Valley of flowers is a unique place in the Garhwal Himalaya at the altitude of 3658 meters from the sea level where hundreds of variety of flowers bloom only in the monsoon season. They start blooming in the month of July. They bloom in different phases and wither away gradually till the end of September. Rest of the years the valley remains covered by snow. It is a world heritage site and no camping is allowed there. One has to trek 7 km up hill to visit the valley from Ghangharia.
Hemkund Sahib is at the altitude of 4,633 meters which is a famous Sikh pilgrimage. It is 10 km from Ghangharia. Ponies and porters are available for them who can not trek.
I booked a package of GMVN for Valley of flowers, Hemkund Sahib and Badrinath. Unfortunately, or I can say now fortunately, the package was cancelled due to natural calamity. I decided not to cancel my train tickets and try on my own. So I boarded the train on time . It was a great experience for me. I realized that in Himalayas no one is alone and if one comes out alone on the roads of Himalayas with a bit of courage the path automatically opens. I did not expect I could make it but when I came back from the valley tears came rolling out unceasingly with joy from my eyes. I felt the blessings of Almighty.
After covering the places planned by GMVN I found I had few days in hand which I utilized staying in Auli, Karnprayag, Rudrapayag and Rishikesh. When I came back successfully my confidence increased and I decided to travel alone in future.
I always wanted to visit Amarnath since my teenage years. When I got the opportunity in July 2014 then I crossed 50. I was hesitant to plan this trip alone. So I took help of a reputed travel agency of Kolkata. Vaishno Devi was also included in that package. I liked their plan because they had been starting from Chandanbari and ending at Baltal. I was happy that I could be able to travel both the routes.
That was the first year when medical checkup from fixed nominated government hospital and issuing of fit certificate was introduced and the yatra permit had to be taken from the assigned bank paying a nominal sum as fees for yatra. We reached Pehelgham. The manager of the tour arranged doli and pony for us. But they took Rs 7500 from us though they only paid 5000 to the pony owner, they made profit of Rs 2500 for each horse. Everything went fine otherwise. Reaching the cave at the height of 12,756 ft was a unique as well as spiritual experience. I was fortunate to witness not only the huge ice Shiva but also natural ice made Sri Ganapati and mother Parvati beside Him.
On the way back to Baltal I fell from the horse 4 times due to the negligence of my syce who did not tie the saddle on the horse back properly, it was really a terrible experience. I became very much scared and panic stricken. The last time I started shouting as soon as my saddle tilted from the horse back. Indian army, everywhere on the way to Amarnath, was very active and helpful. They rescued me in the forth time and threatened the syce to take care of me. Then he checked and tightened the saddle properly.
We rested two nights in Srinagar and enjoyed local sightseeing, boating on Shikara in the Dal Lake, and shopping as well. Then we went to Katra . Vaishno Devi trip was nice, though the day was quite rainy. After that we all came back to Jammu and caught our train.
Traveling through an agency gave me some good and bad experiences. I got few good friends from that package though they are not in contact now. It is beneficial for them who can not make a trip on their own, specially aged people. One doesn’t need to bother about hotel booking or arranging food when one is dead tired. There are few members who are always discontented and complaining even on trivial issues which is disturbing. There are always few people who are very curious and keep on asking personal questions which is annoying. These travel agencies normally provide trips to conventional places. For off beat places one has to take initiative on one’s own.
Mayavati and Almorah were the places I planned to go with my father many years ago. My father traveled Mayavati, Almora, Ranikhet, Kaushani, Nainital etc twice with my mother but unfortunately I could not go then. I planned my trip in 2017 March. I preferred Lalkuan express than Kathgodam because it takes less time though it is a weekly train.
I did not have any idea that to reach Tanakpur From Lalkuan or Berily was the better option to get down from the train. Buses ply in regular intervals from Berily to Tanakpur. When I was telling someone of my co passengers about my itinerary before reaching Lalkuan, the two TTE were doing some work in the next cabin of the train. They overheard the discussion and called me : ” Come here Madam. Sit here . You want to go to Tanakpur from Lalkuan? You are alone ? Why didn’t you get down at Berily. ” I expressed my ignorance. One of them suggested me to go to Haldwani Bus stand to get the bus for Tanakpur. Another passenger from the next cabin became interested and came to advise me. He was a local. He instructed me to go to Kichchha by a tempo auto from where I could get the bus for Tanakpur. When I reached Kichchha bus stand I came to know the bus for Tanakpur would leave late. They asked me to go to Khatima and take another bus from Khatima for Tanakpur.
Khatima was a transit where two roads met and crossed each other. After getting down at Khatima I stood in front of a shop according to the direction of the conductor of the previous bus. A person was standing there. Seeing me with my rucksack he asked me where I was going. When he knew my destination he informed that he was also going there and ordered me to follow him. He caught a car which was going back after dropping someone and I went with him. He directed the driver to drop me in front of KMVN guest house and asked me to pay the driver 30 rupees. I reached Tanakpur at 12-30 PM.
Kartikeya is not very popular like his brother Lord Ganesha and not frequently worshiped by everyone. He is the Hindu god of war according to Indian mythology. There are very few temples of Kartikeya in India. One of them is in Uttarakhand. It is a 3 kilometer uphill trek from Kanakchauri village.
I reached Kanakchauri from Rudraprayag by bus in the month of April 2018. There were very few hotels in Kanakchauri. I stayed in Mayadeep Holiday Home. There was no other tourist at Kanakchauri then. I talked to the attendant of the hotel. He arranged a local guide for me who was a boy of 18 years, and had just appeared in the State Board Higher Secondary exam then. For watching sunrise from Karthikswami temple we started at 4 o’clock in the morning.
