Since 2008, I had a strong desire to visit the Valley of Flowers, but this dream only realized during my trip to Uttarakhand in July,2011. The Valley of Flowers was the main attraction of my trip.Before reaching Ghangaria, the base camp to the valley of flowers, we have visited Joshimath, Badrinath, Mana Village and Vasudhara Falls. The details of these trips are available in the following blogs :
We reached at Ghangaria and stayed in a guest house to visit the valley of flowers next day.
Ghangaria to Valley of Flowers:
At Ticket Counter:
Next Day, we woke up early in the morning and by 5.45 AM we were at the entrance gate to the Valley of Flowers. Lot of people were there, but nobody seemed to have interest in the valley of flowers. Everyone was headed towards Hemkund Sahib. Only we two were there to enter in the valley. The entry ticket to the valley was 150 INR per person (for Indians) and 600 INR per person (for foreigners) and valid for 3 days entry. After that each single day for Indians cost 50 INR and for foreigners cost 150 INR. Professional and Non-Professional Still cameras and Non-professional movie/video cameras are free, but professional video camera charges are 500 INR for Indians and 1500 INR for foreign nationals. I went to the hut, which was a ticket counter but nobody was there to give us the tickets. We noticed that opening time was 6 AM, so we waited there for 20 mins and two guys came. We got two tickets and some guidance on the trek route. The ticket guy requested us not to litter anywhere in the valley as we were carrying some packed chips and biscuits. 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. To prevent trekkers and livestock from taking too much of a toll on this National Park, which is a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE, access restricted to daylight hours (from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and camping is prohibited. The last entry to the park is at 3 p.m. You’ll need to go from, and return to, Ghangaria on the same day. The best season to visit the Valley is from mid-July to mid-September when all the flowers blossom. But be cautious in the monsoon season. Plan some spare days in itinerary because of lots of landslides and road blockages on the highway.
We did not want to go alone inside the valley, so we stopped near ticket counter for next 30 minutes, but nobody came. Then we started further trek at 6.50 AM. I was just 3 kms away from realizing my dream and to complement that the sun was out there, playing hide and seek with the clouds. I was praying hard for that as I wanted to get a clear view of the valley. Rain was there but for short duration and at frequent intervals. The path was rocky as it was in the entire journey and some scary crossing points. The way to valley of flowers was more spectacular and quite frightening! Passed through dense forests on a narrow path for 2 kms and then deep gorge below us along the path… Hundreds of metres below us, sharp rocks and huge flowing river – Hundreds of metres above us, loose rocks, waterfalls and peaks surrounded by cloud. We didn’t even know which way to look. The entire path was surrounded by dense forest and diverse floral splendours, making the trek extremely scenic.
Passing the Glacier:
We reached to a glacier on the way to the valley. The Pushpawati river was flowing on one side and the huge glacier was on the other side and we had to cross this glacier to reach the other side. We never crossed any glacier on the life and just passed along some glaciers while trekking to the Vasudhara Falls. I thought that the ice could be break while crossing or there might be a hole below ice, so I decided to cross it from the above where it seemed to end. We climbed for 50 meters upside, but then there was no other way to descend on the other side. Disappointed, we started to descend on the same side again. But there was a risk to slip on the ice, so Nidhi removed her shoes. Anyhow, we reached again on the same side of glacier. Then we saw a foreign couple coming towards us. They also got confused that how to cross this glacier. The lady surprised to see Nidhi without shoes on the cold ice. The gentleman glared to me then I said let’s walk on this. He asked “Are you sure that it’s not breaking?” I said “We have to take this risk anyhow.” We saw some footmarks over glacier and followed the same carefully. It was very easy to walk over glacier and we passed it safely.
Exploring the Valley:
We moved further with a relaxed mind because of the presence of those two persons in the valley. In fact, the couple moved faster than us as they had to return to Govindghat same day. Just as we turn the bend, I found myself gasping for breath. The valley ahead was miles and miles of a many-hued carpet. Yellows, pinks, blues, reds, purples and whites… all clambering for attention! I felt tears roll down – out of sheer joy! It was a dream comes true. The Bhyundar glacier pass was clearly visible and I just sit there gaping! I was sure this is where the Gods live.
Frank Smith – mountaineer, explorer, botanist, 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, he wanted to take a different path, so he returned through the western pass and incidentally descended in this valley. What a discovery it was! He wrote later,
Beyond the hills, nations might fly at one another’s throats, Mussolini’s rise and falls, 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 avalanches. Peace and contentment were ours as we sat around the camp fire. Felt rather than seen were the peaks about us. A million stars eyed us. The voice of the mountain torrant lulled us to sleep.
I walked the length of the valley, marveling at each miracle of nature. The 3 kms was not only 3 kms, we walked further in the valley about 5 kms and then decided to return. At the end of the valley were big black mountains with snow, you could see the greenery turning into barren brown, to black and white.
There were lot of streams flowing down to mountains inside the valley. Temporary wooden bridges were there to cross those water streams.
I took time to visit the resting place of Joan Margaret Legge and paid my respects to the brave lady who brought recognition of the valley to the world. In 1939 Joan Margaret Legge, a botanist deputed by Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh came to the Valley of Flowers for further studies. While collecting flora samples she slipped from a rocky slope and was forever lost in this Garden of the Gods. In 1943, Joan Margaret Legge’s elder sister visited the valley and built a memorial for her sister, Joan. The marble epitaph reads :
I shall lift my eyes upto Himalayas from whence cometh my strength.
By 12 o’clock there were at least ten people wandering in the valley. But that strength was still very low in comparison to hundreds pilgrims who visits the Hemkund Sahib every day on the same trek route just 3 kms away. Some said that the high entry fee is the one reason for less visits, but i don’t think that 150 INR really matter to most of the Sikhs Pilgrims. There may be the reasons like unawareness about VOF or tiredness of the Hemkund Trek.
More Pictures from the Valley of Flowers:
After spending a good two 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 to Ghangaria.