The Valley of Flowers trek starts with 14 KMs trek to Ghangaria.
The day long hard journey from Haridwar to Gobind Ghat ensured that we all slept well. The accommodation in Hotel Ganga in Gobind Ghat was basic and clean. Dinesh, our guide from Indiahikes had briefed us on the previous day on the valley of flowers trek and expected all of us to be ready by 6.30 AM. Each one of was to carry minimum luggage and the extra luggage was to be sent to Gangaria on the mule.
The team was up and ready at 6.30. The sky was clear and weather was good. It was very chilly in the morning. As we all assembled, the option was to either have breakfast or pack it. Since many of them wanted to have breakfast and then trek, we could leave Gobind ghat only at 7.15 AM. However, we did not eat and packed our breakfast of Alu Parota and pickle.
Gobind Ghat is a transit place for people going towards Ghangaria. During season, this place is abuzz with activity. Majority of the people who transit Gobind Ghat are Sikh Pilgrims who are on the way to Hemkund Sahib. This is an important pilgrimage for Sikhs similar to Char Dham for Hindus. Apart from few hotels catering to tourists, there is a big Gurudwara with lodging facilities as well.
The team finished their breakfast and we were raring to go. We had read about this trek though blogs and travel guides. The distance is long – 14 KMs – and the climb is gradual. It is also steep at many places. We had come well prepared with proper gear and physical training. We went by the checklist provided by Indiahikes and tips by Arjun Majumdar, the man behind Indiahikes. We started fitness regime quite seriously three months before the trek. Brinda had a good personal trainer in the office gym and i went for my run and freehand exercise at home. We bought good trekking shoes from Decathlon and broke it well in advance by walking around in Lalbagh over weekends. We also bought a trekking stick. In the hindsight, all these tremendously helped.
We left Gobind ghat and started walking down towards the Gurudwara. Crossing Gurudwara and the Alaknanada river, our trek actually started when we started climbing. The trail goes all along Laxman Ganga river. The trail is paved by stones. At places it is even. But, at many places it is uneven and broken. Heavy rains during the season ensures that some stones come out and slippery too.
The trail for this part of valley of flowers trek is wide enough and it also acts a mule track as well. Mules are used to send supplies to Ghangaria and to carry tourists who can not trek. This is big hassle as the trekkers have to continuously negotiate the mules and give them way. Another nuisance is the stink generated all along the trail by the mule droppings. Though the sweepers regularly clean the track, they can not remove the stink. Thus, if you are looking forward to a clean and pristine trail to trek, you won’t get it. But this is a minor irritant you need to take it in your stride. Fortunately, you don’t come across series of stalls as mentioned in many of travel guides. Yes, you do see these stalls near villages but not through out the trek as mentioned by many.
We continue to climb and Gobind ghat looks like s spec in the valley. The scenery around is mind blowing and all the effort seems to be worth it. Tall mountains, huge cliffs, lovely water falls, Devdar and pine forests, milky white streams. clouds dangling low in the valley, snow covered peaks coming out in the sun some times……….these vistas on the way is just made for a soul tired by the grueling climb.
The last four KMs is the most difficult part of the climb. Since this happens after the lunch, it becomes tougher.
Let us take you through the first part of valley of flowers trek pictorially. CLICK ON THE PICTURES TO SEE THEM IN LARGER SIZE.
The start point
The first picture of the day taken at Gobind ghat. The first rays of the sun caressing the peaks
The team. Brinda is on extreme left and i am standing next to her. Dinesh, our guide in on extreme right
OMG……Are we going to climb this hill?
The Gurudwara complex at Gobind Ghat, next to Alaknanda river
Nihang Sikh pilgrims on the way to Hemkhund Sahib
Laxman Ganga – The river which will give us company throughout the trek
The light from morning sun brightens up the mountains
There is a helicopter service between Gobind Ghat to Gangaria. The flight takes seven minutes whereas the trek is 10 Hours!!
The trail – Notice the stones. Not always aligned as in this photograph. Wide enough.
As we climb, we start seeing fantastic vistas of mountains, forests, water falls…….it is an unending journey of pristine beauty
Gobind Ghat looks like a small spec in the valley as we climb
We are on cloud nine….virtually with the clouds
The first village on the trek – Pulna village set in beautiful surroundings
The water falls at Pulna village
The lovely vistas continue
The Garhwali women are very hard working. Everyday is a trek for them. These ladies had collected fodder for cattle and were backpacking it for miles.
