For someone who was bound by a desk job for 5 years, I became as lazy as I could be. Lack of time for working on a healthy body may have been an excuse but truth be told, I was never too active even before the 12 hour work shift days began.
The Himalayas always had my love. But the following three things made me sign up for one of the (so-called) beginners’ and most beautiful treks in India:
- Regular ‘Valley of flowers’ posts on Facebook by the travel pages I had ‘liked’.
- Its accessibility after 2 years of Uttarakhand floods.
- An itch to challenge my body & mind.
It came with many firsts and hence, had to be special – First rucksack, first trip after leaving my full-time job and also the first one with all strangers most of who became friends by end of it.
Here is a brief account of how I’ll remember the trip:
Day 1 – Haridwar >> Joshimath
I reached Haridwar railway station early morning where a bus was waiting to take us to Joshimath. We started off, did introductions on the way, stopped for breakfast and lunch, started clicking pictures already and listened to interesting local stories from our much experienced driver.
It took us the entire day to reach our destination – a basic guest house in Joshimath. Post dinner, our guide did a small intro-session and briefed us for the next day.
Distance covered – About 300 kilometers
Time taken – 11 hours
Mode of transport – Bus
Day 2 – Joshimath >> Govind ghat >> Ghangaria
After breakfast and a quick stop at local market to buy any essentials that we did not have, we boarded our bus to Govind-ghat – base from where the climb began. We started walking at 11 AM and reached Ghangaria around 6 PM, taking short breaks, eating from our lunch packets, munching biscuits and sipping water.
I needed a good bath as well as a long phone conversation. The hot water came at Rs. 50 per bucket and a phone call was charged at Rs. 10 per minute since our mobile phone signals were dead. After an edible meal at night, we were briefed about the next day by our tour guide. The room was cold, damp, smelly and wet but I somehow managed to sleep.
Distance covered – 25 + 15 kilometers
Time taken – 8.5 hours
Mode of transport – Bus, for the 1st 25 kilometers, on foot afterwards
Day 3 – Ghangaria >> Valley of flowers
I was awake earlier than required. The lack of sleep and the unexpected discomfort was annoying. Huffing and puffing, I made my way up, in between asking my guide if he happens to have an energy drink. The view was spectacular all throughout but I was sweating too much which made me more tired.
Taking my time, I was in the Valley of Flowers National Park which itself is stretched over 80 kilometers. We overheard conversations saying that the flowers were still budding, and it could have been more vibrant but I liked it anyway. Moreover, I was so mesmerized by the natural landscape all around in last 3 days; this was merely an addition to that.
Distance covered – About 5-6 kilometers one way. In the park, you can go as much as you want, up to 80 kilometers but you need to be out by 5 PM., staying after that, or overnight is not permitted.
Time taken – 6 hours (To and Fro)
Mode of transport – On foot
Day 4 – Ghangaria >> Hemkund Sahib Nowhere
Still not sure if it was fatigue, unwillingness to climb straight for 6 kilometers, reluctance to cover the distance on a horse or plain loneliness. Because, everyone else in the group was with someone else. I had decided to skip the steep ascend to Hemkund Sahib and rather called it a Rest day. A few more group members chose to stay back, chill out in the sun, and catch up on sleep. Strangely, the tour operators were as disinterested as they could be.
After breakfast, feeling a bit disappointed with myself, even though I thought I made the right decision, I stepped out for a small walk in search of solitude.
I would highly recommend visiting Hemkund Sahib if you get a chance. It’s a Gurudwara (a Sikh temple) situated by a glacial lake surrounded by mountain peaks. Here’s how it looks:
Distance to be covered – 6 kilometers one way
Time taken – 10-12 hours (To and Fro) for a beginner on foot, 2 hours on a horse
Mode of transport – On foot/Horse ride
Day 5 – Ghangaria >> Joshimath
The path was same as Day 2 but much easier as it was all downward. Taking rest on the previous day helped. Waterfalls, river streams and mountains traveled along. Taking small steps did the trick and frequent photo breaks were a savior. We covered the distance in just about 5 hours. Most of us were the 1st time trekkers and hence, extremely delighted on coming back. Of course, there was a sense of achievement but also a sense of relief, to have made it back safely. I might be sounding silly to professional hikers but it was quite a big deal for us.
Distance to be covered – 15 kilometers
Time taken – 5 hours
Mode of transport – On foot
Day 6 – Joshimath >> Haridwar
The morning began with settling outstanding payments, exchanging numbers, sharing photographs and being thankful for an exciting journey overall. Everyone departed to their respective destinations from Haridwar. I had booked a night bus to Delhi that still had about 5-6 hours to leave. So, I rested for a while at one of the group member’s hotel room and we roamed around the city a bit in the evening before she bid me goodbye.
Distance covered – 300 kilometers
Time taken – 9.5 hours
Mode of transport – Bus
Things to know:
- The trek is open from June to September and remains closed for the rest of the year due to heavy snowfall. I visited in July last week. All the flowers bloom by mid-August.
- If you are going with a travel company, your tour would usually start from Haridwar and they would charge you somewhere between INR 9,000 to 10,000. You can also plan to go on your own if you feel confident about it.
- Haridwar is about 215 kilometers away from Delhi. There are frequent trains and buses on this route. It typically takes 5-6 hours to cover the distance.
- Dehradun is the nearest airport to Haridwar, 20 kilometers away.
Have you been? Share your experiences in comments below.
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