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Old 14th May 2020, 21:37   #1
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Himalaya's pièce de résistance

To call the Valley of Flowers the best of the best in a mountain range as spectacular as the Himalayas is a pretty tall order. You have the virgin mountains of Arunachal, the world's third highest peak in Sikkim, the rain shadow regions of Spiti and Ladakh and of course the 'Paradise on Earth' Kashmir. And if you include our neighbours, you will have even more places that appears to be lifted straight out of a postcard. I have never visited the Himalayas outside India, even here I have never been to Arunachal or Ladakh, but still I feel this term is apt for the valley. Read on to know why..

I did this trip in August 2019. I thought about penning it down here but I didn't want to start with a travelogue where there is no driving . Then we did a tour of Madhya Pradesh in Christmas last year. With the lock down freeing up some time, I finally jotted it down (you can read it here: (Christmas Holiday in Madhya Pradesh)). So here I am starting with this one as well.

I did this alone since my wife is not interested in trekking, even for simple ones like these. I could have done it solo, but ultimately chose to go with Indiahikes. One of their requirements was to run 5KM in 35 minutes and upload the results on their site. I'm not into running long distances(my weekend runs are mostly 3-4KM) and I was not in the best of shape at that time, still managed to complete it in a tad less than half an hour (29 minutes). With regular practice, it can easily be done within 25. Since this has to be done in the monsoon season, got a new poncho. Rest of the stuff was already with me. Booked the train tickets and I was all set for the trip. All photos and videos were shot on my trusted, now 5 year old iPhone6S.

11 August 2019: Reaching Dehradun

We were supposed to reach Dehradun station by 6AM on 12th. To avoid any last minute train delays, I opted to reach Dehradun the previous day. My train was supposed to start at 6:45AM, so I had to start from home by 5. Got a surprise at the metro station on seeing that trains will start only from 5:30. Normally the journey (including a change in CP) should not take more than 1 hour, yet with a fixed train time, I didn't want to take any risk and booked an Ola.

The train pulling in. Don't know why but every time I see a train coming, I get all exited, even more so when I am supposed to be on the train.

Luckily got a window seat. Look closely and you'll see the dome of Humayun's Tomb across the Yamuna.

Now if you have traveled by train from Delhi to Dehradun, you'll know that in Sharanpur, the train reverses direction, i.e it leaves the way through which it made its entry. I believe in colonial times, there was talk of opening a line through Mohan pass but it was never carried out.

See the amount of black smoke belched out. I simply don't understand when the track is fully electrified, what prevents the railways from drawing power from the engine? Or in situations like these where the engine is detached, fix a pantograph on a coach!! I believe some trains in Europe runs with coaches like these. Just imagine the extra pollution added to our already heavily polluted atmosphere by these diesel generators and by lugging all the extra weight around.

The train reached Dehradun around 1:30. Checked into a hotel that was within walking range of the station. It was raining intermittently and I was forced to spend the rest of the day cooped up in the room.

12 August 2019: Govind Ghat

Today we were travelling to Govind Ghat. Up-till there, you can travel by car. The distance was merely 300 odd kilometres, yet hill roads and monsoon rains meant that the journey was scheduled to take the whole day. It was almost 7AM by the time everyone reached and we were finally on the way. Many of us had opted for 'Transport required', so they had arranged for a Tempo Traveler. The cost was around 1K per head.

See the dreamy place where we stopped for breakfast.

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It was raining intermittently the whole journey. We crossed numerous landslides where our driver would slow down, and when the coast became clear, cross as quickly as possible.

One such landslide.

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Soon after crossing the landslide zone, our driver received a call. It seems one of his colleague, who was also ferrying tourists to Govind Ghat, was hit by a stray rock. This happened near the landslide zone we just passed. We waited till he showed up. This was the aftermath. After making sure that no mechanical components were damaged, both TTs were on their way.

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Around noon, we reached Devprayag, confluence of Alakananda and Bhagirathi.

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Ramkund resort in Devprayag.

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Carrying on... cloud and mist still accompanying us..

