A Lifetime Trip

…creating colorful memories

Switzerland of India – The Valley of Flowers

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Switzerland of India – The Valley of Flowers
I met one of my friends who also loves traveling and trekking after a long time. She had come to my house and was very boisterous and chirpy. The first words out of her mouth were “Wow!”, “Beautiful” and “Mesmerizing”!She had just been to Switzerland she informed! Intrigued as I was as I knew she did not have a passport, she opened the mystery. She was referring to a place in India which was like the European beauty – the Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand!
Her tales were so entrancing and her description so interesting that I decided to visit there myself to experience this wonderland first hand. I applied for a weeklong vacation and headed to Hemkunth Sahib and The Valley Of flowers!
The Preparation
I read up about the place and saw pictures about it while I was busy planning for the trip. Helps to build excitement, doesn’t it? I was surprised to learn that The Valley of Flowers is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
We booked a trip as a part of a group, to keep us company. Our guide proved to be a veritable font of information about the areas we passed through on our way. He started with the story of Hemkunth.
The History of Hemkunth
Considered as one of the sacred Sikh pilgrim centers, Hem Kund or Hemkunth in Uttarakhand was mentioned by Guru Gobind Singh in his book Bachitter Natak. He had written about meditating at a frozen lake surrounded by Sapt Shring Mountains. Even the exact location of the place was not known till the nineteenth century. It is all because of the efforts of Pandit Tara Singh, a Sikh scholar, a retired Granthi (priest) and an Indian Army sepoy that we know about this place now. They had written about this place in various personal accounts and finally were able to match it with the description of Guru Gobind Singh.
As a result, a Sikh shrine or gurudwara has been constructed around the lake and is called as Hemkunth Sahib. It is located at an awe-inspiring height of 15,200 feet! It is open only during summers from the month of May till September. The pilgrimage is closed the rest of the year as it is covered with snow and is not accessible.
The Journey
We started from Haridwar to Gobind Ghat which is about 275 km drive away. We were advised to stay at Joshimath rather than Gobind Ghat as it has better hotels and rest-houses that are easilyavailable. From here starts the actual journey, which we embarked upon the next day. The the 22 km travel to Gobind Ghat is motorable. Rivers Alaknanda and Lakshman Ganga meet at Gobind Ghat, where a gurudwara has been built right on the banks. It is a beautiful and serene place.
Armed with trekking gear as acquired by our guide from a small market there, we moved forward while our taxis waited patiently for us to return. This is the place to get porters and mules for those who cannot travel by foot.
For the up-styled and those who could afford not to walk by to take to the skies, there is a helipad which offered helicopter services up to Ghangaria, the nearest location to The Valley of Flowers.
The other name of Ghangaria is Gobind Dham. To reach here, one has to carefully tread a rocky path of 13 km, comprising of uneven road. This is also the base camp located at the height of 3050 mfor the treks leading to Hemkunth Sahib and The Valley of Flowers.
We were informed that Hemkunth did not have any provisions for staying overnight other than the gurudwara guest houses. Other local eateries or dhabasprovide food, blankets and mattresses in the open grounds.
Hemkunth Sahib

We joined a group called the Jathas, with euphoric atmosphere of chants and hymns. We had to cross the suspension bridge near river Alaknanda. From hence on, there was a steep path with zig-zag cuts along the hills. Lots of refreshments and snacks were sold on the way for the pilgrims. The route is painted and colorful with Sikh devotional messages. After five km of trek, we were elated to see the first snow peak. Then we rested and the climbed the final three km of steepest ascent to Gobind Dham, which is a small town that has a gurudwara and a resting place for pilgrims.

From here on the final two km are covered with snow encounters. The silver roof of the gurudwara comes into view, finally giving way to a serene structure along the shimmering lake in the lap of seven mountains. The gurudwara was pious, clean, and the spiritual visit definitely cleansed our souls! The divine seemed to come to bless the devotees personally here!
After a night’s stay at Gobind Dham, we headed back to Gobind Ghat and resume our trek to the Valley the next morning.
The Valley of Flowers
We had to trek for about 3 km with our guide from Ghangaria crossing the bridge over River Pushpawati. The route is quite scenic, and one does not feel tired due to the freshness all around. On reaching the Valley,we had to pay the entry fee to enterthe park. Personal cameras are allowed, but professional videography equipment is not permitted.
This is what we had come all the way for! Unforgettable images still linger in my mind! Ihad seen Himalayan Blue Poppies on the way to the Valley along the path we had taken. To our surprise, they were not found anywhere else once we left the path. River Pushpawati flows in its own meandering path through the park. There are so many waterfalls in the park that it creates a beautiful rainbow effect in the right light. Imagine countless rainbows appearing magically when the sunlight is at the correct angle!  There aren’t enough words to describe the beauty!
The Valley looked like a velvety multi-hued carpet laid at our feet; waiting for us to admire its many colors and variations! Sheer bliss at the pure colors of the nature laid out at their best! We saw many varieties of poppies, orchids, daisies, anemones etc. Flowers stretched for as far as one could gaze, gorgeouslyinterspersed with greens that we were told are various medicinal plants and herbs, providing cures for many common and rare illnesses. Garden of Eden surely!

Not only is the Valley abundant in plant life, it has a great habitat for animals too like the red fox, musk deer, langur, black bear and brown bear in addition to snow leopard. Flowers attract the nimble butterflies and the Valley is no exception. The variety of butterflies found here is staggering with over a 100 types fluttering about amongst the colorful flowers. We also saw spotted birds like the Himalayan golden eagle, snow partridge, Himalayan monal, sparrow hawk and griffin vulture.

The terrain was almost flat in the Valley. We must have walked about 4 km, crossing many streams, big and small, with chilled water tickling our feet and calves. Our guide took us on a scenic route with lot of gurgling streams till we came across one which was bigger than the others. It started raining suddenly and we tried to huddle together. Our guide laughed! We understood at one because the rain stopped just as quickly. How could we have forgotten the sudden rains here that we were told about at the guest house?
The idyllic setting comes complete with a packed picnic sort of lunch on the banks of that stream as a part of the planned tour. That trek sure works up one’s appetite! We scraped our food-platters clean without wasting a single morsel and repacked our trash back into our bags to dispose of later. The environment is fragile here, so we wanted to make sure it stays that way!
The Valley is the most mesmerizing creation of God that I have witnessed. By 5 pm, we started our walk back to Ghangariawith heavy hearts for leaving this paradise!
Wow, what a day! As I lay in my bed, it all seemed like a beautiful dream, too good to be true! No wonder my friend fell in love with the place and I have fallen for the place too. The twin journey of Hemkunth and Valley of Flowers is spiritual and mystical! Can’t wait to go back again to see Mother Nature’s paintings and portraits at their best!

Author: A Lifeime Trip ...Creating colorful memories

We, A Lifetime Trip is a team of young minds. A no-frill company, providing the best of travel consultancy services across the industry at most reasonable prices. We deal in both Domestic and International tours. We specialize in bringing you inline with the real India – traditions, rituals, beauty, heritage, festivals, adventures, wild life, carnivals and many more different facets of our country. We work for you in a way that when you are back home, you cherish each moment of the trip making it A LIFETIME TRIP. Also Visit us at www.alifetimetrip.com

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