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Old 27th August 2016, 21:58   #1
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Default Trek to the Valley of Flowers

In the lap of nature, trip to Valley of Flowers, Hemkund Sahib and Auli


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“If we were meant to stay in one place, we would have roots instead of feet”

4 days of next to zero connectivity with outside world, constant rain, fresh water streams, traveling next to Ganga/ tributaries of the Ganga throughout the trip, mighty green mountains, views of the Nandadevi peak, walk through beautiful meadows. These are some of the phrases to explain the trip we undertook high in the mountains during August 2016 (Aug 11 to 21).

Plan to visit the valley of flowers was in the making from the time we came back from our Ladakh trip last year. All the bookings for the trip were in place by the end of May and we were desperately waiting for the trip to begin. Though this trip can be done without the help of holiday agents, we still chose to go with one of the popular organizers of valley of flowers trek as this meant we would be accompanied by a knowledgeable guide all the time.

Itinerary for the trip:

Day 0 – Bangalore to Delhi by flight
Day 1 – Delhi to Haridwar by road
Day 2 – haridwar to Auli by road
Day 3 – Auli to Govindghat/ Pulna by road, Pulna to Ghangharia by walk (14 kms)
Day 4 – Ghangharia to valley of flowers and back (14-16 kms)
Day 5 – Ghangharia to valley of flowers and back/ rest day with some local exploration
Day 6 – Ghangharia to Hemkund Sahib and back (14 kms)
Day 7 – Ghangharia to Pulna/ Govindghat by walk (14 kms), Govindghat to Auli by road with local sightseeing in Joshimath
Day 8 – Auli to gorson peak and back, auli to joshimath by cable car
Day 9 – joshimath to Haridwar by road, Haridwar to Delhi by road
Day 10 – flight to reality (Bangalore city life and work)

Day 0: (Bangalore – Delhi)

Come the d-day, I was down with a bad stomach ache and was in no shape to catch the early morning flight to Delhi. Placed a few calls to indigo and got the booking postponed to late afternoon by paying a bomb. Took some medicines and rested for a few hours, had an early lunch and started our journey.

What followed was a usual flight to Delhi and a night stay at one of our relative’s place. Next day was when the real fun was expected to start and we hit the bed with a lot of expectations.

Day 1: (Delhi – Haridwar)

A quick uber ride in the morning took us to the Kashmere Gate ISBT from where we boarded a UP road transport bus to Haridwar. The entire route from Delhi to Haridwar felt like a drive in the city with chaotic traffic. One good part of this route is the presence of hundreds of dhabas on the way to satiate your hunger pangs.

We reached Haridwar early evening just in time to catch the evening Ganga aarti. Dumped our luggage at the hotel and rushed to catch an auto to Har ki Pauri. Witnessed the majestic Ganga aarti and were back at the hotel for dinner and hit the bed early.

Ganga Aarti at Haridwar

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View from the opposite bank would have been better

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Day 2: (destination Joshimath/ Auli)

Early in the morning a Force Traveler assigned to our group of 10 travelers arrived at the hotel and we met our trek mates for the next one week. We immediately proceeded towards Auli. The drive is very picturesque with winding roads, majestic views of rivers and confluences and lush greenery. We stopped for breakfast, lunch and tea in between. We were lucky to be in company of some like-minded travelers and all jelled well with each other.

The drive took us through the trail of the mighty Ganga and confluences such as Devprayag, Nandaprayag, Rudraprayag. We stopped by at each of these confluences either during our onward or the return journey.

Views shot on the way to Joshimath

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Minor landslide

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Reached Joshimath by 5pm and met our trek guide for the next one week, Mr. Sanjay, a very active, always ready to help person, and after a quick briefing of the plan for the next 4 days we moved to Auli. What followed was a sumptuous dinner, chatting with the other trek mates, sorting the luggage in preparation for the next 4 days. It was suggested to segregate our luggage into three parts – one bag for things which would not been needed to be carried to Ghangharia. This was left in the vehicle. Second bag for the things to be carried to Ghangharia by a pony and the third, a day pack containing essentials for the day during the trek (like rain wear, water bottles, odd food items, etc.).

