Saturday, August 28, 2010

Journey to the Garden of Gods

The wanderlust in me compels me to visit the valley of flowers once again! So what do i do? Pack my bags, make necessary arrangements at home and my workplace, book my accommodation at Ghangharia and leave. 17 th August 2010...5 AM there is a heavy drizzle. I hop into the first bus to Joshimath. The day moves on as the bus ambles through the long ascent in the mountains. Our first stop is at Devaprayag. I get down to take some pictures. I buy a few bananas, and to my amusement find all the cows in the area surrounding me; they want the banana skin! I eat half of a banana and feed it to one cow, and the next one and next and next go the same way. the driver sounds the horn and i hop back into the bus. The bus moves on, the steep ascent is evident as the river below looks tinier and tinier. We stop for lunch at Mayapur. I share the table with two sadhus from Khajuraho. They find it very strange, a woman traveling all by herself just to look at some flowers! i reach Joshimath at about 4PM. A Sumo taxi takes me up to Auli for the night. Am I dissappointed? Auli is enveloped in thick monsoon mist and cloud and the downpour is steady. Can't see beyond my nose!Next morning is the same rainy misty cold weather, and i am told that the road to Govind Ghat may not be in a motorable condition. We drive down to Joshimath and what joy! The roads have been repaired! Off we drive through the awesome Vishnuprayag valley and reach Govind Ghat. It is 10 AM and I straight away take a mule up to Ghangharia. I reach the GMVN guest house at Ghagharia at about 1PM after a 14Km long uphill ride on a mule(his name was Bobby and whenever he went astray, a gentle call of Booby Darling! would put him back on track!). I complete the necessary formalities, dump my bag at the guest house and rush out, camera in hand to take a look at the valley! The waterfall at the climb to Hemkund Sahib cascades down in full fury, and I feel like putting my hand up and greeting the beautiful scenery in front of my eyes. I am stopped at the gate to the valley. No one goes in as late as this, I am told. I promise to take a quick look and return by 3. I am allowed in very reluctantly. I walk past many curious trekkers and tourists returning from the valley. The 3 Km trek to the valley is laden with flowers and festooned with strands of Lichen hanging down from the blue coned Abies trees. I go trigger happy....clicking away. The Origanum and Thallictrum, Inula and Ligularia form a colourful tapestry on the forest floor. I amble up the path under the little waterfall and cross the first bridge. More curious tourists on their way back want to know why I am going in so late. The mauve Erigeron and the pink Impatiens look bright and cheerful in spite of the incessant drizzle. I cross the third bridge when I am sent back by the forest ranger. Danger ahead, fresh mud slides near the glacier and many more expected. I trek back through the familiar market place of Ghangharia. I am told at the GMVN rest house that if I want to see the celebrated Brahmakamal i must trek up to Hemkund Saheb. So i decide to do that next morning and call it a day!

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