Visiting DEVABHUMI was on my top priority of to do for a longtime. When my friend Hari Somashekar of WWF came up with the tour to Valley of Flowers, said YES on the first thought itself.
It was an awesome 11 member team from different fields & with same mindset of Been there Did that.
Karishma Handa(Capt),Hari Somashekar(Vice Capt),Nagaraj Bhat, Hiran Valluri, Kannika Jindal, Venkateshwaran, Yoganand Thandra, Bhaskar Babu, Prashanth Jayanna, Rahul & myself.
Our Journey to The Valley of flowers (Lord Indira’s Flowering garden) started at Haridwar.
Haridwar is the entry to Dev Bhoomi & also one of the first towns where river Ganga emerges from the mountains to touch the plains.
According to Hindu legends, earth was unable to bear the force of the Ganga when it started descending to earth. To control its force, Ganga was divided into 12 channels & down their confluences at different places with other head rivers. These confluences are considered as holy places or prayags.In India there are many prayags, but these five are considered to be important – Vishnuprayag (where river Alaknanda meet river Dhauli Ganga), Nandprayag(where river Alaknanda meet river Nandakini), Karnaprayag(where river Alaknanda meet river Pinder), Rudraprayag (where river Alaknanda meet river Mandakini) & finally meet the Bhagirathi river at Devprayag, the fifth Prayag, to form the Ganga, Holy river of India that has brought salvation to this land.
Every evening Ganga Aarti takes places here at Haridwar and is considered as the most sacred place at Brahmakund. This is considered to be the spot where drops of Amrit fell over from the sky, while being carried in a pitcher by the celestial bird Garuda after the Samudra Manthan.
The Khumb Mela every 12 Years & Ardha Khumbmela every six years also happens here where large number of pilgrims in thousands come to take dip in holy Ganga.
Our journey on road started from Haridwar at 11:45am & to reach Joshimath by same evening.
Driver Schumacher Manish loaded our baggage’s on top of our tempo traveler & whizzed through hot humid buzzing roads of Haridwar. First half of the trip was flat, straight roads, and high speed. Once we reached Devprayag, the landscape changed dramatically with too much green all round and not too wide rivers with crisp cool air. The mood changes from Led Zepplin to Uptown Girl of Billy Joel as the journey moves on with small breaks for Lunch & tea on highway dhabhas.
Flanked by Shivalik hills of the Himalayas passing Kumaon regions towards gharwal regions, One can witness the beauty of hills, power of rivers, mighty mountains & crazy landslides all along the journey. Our cameras & Mobiles peeped frequented towards window to take back memories.
Reached Joshimath around 10PM & our stay was at GMVN (Garwal Mandal Vikas Nigam). The manager of GMVN woke up from his bed with a bed above him as blanket 😀 . Stay was pleasant with neat beds & toilets.
The view from the Garwal Mandal lodge was simply awesome, Early morning we rose to see this still sleeping lady of mountains from our Balcony.
Got freshen up & had sumptuous breakfast of aloo parathas & tea. Army officers greeted us with serious smile watching every single person moving around as the next part of our journey to Govinghat belong to them & yes it is.
Govindghat is a small town located in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand. It is roughly 22 kms from Joshimath on NH58 Highway & at an altitude of 6,000 feet (1,800 metres). Road head further from Govindghat leads to Badrinath & Mana.
Govindghat is also the starting point of trekking to Hemkund Sahib and Valley of Flowers.Hundreds of Hindu pilgrims to Sri Badrinath and Sikh pilgrims on way to the holy shrine of Sri Hemkund Sahib and occasional Trekkers/tourists to the Valley of Flowers arrive here every day during their recommended seasons.
From Govindghat its 14Km to our base point Ghangaria. Possible ways to reach base are by Trek which would take around 6-8hrs by pathway/cobble stones/ no paths at all/ small steams/stairways with stops in between or Hire a horse/mule(3-5hrs) costs around Rs.650-700 depending on how you negotiate with Ghodawallas.
Some of us chose the Mackenna’s Gold way 😛 as we had baggage’s & cameras weighing like mule which was impossible to carry on our back while trekking :O (Four of us joined from our trip to Dehradun & Dhanaulti, obviously so is the big baggage).
Reached our base Ghangaria, docked our horses at the entrance of GMVN ..stretched our legs & cranking backs.
Our stay was at GMVN Ghangaria was neat & good, Rooms & Dorms are available here & are pretty decent with comfortable beds & thick blankets are provided to keep warm from the chilling breeze.
Fortunately we dint had rain showers during our stay at Ghangaria & while trekking to Valley of Flowers.
Was mesmerized to witness the cloud formations atop gorgeous mountains while sipping hot tea.
Ghangaria is the last human settlements & this village is open only during May to September as rest of the months is covered with snow. Garhwali villagers & Bhotia (Indo-Tibetan) ancestry from neighboring valleys live here. The Bhotia Dogs live in temp of minus 20-30 degrees & protect Sheep from Leopards & are also known as Shepard/Gaddi Dogs.
The villagers here at the fringes shut their doors, windows & tie their live stock including their dogs inside before sunsets as they have encountered leopards which roam around at night, prey on their pets & livestock. Bears also seems to visit at night from valleys & come to village in search of beehives near the entrance of village.
Few shops, hotels, Tourist information center, GMVN Rest house & a Gurudwara are the very few permanent structures one could see at Ghangaria.