A glimpse of heaven – Valley of Flowers Trek
The mountains have a charm that it’s foolish to not let them do their magic on you. They say – trekkers are crazy people who climb so high to see a view. I agree – you got to be crazy enough to enjoy being in nature’s lap and get a sense of fulfillment just by climbing a mountain.
Growing up in Delhi, I had often heard about valley of flowers, although I never thought of visiting it. I had often done one day treks close by but this time I wanted to do a longer trek. While searching, I came across Valley of Flowers and I instantly knew – this is it. I read some of the TTH testimonials and booked a place for myself – a solo trek.
A month before, I brisk walked and climbed stairs to build my stamina. I packed light to be able to carry my bag myself.
Day 1: My trek started on a dramatic note as my train was 4hrs late. TTH co-operated and arranged a private taxi for me to go from Jwalapur. I reached Joshimath in 11hrs, tired yet excited to finally begin my trek. Here, I was introduced to our leaders –Manoj and Ankush, who later became our go-to-people for any problem for the next 4 days. They briefed us about what we are going to do in the next few days. I felt I have understood everything, and I am all geared up. I couldn’t be more wrong.
Day 2: I woke up at 6am with refreshing black tea. After breakfast, we drove to Pulna to finally begin our trek. Initially I carried both – the rucksack and day bag together. After the exhausting 500m, I made a wise decision and off loaded my rucksack and decided to climb with only the day bag. The instant ease I felt can’t be forgotten. The rest of the journey went by capturing the scenic beauty, taking selfies, having maggi and drinking the magical mountain water. The climb from Pulna to Gangria was steep.The wrong sign boards further add to the mystery of the actual distance we are climbing. I can’t forget the never ending 2km that everyone on the way told me. In those steep terrains, even 500m felt like 1km and I was convinced that the distance wasn’t measured properly – I felt as if I climbed 20km that day! Enough work out for a day.
Day 3: I woke up at 5am feeling refreshed and ready to climb to Valley of Flowers. The path to valley of flowers is so narrow and amidst trees that you start getting the feel of an actual trek. The 4km journey is filled with forests, bridges, and lots of greenery. I found a trekking partner who made the journey more fun. We walked at the same speed and two girls can never run out of topics to talk about. The cool weather and the green views never tire you down. Instead, it makes the trek easier. I felt, I have come so close to seeing the view I had planned 4 months ago. Some of the flowers start even before entering the valley. You don’t even realize when you have reached the sign board – Valley of Flower starts here. That moment itself feels like an accomplishment.
When you enter the valley, at first it feels surreal. I had seen lot of videos and pics on net to get an idea. However, I never understood how the valley would look like. The lush green mountains on the both sides, flowing river, clouds all over and colorful flowers blooming right in the middle. The valley is so beautiful that you forget what you went through to reach here. The beauty of the place absorbs you. I got busy clicking to not miss out on any moment. But soon, I gave up as no matter how many pics I clicked, some places cannot be captured in pics. Or even, explained in pics. Some places are just an experience and it should be left as that.
I walked in the valley for some time till I became very hungry and we had our lunch there. So, carrying the packed tiffin is very important. I started my descent after lunch and following the strict instruction of our leaders of turning behind at 12 noon. Our leaders did say – coming down is more difficult. They were right yet again. I had a tough time climbing down as my knee was hurting. I started getting a headache (a symptom of mountain sickness) too while coming down. By then, it started raining and in such a state also, I enjoyedit. It gave me a feel of the monsoon trek I came for, from Mumbai.
By night, I was so exhausted that I was sure that I wouldn’t be able to climb Hemkund Sahib the next day. Although, I felt I had come this far and should go all the way. I really wanted to go, not for religious regions but for the joy of the trek.Our leaders said – trekking is first done mentally and then physically. With that, I decided to climb Hemkund sahib the next day.
Day 4: Another 5am day. I had no idea what I was going to experience today. Sometimes, its good not to know how life will unfold. I geared up well and started my climb to Hemkund Sahib. Among the people who chose to climb, I was the last. Manoj sir climbed with me. We can’t ever beat our leaders – either while climbing or descending. Even if they start one hour late, we’ll still find them at the end point smiling and waiting for us.
Slowly and steadily, climbing at my best speed, I felt I had reached high. I was surrounded by clouds and could see only 50m ahead of me. But that was only half the way. Climbing at that level, didn’t drain my energy, but made me breathless very quickly. The mountain sickness had also started getting onto me. Still I kept drinking water and kept walking. A lady handed me camphor and that helped me immensely. I climbed rest of the way sniffing camphor to manage my headache. Soon, I reached the first glacier point. It felt amazing to be surrounded by snow. By now, I realized that I am way behind everyone else. However, all the people along the way, kept telling me – don’t give up. Its heaven up there. I walked at my best speed steadily, not taking any break to sit. If I became breathless, I would just stand and take a few deep breaths and move on. Sometime later, Manoj sir told me – to take a mule to reach Hemkund. I didn’t want to, so I started walking faster. Finally, around 850m before Hemkund, I took a mule. I am happy I did as the altitude only increased. When I reached Hemkund, it took a few seconds to make sense of the place. Hemkund sahib is all white and it does make you feel you have reached heaven. I had tears in my eyes for finally making it till here. Ankur was waiting for me and accompanied me everywhere to the gurudwara, langur and lake. It’s only possible in a gurudwara-langur that at 15,000ft also, you are served hot tea and khichdi. I only spent 10mins there as I reached late. I quickly had my lunch and started my descent.
Coming down was much easier for me. Thanks to the massage, I didn’t have any knee pain and I came down with everyone. While descending, I realized, how high I had climbed. I could never imagine going at that height and coming down safely. While walking, I often heard sardars narrate the story of Pandavs walking this way to get to heaven. The same story, I have heard for Kedarnath and Badrinath. I think we’ll need Pandavs to confirm which way they took. But, if there is a stairway to heaven that humans can take even today, it would be a way very similar to Hemkund sahib path. A passage through clouds, snow, glaciers and flowers. That day, I really felt, I had pushed myself out of comfort zone and felt a sense of accomplishment.
Day 5: We had a more relaxing start at 6am. We climbed down to Pulna comfortably and then drove to Badrinath. This was my first Badrinath visit. I had always heard that its very cold and very high but considering what I experienced in the last 3 days, the height and temperature of Badrinath felt very normal.
At dinner, each one shared their remarkable experience of the trek. After 4 days, I was feeling bad on returning to a network zone. Life without phone is truly simpler and more enjoyable. Doing the final packing of the trip, I felt so nostalgic. I wanted to go back to day 2 and climb those mountains all over again. Time machine is a much-needed invention now. Till then, I’ll just have to rewind the days in my head to relive it. The secret of coming out fine from the trek is to listen to your leaders. I blindly followed my leaders and felt relieved that I am completely fit and healthy.
Day 6: We got up at 6am to depart from Gangria. It was a 11hr drive to Haridwar that took 13hrs due to rain. Saying goodbye, to the mountains, I felt as if the mountains are so content and secure in their greenery and steadiness that they are smiling teasing us for returning to our city life. I couldn’t help but agree with them. In the bus, I tried absorbing the beauty of these mountains for the last time.
Reaching Haridwar station, I could feel the end of the trek I had enjoyed so much. I know I welcome back again soon.