The Valley of flowers

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G.L. Khajuria

The enchanting and thrilling upper Bhyunder valley was brought into limelight far back in 1931 by Frank Symthe, member of the successful Kamet expedition who gave the name ‘Valley of Flowers” and made it world famous. Frank Symthe was so enamoured by its charming and enchanting valley that he visited it six years later, explored it extensively with utmost curiosity. As a consequence, therefore, he wrote a fascinating description in his famous travelogue- ‘The Valley of flowers’. He also collected more than 250 varieties of seeds and plants for the botanical garden of Edinburgh.
The valley of Flowers lies between the main land of Alknanda and Dhuli Ganga, in Zanskar ranges of Garhwal Himalayas. The river Pushpavati which flows through this valley has its source in the huge Tipra glacier which extends upto the most famous Ghori Parvat peak, which is a flattish valley about 5kms long and 2 kms wide stretching East-West. The most convenient entrance to the valley is from South Where Pushavati flows through a very deep gorge. Besides, two more routes preferred by the shepherds and trekkers branch off from the valley. The one from the western side loading to Hanuman Chatti via Kant-khal pass and the other from the eastern side leading to Ghamsali village via Lakshman pass and both these places cover three days trekking distance from the valley itself.
The river Pushpavati is joined by river Lakshman Ganga which flows down from Hamkund Lokpal lake at Gangharia where after it takes the name Bhyunder Ganga which joins Alaknanda at Govindghat.
Govindghat is situated on the main ‘Rishikesh – Badrinath ‘Pilgrims route at the right bank of Alaknanda and is at an elevation a rounding 1800- 2,000 mts. Around 278 kms road journey through the river called one reaches Govindghat from Rishikesh – the foothill town which is as wall the main rail/motor head to the valley of flowers together with other enchanting and pilgrimage spots for the religion and tourists alike.
At Govindghat, the road leads to the Bhyunder valley which further branches off the main road. Gangharia, the last human outpost and the main base-camp for the valley of flowers is the Hemkund Shrine. It is around 2- 3 kms from Govindghat and can be trekked on foot or by ponies. This track runs along Bhyunder Ganga. One has to cross over through suspend bridge at Alknanda- Govindghat. Ahead, one has to trek through bridle-path which takes a steep and continuous climb which de facto is tiring.
The view around the vicinity of this spot has a point introduction to the beauty of nature’s bounty ahead. It is after a weary plodding around 3kms or so that the valley widens and one comes across some bewildering and breath-taking landscape. The gradient of river is very steep whereas flow of water is fast. The fog generated by the churned water beating against perpendicular rocks and massive boulders is wasted far and wide ridding on the breeze produced by the down rushing water of the river. Its cool touch mops the sweet beads and drains away the fatigue caused by the uphill journey.
On the right side, a water fall more than 150 meters high descend down the granite rock to meet Bhyunder Ganga. And all the time, one is passing through one of the most beautiful forests full of alpines intermingled with maple, walnut mulberg, elm, oak, bird-cherry, horse-chestnut, hornbean, alder, rhododendron etc. The foaming river cascades its way till one crores over to the left bank, a little beyond the Bhyunder village. The route to Hathi Parvat and Ghori Parvat emnate from this village. The vegetation changes all of sudden. One is completely surrounded by tall centuries old massive trees of silver fir at Ghangharia.
Ghangharia, a hamlet having a Forest Rest House (FRH), Tourist Rest House (TRH), a sacred shrine (Gurdwara) and few shops. This spot is located at an elevation arounding 3,200 meters from mean sea level (MSL) and beyond Ghangharia exist the unspoiled beauty of nature, the valley of Flowers which is barely 4-5 kms trek on foot or on pony. And from here onwards, Hemkund is hardly 4.5 to 5 kms trek. The valley of Flowers veers sharply to the left from main trail which climbs steeply to the sacred and famous lake. Hemkund shrine is situated at an altitude arounding 4,200 meters from mean sea level (MSL).
The ascent to the valley of Flowers is almost gradual till the valley narrows down into a deep gorge and the forest is compressed between narrow walls of rock.The awesome cliffs guarding this southern entrance of valley are almost rising to more than 1000 meters on either side. Those block the view of the valley.
The valley of Flowers is having a wide space. Beginning at an elevation of 3,500 meters it gradually slopes down up like a wending corridor, to a little more than 3,700 meters till it meets the snout of the glacier. The valley is snow-bound from mid-November to mid-may during which period this area remains frozen and thereby it is impossible to reach. But as soon as snow starts melting, the rains commence, and that is the miracle which has made this valley famous world over.

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