Spotted a rainbow on the way from Joshimath to Auli

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Hathi pahad, Joshimath

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Sleeping beauty mountain, shot somewhere between Joshimath and Auli

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To be continued..

Last edited by dk7729 : 30th August 2016 at 23:18.
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Old 29th August 2016, 17:28   #2
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Day 3: (start of the trek, Ghangharia calling)

Day 3 is when the real trekking activity is to start and we were super excited about it. We started from Auli at 8 and reached Govindghat by 9AM. Had a quick breakfast and changed to a smaller Tata Sumo vehicle which will drop us at Pulna village from where the trek begins. The road from Govindghat to Pulna is very narrow and steep and larger vehicles such as a force traveler are not allowed on this route.

Our accommodation in Auli, cozy huts perched on a hill

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Shot of a sunflower in the premises

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Helipad at Govindghat, a chopper ride which lasts 7-8 minutes to Ghangharia costs ~3,000

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Pulna village is where we started our trek to Ghangharia. As suggested, we purchased walking sticks to help in the long trek. These are improvised bamboo sticks with a sharp metal tip to ease in gripping surfaces. These sticks were to give us company through-out the trek.

The trail is by the Pushpavati river. A paved track in a beautiful setting with mountains in all directions serves as the trail for the trek. This trail is frequented by hundreds of ponies carrying people/ luggage and their droppings dot the trail. One would learn to live with the stench of these droppings over time.

Some shots of the trail to Ghangharia and the accompanying natural beauty

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Clouds and mountains, constant companions

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Closer shot of the river and the waterfall

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Ponies need a break too

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We stopped for lunch at one of the dhabas on the trail for a bite of some maggi and hot parathas. Paratha is the most commonly available food item in this region and we had our share of these on every day during the trip.

We kept constantly sipping water mixed with glucon-d, dates and nuts to keep ourselves hydrated and boost our energy through the trek.

After about 6-7 km of trekking on relatively flat surface with occasional steep stretches, we reached a river crossing. After this the next 5-6 km stretch is steep in most parts and we had to stop and catch our breathe at constant intervals. One constant company through the trail was beautiful surroundings, waterfalls and streams at a distance.

Scenery around the river bed

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Abandoned bridge across the river

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Closer to Ghangharia the trail passes by the picturesque helipad used to fly sorties between Govindghat and Ghangharia. This quick 7-8 minute flight costs approx. 3,000 and serves well in clear weather. As we neared the end of the trek and reached closer to Ghangharia, the views got exceptionally beautiful with large mountains dotted with white water streams and falls on their rugged black/ green surfaces.

We finally reached our hotel in Ghangharia at around 4pm. 2 of our team members who chose to fly the chopper to reach Ghangharia greeted us with hot drinking water. Rest of the day was spent in doors as the weather got extremely chilly by the late evening and we only stepped out for a well prepared dinner of phulkas, vegetable and khichdi. We hit the bed early partly because of the exhaustion from the day long trek and partly in preparation for an early day tomorrow, the day when we finally set our foot in the valley of flowers.

About Ghangharia:

This is a small village that serves as a base for travelers visiting Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib. It is dotted with budget hotels and Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam guest house. Every hotel also has a small restaurant and the food served across such establishments seemed reasonable. This village has a big Gurdwara which accommodates pilgrims on their way to Hemkund Sahib. Connectivity to outside world is through landline phones, calls are charged at Rs 10 per minute. We were told by our hotel staffers that during winter months, bears enter the village occasionally. A documentary is played every evening at one of the establishments (do not recollect the name, it’s not GMVN). Both ends of the village house pony sheds. Most of the staffers at the hotels are from Joshimath and work here for a few days at a stretch before returning to Joshimath. They are very humble and are always ready to help.

To be continued..

Last edited by dk7729 : 29th August 2016 at 17:30.
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Old 29th August 2016, 23:01   #3
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Day 4: (to the valley of flowers)

Day 4 was expected to be a long day with a round trip to the valley of flowers. Another early start as the plan was to reach the valley of flowers at the earliest, spend maximum time exploring the valley and ensure we start our return by 2pm at the latest.

The day started at 7am with a light breakfast and a packed lunch of phulkas and vegetable to be had in the valley. We were also carrying water, nuts, dates and biscuits to be had during the trek.