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Lunch spot

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Moving on after lunch.. Alakananda flowing on our left

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Around 4 we reached Karnaprayag. Our driver attended to some minor niggles in the TT.

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Karnaprayag is the confluence of Alakanada and Pindar.

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According to mythology, Karna meditated here. As did Swami Vivekananda in the recent past. Just try to imagine how this place must have appeared around a century back...

We crossed all the 5 prayags, but I have taken photos of these 2 only. After Karnaprayag, we only stopped once for snacks around 6.

Just see the ferocity of the Alakananda..

After this, we didn't stop anywhere and reached Govind Ghat around 8.

One of the advantages when travelling in a group like this is all our accommodation and food is taken care of. We just checked in to our allotted rooms, freshened up and went for dinner (Food was included from Govind ghat onward till we returned to Govind ghat again after 4 days).

Last edited by Aditya : 19th May 2020 at 20:41.
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Old 15th May 2020, 21:26   #2
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13 August 2019: Govind Ghat to Ghangria

The day has come when we will finally ditch motorized transport. There were 2 guys assigned to our group: a trek leader who will lead the way and another who will stay at the very end to ensure nobody is left behind. They were constantly in touch using walkie talkies (There was no cell coverage even in Govind Ghat). Gautam, our trek leader is quite a sociable fellow and he took his job as a trek leader very seriously. Every morning and evening, we were methodically tested to see if our vital parameters were good. He used a device which we had to put on a finger and it would show various parameters including blood oxygen level. The daily measurements were recorded in each members own card. Though this was not a high altitude trek, yet I felt reassured seeing all this. For a high altitude trek, all this precaution definitely would have been necessary.

Another thing I really admired about them is they provided all of us with a green pouch. Any trash we see on the road, we were supposed to pick it up and store for disposing off later. All of us were quite enthused by it, but as the next few days showed, the entire place is simply too dirty for us to make any difference

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This is what we woke up to..

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13 KM to go. We traveled the initial 4 KM via shared jeeps. So our actual walking distance would be around 9 KM

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Our stay in Govind Ghat

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This is the place from where we started our trek, following Pushpawati upstream. Pushpawati merges with Alakananda at Govind Ghat. There was also a chopper service between Govind Ghat and Ghangria. However, be aware that even if you take the chopper, you will have to walk the final kilometers from Ghangria to VOF or Hemkund Sahib. But the 2 minute ride will give you some amazing views.

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Soon it turned misty

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And then it started drizzling. All of us took our ponchos out but it in August, it's difficult walking while wearing one(putting it mildly). If your backpack allows, carry a big umbrella, it's much much more comfortable. Sweating like pigs, we took shelter here (one of the numerous shops which dotted the way), planning to start after the drizzle stops.

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Met them..

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Came across this waterfall

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The entire team..

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This is almost at the halfway point

Crossed the Puspawati here

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Hemkund Sahib is an important pilgrimage site. So the authorities has paved the entire distance, from Govind Ghat right till Hemkund Sahib. It must be a boon for the elderly pilgrims but it kinda spoils the natural look and feel of the place.. it didn't feel like trekking at all. And due to innumerable people, the place was strewn with trash.. plastic bottles, chips packet, cigarette packs et al.

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Finally we reached Ghangria

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A glacier

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We had reached Ghangria with quite some time to spare. So we went to this information center and watched a film about VOF.

After this we whiled our time away by chit chatting till it was dinner time. All food during the entire trek was vegetarian(Egg was available for breakfast) and they tasted delicious. Besides the regular meals, they also provided healthy snacks like walnuts, raisins etc. Since they had planned to start by 7 the next day, we went to sleep early.

Last edited by avi_swift : 18th May 2020 at 21:35.
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Old 16th May 2020, 21:32   #3
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14 August 2019: Valley of Flowers

We were finally going to the famed valley. Everyone was exited and we actually managed to start around 7. That was important as the valley can get quite crowded.

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Misty morning

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There is a charge to enter VoF. I don't know the amount because Gautam, our trek leader has already procured tickets for the entire team. We had to produce them at the check point which was nearby this stream

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Morning dew..

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Need to go to the other side..

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From the bridge.. Check out the ferocity of water..

