Valley of Flowers - Day 3: Ghangaria to Valley and back
On day 3 of our Valley of flowers trip, we finally did the last leg of trek and saw the beautiful valley. It was an easier trek compared to the road we took upto Ghangaria.
At first glance, Ghangaria seemed like a place where I wouldn’t want to be. After walking through the town for a bit and checking into our pre-booked hotel, that feeling only got stronger. The town consists of many hotels and shops crammed up on both side of the same rocky road that we had followed up to the town, only the road got even narrower once inside the town and felt congested by the buildings towering on it . It twisted a few times and ran for about a kilometre before leading out on the other side towards valley of flowers and Hemkund.
We stayed in a hotel called “Kuber”, which was towards the rear end of the town and very close to the gurdwara. Like most other hotel in this town, it was damp, stinky and uncomfortable. It soaked through the frequent rains and never let the sunlight through due to congestion of buildings around. Even after a whole day of walk it didn’t seem like any better alternative than the road itself. But it was what we got and we tried to make the best of it.
We explored the town in the evening and found every shop identical to other and every restaurant with same menu. We took paratha and Maggie as our dinner, which was the staple food option out there. And then we headed for early bed, looking forward to next day’s visit to valley of flower.
Ghangaria to Valley of Flowers
I woke up on Monday morning feeling stiffness in body and cold outside. It was harder to leave bed even though it stank of years of dampness. The thought of another day of climb or walk was not at all encouraging. After a lot of pep-talk from others I gathered mental strength and finally got up from bed to get ready for the day.
It was early in the morning and decently cold outside. So I wore a sweatshirt and a woollen cap. I also put on my raincoat over it all as it had been raining intermittently. Combining all of it, it felt quite pleasant outside. I took a backpack (10L daypack), carrying food and a towel. It was also for the purpose of dumping the warm clothes when the day got hotter. We decided to carry only one bottle of water. This was not rational thinking and we knew it even then. But our decision was heavily influenced by the condition of our body at that point.
We set out from hotel at around 6 in the morning. It took us only few minutes to leave the town and come into an open space with the road still leading upwards. It definitely felt better to be out of that town. Many people were starting off at the same time and there were locals carrying baskets on their backs offering to carry tourist to both Hemkund and Valley of Flowers. There were mules as well, but that was only for Hemkund. Road to valley of flowers was not suitable for mules.
After a very brief walk we came across a branch of the road on left side leading to the valley. We took this turn, leaving the main road which headed towards Hemkund. Although Hemkund is the major attraction for the tourists who treks up to Ghangaria, we found sufficient number of people heading towards Valley of Flowers as well. While it wasn’t over crowded, there was a steady stream of people walking ahead on that road.
We continued on that narrow path for a bit, which ran around a small hill keeping rocks on our right and a shallow cliff to our left. The road led to the check-point, where we paid entry fee of 150 per person (fee for Indian nationals) and entered our names. There was no gate of any sort on the road. So once done at the check-point we continued ahead.
Soon the road led us to the bank of a small river. It was flowing on the bed of white rocks similar to all other rivers at that part. We used the makeshift tin bridge to cross and reach the other side. There was a small barren hill on the other side, which we climbed following the only path available. The same road continued into a forest afterwards and after a bit of climb led into an open area with a much bigger river flowing through the valley.
Standing on the edge of the forest we could see a stone bridge over the river, which connected two hills. We were standing in one and we knew we would need to climb the other. We climbed down the slope and reached the river bank and there we took our first break. We took out our breakfast, which was bread and egg and ate sitting on a rock by the river listening to the smooth sound of water passing over rocks.
Post breakfast we started off again. Crossing the bridge we reached the base of the next hill. The rocky road led up that hill through trees. These trees were not very tall and it gave an impression of walking through a park or a garden. Sunlight was streaming through the trees by then. It would have been pleasant if it wasn’t for the climb. Soon we had to take of our warm clothes as it started to feel quite hot. And that’s when we started to regret our limited supply of water.
It was about a 1.5 KM climb on that hill. But fortunately that was the only hard part of the journey. Rest of the road was combination of plain and slope making it easier to cross. By the time we reached the top of the hill, we were very thirsty and only a few drops of water was left in our bottle. Looking ahead I could see the river running through green valley below. But it was too far down and I didn’t think we will ever reach that river again in our journey ahead.
The road ran around the hill rather than up the hill post this point. After some more walk we suddenly heard the sound of water. It sounded so sweet to our ears. We went ahead with expectation and finally found the waterfall which was coming down from the hill and falling into the valley by crossing the road we were walking on. We all drank from it directly and also filled up our bottle. It could be the thirst, but it tasted better than our regular water.
By this point we could see the valley ahead – it looked like a sea of green velvets with milky water cutting through it in the middle. The perfect shaped clouds in the deep blue sky only enhanced the view. The road sloped downwards slightly and the barren rocks on both sides were replaced by green plants with white & pink flowers. And following this road downwards we reached a river (not the one cutting through the valley ahead, a different one), which marked the boundary of the valley of flowers.
Valley of Flowers
The valley was beautiful with stretch of green mountains every side you see. There were small waterfalls coming down at several points from those mountains. We were in the middle of it all. The valley itself covered a lot of area. Walking the whole place would have taken hours. We didn’t walk quite that long.
After crossing the river, we found the road going ahead further through the flowering plants on both sides. The plants were stretched through the whole valley on the side of the river. Up ahead we could see green patch where the land was covered by grass only. Flowers, on the other hand, were not that impressive. While I have heard about the varieties of flowers in this valley, we could spot mainly 4 or 5 types everywhere, which seem to be the common ones.
We walked a bit through the flowers and stopped to rest top of a rock on the side of road. After measuring our options, we figured it was unadvisable to try to cross the valley and reach up to the river in the middle. So instead we went ahead a bit more, where the plants became fewer and walked up to the side from where we could enjoy a view of the river with hills in the background. That’s where we sat and had our packed lunch and spent the next one hour or so.
Return to Ghangaria
We left the valley quite early and returned through the same way we had come. It took us much lesser time to get back. Most of the route felt downward and we reached till the big river within an hour. We stopped at the river to take some photos. It was around 2:30 at noon and hence the place was quite empty. People would start coming back in some more time.
By the time we got back to Ghangaria it was around 3:30. The town felt darker and colder than outside, as soon as we entered. But it was our last night there and I was already dreaming of the comfortable bed I would be able to enjoy in Joshimath when we reach there next day.