The Valley of Flowers: Paradise on Earth
June 20th – Paradise and back, 3 km trek to The Valley of Flowers
We woke up to the shouts of the people in the hotel asking us to check out at 8 am in the morning. After paying off Rs 600 for the room, the owner asked us if we would like to stay in a Deluxe room as his hotel had few vacant rooms. He was charging Rs 1200, we told him no thank you and left. He warned us that we would not get rooms in the evening as it would most probably get packed again.
We did not like the service his hotel provided, the previous night we sat in his restaurant tired and there was no waiter to attend to us for nearly 20 minutes, and then we walked over to the next one. People also kept banging our door and barging in without knocking, Bhavika was getting quite harrowed with the latter.
We found out the rates of various hotels on the way, everyone was quoting Rs 1200 for a double bed room, even if it did not have any good view. We walked on as both of us had seen a nice looking place to stay in when we had just entered Ghangaria but it was already full the previous evening. It was small so we both had our doubts if we would get a room, but decided to test our luck.
By the time we settled in it was quite late, we were passing our time talking, taking pictures until we went across the road to Hotel Himalaya to have lunch. We really enjoyed the warm service at Himalaya, as compared to the other places and ended up coming there for a meal everyday.
I forced the fried rice down, as Bhavika couldn’t eat and the Veg Manchurian tasted like corn flour. We then went for a walk to call our respective parents, as we didn’t get mobile reception there. There are very few STD booths in Ghangaria, so you have to write down the number on a piece of paper and give it those guys who will dial the number for you. The standard STD/ISD rates in Ghangaria are Rs 15 for 1 minute and Rs 10 for every ½ minute. If I remember an International call would costs around Rs 60 a minute. We then sat in a one of the eating joints to have some Kheer (Sweet dish made of rice, milk and dry fruits) and Custard. It was quite tasty and after that we called it a night, as we were heading to the Valley of Flowers in Uttaranchal the next morning.
June 19th Expenses
Room Rent: Rs 600
Stay at GMVN Hotel: Rs 1900 (2 Nights)
Lunch at Himalayan: Rs 145
Water & Coke (500 ml): Rs 90
Dinner at GMVN: Rs 115 (Egg Fried Rice, Vegetable Manchurian and Soup)
Std Calls: Rs 70
Custard & Kheer: Rs 70
It was a bright sunny day as we geared up to trek to The Valley of Flowers, we had heard a lot about that place and couldn’t wait to witness this jewel in the Himalayas. It is a 3 Kilometer trek from the end of Ghangaria, which is approx. 150 meters from where we were staying.
You need to carry some food from Ghangaria as you won’t get anything to eat up there, and if you want to spend some good amount of time in the valley, it makes sense to pack some food. We parceled few Aloo Parathas and Bread & Potato, Onion Pakodas along with two Samosas. We carried too much food and only ended up consuming the Aloo Parathas towards the end of our journey, the rich mineral water from the melting ice and the fresh green air nourished us. Just before you enter the gate to the park you have a board that talks about the animals (Snow Leopards, Blue Sheep etc.) and the picturesque location of the Valley of Flowers (Phoolon ki Ghati in Hindi).
The best season to visit the Valley is from August to September when all the flowers blossom. We were a little early but managed to get around 15 of the prominent species in bloom. The list of the prominent flowers and the months that they bloom in are below. We had to pay Rs 100 as a permit to enter the valley, I later checked the pass and saw that it was valid for three days. Using a professional still camera in the Valley of Flowers would cost you Rs 100 more, and the rates for shooting Films and Documentaries is on a per day basis.
A few steps into the park and you are welcomed by the sweet fragrance of vegetation, the path has small flowers blooming on both sides.About 10 minutes on our way in we came across two guys who were on their way out. We were extremely excited and asked them how was their experience. Both of them said it was a waste of time and energy as there were no flowers and told us it would be better to turn back. We were kind of discouraged by their response but decided to ask the next person who came along.
The next person who we asked just said “very nice, very nice,” and shook his head as though he couldn’t believe what his eyes had seen.The trek just gets better as you move along, there’s life everywhere; the trees, the plants, insects, birds, unfortunately this time we didn’t get to see any butterflies. Though the Valley is supposedly inhabited by a variety of butterflies, we came across quite a few butterflies on our walk back to Gobindghat from Ghangaria, at the end of our journey. We probably did not see any butterflies as they were still in the Caterpillar stage of their life cycle. The path to the Valley of Flowers is surrounded by dense forest and diverse floral splendours, making the trek extremely scenic.
The trees on the way were quite fascinating, the tree below has no trunk, but living branches at the end of it. The hole in this tree seemed quite intriguing, I took a picture of it by quickly putting my hand in and clicking, while hoping there was nothing inside. We had to cross a tiny bridge to cross the river after little more than 1 km and the path after that is uphill, but not difficult. I guess the enthusiasm level was rising high, so nothing seemed a task. We had to cross over one small and one fairly long glacier as compared to the one on the way to Ghangaria. We reached the second glacier after a while, its around one and a half kilometer walk from there to the Valley of Flowers. Probably if we had taken a guide, he would have been able to tell us the name of the glacier and other interesting details. This glacier was really clean due to the lack of people and we had some space to ourselves. We had a good time frolicking in the snow, sliding and making snowballs. You have the river flowing on one side and the huge glacier on the other side. The view was simply stunning.