We reached the entry point to the valley by 7.30am where the trail takes a left turn from the trail leading to Hemkund Sahib. Tickets to the valley were purchased (Rs 150 per person, valid for 3 days) and we entered the national park. We were greeted by freshly laid stone paths free from pony droppings (as ponies are not allowed inside the national park).

A short 20 minute hike leads to a river crossing over a bridge where the sound of water was thundering.

That's me at the beginning of the day's trek

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Stream at the far end of Ghangharia village. Trekkers on their way to VOF/ Hemkund can be seen on the left.

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Majestic views of the mountains

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Stream on the way to the valley

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Looking back, a view of Ghangharia

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Few shots at the river crossing

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We cross the river crossing and enter the steep uphill trek to reach the valley. Next couple of hours were a constant uphill trek over rocky paths under large landslide areas. The track here is narrow with most of the parts being good enough for two people to walk at a time. The path is very rocky and any mis-step could lead to one twisting his ankle.

A shot of the steep uphill path leading to the valley

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One can witness the movement of clouds covering and leaving the mountain peaks and watch the beauty of nature in its full through this track. Finally at around 11am we could get a clear view of the valley and its lush greenery. The sky was clear during our uphill trek and we could get good views of all the mountains around. By the time we reached the valley cloud cover started to build up leading to a drizzle.

First views of the valley

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Zooming in on few flowers spotted on the way

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A panorama shot of the valley

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Our guide insisted on starting our return trek from the entry point by 2pm to ensure all reach back to the hotel safe in time before it gets dark. With an intention to explore the valley to the extent possible, we ventured in and decided to have our lunch somewhere in the middle of the valley.

To be continued..

Last edited by dk7729 : 30th August 2016 at 16:43.
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Old 29th August 2016, 23:45   #4
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Day 4: (to the valley of flowers), continued

The track within the valley is well laid out rock path and leads to the river bed which is approx. 4 kms from the entry point. We were told that post the river bed the track is not well laid out and a trek for another 30-40 minutes would lead to the tip of the glacier. We were however content on exploring and experiencing the vast natural beauty around instead of concentrating on reaching the farthest point of the valley.

The track crosses multiple water streams, some large enough to require a makeshift bridge while some to be crossed without any such bridges. The ones without any temporary bridges hardly had water flowing above ankle level and hence crossing those was not a concern.

We started walking at a leisurely pace and stopped at various places to soak in the raw beauty of the nature. After a short walk, we spotted a large rock overlooking the valley and the mountains and decided to have our lunch there. Though the packed lunch was neither warm nor tasty, we were hardly bothered what with the majestic views and the extremely cozy atmosphere accentuated with the sounds of water streams flowing at a distance.

Our dining table for the relaxed lunch

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Cloud covering the mountain peaks

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One of the streams along the path

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Flowers all around

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To be continued in next post..
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Old 30th August 2016, 09:59   #5
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Day 4: (to the valley of flowers), continued

After a lazy half hour break, we restarted our walk through the valley and reached a large water stream fed by the water fall at a far distance. The place was surreal with a clear view of the distant mountains, water falls and the lush green valley visible in all directions. We moved ahead with an intention to explore a little deep into the valley and come back soon to relax by the stream and soak in the atmosphere.

We walked a little deeper into the valley for the next 15 mins clicking pictures of the vast landscape and the flora around. We caught up with a couple of our co-travelers and settled into a chat on the experience. Post this we wanted to go back to the stream and relax for sometime in the midst of the nature. We found a few boulders along the stream and settled down to soak in the surroundings. We ended up spending close to an hour there, by far the most relaxing time during the entire trip.

Random shots by the stream

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Overall, we could spot about 10 different varieties of flowers through the valley.

Close up shots of some of the flowers

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Zooming in on the river bed at a distance

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In the meantime, thick clouds started covering the entire valley and we started moving back towards the track that leads one down from the valley by around 1.45pm. Moving a little ahead, thanks to the cloud cover, we could hardly see the valley or the mountains behind. It started to drizzle and continued so till we reached the hotel.

Some parting shots of the valley

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What followed was a tricky trek down with the constant drizzle making the narrow track slippery.

