Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib, Uttarakhand, India
Two of my friends and I just returned from Valley of flowers and Hemkund Sahib. We started from Delhi and reached Haridwar on 14th Aug. Hired an auto from there and went to Rishikesh. We stayed in the Bassera hotel. We arranged an Indica for the trip as we were only 3 friends (Me, Abhishek and Suvro). At night we got a call from the tour co. that Indica couldn’t be managed and they are giving a Tavera at the same price (8.5K)….wow!!! Lucky us!!
Next morning we set out our journey at 6:30 to Govind Ghat. On way we went through Devprayag (Confluence of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi), Rudraprayag (Confluence of Alaknanda and Mandakini), Chamoli, Srinagar, Karnprayag (Pindari and Alaknanda), Gauchar (A helicopter runs from here to Ghangaria), Nandaprayag (Nandakini and Alaknanda) and Joshimath. We stayed in Joshimath for the night at Hotel Mount Crest. All the way the weather was excellent though we expected some rain.
Next morning at 6:00 we started for Govind Ghat (22 Kms from Here). There was a big landslide on ay near Vishnuprayag (Confluence of Vishnu Ganga and Alaknanda). The road was completely washed out just beside the Prayag. We had to trail down from Joshimath to the bridge on the prayag and then hire a local Sumo as the vehicles from Bardi’s side were also stopped there. This took us 3 kms more as a trek. Anyway, we reached Govind Ghat at around 8:00 and started our trek of 13 kms to Ghangaria. At Govind Ghat there is the confluence of Laxman Ganga coming from Hemkund Sahib and Alaknanda. First we started with our rucksack but soon we understood this was not an easy trek as we thought. So we hired a pony and loaded the bags on it. The pony took 400 rs. Now the trek was a little more comfortable. The 13 kms long trail goes through Pulna Village (at 3 kms), Jungle Chatti (at 6 kms), and Bhuyndar Village (at 8 kms). Near the Bhuyndar Village there is another confluence of Bhuyndar Ganga and Laxman Ganga. We got to see the peak of Hathi Parvat only for few seconds. There is a bridge on the Laxman Ganga at a place on way. The road goes steeper from there. What makes it tough is the slippery road because of the pony chunk and the rain. The last 5 kms took all our energy. But the Sikh pilgrims encouraged us to a huge extent with them chanting “Vahe Guru, Sat Naam”. At last we reached Ghangaria at 14:00. The height of this place was 3.400 mts. We stayed in the camp of the GMVN rest house. The food here was excellent and more excellent was the service at a super sonic speed. You would only utter the menu and they will bring it within seconds. The sky was beautiful so far of the day and we rested ourselves at the camp. We got to see the slide show on Valley of Flowers at the Tourist Interpretation Center there and bought ourselves a couple of books on the valley and its flowers. There is a big Gurdwara there and we could see hundreds of Sikh pilgrims taking shelter there.
Next morning we set out for the Valley first and kept the next day for Hemkund. There are 2 paths diverted from Ghangaria. The right one goes to Hemkund and the left path of around 6 kms leads to The Valley. The valley ranges from 3, 600 – 4, 200 mts. But to se the whole you would need at least 3 days. We took the left path. There is an entry fee of 150 rs. Which were 50 rs. till last year. The still camera charge is free however professional ones would have a charge of 150 rs. Anyway, as we slowly entered the valley we were amazed by the colors of the flowers. We saw a Pika, a rat like animal. We crossed the Pushpabati River there. As we went deep in the valley we found ourselves surrounded by thousands of flowers. More than 300 species of flowers grow there and the best time to visit the valley in mid July – mid August. We came to see some beautiful flowers there and took a lot of snaps. You would find 2 trail there when you reach the valley. One leads to the grave of Lady Joan Margaret Leggie, a botanist who died in the valley in 1939, another leads to the river coming from Mt. Rataban. We got to see Mt. Rataban for few seconds as there was cloud and after some time it as drizzling. We spent the entire day there ad returned to Ghangaria in the evening.
We started for Hemkund Sahib at 6:30 next morning. The whole 6 kms trek is a steep one and it goes up to 4,500 mts. We met hundreds of Sikh pilgrims there, some of them ageing between 60-70 years. We were amazed by their devotion and their energy. The whole path was chanting “Bahe Guru, Sate Naam”. The best part of the path is when you see a garden of Brahmakamal there after you cross the bridge on the Laxman Ganga at a height of 4000 mts. We were so happy and excited seeing those flowers there that we forgot we were at a height of 4000 mts and it was raining hard. We could not move our hands properly because of the chilling cold. More over the whole trek path is so slippery for the pony chunk and the rain. Though there are people cleaning the road constantly but still you have to fight on your own to maintain the balance. We saw some Blue Poppy flowers also which is treated as the Queen of the Himalayas. We reached Hemkund at 12:00. There is a huge Gurdwara there. We had a glass of hot tea and a bowl full of Khichdi. This gave us a big comfort and warmth. Suvro gave a dip in the chilling water of the Sarovar Sahib (Hemkund/Lokpal Lake) along with many other Sikh pilgrims. There is Laxman Mandir there just beside the Gurdwara and the source of Laxman Ganga. Actually the source of the Laxman Ganga is the Hemkund Sarovar itself and one could see the water flowing from here. There are 7 peaks surrounding the sarovar but because of the dense cloud and heavy fog we could not see. There are brahmakamals there near the Gurdwara as well. We started trek down after spending 1 hour there. On way down we had Maggie (50 rs) and a cup of tea again (15 rs) at a small stall. We reached Ghangaria a 15:00.
We set out for Badrinath next after we trekked down the 13 kms path to Govind Ghat at 3 hours. However there was a big landslide on way and we had to return. We stayed that night at Rudraprayag GMVN rest house. The position of the rest house is so super that from every room you could see the confluence of Alaknanda and Mandakini. Mandakini river comes from Kedarnath and we could see the huge flow of the water carried by both rivers. Next morning we setout for Haridwar and at 14:00 we finished our excellent journey to the dream valley and the dream lake at a height where Brahmakamals bloom, the flowers of heaven.