Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Trek to Valley of Flowers with GIO - To Ghangaria

First Part : To AuliSecond Part: To Ghangaria; Third Part: To Valley of Flowers; Fourth Part: To Hemkund Sahib; Fifth Part: To Badrinath, Mana and Back

There may be those intrepid trekkers, who disdain to travel by vehicles when they could walk; beings who could walk all day, arrive at the camp at 6 PM and bemoan the fact that the day's trek was too short to challenge them. I would have called them mythical beings, but for the fact that I have had the misfortune to trek along with a few of them. All I can say about the experience is that, at the end of it, I heartily wished that they had truly been only mythical beings.

Be that as it may, the reader of these chronicles knows full well that I do not belong to that ilk. if anything, he/she is faintly surprised that I bother to trek at all. So, after the comfortable night at the Himalayan Ecolodges rest house at Auli and the drive to Govindghat, when Yashpal suggested that there was an option to travel the first three kilometers by shared taxi instead of trekking, the reader would not be surprised to hear that I was the first to jump at the suggestion. The only surprise there would be the fact that I did not choose to travel all the way to Ghangaria by mule...but, then, that is only because my feet are less tender than my...err...backside, shall we say? Incidentally, the shared taxi option got unanimous consent and, seeing the unrelieved steep ascent when we actually did travel, we were quite pleased with the decision. Toiling up that road in the sun, with vehicles spewing exhaust and dust on me, was not my idea of fun, no matter what the intrepid trekkers may have to say about the matter.

Did I forget to mention that, at Rishikesh, there was a biometric registration and that we were given biometric cards? I suppose I did, just as I forgot to carry them on my person and packed them away, causing some small ruckus as we drove up in the taxi. I was not the only one, though. Anyway, I found that the government does move swiftly at times as it had done in the aftermath of the Uttaranchal disaster to ensure that tourists are tracked on their trips to the mountains.

Anyway, once we reached Pulla (if I have got the name of the village right), we had a eleven kilometer trek in prospect. Yashpal assured us that it was an easy trek - a bit up and down but fairly even till the last stretch where there would be a climb of some three kilometers. Having been to the mountains fairly often, I knew that what, to the guide, is a walk in the park normally turns out to be a lung-breaker for the ordinary trekker (which does not include those intrepid ones I talked of earlier) much like what, to a mountain goat, is a level plain is a slippery slope to oblivion to you.

At Pulla, what was supposed to be only infantry acquired a cavalry regiment. Chandra and Poornima (or was it Renuka, the other of the co-sisters?) decided to ride mules, while the rest of us walked. Indeed, all through the route, you found the muleteers tempting toiling trekkers with the option of comfortably (comfortably? Egads! My fundament complains) riding mules to their destination and, as it happened, our cavalry grew in strength at the cost of the infantry as the day's trek progressed.

Just as we exited the village, we found ourselves walking by the side of the beautiful Pushpavati river. There is something about the muted roar of a river running over rocks that is very soothing to the human soul. Feasting your eyes on the vistas ahead of you, with the music of the river filling your ears, is one of the pleasures that keep dragging me back to the mountains.

Onward we trekked and, as is the case with us, seeking to know how much farther the destination was, once every half-hour, in the wistful hope that our dragging steps had covered the eleven kilometer distance so fast that we would find it around the next corner. By the time we hit the lunch spot, we were, shall we understate, just about ready for lunch. Poornima (or was it Renuka?) had, meanwhile, apparently galloped on to the destination causing a bit of worry for her co-sister but all was well since it ended well.

Around the time when Chandru and I were getting ready to give up, we hit a plain road with the camp in sight. The late additions to the cavalry regiment - Lalitha and Lekha - met us with the welcome news that it really WAS our campsite that we were seeing. (Do not be mislead into thinking that the trek, itself, was too tough. By the standards of even the non-intrepid ones it was a moderate day of trekking. It is just that we guys had hit an age where definitions of easy, moderate and tough have changed drastically for the worse)

AND - what a camp! Running water and power! Tents where you could stand upright; beds...yes BEDS! An attached bath tent with a western closet. Hot water on call! A huge dining tent. Sybaritic...that's the word I am looking for. There were hotels in cities where I have had far worse experiences than this campsite in the middle of nowhere (Well - not exactly the middle of nowhere but a little exaggeration never hurt anyone!) The GIO Adventures guys had even provided towels and soap!

 Well, if you see more pics of the campsite than of the views here, do not blame me. After all, on every trek I see these vistas and, much though I love them and like to revisit them, they are not novelties. But a camp like this? Where I did not have to crawl in, scrunching my not so slim belly every time I had to put on my shoes? Where I did not have to go bottle in hand hunting for a safely hidden spot and do the long forgotten full-squats? Where I could actually bathe in hot water and avoid smelling my own sweat (THAT though was more a matter for Chandru to be happy about. I still remember a tent-mate in a long ago trek spending every evening of the trek hunting for the dead rat that he was sure was somewhere in the tent.)

I am sure that, by now, you must have sort of got the impression that this campsite and these tenting arrangements were not really the norm for treks. Not even for GIO treks everywhere, I am sure. You can organize all this only where you have a permanent campsite and not when you erect campsites as you go. Still, this was an experience that I would not have wanted to miss. After all, one of my dreams has always been to enjoy the solitude and beauty of the mountains without sacrificing too much of my bodily comforts.

The food lived up to the rest of the arrangements. So, after a good meal and a small walk to take in the beauty of the surroundings, we went to sleep.

The next day we would trek to the Valley of Flowers.

Pics : Chandru


  1. The ease with which you beguile your readers into imagining that they themselves are trekking along with you is beyond remarkable. The humor is a sheer bonus. GIO must indeed be a wonderful trek organizer if they are providing such amenities in the middle of somewhere. Good job, GIO. And great post, Suresh, as always.

    1. Thanks Ramesh! Yup GIO did a good job of organizing the overall trek

  2. Suresh, it was me, Lalitha who was with Lekha, a part of the later cavalry and not Mamatha who was very much a part of the infantry...Liking your narration very much and am eagerly waitjing for the rest of it

    1. Great to see you here, Lalitha! My mistake - day 1 the names were not so clear in mind, so the error. Will correct the narrative.

  3. Thanks for taking us to the second day of your journey.

    Sriram & Krithiga

  4. Yes, that camp does sound quite unique given the surroundings. Glad that you had such a wonderful time.

    1. Absolutely unique in all my trekking days, Rachna

  5. Your narrative is the next best thing after not going to a trek.Loved it.