We reached Ghangharia by 530pm and rested for the rest of the day. The initial plan was to head to the valley again the next day and reach the river bed, try and get as close as we could to the tip of the glacier.

To be continued..
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Old 30th August 2016, 16:35   #6
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Day 5: (the day rains gods ruled)

It rained over-night and continued to pour till 8am in the morning. We were all ready for the trek by 630am but the guide informed us that, thanks to heavy rain overnight, the forest officials have temporarily closed entry to the valley. Decision on opening the trek would be taken after the officials survey the area particularly the landslide zones. This was expected to take at least a couple of hours. We waited for an hour, had a leisurely breakfast and hoped that the rain will subside. However, the rain was constant and persisted through the morning denting our plan. We finally decided to call off the plan to trek to the valley today and rest in the hotel, munching hot food, reading, gazing at the rain with the background of mountains. To break the monotony, we decided to wander out aimlessly in late afternoon exploring the local market.

We walked back on the track towards Pulna for about a km to soak in the views around the helipad and to spend some time gazing at the waterfalls that dotted the mountain close by.

My wife preferred to return to the hotel and relax. I headed out on the track towards Hemkund Sahib for a couple of kms, spent some time in the local market and came back by 6pm. Discussed plan for tomorrow with our guide and other members of the group, read a book, had dinner and called it a day in expectation of better weather tomorrow, the day for the trek to Hemkund Sahib.

Day 6: (to Hemkund Sahib)

Start to Day 6 was very similar to the day 5. There was overnight rain and chances of skies clearing up seemed remote. Yet made up our minds to trek to Hemkund irrespective of the rain situation and were ready by 630am. We did not carry packed lunch today and decided to have our lunch at the langar of the Gurdwara.

The trek to the top of the mountain was extremely steep and you gain altitude constantly through the trek. The view of the Ghangharia town as we climbed up the mountain was stunning. Quickly the cloud cover built up and we were literally walking over the clouds. Watching the clouds moving in and transforming the look of the valley below in a matter of 5-6 minutes was mesmerizing.

Overnight snowfall on one of the peaks

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Clouds beginning to move in over Ghangharia village (yellow and blue sheds visible in the center of the picture is the village)

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This is how the view had transformed in a matter of 5 minutes

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We trudged ahead on the pathway and stopped along the way multiple times to catch breathe and consume some water. All along the drizzle was relentless and our rain gear was the only sheet protecting us from the elements.

Clicks during the trek

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Somewhere beyond the two poles to the right of the waterfall lies Hemkund

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Walking through the clouds, also visible are Brahma Kamal flowers

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Spotted a marmot at a distance, this is the best shot I could manage before it disappeared

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After a trek for about 3.5 hours, we finally reached the top of the mountain and caught a first glimpse of the Gurdwara and the Hemkund lake. The lake itself was crystal clear and the setting of the Gurdwara in front of the lake was surreal.

First glimpse of the serene lake

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and the gurdwara

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Constant rain and high altitude meant freezing weather. It was extremely chilly at the top and our guide suggested we make our way back at the earliest as it generally gets colder at the top as the day progresses.

We settled in the langar for a bite of the hot khichdi and tea that is continuously served to all the pilgrims. The weather was so cold that my hands were numb and I couldn’t feel the warmth of the utensil holding the food for a good couple of seconds. After one of the most satisfying food break, we headed to the Gurdwara for a darshan, spent a good 20 minutes inside the shrine and visited the Lakshman temple close by. We spent some more time standing by the lake and soaking in the atmosphere, clicked a few pictures and returned to the langar which seemed to be the only warm place around.

Caught up with all the fellow travelers and shared our experiences, lazed around for a while and started our return trek by 130pm.

My wife had suffered a strain in the left knee on her way up and hence the return trek was a slow affair in the constant rain. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the trek back at a leisurely pace soaking in the views and the atmosphere. It was 530pm by the time we reached the hotel, rested for a while, watched the documentary film on the valley of flowers, had dinner and packed our luggage for the trek back to Govindghat early tomorrow morning.

To be continued...

