A trek to remember – valleyof flowers – hemkundsahib – badrinath

Only 10 days had been passed since my Macbook pro stopped responding to
my wake up calls. Just last year I had spent 22,000 INR to get it fixed,
and 8,000 INR for its new charger. I decided not to fix things this
time as the technician demanded 14,000 INR. I got so fed up that I felt
never wanting to work with computers anymore. But then I remembered that
I work in IT so I can’t afford not to like computers. On one
hand technology is advancing in making devices smart in every possible
ways but on the other hand neither those devices live a long life nor
they are affordable to fix if one is running out of warranty period. No,
you didn’t read the title wrong and I’m not here to mourn about my
dead Macbook. This was my state of mind when actually I should have
been feeling more excited about my upcoming trekking adventure. I could
think of two ways to get over it. One was undoubtedly a Meditation, and
another was to go shopping. Of course I went shopping as anyways
I didn’t have things required for the trek, and we all know how
comforting shopping is. So I managed to get into the mood. 

All the trekkers were asked to meet at Haridwar railway station. We were 4 friends from Ahmedabad including my sister, Bindu and her cousin Shilpa. We flew to Dehradun
on the morning of 5th August. After landing there we came to know that
taxi could not drop us near railway station as KavadYatra was going full
on and all roads were jam-packed. But we started our road trip to
Haridwar. We stopped by some restaurant to have Mix-bhajiya and tea. We
had to travel back few kms and from railly railway station, after
waiting for 1.5 hours we reached Haridwar railway station somewhere
around 9:00 pm. We just got into the first hotel we could see in front
of the railway station. May be it named “Hotel Bhaskar”. We had to
change a room because of a water leakage in the room due to heavy rain.
But we managed a night there.

On 6th morning, after 6:30 am we reached to the meeting point from where our transport to Joshimath
(Jyotirmath) was organized. It was said to be 10-12 hours journey by
road. We met some of the fellow trekkers during the road trip and
exchanged names and places. We reached Joshimath after 8:30 pm, and you
can imagine how tired we all must have been. But soon after throwing our
bags on the bed, we were told to be present in the dining hall to have
dinner followed by a long briefing :D. Briefing started with introducing
ourselves. Later our trek leader tried to make us aware of how BIG the
big mountains are, Do’s and Don’ts, how to take baby baby steps in
order to successfully complete the trek. (Okay there are some jokes
which the present audience can laugh at). Finally we went to our room
laughing and started preparing our ruksak and day pack. It is when my
sister realized that some 8000 INR are missing and may be before or
during the road trip we lost it at some point. As we could do nothing
more here after a quick search, we packed everything well and went to
bed.

On 7th morning, I realized they give only black tea, and
after making faces I had it. We packed our lunch boxes and started road
trip to Govindghaat, which was some 25 kms away. Joshimath itself
was surrounded by mountains, mostly covered by clouds witnessing
morning there was such a beautiful experience in itself. Also the
journey from Joshimath to Govindghaat is such a feast for the eyes. I saw many sunflowers on the way. We had to change vehicles from Govindghaat as no private vehicles are allowed from Govindghaat to
Pulna village, but it is some 4km travel only. We got down at Pulna and
here everybody has to register their details at the register counter.
Meanwhile one can enjoy the surrounding beauty as the view throughout
the journey are just amazing, and I got to see many mountain streams.

 

Pulna to Ghangaria

Officially the trek started from Pulna to Ghangaria,
which was said to be 9-10 kms. First thing I realized while going up,
was that nobody up there really know how many meters a single kilometer
has. I mean we walked for hours and still people and our guide would
say, just a few more kms and you’re done. The trek was a no straight
line. The trail was made with uneven sized rocks and mostly I felt like
climbing a staircase. Most of the times you go uphills. The place also
has a Mule service so you can hear bells every now and then, and when
you do, you would have to move to the opposite side to give them a way.
It was a rainy day, so more than frequently I had to wear poncho. At one
point I got an idea that I should have got poncho in every color, so at
least I could wear different colors if it was going to rain everyday.
On the way to Ghangaria,
we got more familiar with the fellow trekkers. We were 24 trekkers in
our group. The thing I like most while trekking is, when we start our
journey we hardly know each other, but we would not realize how
comfortable we get while observing and walking the same path. Even the
mutual silence is comforting and one does not have to really find an ice
breaker. For next three days we were supposed to stay at Ghangaria, as both Valley of Flowers and Hemkund sahib trek starts from there. 

We reached to Ghangaria,
don’t exactly remember when, but I thanked God, and just lied down in
my bed. This trek didn’t need camping so we were staying in a guest
house. It was so chilly and only the brave can dare to touch water. If
one needs a bucket hot water, one has to pay 50 INR. Surprising thing
was you give 25 INR to dry your soaks, 50 INR to dry your shorts, and
finally we found that the person was drying them by hanging clothes
around the fire stove. 

 

Valley of Flowers

On
the 8th morning, I got up at 3 am from a deep sleep. I could hear the
rain, and I talked to myself that the trek is over. I feared that in
such a rainy weather they would not take us to valley of flowers. After
this sad talk I went to sleep again, and woke up at 5 am. To my surprise
we’ve got a green signal and rain has almost stopped. Guides there
used a quote very often which we mimiced no of times later “Mumbai ka
fashion aur pahado ka mausam kabhi bhi badal sakta hain”. I started
again wearing poncho.

Unlike my last HamtaPass trek,
the trail here was all made of rocks only. I hardly saw some plain
ground to walk over. And it was the rocks which made the trek difficult.
The trek was labeled as easy, but we all felt it was of moderate level.
I found it harder than HamtaPass. 
I had to keep my eye focused within 2 feet of distance else I would
surely misplace my next step. The trail was narrow also so two people
can not walk along, and even while crossing over one has to do it safely
as the other side you see the valley which was going to feel much
deeper after every level you climb.

