Valley of Flowers
High in the Himalayan ranges of Garhwal hills of Uttranchal lies an enchanting valley. Here flowerful pastures with clear running streams are set against silver birches and shining snow peaks. Dew lies thick on the flowers, birds sing in the surrounding forest and the air is pure and charged with floral smells.
Area: 87.5 sq. Kms.
Altitude: Between 3,658m to 3,962 m
Best Season: Mid April To Mid August
Hidden from the probing eyes of civilization, this valley had been known to the inhabitants as the Bhyundar Valley, the playground of fairies and nymphs. Trespassing their celestial abode was avoided although shepherds did take the liberty to graze their cattle here.
Legends associate this valley with the area from where Hanumanji of Ramayana collected “Sanjeevani” herbs to revive Lakshmana, the younger brother of Rama. Hanuman had to visit far-flung areas in his search for the life – saving herbs.
TThe valley was introduced to the world as the Valley of Flowers by Frank S. Smith – mountaineer, explorer, botanist who camped here for several weeks in the monsoon of 1937 and did valuable exploratory work. He authored a book called ” The Valley of Flowers “, which unveiled the beauty and floral splendours of the valley and thus threw open the doors of this verdant jewel to nature – enthusiasts all over the world.
In 1939, Miss Margarate Legge, a botanist deputed by the botanical gardens of Edinburgh arrived at the valley for further studies, While she slipped off and was lost for ever in the garden of the gods. Her sister later visited the valley and erected a memorial on the spot where she was buried by the locals. The thoughtful memorial is still there.
The trek towards the Valley begins at Govind Ghat, after crossing the Alaknada river on a hanging bridge. The zig-zig mule track straightens through an ascending valley of terraced fields and vegetation. In the midst, Laxman Ganga tumbles down in a haste to join the Alaknanda. 3 kms further is the small, pretty hamlet, Pulna. Beyond this, the swifter, and between the green, rocky mountains, you can catch a glimpse of snow – clad peaks.
The 7 kms. trail from Pulna to Bhyundar village is full of nature’s scenic splendours including cascading water falls and cold water springs. Shrubs and wild roses grow abundantly and rhododendrons colour the area with pink and dark red. Small wayside tea stalls run all across the route and young and enthusiastic tourist guides can be engaged at Bhyundar village. After resting awhile here, the trek on the right bank of the Laxman Ganga continues through the rich vegetation till a log bridge, supported on now, the trail becomes, steeper and harder and 2kms. from here, you will reach Ghangharia, the base camp for treks to Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib. Since camping and overnight stay is not allowed in the Valley of Flowers, Ghangharia is the logical base camp for the trek.
Travel beyond Ghangharia is on foot at nature’s pace since the entry of ponies is prohibited. The trek is subject to strict ecological discipline and the trekker is expected to be concerned about the ecosystem of the region.
After crossing a log bridge over the Laxman Gangea, 3 Kms. from Ghanghria, the route of the Valley of Flowers separates from that going to Hemkund Sahib. The Laxman Ganga joins the Pushpawati river 400 mtrs. downstream. The trek continues along Pushpawati. A couple of kilometers ahead, the river is crossed over to its right bank on another bridge and this trail goes upto the Valley of Flowers. Snow bridges can be seen spanning the river but their strength should be properly judged if they are to be used to cross the river.
The Guru Govind Singh Gurudwara at Hemkund is also a major attraction. According to the verses in Guru Gibind Saheb (the holy book of the Sikhs) Guru Govind Singh meditated hare. Sikhs, Hindus and others revere Guru Govind Singh and so Hemkund has acquired international renown.
The Valley of Flowers is flanked on either side by majestic peaks, many capped with snow. The Pushpawati river, emerging from the glacial deposits around Rataban and Nilgiri ranges, cuts through the Valley and divides it into two sectors. The major portion of the Valley is on its right bank and is a paradise for trekkers. Many streams flowing from glacial deposits in and around the Valley irrigate it and merge finally into the Pushpawati river. While exploring the Valley, the smaller streams can be easily crossed by wading across but the larger ones need to be crossed on log bridges. In case those have not been put up in time, thick glacial bridges across the streams also serve the purpose.
There are no side tracks for viewing colonies of flowers away from the main track so you can either try to wade through knee-deep flowers and foliage, crushing some on the way or stay on the single track running through the length of the valley without seeing the best. You may however stand on a raised vantage point to get a better view of the flowers all around.
Within the main Valley, there are many smaller valleys cared out by streams of melting glaciers. On the banks of these valleys, you can encounter the most exciting pattern of flowers. One such Valley exists along the Donagair Garh, the last of many streams. On its banks flowers some of the most magnificent plants. Every moist place holds its quota of glorious flowers which grace the still air with their subtle fragrance.
On the left bank of the Pushpawati, are several shunks of flat land. One of them is called Nag Tal, literally the place of the venomous serpent – the Nag. It is believed to be infested with poisonous flowers. These Flowers are bound to cause harm when plucked, crushed or smelt. Therefore it is advised that visitors should not pluck flowers.