A short video from the spot

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Maybe because of the entry tickets, or maybe because less people visit the valley compared to Hemkund, the entire area was very clean and pristine. Happily no plastic bottles or chips packets. In spite of these stones which appears to have been placed to make our journey easier, it was starting to feel like a real trek now.

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Apparently our ancient scriptures were written using the bark of these trees

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It was clearing up now..

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Flowers had started to appear by then

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Remember the glacier in the previous post? This is how it looks from above

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The valley lies just ahead

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This was probably the most scenic spot. Everyone had their picture taken here. So of course I had to as well .

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Clouds and mountains made for a very very scenic view

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Flowers were everywhere now

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The valley officially starts after you cross this stream

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Flowers galore

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According to the documentary we watched in Ghangria, more than 500 species of flowers are found here

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Looking back towards where we came from.. clouds still hovering above the canyon

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The whole area was literally carpeted with flowers

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See what I mean? This was by far the most frequently occurring species that we saw

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With this species being a close second

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A panorama of the place..

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Another one..

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Another stream which will ultimately join the Puspawati

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Glacier at the valley

You can travel to the banks of the Puspawati and can also visit Joan Legge's grave. However one of our members was feeling tired after the trek and employed the services of a porter to carry her back to Ghangria (They literally make you sit in a chair and carry you on their back... I would be terrified of using something like that). On top of that, the weather took a turn for the worse. The mists suddenly swirled much closer and we were afraid it might rain soon. So, a decision was made to return to Ghangria. I would have loved to spend more time but it was past 2, so I had to head back as well.

Remember what I said about this valley being the very best of the Himalayas? I never imagined something like this can exist. You have probably seen pictures of Tulip gardens in Holland.. and make no mistake, if you place a Tulip next to a flower from the valley, the Tulip will appear more beautiful. But when all you can see in front of you are mountains covered in dense greenery and flowers of every shape, size and color carpeting the ground with various streams acting like the proverbial cherry on the cake, you will agree with me that nothing comes close to this. And full marks to the government for making this a ticketed area, it was squeaky clean, in stark contrast to the nearby areas.

Last edited by avi_swift : 18th May 2020 at 21:38.
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Old 17th May 2020, 13:25   #4
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15 August 2019: Hemkund Sahib

It was our 73rd Independence Day. To mark the occasion, the Indiahikes team asked us to stand in attention in the hotel quadrangle while they unfurled our flag. This was followed by singing of the national anthem. It was probably the first time since school that I was participating in something like this and it felt . They even made a special treat for us.. a very tasty cake.

Even after all this, we managed to start by 7:30. The member who was carried down yesterday opted to stay out. Another member decided to go on horseback.

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We returned to paved pathways. And unfortunately, trash.

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Took a break here. Roadside shops like these were aplenty. I am not against opening shops, but there should be a rule that force customers to finish whatever they are having and dump the bottles/packets in dust bins. Given how law abiding we are, I don't think placing dust bins at regular intervals would be the answer.

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See the railings on the top left side? We have to go there..

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Ghangria from above appeared so tiny. See the glacier on the left..

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A long way to go..

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Came across this big glacier

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Looking down from the same spot. See the melting water gushing down

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And looking up..

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Almost there but the weather started turning bad.

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Finally we reached Hemkund Sahib

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The glacial lake. I tried dipping my feet and... well.. borrowing from Titanic, it felt like a thousand knives stabbing my legs. And there were people who were actually bathing and taking a dip in the freezing water .

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And in no time, the place was almost fully enveloped in mist

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Bramha Kamal, the state flower of Uttarakhand

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Although I felt hot when walking up, after 5 minutes, it got very chilly. The mist only made matters worse and I, along with everyone, put on warm clothes.

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Apparently these flowers used to bloom very near the pathway we used to trek up, but because of pollution, they can no longer be found nearby.

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Group photograph..

Like all Gurudwaras, langar is served here as well. But the highlight for me was the prasad: Halwa. Maybe because we were tired by the climb, or maybe because it was made with copious amount of ghee, but the halwa simply tasted heavenly. And since I have a strong sweet tooth, the morning cake and this were the gastronomic high points for me during the trip.

