Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Valley of Flowers

Day 4: Valley of Flowers
All right so we got cosy in the camp and slept early to be rested well to start for Valley of flowers. The best suggestion our guide doled out was to not have a shower in the morning and instead come back and bathe…and anyone who knows me knows I am most ecstatic with this piece of advice. Legs aching and hearts hopeful, I slept sending healing to self and hoping it will be a clear day tomorrow. Since I am not used to sleeping so early I mean 9pm is in Delhi time for me to start making dinner, I woke up at exactly 12.30 and kept lying dead in the bed. It was pouring and thundering (is that a word?). Sending prayers for a clear day, I kept drifting in and out of sleep, and before we knew it, it was time to get up and have breakfast at 7. Cause at 7.30 we had to move out dahlings!

Thankfully it was a clear day, and with this I mean it was not raining at that “moment”. We crossed the already awake and buzzing small bazaar of Gangharia and reached the small office from where we needed to get our tickets etc to the VoF. It was crowded and we were told that since at night it had rained heavy, the bridge had got washed down.
waiting at the start 
The authorities concerned had made some make shift arrangements and helping people cross over by stepping on big boulders etc. What seemed right from the beginning as an awesome river flowing and gushing suddenly seemed scary and barbaric. It was gushing with full force and the thought of stepping on slippery stones was not very inviting and there was no option but to cross it and so we did. Each one holding the hand of the guys helping there and heaving a sigh after having achieved it. Human memory works in small bursts, the minute we all crossed over, that same river again started looking amazing and selfies worthy. Well, well, many poses later the ascend began. 

The air was full of mist and the morning looked bright and promising. The path was a different story altogether. The entire path leading up to the valley is as if strewn with stones of varying shapes and sizes and as Geeth said, “lego pieces waiting to be fit”. Well she was right they hurt like lego pieces too…remember stepping on them bare feet ….ouch!
The Path 
The 3 kilometer stretch was mostly a climb up and the respite came only at the last half a kilometer or so when it was flattish (not flat …haan)! Again we all went at our own pace and with adequate stops to breathe. No mules and their shit on this path. The path is much narrower and there is help in terms of pitthus, the guy with the tokris (like the ones you see at tea estates) who offer to carry you up.
As we were trekking the vistas kept changing from beautiful to amazing and to exceptional all in its full glory. Before we started the trek our guide had amply warned us to not think of valley of flowers as some tulip lined farm or something. It is replete with flowers in the wilderness and is speckled with colours of myriad hues, but it is all natural and not cultivated or manicured. And I think there in lay its beauty. There were flowers of all shapes, sizes and colours; big ones, tiny ones, rare ones and mundane ones. All in all it was a beautiful bouquet that reminded me of paintings of the age of Romantics.

After having crossed various small streams on the path and gaping awestruck at the lush green mountains and waterfalls that could be spotted far away through the rolling mist and white feathery fluffy clouds, we finally reached the expanse of the valley. Now hungry we found a spot on a huge boulder and opened our picnic lunch of paranthas and alu subzi. Post this we all wandered off into the valley to see more sights and flowers of course. There are many small streams with bridges made of aluminum planks that we crossed and kept moving through the bushes of flowers on either side of the now kachcha muddy path.
Besides many other flowers, we also saw very low lying almost buried in the soil fresh blueberries and oh my god, I have never seen such a stark blue as that ever. unfortunately I ate up the blueberry without first clicking it ;p and the season has just started so couldn’t locate more. Another one that really stood out were blue poppies with bright yellow center. The guide had told us that there is a laughing mushroom in there too which if you eat you keep laughing for 2 hours, I so wanted to but couldn’t find it and the botanist who was with us was playing hide and seek…more hide than seek.
Anyways the clouds had started rolling in and becoming darker and ominous and we had to turn back to exit the valley. There is no provision of staying back. It’s a UNESCO protected site and does have any stalls or vendors or sheds like the trek to Ghangaria. Before we left the valley the three of us decided to dip our feet in the deliciously flowing cool stream and we did. But seriously the water was soooo chilled that not more than 4 or 5 minutes and feet start to feel numb. Now though we wanted to savour the valley and do everything in slo mo we knew we should ideally start back and so we did. Not long and it started pouring. Rain jackets out and the descent began.

Now this was a challenge I never realized. I always in my head thought that climbing up is difficult and going down easy. But it seemed pretty much the opposite here, since the path is stacked with stones, the climb down was a hard test in balance, especially with rain lashing too. I think I managed to save myself from slipping at least 5 times. And while on the way up, mindfulness and pauses were the tools, on way down, saare bhagwaan yaad aa gaye. Anyway slow consistent steps and absolute concentration took us down to the stream from where we crossed to the other side. Thankfully they had made a better crossing over arrangement now than in the morning. The next kilometer or so to the camp was full of reverence for the feat accomplished. On reaching the camp we couldn’t stop raving about it all and though it was the most satisfying trip as such, a feeling of not enough lingered. A hot shower and foot massage later we were now all of us getting ready for the tough one to Hemkund Sahib now. Cause this was again just a teaser my friend….jaw drop….really!!!

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