How beautifully has Frank S Smythe (The one who discovered Valley) described the Valley of flowers in his book “Kamet Conquered”
“Beyond the hills, nations might fly at one another’s throats; Mussolini’s rise and fall; anarchy and revolution rot the nations; but in the Valley of Flowers the only strife would be that of the elements, the only sounds the wind in the flowers, the voice of the stream, and the rumble of the avalanche.”
“Valley of Flowers”, locally called as Bhyundar Valley is also referred to as Nandan Kanan (The mystical and magical Garden of Heaven). The name seems very apt for the place, for it actually is a bit of Heaven on earth and since time immemorial has been associated with being the playground of fairies and gods on earth. Stories of demigods locally called “Achharis”, believed to be the protector of the valley have been woven very deeply in our culture for ages. “Achharis” will supposedly kill a human being in magical ways, if one is found to be disturbing the flora and fauna of the valley. Many individuals have disappeared and are believed to be taken away by “Achharis”. Fear of death is a highly motivating factor and irrespective of whether they exist or not, that fear has been instrumental in humans not disturbing the valley for ages.
Well I need not fear the “Achharis” as I am not here to disturb the valley in the slightest bit , I am here to explore and capture this magical place in all its divine beauty.
Join Creative Praveen Photography as we explore these exotic and lesser known destinations in the Himalayas of Uttarakhand. Details here.
A 14 Kms trek from Govindghat along the Laxman Ganga (also called as Bhyundar Ganga) takes me to Ghangharia, the trek though long is very pleasant and I am accompanied by lot of Sikh Pilgrims both young and old, trekking very enthusiastically towards Hemkund Saheb. On the way I meet a young sikh doctor, who is there to give “Sewa” at the Gurudwaras in Govindghat, Ghangaria and Hemkund Saheb. Turns out that he has been giving regular sewa for some 2 to 3 years at Hemkund Saheb and tells me not to hesitate from staying in the Gurudwaras and enjoying the free meal they offer. He also tells me very interesting, courageous and motivating stories pertaining to Shri Guru Govind Singh ji (The 1oth guru of Sikhs).
On the way I see some pretty big beehives and later come to know that one can actually spot the Near-threatened, Yellow-rumped Honeyguide regularly there.
My friend has a hotel in Ghangaria, so I go to his place, get a room and then being totally exhausted with the 14Kms trek, slip in to the bed and sleep like a zombie for the next 2 hours or so. I only get up because I am feeling very hungry, I then have something and later go on to explore the area around Ghangaria. Since its August, it is eminent that it will rain post 2 clock and like clockwork it does.
In my excitement to capture the Valley of Flowers the next day, I cannot sleep for the major part of the night. Though entry to Valley starts only after 7:00 am, I am at the gate at 6 (remember I am a Landscapes person 😉). I had on the previous day taken permission to enter the valley early, so blissfully ignoring the probability of a Bear attack (Bears are abundant here) I am the first person to trek along this beautiful, undisturbed path for the next 2 hours or so.
Being fed with the rain water on a daily basis, the river Pushpwati’s roar is deafening and soothing at the same time (A Miracle only nature can pull off 😍). The water is so turbulent that I have apprehensions crossing a narrow bridge to get to the valley. The bridge and I both shiver as I cross it (The Bridge because of the force and me because of fear😌).
As soon as I reach the starting point of the valley of flowers, I am greeted with a Himalayan Monal and immediately after with a Red-headed Bullfinch (So much fun for not carrying my telephoto lens 😢). Well I shake it off and am amazed to see the view in front of me, for kilometres I see nothing but a valley dotted with the most beautiful shades of green, yellow, pink, blue and purple. I am dumbfounded and feel tears building up (as always). I need to comprehend this absolute beauty in front of me, so I sit. No one is going to disturb me for the next hour or so, I close my eyes and try to listen to the stillness of nature, trying to comprehend its meaning in my life. Except for the wind blowing and some birds chirping I hear nothing, and slowly I realize that I am going into a deep slumber. I suddenly remember the “Achharis” and am up in a flash (Not wanting to die in magical ways 😉).
For the next 4 to 5 hours I tread very gingerly along the valley floor, on boulders, along the various small streams in search of different landscape compositions. While coming back I am fortunate enough to meet a group of 5 people from different parts of the world, two from India, One from Japan, one from Indonesia and one 70 years old Botanist from Spain (If I remember correctly). The guys from India are very passionate about photography, the guy from Japan and the Indonesian Woman is highly passionate about travelling and exploring different cultures, and the botanist from Spain very passionately gives us loads of Information about flowers, ferns and conservation. Back to Ghangaria, and though I am pretty tired, I again am not able to sleep and begin to doubt if something is wrong with my health.
The next day we together trek towards Hemkund Saheb. This trek is a start contrast to the Valley of flowers trek. While trekking towards the valley the only companion one has is silence, flowers, forests, birds and occasional travellers, the Hemkund Saheb trek on the other hand is bustling with hundreds of devotees, Mules and lots of shops offering food at highly overpriced rates. We see a lot of Brahmakamals on the way and Lots of Rose-finches at very close distances (Remember no telephoto!!!! 😢). After panting most of the way we finally reach Hemkund and after Darshan in Gurudwara and Lokpal Temple, go in to the langar to have the most delicious Tea and Khichdi we ever had ( I was so hungry I ate and drank more than two 😋).
While my friends have to depart (they intend to get down to Govindghat the same day), I stay another 2 hours at Hemkund and try to explore the region for landscapes. The day is mostly cloudy and with heavy rains it’s a wash out in terms of Photography. In the evening I trek down towards my hotel and suddenly remember the doctor I met on the way. I know he sits in the Gurudwara at Ghangaria (he told me that), so I go to see him and explain my sleeplessness to him. I come to understand that I have been suffering from oxygen deficiency, so he gives me a very mild sedative. I come to hotel, eat something and then take that medicine. I sleep non-stop for more than 12 hours, waking up feeling very hungry and refreshed in the Morning.
I explore the valley of Flowers for the day and visit the grave of Joan Margaret Legge, the next day I again visit Hemkund Saheb for landscapes (This day I swear they served the most delicious Kheer ever made, I had three plates). The weather on these two days is pretty good and I am able to make some good shots. The day after, I trek back to Govindghat and although I am dead tired with trekking some 90+ Kilometers in 5 days, I don’t want to leave the valley and am desperately dying to come back again.
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