It was a shame that because of the mist, we missed seeing Hemkund basking in the Sun in all glory. The snow clad mountains with the Gurudwara sitting by a magnificent lake would have been memorable. Well, hopefully next time..

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Old 18th May 2020, 16:42   #5
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16 August 2019: To Govind Ghat again

The return leg officially started on 16th. We were going down to Govind Ghat, and on the following day, we will return to Dehradun and then take a night train back to Delhi.

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Our stay in Ghangria. It was a late start for us on the last day.. around 9.

The helicopter which ferries tourists between Govind Ghat and Ghangria. Tariff was around 2.5-3K one way. But the catch is you have to book tickets for both the to and from journeys.. they will not sell you a one way ticket.

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Around the mid point of journey where we cross the Puspawati to the other side. And as luck would have it, it was a very clear day. Although hill weather can change in an instant, I believe the people who went to VoF or Hemkund on that day enjoyed a much clearer view.

We reached Govind Ghat by lunch time, so we all decided to go to Badrinath after freshening up.

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And the weather turned foggy again.. although this was around 5 when this picture was taken and it had been relatively clear before that

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We were witness to the aftermath of an unfortunate accident. Somewhere between Govind Ghat and Badrinath, a major landslide had occurred a few days back. And as luck would have it, a bus was caught in it resulting in fatalities. I believe this is it. We saw the bus, lying turtle with the wheels sticking in the air. And this was the condition of the road. Our TT stopped before the landslide, we had to scramble down to the banks of the Alakananda, and climb up on the other side. Many Boleros were present, eagerly waiting for passengers, so getting a transport for Badrinath was not a problem. The order was reversed during the return journey. It was no cakewalk trying to go down (and back up on the other side) to the riverbank in rain and mud amidst thick vegetation. And we had to do it again, while returning to Govind Ghat, in the fading light.

17 August 2019: To Dehradun and onward to Delhi

It was a very early start for us at 5AM when it was still dark outside. The reason is a member had a flight booked which was scheduled to take off around 6PM. To speed things up, we went part of the distance in the TT (they couldn't arrange for 2 cars at that early hour), and then hired 2 Boleros to take us to Dehradun. But it was to no avail and he was forced to reschedule for 18th.

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The reason for the delay was this: landslide wiped out a good portion of the road creating a long snarl. See the long queue of vehicles on the left of the picture... I believe this was just outside Joshimath. We had to wait more than 2 hours here.

This was the reason for our 2 hour delay

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Source. We reached Dehradun around 7. I had booked the NandaDevi express which was scheduled to depart after 11. The only fly in the ointment was that my ticket was in RAC. Ultimately I had to share my bunk with another person till Rishikesh. And in all this, I forgot to click a photo of the train. It was composed of old Rajdhani coaches. The newer LHB coaches are much more comfortable but for sheer nostalgia, nothing comes close to these. I believe a few days after my journey, the route of this train has been extended till Kota and the coaches has also been replaced with LHB coaches. The 'new' Delhi station is Nizamuddin instead of New Delhi, which is much more accessible.

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The train entered New Delhi before 5. I tried the metro but it was saying that the 'next train is after 5:30'. Ultimately booked a cab home.

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Never saw CP so deserted.

Thus ended my trip to a very beautiful and mesmerizing place..

Last edited by avi_swift : 18th May 2020 at 21:45.
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Old 18th May 2020, 21:00   #6
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Final Thoughts

  • This is a very easy trek and everybody should be able to do it. There were 4 friends in our group, all of them much senior to us. They were carrying some energy powder with them which they kept mixing with water and drinking at regular intervals. They told us that they were preparing for some months for this trek and it showed. None of them faltered even for a moment. So if you are on the correct side of 50 and reasonably fit, you should be able to easily pull this off.
  • However, please don't write this off because it's so easy. The scenery is spectacular and will blow your mind. And there's nothing like it if you are lucky enough to view the valley on a clear day.
  • Try not to go there by your own car. The best time to visit is end July, August and early September. And because that's monsoon season, you'll find the spectre of landslides very real. If you are unlucky to come across something like we saw before Badrinath, the only two options before you will be to cancel the trip, or leave your car unguarded in some unknown place and carry on.
  • You can do this alone without the help of any organization. You can plan your journey as you wish, but the downside is you'll have to make all your bookings yourself. And Ghangria can get pretty crowded, going by what we saw.