Last edited by dk7729 : 30th August 2016 at 16:58.
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Old 30th August 2016, 22:18   #7
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Day 7: (retracing our steps, back to Auli)

The plan for this day was to reach Govindghat at the earliest (target by 11am), do a round trip of Badrinath, time permitting visit temples in and around Joshimath and reach Auli by late evening for a night’s stay.

However, chances of visit to Badrinath seemed remote in view of the various landslides reported along the highway. The group was determined to try our luck and we agreed to start our trek from Ghangharia by 630am and target to reach Pulna village in 4-4.5 hours. We left our luggage to be carried by ponies and carried our day packs with us for the trek and started from hotel by 630am.

Wife’s knee strain meant trek down the mountain was slow process, however, we could make up the time lost on plain surfaces. The weather today was clear and it was a welcome change from the continuous drizzle and cloudy atmosphere we faced the past 2 days.

4 out of the 10 member group opted to fly from Ghangharia to Govindghat and the remaining 6 of us made our slow progress and reached Pulna by 1030am. We took the short ride from Pulna to Govindghat in a local Tata Sumo taxi and reached by 11am as planned.

Clicks on the way back to Pulna

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A shot of the helicopter during a flight from Ghangharia

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Spotted this lone flower close to the end of the trek

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All 10 of us re-assembled at Govindghat and decided to try our luck with the landslide areas and reach Badrinath for a darshan. We decided to visit the Gurdwara at Govindghat, take some rest, grab some food before we start the journey to Badrinath.

The Gurdwara at Govindghat was very well maintained. We stayed there for a good half hour and started our journey. 3-4kms by road and we were greeted by a taxi which was returning after waiting for a landslide to be cleared. A quick chat with the driver convinced us that we will not be able to cross the landslide areas to reach Badrinath and hence we decided to take a u turn and visit the temples in and around Joshimath. We visited Vishnuprayag, Yoga Badri temple in Pandukeshwar, Sri Shankaracharya Math, Kalpavriksha, Narasimha temple, had lunch at a local restaurant and reached our huts at Auli by 5pm.

Our guide indicated that since the sky was relatively clear, we could get a good view of the Nandadevi peak (second highest mountain in India). Getting a good view of the mountain required us to climb a few stairs to the top of the hill which also housed a temple. We reached there by 6pm and were greeted by this, a thick cloud cover guarding the view of Nandadevi.

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We waited for over half an hour hoping that the sky would clear up and we get a view of the peak.

Shot while waiting and hoping for the clouds to clear

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A nearby peak playing hide and seek behind the cloud

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Luckily at around 630pm, the clouds relented and blessed us with a glimpse of the peak. The snow clad peak against the setting sun combined to present a bright shining golden spot and we tried to capture the sight on camera. However sun rays made it exceptionally bright and with my limited photography skills, could only manage the below shot and a few other similar ones. Zoom in to make out the bright, shining snow clad Nandadevi mountain.

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After staying at the top till the sunset, we reached the huts by 7pm, relaxed a little and ventured out to the restaurant for dinner. A surprise greeted us when we stepped out as the cloud cover cleared up we could clearly see the a few snow covered peaks at a distance shining in the moonlight against the black/ blue backdrop of the other mountains and sky. This was a sight to behold and we spent a lot of time gazing at the mountains. After a hearty dinner, one of the other groups decided to walk up the mountain and catch a glimpse of Nandadevi hoping that the skies cleared up in that direction as well. We waited patiently for them to update us on whether the skies cleared up in the direction of Nandadevi and after 15 minutes got to know that the view is still covered by clouds.

We hit the bed with an expectation that early morning views would be better and woke up by 6am.

To be continued.....
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Old 30th August 2016, 22:52   #8
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Day 8: (a pleasant surprise, Gorson bugyal)

Reached the top of the hill view point by 630am and were blessed with clear skies. Below are the shots I could manage with my basic photography skills. These views were one of the highlights of the trip.

Minimal cloud cover meant clear views of the peaks around

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And that's the Nanda Devi peak

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Came back to the huts, freshened up, had a quick breakfast and we were ready for a trek through the Gorson meadows (Gorson Bugyal).

We took the chair car for a short distance and then a steep ascent for a few hundreds of meters. Soon we reached the start point for the Auli ropeway, relaxed for a while and entered the Nandadevi sanctuary by purchasing a ticket for rupees 20.

