A Nature's Canvas Painted with Spirituality: Valley of Flowers, Hemkund Sahib & Badrinath

Tripoto
8th Aug 2018
Photo of A Nature's Canvas Painted with Spirituality: Valley of Flowers, Hemkund Sahib & Badrinath by Suraj Bajaj
Day 1

"A Journey isn't counted in days but in moments" aptly sums up our almost impossible 5 day itinerary in uttarakhand to cover Badrinath, Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib in the midst of uncertain moonsoon.

Our journey started from Mumbai Airport where my friend accompanied me to board a Mumbai-Delhi flight in the evening ( after a treacherous day at work) to reach right on time for the Nandadevi express starting from NDLS railway station,Delhi. We rested our sleepy heads till we reached haridwar in the wee hours of the morning around 4 am.

Day 2

They say "A good start is half the battle won". We started on a exactly opposite note searching for the bus adda in haridwar for almost an hour which was incidently moved to another location out of the city owning to the deluge of Kavads, who visit haridwar in the Shravan month of the Hindu Calender. The city was in complete chaos with minimum arrangements to handle such population inflows from different parts of the country. Finally after enquiring and walking for almost an hour we reached at some crossroads near a bridge to board a 6am private bus to Joshimath.

The Journey was tiresome but the most 
scenic one i have ever witnessed. we were driving parallel to the longest river of the country where the vegetation gradually changed as we were moving into the laps of the mighty Himalayas. The bus stopped for a modest breakfast at pipal koti after which we went past the majestic Panch Pragay's on the way witnessing confluences in the decending order towards Badrinath. Devprayag is the place where the rivers Alaknanda and bhagirathi meet, giving birth to river Ganga that forms the primary source of water for the Northern India.

On interaction with the fellow travellers, we decided to take the last connecting bus from Joshimath to Badrinath leaving at 6 in the evening. Luckily we were marginally before time for our onwards journey towards Badrinath. The day was taking its last breaths and the twinkling house lights on the distant mountain slopes began to pop out as we crossed Govindghat. This junction would later on become the starting point for our trek towards Valley of flowers and Hemkund sahib. As we were moving ahead the human settlement were diminishing and the flow of the river was getting fierce, the mountains were in their whole might and roads were winding like never before. After a brief halt due to a landslide on the way ( which is like pretty common in this terrain according to the bus driver :P) , we arrived at the holy abode, one of the four pillars of Hinduism- Badrinath Dham, as the clock striked 7 pm. The surroundings were swelled up with the chants of " Jay Badrivishal" as if a frenzy took over the devotees while passing through the entrance of the village. Monsoons experiences limited tourism in this part of the country as we witnessed desserted lodges and hotels. The air was bone chilling blowing across our dropped faces due to a really long and tiring day. We bargained a good deal for a night stay and after a scrumptious meal followed by walk around the temple ( closes at 8 pm) , we crashed into our beds to call it a night.

Jai Badrivishal

Photo of Badrinath, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

Rudraprayag

Photo of Badrinath, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Day 3

The morning greeted us with bright sunshine falling directly on the neelkanth peak nestled in the backdrop of the Badrinath temple. We rushed for a quick dip in the hot water springs of the Tapt Kund inside the temple premises. The kund gets filled up with a continuous stream of hot water running in and out rendering it clean as any day. Believe me, it was a best dip i have ever had relieving the aches of the journey a night before. Incidentally we reached right before the morning aarti and after a gulping a couple of paranthas left to visit a Village - Mana, the last one on the Indo-china border. The village is a small hamlet right out of the hobbit's tale. Don't forget to buy the local spices from the very humble villagers and sip a hot cup of coffee from the last tea stall of India (although there are a couple of them :P). We hurried to get a shared jeep to govindghat which was tough task due to the off season and reached around 2 pm to start our trek towards the base village Ghagaria. We took a private jeep till pulna village to reduce our trekking distance by almost 3km as it was already late in the day and we needed to reach Ghagaria before sundown. We started from pulna exactly at 2.30 pm to cover approximately 9km by 6 pm. The trail is well marked and maintained but as easy as it sounds, it was a mighty task carrying a 12kg backpack on our shoulders. We decided to give away with our luggage in the first 15 mins to be carried by a mule. It was a hot sunny day as the scorching sun was right over our head making our task even difficult. We decided to break our journey as half a km in every 20 mins. As the sun went down it became more and more easy to walk due to the falling temperature. The trail was swarmed with local food stalls as opposite to the other treks owning to the fact that it's one of the most famous place of pilgrimage for the sikh community. The landscape was becoming more dense as we were progressing towards the bhyunder valley, a midway destination. The last stretch of the journey was a steep climb of 2kms which tested our resilience. Finally after 3 hrs of continuous walking we saw a sign board mentioning " kuch der ruk kar prakruti ka anand lijiye" and upon looking up we were greeted by a mesmerizing green pasture of the base village Ghagaria. We paused for a while at the outskirts to cherish the beauty of the place and arrived at our stay suggested by a local stall owner on our way. We took a quick walk around the village before retiring to our beds.

