An account of our 9-day road trip to Badrinath – Day 4
(Note: This travelogue was written real-time, as the 9-day road trip to Badrinath progressed)
Ghangaria – Valley of Flowers – Ghangaria
Today was one of the most important days of this trip – we were to visit the legendary Valley of Flowers. After yesterday’s tiring trek followed by a good night’s sleep, we woke up fresh in the morning and prepared to leave for the Valley of Flowers by 9am. One of us four was to head back to Delhi today; after sending him off, we headed to the Valley, expecting a light trek ahead. We were quite mistaken as we later found out!
There’s a 500 meter, pony poo-laden uphill climb from Ghangaria to the entry checkpost for the Valley of Flowers. The trek to Hemkund Sahib bifurcates from here. While several hundred pilgrims trek to Hemkund Sahib each day, the daily number of visitors to the Valley of Flowers is only a couple dozen. Also, while ponies are not allowed in the Valley of Flowers, they remain the most popular mode of transport to Hemkund Sahib.
We paid the Rs. 150 per head entry fee at the Valley of Flowers checkpost and headed into the wilderness. We were already aware that we would not find many flowers in the Valley at this time of the year; the Valley is quite picturesque irrespective of this. What we did not count on, however, is that the trek is not your usual leisurely stroll through the meadows. Over the four-odd kilometers of the trek each side, there are stretches of sharp ascent and descent, small wobbly foot-bridges, and as many as four precarious glaciers which you need to cross very carefully on foot. There are no shops beyond the entry checkpost where you can buy food or water. We had had a good breakfast before leaving, so we were able to survive till our return in the evening. We did run out of water though, so we refilled our bottle at one of the streams flowing through the Valley.
It is easy for one to get disillusioned during the first three kilometers into the Valley of Flowers. There aren’t many flowers to be seen and the trek itself is tiring. But the beauty of the valley unfolds dramatically as you cross the second glacier, around 3 km from the entry checkpost. Tiny flowers in various hues – yellow, pink, blue, purple, white, red – start appearing on the sprawling, gentle, green slopes on both sides of the pebbled track, with an odd stream crossing the path every now and then. Right now the flowers weren’t even two percent of what they would be in the peak season after the monsoons (July/August), and we could imagine how beautiful the place would look when these flowers carpet the entire slopes. Nonetheless, the sights were stunning even now without the flowers.
We also visited the grave of Joan Margaret Legge, a British botanist who fell to her death while studying the flowers of the Valley. It was a very sombre experience for us. Her final resting place is truly in paradise.
We returned to Ghangaria in the evening and had a late lunch at Hotel Devlok, one of the better restaurants in the village. We also bought a can of Rasgullas (obviously at a mark-up over the printed price) which brought back sweet memories from home.
The electricity supply in Ghangaria is just enough to power a few lamps and tube lights. The supply is also not continuous throughout the day and there are designated time slots of a few hours each during morning and evening when electricity is available. This also means that there are no hot water geysers; the hotels heat the water on wood fire and provide it for Rs. 50 per bucket, that too only in the morning.
Dinner was a simple affair. The GMVN rest house where we were staying offers a limited food menu unlike other hotels in Ghangaria, but the food is quite good. After the second consecutive tiring day, we were looking for some simple, no-frills dal and chapatti and were happy to be served the same in our hotel.
The toughest trek of the trip lay ahead tomorrow. As we hit the bunk, we were not sure if all of us would embark on it, and if we did, would we trek on foot or hire ponies. We decided to take a call in the morning and then dozed off.
4 dorm beds at GMVN hotel in Ghangaria: Rs. 1000
Valley of Flowers entry fee: Rs. 150 per person
Day 1: Delhi to Devprayag
Day 2: Devprayag to Joshimath
Day 3: Joshimath to Ghangaria (via Govindghat)
Day 4: Ghangaria – Valley of Flowers – Ghangaria
Day 5: Ghangaria – Hemkund Sahib – Ghangaria
Day 6: Ghangaria to Badrinath (via Govindghat)
Day 7: Badrinath to Auli
Day 8: Auli to Rudraprayag
Day 9: Rudraprayag to Delhi