Views during our chair car ride and the rope way

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We made our way through the woods and crossed a temple on the way before finally hitting the meadow.

Shots during our walk through the woods

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Temple in the midst of the woods

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To be continued...
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Old 30th August 2016, 23:03   #9
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Day 8: (a pleasant surprise, Gorson bugyal), continued

The meadow with its thick grass and a partial cloud cover seemed never ending.

We explored a few peaks around and chose to settle on one such peak, relax and soak in the views and atmosphere for a few minutes.

The views and the weather ensured the break was a long one, had some snacks we were carrying, chatted with fellow travelers and decided to return by 1pm.

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We traced our way back lazily realizing that this is the last leg of our trek.

We took the ropeway from Auli to Joshimath, our vehicle with our luggage made its way back to Joshimath and picked us up at the Joshimath ropeway point. We reached our hotel and crashed on the bed with a heavy heart that the trip is coming to an end.

Our room had a great view of the Elephant and sleeping beauty mountains and we decided to sit in the balcony and relax for the rest of the day.

Early dinner and packing done, we hit the bed for a sound sleep.
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Old 30th August 2016, 23:13   #10
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Day 9: (destination Dilli)

Another early morning start as the plan was to reach Haridwar by 6pm. We started our journey by 7am. The drive was through the scenic mountains and we crossed a few fresh landslides. The roads organization was working relentlessly to clear the road blocks, hats off to these people who make journey such as these less strenuous.

We stopped on the way for breakfast at 9am and lunch by 3pm. As we approached the plains weather got hotter and brought us back to the reality of city life.

We reached Haridwar by 6pm and bade goodbyes to the fellow travelers who parted their ways for their respective return journeys.

We pre-booked a taxi to Delhi as we wanted to reach Delhi at the earliest. We took a dinner break at Bikano restaurant at Rampur and reached Delhi by 1130pm.

Day 10: (back home)

A lazy start to the day as our flight to Bangalore was at 230pm. We reached home by 7pm after a trip with loads of memories and a promise to head into the mountains at the earliest opportunity.

Closing notes:
- Carry couple of water bottles for the trek and glucon-d/ Gatorade powder to be mixed
- Carry nuts/ dates/ energy bars to be consumed during the trek. These can generate quick energy and help you keep going. Its better to carry excess of these items rather than carrying excess clothes
- Trekking stick is very helpful in this terrain. We used sticks available locally but these did not have a handle cushion nor can be adjusted for height, both of which are critical.
- Weather in such places changes within minutes and it helps to carry enough rain gear and ensure backpacks are rain proof. Umbrellas can also be helpful
- It is worth investing in a good pair or water resistant shoes as you end up covering a lot of distance in rain and cross ankle deep streams occasionally
- Packaged drinking water (Bisleri/ kinley) is priced exorbitantly high as you reach higher up the mountains. We ended up paying double the price throughout the trip
- KM readings on the milestones through out the track seemed to indicate shorter distance. iPhone health app showed a total walking distance of ~80km over 5 days, whereas the milestones indicated ~65km.

Places of our stay during the trip:
Haridwar – Regenta Orko’s
Auli – the Royal Village
Ghangharia – hotel Priya
Joshimath – hotel Dronagiri

Wait for the next vacation has already started and surely will be a road trip !!
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Old 30th August 2016, 23:30   #11
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 31st August 2016, 09:10   #12
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Brilliant! The place itself speaks out loud about its greatness and and sheer humbling capacity. Hope to visit sometime. Have been to Badrinath. But yet to trek to valley of flowers.
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Old 31st August 2016, 12:26   #13
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Excellent ! Valley of flower was always on my to do list and looking at the thread I would like to plan a trip very soon. Also Thanks for the day by day details that also makes easy to plan a trip.

Lastly needless to say the landscapes and flowers are so beautiful.
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Old 31st August 2016, 12:56   #14
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Very well written, informative and beautiful photos. I have wanted to go to the Valley of flowers for a long time. Keep sharing your travel experiences.
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Old 31st August 2016, 14:17   #15
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This indeed is a lovely place. It's so serene and green.
Were you there on 13th August?
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