of those transit towns almost 100% dependent on the tourist traffic. Most of the tourists are usually Sikh pilgrims on their way to Hemkund Saheb, but there are also a smattering of visitors such as ourselves, passing by to visit the Valley of Flowers. Many of the places we stayed at in Uttarakhand, Ghangria in particular, suffer from the unreliability of the water and electric supply. The electricity at Ghangria is rigidly rationed – from 4 – 7 in the morning and 6:30 – 10 in the evening is when power is available. While the electricity limitations are understandable, what is really odd is the lack of water. Given the river flows right by the town, there really shouldn’t be any problem with the availability of water, but tap water is a luxury and is also available only when there is power. Still it is what it is, and you have to deal with that by timing your ablutions accordingly. Diarrhoea in Ghangria is something you really want to avoid!
But getting back to our trip, we woke up early on 17th morning at Ghangria. After a breakfast of bread, tea and noodles, left for the Valley with Vivek, while the rest of the group were still getting ready. Must have been around 8 when we set out. The town was really just one street – a km or so long; stepping through horse crap and water in equal proportion, we quickly left the town behind, and after another half a kilometre walk up a winding slope, we reached the fork that would take us either to VoF or to Hemkund Saheb. The person at the VoF entrance counter wasn’t issuing tickets that day as a landslide had been reported within the valley and he had been advised not to issue tickets. But India being what it is, issuing tickets was one thing and entering the valley quite another. Rather than ask us to head back to our hotel, all he said was that we could go at our own risk and he would issue the tickets when we were back. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that offer, but one intrepid group before us decided to head into the valley, and we quickly followed suit. Shortly after, everyone else waiting there were following us as well.
The route to the valley was, in itself, a teaser to what we expected to see in the valley. Several varieties of flowers were in bloom beside the narrow path uphill, and we kept stopping to take photos. We crossed a makeshift bridge across a small waterfall, and a permanent one across the Pushpavati river to find ourselves at the beginning of a steep winding ascent up a narrow trail surrounded by the woods. The group in front of us had arranged a guide, and while I tried to stick with them initially, very soon gave up on the idea as I found them walking at snail’s pace, and continued on my way. All of a sudden, we were past the woods and looking straight into a valley with the Pushpavati flowing beside. I waited for Vivek to join me, and when he did, he pointed me to the glacier that I had all the while been staring at without realizing it was one. We continued on our way past the glacier, the first time I had seen one actually. A strange glacier it was too – muddy in parts, it felt more like a block of ice that someone had placed there and forgotten all about. The sight of a river flowing through the glacier from one side to the other is quite something though. I could see more waterfalls further up, but by then I had seen so many waterfalls that I had almost stopped paying attention to them. We soon hit yet another rickety makeshift bridge across the rapidly flowing Pushpavati, and once past that, we were soon in the valley proper and pretty much all the flowers that we had seen all the way there were in full bloom carpeting the valley on both sides of the trail.
I am not much of a flower person, but in the valley of flowers, as beautiful as the surrounding mountains are, there is little else you can pay attention to. Quite literally thousands of pink balsams were fluttering in the wind, with other wild flowers trying to make their presence felt, but being overshadowed by the flurry of pink. Later that evening in the town, I was to attend a video show of the valley where the narrator spoke about the valley changing colour every two weeks. When we were there, pink and white were the dominant colours in the form of the balsam and the Himalayan Hogweed respectively. In all, I guess, we must have seen about twenty varieties of flowers, which, in all honesty, in not such a large number. But the measure of the place lies not so much in keeping count of the varieties as in silently admiring the spectacle of a million wild flowers in full bloom. If I knew the names of the different flowers, I could list those here, but I don’t and so I will let the photos speak for themselves. I must add that while the pink balsam will stare you in the face pretty much any direction you look, it is not as if the other flowers are hard to spot. Many of them are present in sufficient numbers and one just needs to look past the balsam in most cases.
We didn’t go too far into the valley that day – it was raining all the time and it wasn’t easy to take photographs, and secondly I wanted to make sure that we crossed the landslides we had passed on the way to the valley, before it was too late. Just as we left, the rains stopped, and we met the rest of the group getting to the valley. Vivek decided to join them to take more photographs, but I had had my share for the day, and I left with the bittu we had engaged earlier to carry the bags and the camera equipment. We had actually started out without a bittu, but just about when we reached the glacier we had been accosted by one, and both Vivek and I were tired enough and uncertain about how much further we intended to walk that we had decided to take him along with us.
The return to the hotel was much easier and I found myself with enough time to have a bath, make a few purchases, call home and read a while before the others got back as well.
|Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand|