Is this for real or am I dreaming? I wondered as the vista changed with every twist of the sinuous trail. A seasoned Forest Ranger implored his trainee officers ” Quickly up to that tree ! “. The younger cadre were panting and appeared to be completely worn out. “You are much fitter than them !”, my hubby whispered to me in amusement. The 14 km hike on the previous day to reach the base camp at Ghangariya had sapped us but couldn’t stifle our resolve and excitement.
The pink riot of Impatiens sulcata was the first to welcome us followed by a splash of yellow, blue, purple and white. At a short distance was a natural shelter in the shape of a huge boulder under which nature enthusiasts, bird watchers, and hikers had congregated to savor the views. We offered a gray-haired hiker chocolates and almonds (that we always carry on our trek) after exchanging pleasantries.
The flowers seemed to gleam in joy as the mist danced on their petals. Frank Smythe’s amazement was now very comprehensible to me.
The Valley of flowers, home to 600 species of flowers and some rare species of birds was declared a national park in 1982 and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004. It was believed that fairies once inhabited this mystical land. I can totally imagine that as the extravagance unfolded in front of my eyes.
Treated to a celestial show in the absence of any ambient light outside our camp, we looked up in disbelief at the grandeur of the universe that night.A terrific spectacle which left us wonderstruck and a little on edge. The black canvas of the sky was hardly visible amidst the glory of the constellations & the million shining beauties.
Our reluctant departure from Ghangariya was no less an adventure straight out of a Hollywood flick. The helipad was right in front of our camp alluring us to get our share of an adrenaline rush. We had no plans to take the chopper down to Govindghat( the starting point of the hike) but my secret desire to fly between mountains and over valleys got the better of me.Tickets were booked in a hurried state of exhilaration. We waited at the helipad with a childlike excitement (which we tried to hide). Sitting next to the pilot, we were blessed with views worth dying for. High reaches of waterfalls, a dazzling blue sky, and brief glimpses of snow-white peaks. Looked no less than a giant, larger than life screen.
The Valley of flowers is surely not for the faint hearted. A lifetime experience and impressions of magical moments are what you will take back with you. And yes, Hemkund sahib trek is not to be missed. Besides the spiritual intent, look out for the auspiciously beautiful brahmkamals.
This trip demands optimal physical fitness and a bit of planning. For a hiker, this is a dream come alive.
Do share your experiences if you have ever been to the Valley of flowers.
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