The sky was starry. The Milky-way galaxy and innumerable known as well as unknown constellations of stars were clearly visible. I felt spellbound watching the sky. It was absolutely dark. We were going through the dense woods. Different types of eerie sounds could be hard. Unknown nocturnal birds were making strange sounds and insects were shrieking. I asked the boy if there was any chance of ferocious animals to come across on the way. He replied very casually that cheetahs and bears could come out. I asked with doubt if they were deadly, he informed occasionally they attacked. I got very much scared. I kept on talking with him and made sounds with my walking stick so that no animal did appear. I had heard that all animals were afraid of human.
Gradually the day light started coming out behind the mountain range of the eastern side. I could not reach the top on time due to my weak legs and heart. But I saw the first rays of sun from the staircases of the temple. There was haze but still the mountain range was visible all over. I felt very much grateful, I bowed Lord Kartikeya for appearing in front of me, took few snaps, then came down. Coming down was easier, and we met few local devotees and ponies carrying loads who were going upward then.
Nubra ( Diskit Monastery – Hundar – Turtuk)- Leh – Thiksey monestary – Pangong Tso – Hemis monestary – Leh – Shyam Valley ( Shanti stupa – Hall of Fame – Magnetic hill- Gurdwara Pathar saheb – confluence of Indus and Zanskar river-Alchi monestary – Likir Monastary – Lamayuru – Leh – Chumathang – Tso Moriri – Leh .
I planned Ladakh trip in the second half of April. Going by road, that is starting from Srinagar and end at Manali or vice versa, and at the same time spending 10 days within Ladakh to go the main points takes at list 18 to 20 days. Taking so long a vacation was not possible for either my son or for me. Secondly fare of Delhi -Leh flights remain quite affordable from November to April . Renting car is also cheaper during this period. They give 15% discount. Hotels do not open till the end of May but there are few home-stays that remain open all over the year. Within Ladakh roads are kept open all over the year. There are several military camps in different strategic places and being a border region army trucks ply allover the year from those places. One can see plenty of snow and a different kind of beauty this time. Temperature is also bearable during this period.
We stayed in Sia-La guest house. In 2013 it was affordable for us. The home-stay owner and his wife were very congenial. Being off season there were only two foreigners there in the home-stay. So they gave us a lot of attention. They arranged our SUV. The driver was very good and helpful. My son had primary altitude sickness, he had to take Diamox tablet and kept on drinking a lot of fruit juice. We managed the trip comfortably with the help of our driver and the local people wherever we went.
Lakshadwip was my childhood dream destination. I made a contact with the local agent of SPORTS, an agency that conduct cruise package for Lakshadwip. We bought train tickets to reach Cochin and air tickets for coming back from Cochin to Kolkata. I included Munnar and Periyar in the same plan. I wanted to go to Aleppy by backwater but my son was not interested in it as according to his opinion after a cruise tour to Lakshadweep it would not be a worthy one to enjoy.
After finishing our Lakshadwip package we went to Cochin Inter-state bus stand and caught a bus for Munnar at 3 PM and reached there in the evening .There are quite a number of hotels in the mall and road side food stall. Munnar is a small hill station in Western Ghat range. Anaimudi is the highest peak of Western ghat. There is Eraviculam National Park. There are several places to visit. The whole area is covered with tea gardens and Sandalwood forest . We stayed 2 nights in Munnar and booked a car for local sight seeing.
Then we went to Periyar. There was local bus service from Munnar to go to Periyar, but we hired a car. The journey from Munnar to Periyar was pleasant due to the scenic beauty. Periyar is also a very nice place with a reserve forest, lake and spice market. We stayed in a home-stay there.
I love to travel since my childhood. My parents were also fond of traveling. I started traveling with my parents at the age of 4. Every year I would travel in different parts of India. I traveled most of the tourist destinations with my parents which are now very common like Kullu-Manali- Shimla or Andaman or Kashmir or Kedar-Badri etc. My father used to bring brochures from different states’ Tourism Development Corporation and made plans accordingly. At that time there was no internet facility. I used to be his assistant and adviser in this matter. After 1984 I could not travel due to some unavoidable circumstances.
As soon as I became a bit free from the burdens of life, I resumed regular traveling since 2009. The passion for travel, which had been suppressed since a long time, got a small vent. I started traveling alone since 2015. Now a days I travel once or twice a year. I can not manage enough leave and resource to travel more than that. I don’t make short weekend trips. My travel duration is two weeks normally. When I go to a region I try to cover places as much as possible not making the schedule too hectic. I have to depend on public transport and I visit mostly in Himalayas where the weather and the road condition are unpredictable. So I keep one or two buffer days. I also plan in such a way so that I come nearer to the boarding point gradually.
I do not want to travel to very difficult places and do not try to trek because of my arthritis. But if one goes to Himalayas he/she should be mentally prepared to walk a few kilometer daily because there is no system of auto/tuktuk or rickshaw for covering short distances specially in the small villages. If someone really loves to travel then it is always bearable and enjoyable.
I plan to travel mostly in off season so that I can get less crowd and get off season discounts making spot bookings in hotels. But some places have fixed time schedules like Valley of Flowers, Manimahesh or Amarnath. One has to visit them within a fixed period of the year. People of Himalayas are still simple, congenial and honest in comparison with plain, though I never faced any problem anywhere till date by the blessings of Providence.