Entrance to the last Village

Photo of Ghangaria, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

A still from Mana Village

Photo of Ghangaria, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

Place below the Bhim pul where Sarwasti river is spotted before disappearing into the ground

Photo of Ghangaria, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

The last Tea stall

Photo of Ghangaria, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

Badrinath dham in the Morning

Photo of Ghangaria, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

The path leading to the start of trek to Ghagaria

Photo of Ghangaria, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

On the way to Ghagaria

Photo of Ghangaria, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

first sight of the Ghagaria village

Photo of Ghangaria, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

In the backdrop of Mana village

Photo of Ghangaria, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

Hustle bustle in the morning

Photo of Ghangaria, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Day 4

Got up early as usual to start the trek towards Hemkund Sahib. The weather changed completely overnight as the sun took shelter behind the dark clouds. The 7km strech from Ghagaria to Hemkund is a treacherous steep climb mostly comprising of steps. The elevation increases from 3049mtr to 4632mtr with dropping oxygen level. According to statistics almost one thirds of the pilgrims travelling suffer from altitude sickness. The key to make this distance is to keep hydrated and take intermittent breaks to catch a breath. The trail is again well laid out and utterly scenic. The path witnesses continuous small streams of water and some wide ones only to be crossed by bridges. Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara is surrounded by seven peaks with a glacial lake- Hemkund at the centre (Hence the name).
On the way one can witness some of the most rare plant species like the blue poppy and brahmkamal. The fact that this region gets locked up from the months of october to April due to heavy snowfall established the existence of such rich floura and fauna. The climb makes you give up multiple times on the way just to get you back on your feet by voices of smiling pilgrims chanting "waheguruji da khalsa, waheguruji di fateh". For the last kilometre of the distance you can witness large concentration of brahmkamal in all its might, a true marvel of nature. It is believed to have very rare medicinal properties which makes it a punishable offense to pluck it. For a brief moment of time when your body looses all its might to go further, all one can hear is the distance sound of enchanting gurbani coming from the end of the climb getting louder and louder. The final few steps are the most difficult ones, but all the efforts become insignificant in front of the sherr bliss you witness once you reach the too. The picturesque setting takes away all your complains and the melodious gurbani now as loud as possible puts you into a trance state. The glacial lake is a natural miracle situated in the front of the Gurudwara. Its ice cold water renders a soothing effect to your tired legs and is believed to absolve all your sins with a single dip (Dare you to take it) . All you need to do here is sit back and relax with an empty mind detached with the artificial world. Don't forget to eat the scrumptious khichdi served in the langar with hot tea. The humbless of the people there will make you fall in love with the place even more. An hour sitting in the darbar felt like few minutes and in no time we were back on our way down. It started raining heavily which slowed our descend by an hour. We sat back beside a gushing stream gathering our thoughts and treasuring what we have witnessed. It was indeed an experience like never before and probably never after.