As the trek name suggest,
flowers of all kind started to show up on the way. I really have forgot
most names, but flowers were the most motivating factor and it would
feel as if they are cheering you up to focus on the next step and keep
going. After walking some 3+ km we were finally in the valley, which was
having mountains all around with some partly covered with glaciers ,
partly with clouds and running streams. In the middle of all these what
you see is nothing less than a paradise. Flowers of all colors,
butterflies and bees roaming from flower to flower as if they are moving
from one house to the other. We could visit till the picnic spot as our
fellow trekkers have not arrived yet. In the end we saw the  Joan Margaret Legge grave from far thanks to our guide Sandipbhai who took us a few meters ahead quickly. We headed back quickly after the lunch.

After
witnessing the amazing beauty of the valley of flowers, a little
tragedy happened with me. I didn’t realize when my elder sister(who was
also wearing the poncho), crossed me and went ahead. She did not see me
either and kept walking ahead and ahead looking for me. Here I stopped
at one point waiting for her to arrive as I thought she was walking
after me. I got tensed and started crying when she didn’t appear even
when all the trekkers had passed me.  Friends helped and tried to
comfort me but my mind was not ready to think positive. Finally when our
trek leader ensured via his walkie talkie that she indeed was walking a
way ahead than all of us then I calmed down. We met later and cried few
drops and started walking the remaining trail. In return we all set by
the river side and observed the crashing waves for sometime.

While
we climb down, we don’t actually have to walk. My legs just walked on
their own as if mind has lost control over them. Somehow we reached Ghangaria back
on time and had soup and Maggie after some quick stretching exercises.
After the day trek was over we all had some sort of our little adventure
stories to tell each other. That night we all went to bed with some
kind of aches in our bodies, but eyes were not tired as they have seen
the most amazing flowers and unmatched sceneric views.

 

Hemkund sahib

I knew Hemkund sahib was in my trek itinerary, but I only learned after going to Ghangaria that it is a Gurudwara,
well known Sikh place of worship. Unlike in Valley of flowers, Mule
service is also available. But we’re trekkers and have gone to trek, so
we walked, and walked and walked. I don’t remember taking much breaks.
Only few breaks that too to stretch legs when I felt too tired, and
sometimes to take a proper breath. Views again are amazing, but the tail
again was full of rocks, mule passing us every now and then. But what
motivated me more was a I saw some kids and many aged people doing this
difficult trek so happily. Many were barefoot or wearing a simple pair
of slippers. I remember last few kms were most difficult as I was
feeling breathless after walking few meters. I took one short cut in the
last km and can’t tell you how happy I was seeing 0 km board sign. As
soon as we reached the top, I saw a small pond covered in fog. One can
easily feel at peace sitting there. I dipped my head thrice there, and
when I got out everybody was like go there, go there. I was like where?
and then I realized they have separate pond for ladies. But I was
already done. Fortunately I got friend’s thermal to change and had an
extra jacket to wear. Soon after the dip, I felt my head freezing, I did
some warm ups and felt good. For the first time I ate and served at langar. We attended Ardass while at the same time I was comforting myself in a warm blanket(they had it inside the Gurudwara), and had prasada.

We
left after spending some quality time there. Trekking down we had to
take stairs as it became too cloudy and there was no visibility beyond a
few meters. After climbing down some 800+ steps, I finally got the
clear visibility. Rain also has stopped and way down felt more easier
than I have thought. When we realized that we almost reached down, we
set on a side and enjoyed the mountain view for sometime as from now on
the journey would be back home. We ate samosa in
the evening and watched documentary on Valley of Flowers (which we were
supposed to see earlier but thanks to the management we could not). We
again packed well and went to bed after some chit chats

 

Ghangaria to Pulna, GovindghaatBadrinath, and Joshimath 

On
the 10h morning we started back to Pulna. It was the day when I walked
slowest, and why would I walk fast? I didn’t want this trek to finish
and 10 kms felt too short that day. I wish I could take any long cut,
but legs were also crying. We had to reach Pulna on time which we did. I
ran last 300 meters. From there we got into vehicles to take our
journey to Govindghaat. As time and weather were favoring us our final trip to Badrinath which was some 25-30 kms away from Govindghaat got confirmed. We reached Badrinath and
weather was still pleasant. We had our lunch there and roamed around
the temple as we had plenty of time till the temple would open again for
public. Meanwhile we visited hot spring there, and finally we all set
on the temple stairs for quite some time. At 3:00 pm temple gate opened
and we got the darshan peacefully. Just when we got into our vehicles
weather seemed changed. But fortunately we left on time and didn’t have
to face any land slides on the way. We reached back to Joshimath around 6-7 pm, and we also visited a local temple which is said to be the second home of Badrinath , means when the main Badrinath temple
gets covered in snow, they bring the idol down to this place and do all
the offerings here during those months. Finally after a dinner we
packed our bags for our return journey

 

Again it ws 10+ hours journey back to Haridwar,
and we started it early morning of the 11th. We halted for breakfast
and lunch and said final goodbyes to fellow trekkers. We had to stay
again in Haridwar for a night, we could not get for Ganga aarti as we were stuck into traffic for so long and it was raining too. Next morning we went to Dehradun and flew back to Ahmedabad, but as it was connecting flights we almost reached around 8:00 pm.

 

To
my fellow trekkers – it was really a wonderful experience, and I feel
really happy to have walked some distance with you people. We surely
have a few jokes to remember and I feel great that we finished this trek
successfully(feel free to read it in the most funny accent) and that
too without any injuries. 

 

Happy Trekking

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