It was 2015 July 15th, I boarded on Doon express, and settled down on my berth. The train started on time, everyone had their dinner and slept. I was pondering whether I was crazy. It thus happened that my GMVN package for Valley of Flowers, Hemkund Sahib and Badrinath had been cancelled due to natural calamity. I am always crazy about traveling. Once I make up my mind to go somewhere I become mad if it is cancelled and it was a long desire for me to visit Valley of flowers. So I decided to move on my own. I was a bit scared and skeptic if I should be able to manage it. A family of four with a kid was my co-passenger. The kid became a very good friend of mine. His parents were teachers of Woodstock school in Landour and his grandmother was also there. The day was well spent with them.
Valley of Flowers is in the state of Uttarakhand. It is also called Nandadevi National park, a world heritage site declared by UNESCO. It is a unique place in its character. Flowers bloom from the month of July-August and die out in Septemtember. From October to April the valley remains covered by snow. In the month of May snow melts and germination of the seed of flowers takes place. Gradually they start blooming again stage by stage, and this circle goes on.
Next early morning I got down from the train in Haridwar and asked a rickshaw puller to take me to the bus stand from where I could catch the bus for Joshimath. The rickshaw puller took me to the shared jeep stand instead of bus. He told the jeep driver that I wanted to go to Joshimath. I sat on a jeep and waited till it was filled up. On the way to Joshimath the leaf spring of the car broke 3 times, at the last phase the driver drove in such a reckless manner, that made me panicky, because he had to reach Joshimath before 6 o’clock in the evening. Ultimately it reached. I found the GMVN Tourist rest house, and lodged there. I was mentally as well as physically fatigued. After a shower and dinner I cried bitterly and prayed to God that it didn’t matter whether I could complete my tour, but I must reach home safely. God heard my prayer and not only I finished the tour safely, but also enjoyed everything to my heart’s content.
In the next morning when I reached Gobindghat it was quite late as it took time to get the shared jeep filled up. But Providence was with me, so there was a pony owner, who could not get any customer, and was waiting with his two ponies. I waited for sometime so that he could get another customer, but none came. At last after a little bargain I agreed to pay for two ponies. When we reached Ghangharia it was 4pm. I settled in a hotel and asked the manager to arrange a porter cum guide for me to go to Valley of flowers. Next day I started early in the morning after breakfast for Valley of Flowers. The first phase was difficult to climb. But after reaching the valley it was a steady slope. I took many pictures but later got tired and enjoyed the beauty of nature only which was surreal. When I came back in the afternoon my legs were shaking but tear rolled down from my eyes with joy.
Next morning I went to Hemkund Sahib by pony. It is a famous Sikh pilgrimage. This road was tougher and steeper than Valley of flowers. There was a Gurudwara at Hemkund. The water of the lake was partly frozen though pilgrims were bathing in it. I visited the sacred lake and the Gurdwara, sat there for sometimes, then had food from langar and waited for the other two Sikh pilgrims who came with me on ponies. There was a temple of Lakshman behind the Gurdwara. Laksman Ganga flowed by its side. I visited that temple. When I came down to Ghangharia it was 1 pm. In front of my hotel I found the same pony owner who brought me to Ghangharia. He asked me if I wanted to go back. I asked him to wait for me a while. I packed my things and came out. I wanted to leave the place because mobile net work was not available there, and I was afraid that if any disaster happened again I should be trapped there, and my son would get terribly worried for me.
I came down to Gobindghat at 4pm. I stayed there that night. Next early morning I went to Badrinath by a jeep arranged by my hotel owner. I reached there early in the morning. Due to the spread of the news of natural calamity all tour packages of that area had been cancelled. So the temple was almost empty. I did “darshan” and watched “aarti” of the holy deity. I got the ambrosial “kheer prasad”. I offered “pind” to my late parents. After taking breakfast I decided to come back to Joshimath because it had been drizzling since last evening and I was expecting another landslide. So I came back to Joshi math. I was in the ninth cloud for the mission was successful and decided to spend the rest of the days in different places on the way back. I spent one day each in Auli, Karprayag, Rudraprayag and Rishikesh.
N.B. To reach Valley of Flowers one has to reach Haridwar. Buses, shared jeeps and hired taxis ply to Joshimath from Haridwar or one can go directly to Gobindghat by Haridwar- Badrinath or Hrishikesh- Badrinath buses. One has to walk or go by pony from Gobindghat To Ghangharia which is 12/14 kilometer distance. From Ghangharia Valley of Flowers is 7 kilometer trek. There is Hemkund Saheb too, which is a pilgrimage of Sikhs and a worth visiting place. One can avail pony to go there. It is a 10 kilometer trek.