The scenes on the trek is so beautiful, you don’t mind the strain and the stink. Look at the following pictures as well.
A short break to dip your tired feet in chill waters
The conifers add beauty to the landscape
We saw this nice poster. How apt. It captures the spirit!!
Beautiful conifers again
Laxman Ganga jumps over boulders and flow very fast creating a water fall. This part of the trek is toughest coming after lunch as it is a steep climb. But this stretch also has some fantastic landscape. Here the river flows so ferociously over the boulders and the roar is deafening
As we inch closer to Gangaria, you see myriad of water falls gushing down the hills. The helipad at Ghangaria. Must rank as one of the most picturesque!
As we reach the helipad, we heave a sigh of relief. But there is another KM of arduous trek ahead in slush and stink as we go through the “Pony stand” of Ghangaria. We reach a small hotel where we are to stay for next two days.
Ghangaria is a small village. It is a one street village which comes to life for four months in a year during the monsoon. It shuts down with first snow of the season. For Sikh Pilgrims. Gangaria is known as Gobind Dham. The place has a Gurudwara with place to stay for Pilgrims. This is the base camp for anyone exploring Valley of flowers and Hemkund Sahib.
As we dumped the luggage in the room, Sohan Singh came up asking whether we needed hot water for bath.
“Yes” we reply.
“Rs 50 for a bucket of hot water” he replies back.
We take it, there being no option and a hot water bath should sooth the muscles tired of trek!!
Dinesh says that we all meet over dinner to discuss the next days trek to “Valley of Flowers”.
We are all excited!!
The only way to get to Ghangaria is via Gobind Ghat. If you are willing to trek, it is a trek of ten hours to cover 14 KMs. If not possible to trek, you can hire a mule or a porter for the journey.
There is also helicopter services between Gobind Ghat to Ghangaria. The flight takes 7 minutes. But flights are unpredictable due to weather condition. One can book tickets in the counter in Gobind Ghat.
a) Gobind Ghat is a transit place. Don’t expect too much with the lodges here. They are basic and clean. The food in the restaurants was good.
b) The trek to Ghangaria is tough though many trekking guides rate it as “Easy”. It may be easy for seasoned trekkers but definitely not for newbies. There are some steep climbs which will tire you.
c) If you are not willing to trek, negotiate a mule at the start point. the rates will be cheaper. If you want to get the services in the middle of the trek, it comes with a premium.
d) Carry water bottle with water. Keep sipping water on the way as this is a trek in high altitude. Carry energy bars which will give you instant energy as well.
e) Avoid drinking/ eating anything that is cold in the roadside joints. The quality of snacks is never guaranteed as you may be served leftovers from the previous day. We were forewarned by Arjun and team from Indiahikes. Anything hot – like chai – is always welcome.
f) A good trekking gear is a definite advantage. Don’t compromise on this. A good trekking shoe like Forclaz 600 or Forclaz 500 or Woodlands is a big boon. The treads hug the ground and chances of slipping is less. The trekking stick is a must too. It is very helpful and takes the pressure from your knees.
g) Make sure that your feet is not on a slippery ground before moving forward while trekking.
h) The mules are always in a hurry. Give them the way.
i) When you are tired, stop, sip water, look around and enjoy the surroundings and then move on.
j) Everything is expensive in Ghangaria as all items have to come from Gobind Ghat.
k) There is no connectivity to your cell phone in Ghangaria. The only way of communication is through STD from the local phone booths. Phone calls are expensive at the rate of Rs 10 per minute.
l) The hotels in Ghangaria may not be best as there is huge demand for rooms during season due to pilgrims going to Hemkund. It is recommended to carry a couple of thin clean bedsheets.
k) Great India Outdoors and Sarovar group have their tents next to Helipad. They are expensive and needs to be booked well in advance.
m) A minimum level of fitness is desirable. Once you decide to come to the trek of valley of flowers, please get into a fitness regime which prepares you well for the trek so that you can enjoy every moment of it.
n) It recommended to do Gobind Ghat – Ghangaria at least once. One can either go by Helicopter and return by walk or vice-verse.
o) Though no guide required for this trek, it is always advisable to go with one. Dinesh from India Hikes was excellent in helping and guiding people. It is well siganged and there is no scope of getting lost.
p) A good binocular and a camera is a must.
q) Carry all the materials that is required for a high altitude trek. Don’t ignore it. Here is a checklist given by Indiahikes.