Large stream on the way

Photo of Hemkund, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

Hathi parbat

Photo of Hemkund, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

Splashing water

Photo of Hemkund, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

Rich landscape

Photo of Hemkund, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

A moment for myself

Photo of Hemkund, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

Inside the Gurudwara

Photo of Hemkund, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

World is my cradle

Photo of Hemkund, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

Rocky Path towards Hemkund

Photo of Hemkund, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

Blue poppy

Photo of Hemkund, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

Brahmkamal

Photo of Hemkund, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

Hemkund Sahib

Photo of Hemkund, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Day 5

It was going to be a long day as we needed to cover the valley of flowers along with the 9km of walk to govindghat followed by a ride to Joshimath. We left early morning and were among the first ones to enter the park. The trek till the valley is close to 5 km from Ghagaria but a moderate one as compared to Hemkund in terms of altitude. The entrance to the valley is guarded by officials as it is a protected biosphere. The park is separated by a suspended bridge to walk over to a cliff on the other side of the Pushpawati river. Don't get fooled by the patches of flowers on the way as the real valley lies way beyond where you expect it to be. The trial is little raw due to the continuous rains in the area. We rushed as fast as we can taking intermittent stops to cherish the untouched habitat of the valley. The clouds were getting darker and darker as we went deep into the valley. Variety of unseen flora started popping up along the slopes of the mountains and the air was filled up with the scents unknown. The trail at some places witnessed fallen trees and rugged terrain washed away by strong streams. We met a german couple along the way who told us about a detour of a km from the valley to  Margaret legge's grave- A botanist who lost her life while slipping off an edge studying flowers in the valley. We also gathered a fact about a river basin at a distance of 3km ahead of the valley. We were in complete dilemma as we had pretty little space for impromptu plans but we decided to give it a shot. Hurried along the way after crossing a small stream, a short climb opened up a vast strech of land all covered in infinite number of flowers in different colors. The slopes were entirely covered with a thick blanket of flora carrying enchanting scents. All we could do was take a deep breath and treasure such freshness for forever. We moved along the valley mesmerized by the variety of flowers surrounding us. Places like these makes you weak on your vocabulary as you run out of words to describe the sheer pleasure of being there and nothing else matters except to enjoy that very moment. After paying our homage to Miss Legge ,we followed the rocky path to reach the river basin that paved the way to a distant glacier. The road ahead was long and we turned back to reach Ghagaria by afternoon. The rains gods were smiling upon our intents and we were greeted by heavy downpour on our way back. We were already praying to get back as soon as possible as the weather in the mountains can be really harsh and we had no time in our hands to accommodate a few days of halt. Somehow we managed to get back by 2 pm to Ghagaria and left for Govindghat at once but this time on Salman and Raja - our Mules for the onward journey and believe me it was hell of a ride. After explaining our situation to reach early and a discussion with their master, we independently rode the mules on the mountain slopes racing among ourselves. The guided journey which usually takes around 3hrs was completed in just over a hour but with completely broken backs :P. Again an experience of a lifetime to race a mule for 9 kms on a rugged terrain with steep mountains slopes. P. S. Don't try this.
We took a private cab from pulna till joshimath which hurt our budget but served our purpose to reach at our only pre-booked stay of the entire trip. We had the best dinner of our journey after a long eventfull day and crashed in our luxurious swiss military tents for a peaceful night sleep.

Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

River Basin

Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

Dream Mountains Resort

Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

panaromic view from Joshimath

Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

Bridge before the Valley

Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj

on the way to the Valley

Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Uttarakhand, India by Suraj Bajaj
Day 6

We had an onwards flight from Dehradun around 5 pm, hence we caught the first bus in the morning leaving from Joshimath at 5  am. We reached Jolly Grant Airport comfortably before our flight and after a brief stop over at Delhi, we reached Amchi Mumbai right on time for some homemade dinner.

Total trip cost : 15k per head for group of 2
Can be reduced to 12k if you travel in a group of 5-6.
Flight: 5k
Stay: 2k
Food: 3k
Rest travel: 5k

Badrinath stay: Modest guest house 500rs per night
Ghagaria stay- Nanda lokpal 1.7k rs for 2 days
Joshimath stay- 1.8k for one night

Tips:
1) keep atleast 2 days more for the itinerary. We were lucky to rush things as the weather suited us. 1 more day for Neelkanth trek ( we missed it due to time constraint). If you cannot, don't wait or cancel because you never get enough days. just go for it with 5 days and see that it gets done.

2) Keep hydrating yourself during the entire trip.

3) choose anytime after 1st week of august and before last week of September. Preferably the 1st week of September is the best time as per the locals.

4) leave as early as possible. Avoid trekking /travelling after sundown

5) Don'miss the stay at dream mountain resort in Joshimath. Stay in the swiss tents and treat yourself with the best kali daal from their kitchen.

6) Don't litter and keep the trail clean not for the others but to witness the same joy when you might visit the place in again.

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