This was the first time I had come so close to snow in my life, Bhavika has before when she went to Kashmir during her school days. So both of us had a lovely time, she really got hit hard after she took this picture.On the way we came across this tree that had these leafy structures, the moment I saw them, I thought of Alien spaceships coming at me together. A short walk from the second glacier and we landed on a path that had cut rocks with a wide variety of rich textures that got me fascinated. “If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awake – Aye, what then?” said Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a Poet, Critic and Philosopher. The Valley of Flowers was just like a beautiful dream.
History of the Valley of Flowers
Nestled in the upper reaches of Garhwal, Uttarakhand among snow-capped mountains and swarmed with over 500 species of flowers is paradise on earth. Literally speaking, Valley of Flowers is paradise on earth. Thanks to Frank S, Smith – mountaineer, explorer, botanist, who introduced this place to the world in 1931. He chanced upon this place after successfully scaling a peak in Garhwal, Kamet, which was 25,447 in height. While returning from his mission he took the western pass and lost his way and reached this valley. What a discovery it was. Its so difficult to imagine his reaction on seeing a valley filled with flowers, different colours and fragrances.
In 1937 he came back to the valley, and camped there for several weeks. He then authored a book called “The Valley of Flowers” in 1938, which unveiled the beauty and floral splendours of the valley and thus threw open the doors of this verdant jewel to nature-enthusiasts all over the world. This place also has mythological significance. Legends associate this valley with area from where Hanumanji of Ramayana collected ‘Sanjeevani’ herb to revive Lakshman and this valley had also been known to the inhabitants as the Bhuyundar valley.This park spread over an area of 87.5 km and is situated at a height of 3250 m. The Valley of Flowers was declared a national park in 1982.
The feeling of drinking water so pure that every sip you have it refreshes and tingles every sense of yours. how can we explain? Even if succeed in doing so, we will never be able to communicate in our words the magnificence of the Valley.A stone path meanders among the flowers and across streams. We both were speechless for a long time, literally. All we did was shake our head with amazement and were completely awestruck.
Paradise on earth, we were standing on a mountain dotted with exotic flowers of various colours – green, white, yellow, blue and purple. In front of us ran the valley and behind us were the snow-capped mountains, with glaciers melting turning into waterfalls and the water trickling by in small streams that allow you to hear the water gurgling.The other side of the valley had denser foliage with a small amount of leftover snow scattered in places. At the end of the valley are big black mountains with snow, you can see the greenery turning into barren brown, to black and white. Ying and Yang, Greenery and Barren land, Black and White, any color you like. We sat there for a couple of hours on a rock in the middle of the vast expanse, and surrendered ourselves to the radiating beauty of the place. Fortunately, we had the full place to ourselves, so peaceful and tranquil. We looked in all directions and the view was mind-blowing, it felt great. Words are difficult to describe honestly the experience we had, and to witness it together just got us more closer. We decided to move further ahead and explore the place. We came across a glacier (see below) and well, that stalled our plans to go any further. It looked a bit dicey as we spotted few cracks on the it, so we decided not to take the risk. We were really keen to see the grave of Ms Margaret Legge, a botanist deputed by the botanical gardens of Edinburgh to conduct further studies at The Valley of Flowers in 1939. While she was traversing some rocky slopes to collect flowers, she had a fatal slip and lost her life in the valley. Her sister later visited the Valley of Flowers and erected a memorial on the spot where she was buried by the locals. The thoughtful memorial is still there and the following words are inscribed on the stone –
“I will lift mine eyes
unto the Hills
from whence cometh my strength”
We decided that the next time we come here, we would definitely visit her memorial, which is at the far end.As we wandered around the place, we found a bed of hay under two massive rocks that can be seen in the images below. It looked like some human activity took place at the spot, chopped logs and traces of fire. I concluded that the place must be used by a baba or someone who meditates there. What a wonderful place to connect with yourself. So after spending a good one and half hours on the Valley we decided to leave. It was getting overcast and murky, and we also had to cross the glacier, which gets slippery in the rains, so with a heavy heart we headed back. I was keen on coming back the next day, but due to time constraints we couldn’t. Nevertheless we were a happy, satisfied bunch.
The above picture is taken while we are walking towards the glacier on our way back to Ghangaria, while the one below is when we are on the middle of the glacier focused towards the starting point of it. The picture below is of one side of the Valley, the beautiful blue sky, the massive mountains with iced peaks and the blanket of clouds covering parts of it, sigh!!! wish, we were still there.
As the sun sets on this heavenly abode, few flowers close at dusk to blossom again on a new day! A small birdie admiring the view from a tree branch.
Fractals can be so easily seen in nature in the tree below, it feels so nice to recognize patterns in nature. We reached our hotels with fond memories and our camera with some of the best pictures we’ve taken till date. We were starving, so went to Himalaya for a sumptuous Punjabi meal. We came back to the room and browsed through the pictures. Oh, what a day it was, definitely the best day of our lives!
Next day we set off to Hemkund Sahib.
June 20th Expenses
Breakfast (Aloo Parathas + 4 Teas): Rs 100
Bread & Potato Onion Pakodas + Samosas: Rs 75
Valley of Flowers: Rs 100
Chaat: Rs 10
Gulab Jamuns: Rs 20 (2 Plates)
2 Soups: Rs 70
Dinner: Rs 135.
Previous Posts on this Trip:
Guide to the Valley of Flowers (This is what helped us)