First Part : To Auli; Second Part: To Ghangaria; Third Part: To Valley of Flowers; Fourth Part: To Hemkund Sahib; Fifth Part: To Badrinath, Mana and Back
The cavalry regiment suffered a major setback today. No mules were permitted on the route to Valley of Flowers. The horse-warriors had to, perforce, descend ignominiously to the ground and trudge along with the infantry or had the choice of riding the back of people sitting crunched up in baskets, which were called pittus if I got the word right. Well - actually, the back of the basket is cut open so you do not actually feel like a sack of potatoes, but still...
Anyway, except for a child from the other group - comprising of three Nagpur families and a Delhi couple (Hemant and Suhasini) - all of us decided to trek to the Valley of Flowers. We crossed Ghangaria, which was half a kilometer beyond the campsite and went on for about another kilometer till we hit the check-post at a fork in the road. THAT was apparently where we had to register if we were trekking straight on towards Hemkund Sahib. The route to the Valley of Flowers was on the left fork and there was another check-post further down, where we registered and set off to cover the three further kilometers to our destination.
You know how it goes - the guide says it is easy, you think you will float along admiring the scenery, and you find that it is as usual a lung-buster. As trails go, this was not too tough actually. It was in the mountains, after all, and one hardly expects to be walking on flat terrain. The weather was great - slightly overcast, thus cool enough not to enervate you, but no rains. It is just that, being accustomed to city-dwelling, the slightest hint of an incline sets you huffing and puffing. (And so, if you are already tired with my walking travails, take a break and look on the video of the valley of flowers from the depths of your armchair. IF it opens that is. I am both video-challenged and tech-challenged)
At the entrance of the Valley, in a shaded place are a lot of convenient rocks to sit upon or sprawl upon as the mood takes you. Chandru, having acquired a cramp in his quadriceps for his pains, sprawled. I walked on through the valley, instead of sitting around and waiting for the rest of our company to join us.
Flowers, someone said, are nature's smiles. Whether that was poetic fancy or true, I wouldn't know, but that walk did fill me with unknown joy. Shy smiles, these flowers of the Valley were, not the bright come-hithers of the roses and the lotuses and, yet, how they beguiled.
You lift your eyes and the wide vistas that open entrance you. In the mountains, people have claimed that they felt small. Somehow, it has never struck me that way. My CONCERNS seemed much smaller, certainly, but the more important thing was the feeling of exaltation and being a part of something so noble, so wonderful. Well, of course, if I did not feel happy there why would I keep going back? After all, everyone who knows me knows that I am the escapist upon which the entire species of escapists were modeled.
The pleasure of these visits lay not only in looking on these places on a 'landscape' basis. There is so much beauty if you stop to take it in - a shy flower, an oddly shaped stone, a lovely bird...Nature graces both the minute and the vast and, if you have the eyes, you could spend an eternity, entranced in the Valley of Flowers.
One of the attractions of GIO Adventures' arrangements for me was that the guides carried along the lunch for the entire group and served it at the specific spot for lunch. Today, of course, it was at the Valley of Flowers. In the normal course, the lunch packs are distributed to the trekkers and, so, you had to lug it up and then eat it. Not too onerous, one may say, except that someone like me ends up spilling more than he eats when he tries to manage a lunch pack while squatting on uneven ground.
We met an interesting couple while relaxing at the Valley. The girl was carrying a small bouquet of flowers culled from the valley. The guy told us that he had been wooing her and proposing to her in all such interesting places but was yet to get her assent. Poor chap! Maybe she so loved the way he was wooing her that she wanted to prolong the experience for as long as she could.
Chandru and I started off early, since he wanted to get back to camp and care for his cramped legs. En route, we sat quietly by the Pushpavati river. Lulled by the rushing flow, captivated by the 'ever-moving, yet ever in the same place' nature of the river, I was startled out of my reverie when Chandru called me to proceed onward.
Later in the evening there was much drama. Geeta and Chandra had not come back. It was night and there was a power-cut, leaving the area pitch-dark. (Alas! THAT power-cut put paid to the hot water bath, I was looking forward to but that is another tale of woe). Yashpal was with them, of course, so the anxiety level was lesser though still palpable. Mahaveer rushed back with torches.
There was a sigh of relief when they landed back at the camp followed by outrage when we heard that, while we were busily biting out nails to the quick, they had calmly parked themselves in Ghangaria gorging on gulab-jamuns!
Well - a 4 Km trek had proved a lot more testing than people had bargained for and Hemkund Sahib was, by all accounts, an unrelenting ascent for about 7 Kms. But that was for the next day.
Pics : Jaya