Day 7: 3rd Aug 2012 : I woke up early in the morning, today my plan was to reach till Ghangaria via Govindghat, the base station for VOF and Hemkund. Joshimath is an army town, there are lot of indian army personal around, also there is ITBP (Indo Tibetan Border Police) presence there. It is also the winter residence of Lord Badrinath. Personally I was not in best of health, my knees where giving me trouble.
I started my journey, early in the morning, I was looking for a ride to Govindghat. I found one after long time, in the meantime, I met one of the Bengali from the bus, who was going to Badrinath, I inquired about the other from his group, he said that they also crossed the mountain and then the road opened and they decided to go back to Pipalkoti, strange. My ride till Govindghat was uneventful.
Govindghat had a gurdwara, and one will find a lot of Sikh community person here, in fact it is crowded with Sikh, who come from
all over India, mostly from Punjab though. There will be a lot of young guys who will come on motorcycle, with flag in their hand. The gurdwara is a nice place for free accommodation if one requires. I had decided to move up towards Ghagaria which is a 14 km trek from Govindghat, if Kedarnath trek was nicely paved, then the same cannot be said about Ghagaria, here its paved at some places, at other places its just natural rock formations one will encounter. I decided to hire a mule (khachar in local term), which cost me Rs 400 one way after a bargain. The official rate at that time was Rs 700 one way. Depending upon the season the rates will vary.
I had never rode a mule before, so it was quite a journey. When a mule is climbing you have to push your weight forward, and when the mule is descending one has to put ones weight backward, this was told to me by the mule owner. The mules were named Kamala and Vimla. The mule owner will walk besides you while, you ride the mule, also there is halt at half way point and one has to pay for the mule owner tea and breakfast. I lost my umbrella in-between somewhere, so the mule owner bought me a plastic raincoat which cost Rs20. Actually it is he who lost it. It took us 3 hours to reach Ghagaria. The place is built only to cater to tourist, there are only hotels and food joints. There is also a helicopter service from Govindghat to Ghagaria. I got a room for Rs 200 per night, but the food prices here are double of what is there in Govindghat.
It was cold and raining, I ordered for hot water bucket which cost me Rs 50, had shower. Clothes do not dry here, so it’s all very humid and wet. I had food and decided to sleep early. Tomorrow I was planning to visit Valley of flowers(VOF).
The travel cost Rs 30 from Joshimath, the mule ride cost Rs400, the room rent was Rs 200 and the food cost for the day was Rs 300 and a bucket of hot water cost me Rs 50.
Day 8: 4th Aug 2012 : I woke up early in the morning, my body was not feeling well, there where already people leaving for Hemkund. I was not sure whether I would be able to goto VOF, I ordered my tea in room itself. It was cold and rainy outside. I was struggling to keep myself warm. I decided to have breakfast after sometime. I had breakfast and some more tea. I also packed some parathas, there are no food stalls after Ghagaria to VOF. After an hour or so I decided to goto VOF.
At around 8.00 am I stated my trek to VOF. I had brought a walking stick, was wearing the plastic raincoat and a headcap. The distance from Ghagaria is about 3 km. It’s not a straight trek you have to climb a hill, then descend then again climb one and then you have the Valley of Flowers which itself is 7-8 km long or maybe more. As soon as you leave Ghagaria you would start spotting flowers on both sides of the paved track. After a few hundred meters the road bifurcate and the one to the left leads to VOF and the right to Hemkund. After walking few hundred meters you
encounter a checkpoint where you have to pay the entrance fees, which for India nationals in 2012 was Rs 300 for 3 days, also you have to register your name in a logbook.
Officially you have entered the VOF now, the scenery is the same, there are mountains all around you, on your backside you can see the big mountain where Hemkund is located, it’s quite a steep mountain with jagged tooth topline. Pushpavati river flows through the valley, you have to cross a lot of streams while traversing the valley. some of them on makeshift bridges. There are a couple of glaciers which one will pass while travelling into the heart of the valley. Depending on the time of year you visit the size of the glacier changes, if you go too late they might not even
be noticeable. I had privilege of walking on one of them, it feels as if you have stepped in a freezer. There is a cave inside the valley which is very much at the centre of the VOF, it’s called the Brahmany gufa, a place where in ancient times rishi used to meditate.
I along with some other group of people had their lunch inside the cave, it was raining outside, and overall it was not best of the day to visit the valley. After having my lunch I decided to move further, you will see flowers everywhere, only few species dominate the valley, so if you are not a botanist, or you don’t have guide, then the valley is not an interesting place, considering the effort one has to take to reach the place. I clicked a number of photos of the valley as well as that of the flowers. Most flowers are too tiny to be noticeable to a tourist, only a trained eye can spot them. Its better to buy the CD regarding the VOF information from Ghagaria, and visit the Humkund Sahib, and see Bramhakamal, which
does not grow in the valley, it grows above 4000m, and the valley is mostly at 3600m. On a clear day one can see the beautiful snow-clad peaks. Then there is a bugyal(high altitude meadow) which is on the other side of Pushpavati river which is visible from most of the places in VOF.
After wandering in the VOF for couple of hours I decide to turn back. Already my legs where paining, and I was worried about getting sick due to being in rain for such a long time, my shoulders where wet due to water
seepage from the raincoat, also my shoes and socks where completely wet.
I started my journey to VOF at around 8.00 am, reached there after 2 hours trek, was there for about 2-3 hours, then came back in less than 2 hours. It’s a medium trek, one has to acclimatize before going for this trek, you can do that by spending a day in Ghagaria.
After reaching the room I had food and tea, I decided not to goto Hemkund, as my knees where is not in good shape, I decided to go down tomorrow and goto Badrinath.
Personally for me the most enjoyable part was the walk on the glacier, flowers where not so interesting as they are made to be in so many literature regarding VOF. If possible avoid this and goto Hemkund instead, you will reach much higher altitude and also the trek is much more challenging.
The entrance fee was Rs 150, the room rent was Rs 200 and the food cost for the day was Rs 300.