Valley of Flowers 2015 : Memories

Tripoto
11th Jul 2015
Photo of Valley of Flowers 2015 : Memories 1/1 by Susan Halfhide

I have been a home girl for all of my life, with holidays limited to visiting my grandparents in Kolkata, the only other break being travelling for work in recent years.

For some time now there was this nagging compulsion growing in me, to go out on my own and see the world around me.I did make plans the previous year for Dharamshala, but those got canned last minute.

This year I was determined to do something for sure. 2015 was going to be my year for solo adventure.

After reading article upon article, and a whole lot of googling later, I homed in on the Valley of Flowers. The name resonated with something in me, and the more I read about it, the more I fell in love. This was it!

A few queries and clicks later, I was all set for my first solo trip, ever!

My first challenge was travelling by train from Delhi to Haridwar. I had never travelled alone by train till now, and still had to rely on my dear friend Dilawar to ensure I boarded the right coach on the right train. Once we set off, it was just a wait till I reached my destination.

First impression of Hariwar was wet, it was raining and the clouds blocked out the view of the surrounding hills. After an uneventful night at the interim hotel, the group gathered in the morning and set off for a long drive to Govindghat.

The drive was long , but the views along the way got my heart excited for things to come! Even though it remained cloudy throughout, the sight of the banks of mist rolling between hills was something to behold.

Day 1

At Govindghat we met our trek leader, Devkant, and were given a briefing for the trek the next day, along with some very welcome hot chai.The temperature had dropped quite a bit during our ascent.

Morning came and our group was getting ready to pack off. Luckily,we were greeted with a clear sky.The people staying with me were a group of ladies from Bangalore, who sang bhajans on our bus ride the previous day. Everyone, however, was excited to begin the day.

All

Photo of Govindghat, Uttarakhand, India by Susan Halfhide

We drove down and across the suspension bridge to the starting point of our trek. After everyone had arrived, we set off with some excited cheers.

Despite my trek leader's words, I set off at a brisk pace, wanting to stay ahead of the group. Hah, that backfired in my face!

Within 20 minutes I was panting and giving way to everyone overtaking me. Devkant, who had been at the end of our line, caught up with me, and reminded me to pace myself. "Its not a race" was his golden advice.

He kept pace with me the rest of the way to our base camp, showing me different species of flora and fauna, pointing out where the floods a fews years back had wreaked havoc.We also stopped to refill our bottles at natural streams of fresh mountain water!

It was all so new to me, and so exciting! The crisp cool air was so refreshing, and even though my legs had started aching a long time back, the will to move forward only increased as we came to every new bend in the route.

Day 2

Enroute Ghangria

Photo of Ghangaria, Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India by Susan Halfhide

We reached the village of Ghangria around 6 in the evening, and just beat a squall. It is a quaint little village, acting as a base camp not only for Valley of flowers, but also for Hemkund Sahib and Badrinath. We all had our welcome cup of chai and headed to our rooms.

Photo of Valley of Flowers 2015 : Memories by Susan Halfhide

Dinner was around a lovely campfire in the courtyard, and here we met all the members of our group. After introductions and a few mundane jokes, we began to get comfortable around each other.

The last memory of this night is our walk to the terrace, where we looked up and witnessed a star studded sky in all its glory.For a city girl like me, this was a moment of profound joy. A deep sense of awe passed over us, hushing all conversation as everyone gazed to the heavens.

Day 3

Next morning, we set off for our first trek into the Valley of Flowers. Here I got my first glimpse of a glacier and the excitement mounted.

Glimpse of the valley

Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India by Susan Halfhide
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India by Susan Halfhide

It was a long walk just to get there, and we either walked in pairs or on our own. I reminded myself that this was not a race and had my eyes open for all the beauty around me.

The ascent in places was tough, but the views with which we were rewarded were more than a just compensation.

After crossing a small stream, we finally set foot in the Valley of Flowers.At a distance, it all seemed green, and like a lot of people around me, I asked myself where are the flowers?

Photo of Valley of Flowers 2015 : Memories by Susan Halfhide

Moving a bit closer and deeper into the valley, we got our answer. The valley ahead was strewn with forget me nots, anemones, lilies, iris and a bunch of other flowers I don't know the names of.

This was heaven.

Photo of Valley of Flowers 2015 : Memories by Susan Halfhide
Photo of Valley of Flowers 2015 : Memories by Susan Halfhide
Photo of Valley of Flowers 2015 : Memories by Susan Halfhide

I kept close to our trek leader, listening to him identify flowers and birds. It was fascinating. We kept moving forward, hopping over small streams, walking on glaciers and climbing big & small boulders. We moved on till around 2 in the afternoon, when we were told we needed to turn so that we can make it back out of the valley before dark.

We came back to Ghangria with sore feat, but every person had a smile on their face. Steaming chai and steaming socks made an odd, but somehow fitting combination in this place.

Day 4

The next day was pretty much a repeat of the previous, with us delving further into the valley. Today Devkant took us to a special place in the valley where he showed us a very rare "ladies slipper orchid".

Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India by Susan Halfhide
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India by Susan Halfhide
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India by Susan Halfhide
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India by Susan Halfhide
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India by Susan Halfhide
Photo of Valley of Flowers National Park, Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India by Susan Halfhide

Though our first day had been sunny with clear skies, our return trip on the second day saw a sudden brief shower, with the mists closing in. I was thankful for this, since I got to see both sides of the valley, both in sunny and cloudy conditions.

Most of us had made plans to go to Hemkund Sahib the next day, the only point of dissent being whether we go by pony or trek it all the way.

Day 5

I opted to trek, along with around 5 more people, while most of the team went for ponies. We started off earlier than the others, given that it would take us longer to get there on foot. The route was well marked out, and you could hear the kirtan from a long way down.

The ponies caught up with us just a few feet away from the entry, and the whole group entered almost together.

We were blessed with a stunning view of the Hemkund Sahib lake and the surrounding mountains, all starkly painted in black and white. The more adventurous of our group decided to take a dip in the lake, while I satisfied myself by wetting my toes.

Photo of Gurdwara Sri Hemkunt Sahib, Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India by Susan Halfhide

After spending some time inside, we made a beeline to the langar, where we hogged on some steaming khichdi, chai and kheer.

Soon after, the weather changed and everything got obscured in the surrounding mist. It was our cue to head back down.

The descent was much faster, and on reaching Ghangria, we spent the rest of the evening gorging on fresh pakoras with lemon tea.

This night we were cheated out of our star gazing by the clouds. We were a bit disappointed since this was our last night together.

Day 6

We set off the next morning, making our way back to Govindghat. For some reason, I raced down, barely stopping, which I now regret. Maybe I should've slowed down, and taken in my surroundings one last time.

On reaching back, while most of the group members headed towards Mana, the last Indian village at the frontier, I opted to stay back and take a long relaxed walk around our lodge.

I felt so much at home in the mountains, I was actually sad that I had to leave the next day.

Day 7

We said our goodbyes, and promises were made to stay in touch (which we did) and I was off on my way home. The biggest and most dominant thought of mine being that I must come back to the hills... whenever and wherever I can.

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