That's it from me this time, I hope you have enjoyed reading this. Signing off for now..
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Old 19th May 2020, 06:50   #7
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 19th May 2020, 07:02   #8
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Beautiful log! We had done Badrinath 30 years back! I could see many forking out at Joshimath towards Hemkunt Sahib!

That dream for me still remains!
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Old 19th May 2020, 08:06   #9
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I used to visit Sri Hemkunt Sahib Gurudwara annually from 1978 to 1981 when I had to discontinue due to job stints abroad. Went back in 1996 and found big changes - albeit negative. The place had become from a pilgrimage place to a commercial place. Trekking had become walking through a maze of shops selling all in packets that were strewn on the way, downhill, which never made it to the flowing water but remained halfway, stuck for ages as a stigma on nature - courtesy Tourists. Fruitee Tetrapacks, Chips packets, torn Ponchos ... just to name a few. As these are not biodegradable, they will remain there as Newton had said, "Every body in a state of rest or motion will continue to.."
I was so shocked that I vowed never to return and have kept my promise till date.

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Old 19th May 2020, 09:52   #10
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Hi avi_swift

We were also there at the valley of flowers in Aug 2019 in the week of the independence day. Lovely pics. Will upload my travelogue soon!
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Old 19th May 2020, 12:23   #11
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You made a good decision by joining a professional tour operator like Indiahikes. This entire route from Rishikesh to Govindghat and then till Badrinath is very unpredictable. I have visited valley of flowers twice and both times it was more of hitch hiking and last minute plans. Got stuck in numerous landslides, slept in moist smelly rooms if you could call them and not taken a bath for couple of days as there was no hot water. But the visit to the valley just makes it all worth it. Pre floods there used to be a much higher footfall to Hemkund Sahib and the entire area except VOF used to be littered. Its disheartening to see that its still like that in otherwise a very scenic backdrop.

There used to be a very enthusiastic photographer/tour guide who had a small shop in Ghagaria. He showed us lot of pictures he had clicked on his adventures with professional trekkers over the years. He showed us a map of trek going from VOF to Hemkund Sahib as well but he told us outright that its not for us. Not sure if he still stays there but he was surly one if the highlights of our trip.

Thanks for penning down your beautiful experience which brought back some old memories for me!
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Old 19th May 2020, 12:29   #12
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Excellent write up and beautiful pictures! Uttarakhand is at its best during July to September but one has to be very careful about the weather and the roads. Most of them are washed up during the monsoons, specially ones in the Garhwal region.

Nice to see the pictures of Brahma Kamal, the presence of this flower in the state has gone down drastically, mostly because of incessant construction in the area.
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Old 19th May 2020, 18:35   #13
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Beautiful pictures and excellent write up..!
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Old 19th May 2020, 20:49   #14
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Thank you Avi.Lovely write up and pictures.Happened to be there a week later for a similar trek but with a few bike rides added at Rishikesh and mussurie and a trek from mana the last village of India in that part of the country.Seem to be quite a few bhp-ian’s around.Was to originally do the Great Lakes trek but article 370 put paid to that and picked the valley of flowers in lieu.

Couldn’t agree more that it was an amazing experience especially with every week there was a distinct hue of color in the valley.

Went through youth hostel of India with a young group of 18 with 6 of them being fellow Bangaloreans.

The landslide by the way completely destroyed the hillock and we had to stay put for a day extra at bhadrinath.

Hope to pen my travelogue soon.Infact have a huge back log from spiti ,Sri Lanka ,Corbett to post .

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Old 19th May 2020, 21:09   #15
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Wonderful log avi_swift. Many snaps are stunning and is a direct competitor for a post card. Valley of flowers have been on my wishlist for long. Rather, my bucket has become so heavy that I have kept it down already . Unable to cope up time unfortunately.
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