Travel Notes - Valley of Flowers And Hemkund
October 03, 2015 / Jigar Patel
Valley of Flowers
Our entire trip was super awesome and without any unpleasant experience. The trek and hike to Valley of Flowers and Hemkund is moderately difficult. This was my first such long distance trek at such high altitude.
Both VoF and Hemkund are insanely beautiful places. In fact, the whole mountain region of Uttarakhand is serene and its people are one the most friendliest people I have ever met. And since mobile networks don’t work during most of the trek, you stay totally off-the-grid and your brain gets a nice reboot. It’s worth visiting again and again.
I had planned a 10 day itinerary which included an extra day for handling any unplanned delays, but we finished the trip in just 9 days. Once can easily squeeze the trip to seven days as well. This was my rough itinerary:
Sept 17th: I left Vadodara for Delhi via train. My friends joined me from Delhi.
Sept 18th: Spent the day in Delhi with friends shopping stuff needed for the trip and left for Rishikesh in night via bus. (The AC bus service by UP State Transport was surprisingly good)
Sept 19th: We reached Rishikesh at 4am and got a hotel room to sleep for couple of hours before daybreak. At around 8, we hired a taxi (Sumo) for Govindghat. Its driver (Dr. Rathi) has to be most interesting taxi driver in the world. While driving, he told stories about him acing exams in college, getting an MA degree in English and his ex-gf. Apparently, he knew everybody he met along the way be it taxi drivers, bus drivers, petrol pump guys, dhaba people or temple priests, and everyone addressed him as “Doctor Sahab”. Everytime he stopped for a break he smoked a joint. At first, we found it amusing, but as the roads got riskier, we realized the blunder of letting him smoke :-/
We reached Govindghat at around 7pm. The route to Govindghat is full of scenic beauty. The terrain changes every few kilometers. You drive along a river, then you climb a mountain, then you pass a few landslide zones, and then you descend in a valley. All of this repeats many times.
Sept 20th: We left for Ghangaria from Govindghat at 8am. Ghangaria is a small settlement which serves as the base for treks to VoF and Hemkund. The trek from Govindghat to Ghangaria is ~ 14km, which at places gets difficult with steep climbs. A well paved path is maintained almost all along the way. There are a few villages along the way where you can get food and refreshments.
The best thing about Himalayas is you don’t need to carry a big water bottle or buy bottled water. You can drink water from any flowing stream or taps setup by Uttarakhand Government. It’s probably cleaner than that bottled water.
Sept 21st: We made Ghangaria base for treks/hikes to VoF and Hemkund. On 21st morning, we began our hike to VoF. Permit for the valley is issued at the gate of VoF which is around half a kilometer away from Ghangaria.
There is a moderately difficult hike of 3kms from there to Valley. VoF has to be one of the most beautiful places in India. It’s covered with hundred of species of flowers during July / August. We reached a month after the flower season and there weren’t many flowers to be seen. But even without flowers, the valley was extremely beautiful.
Start of Valley of Flowers
Camping inside valley is not allowed and you need to get back before sunset.
Sept 22nd: On 22nd early morning, we started our trek to Hemkund. This is a bit steeper than VoF trek. There’s a climb of 6000 feet in 6 kms.
Path to Hemkund Sahib
You cross a couple of layers of clouds before you reach Hemkund. Since this is a pilgrim route, there a few shops setup along the path. It took us around 3 and half hours to reach the top and we managed to visit Gurudwara Hemkund Sahib just before it closed. If you want to visit Gurudwara, then you must leave Ghangaria before 8am. It’s also worth bathing in freezing Hemkund lake which has crystal clear water. The hot khichdi served at langar tastes amazing after you bath in freezing water!
Gurudwara Hemkund Sahib
Sept 23rd: We hiked back to Govindghat from Ghangaria. From Govindghat we took a bus to Badrinath. There is a hot spring near Badrinath temple at which there is virtually no crowd during night. We spent a lot of time that spring which had much better effect than those sauna baths in gyms. Also, the temple remains open till 9pm, so some of us managed to visit Badrinath temple as well.
Sept 24th: We visited Mana Village which is the last Indian village on National Highway 58 beyond which lies the Indo-Tibet border area.
From Mana, we traveled back to Joshimath, had lunch there, traveled to Chamoli, took a break, and then traveled to KarnaPrayag. We spent the night in KarnaPrayag.
Sept 25th: We traveled back to Haridwar and then Delhi. I spent the next day in Delhi and then traveled back to Vadodara on September 27th.
During the trip, everything went as planned and we didn’t face any bad weather. Luckily none us got high altitude sickness as well.
If I were to plan the trip again (which I will), I will rent a bike from Rishikesh. The road, though a bit risky, looks great for biking. Also, I will pack extremely light. I packed two pairs of jeans which I never wore :-/ I also learned about a cloak room in the Gurudwara at Govindghat while returning; I could have stashed my extra clothes there.
All in all, this was one my best trips and a nice learning experience.