Uttarakhand Update: Part IV– Second trip to the Valley of Flowers
The valley of flowers was discovered to the world outside the Bhyundar valley (as the surrounding region is called) in the early 1930s by the British mountaineer Frank Smythe and his team while they were returning from their expedition to Mt. Kamet. A few years later, he revisited the valley to document the flowers and published an eponymous book that popularized the valley in Britain. A botanist Margaret Legge, having read his book visited the valley in the late 1930s to study the flowers, but in an unfortunate accident, she fell off a cliff while she was there. Her body was never found, but her sister built a memorial for her deep within the valley.
The first day, none of us had got as far as the memorial. I wasn’t actually aware there was one till I saw the video film that evening. The next day we decided to venture much further into the valley – as far as the memorial, at the very least. The real objective though was to spot the Blue Poppy, probably the most well known of the flowers of the valley. We had been told the Blue Poppy was likely to be found deeper in the valley, and we were hoping to spot it that day. I had mistakenly thought one of the blue flowers I had spotted the day before was the Blue Poppy, but it turned out to be something else altogether.
As had become the norm, Vivek and I set out before the others – it was a much better day, the rain had stayed away and we were keen to spend more time in the valley. Barring one halt to take photographs of the Pushpavati, we didn’t stop anywhere else and reached the valley in reasonably quick time. Vivek set up his tripod to take better pictures than the day before, while I continued to take more photographs with my Canon S3. The Common Rose Finch, a beautiful rose colored small bird that is common to those parts was flitting from one Himalayan Hogweed to another all along the valley. Quite unlike the Common Redstart, which had willingly posed like a model for close-up shots, the rose-finch was a more flighty bird prone to take-off just as I focused my lens on it. After a while, I gave up and continued to head forward. Shortly, we were at a fork, one trail would take us further up the valley while the other going downhill would take us to Margaret Legge’s memorial.
As keen as I was to keep going forward in the quest for the Blue Poppy, Vivek was keener still to see the memorial – so we decided to take a detour to the memorial, head back up and continue forward. I saw one or two new flowers on the way to the memorial, quite possibly flowers I had missed spotting earlier. The view from the memorial was rather grand, and we shot a few more photos. The rose finch continued to tantalize me and I was rather cross with the bird by the time we reached the fork again. We had already asked the bittu to wait there, and we continued forward past a small stream. Visitors to the valley, I had realized by then, seldom ventured beyond the memorial, so I was rather pleased that we still had the energy to keep going forward. We must have walked about 20-30 minutes and just as we were crossing a second larger stream, we met a few locals heading that way too. To our disappointment, they informed us that we would have to walk much longer before we could see the Blue Poppy. A quick glance at the way ahead indicated the absence of any other new flower varieties and it seemed prudent to stop there and return.
We met the rest of the group on the way back and having pointed them towards the memorial, continued on our way back. That’s when the rose finch decided to have mercy on me, and patiently posed for her/his photographs to be taken finally. Happy to have got that out of the way at last, I headed towards the rock shelter that we had seen on the way (that’s where most people stop for lunch/snacks or what have you). So, that’s what I did too while I waited for Vivek and the others to join me. More rose finches flew by and I managed to get a few more photos after I had my lunch. Vivek joined shortly and after he had taken a few snaps too and elicited gasps of admiration from a few other photo enthusiasts who had stopped there, both of us continued on our way back.
Got a back and leg massage once I had reached the hotel, showered and settled down with Thirteen Moons again. Early in the book, appears this line – Whatever you believe and whatever god you pray to, a place where clean water rises from the earth is someway sacred. That, to me, captured the essence of every place we had been to thus far.
|Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand|