I know there is nothing crafty in this blog in the recent past. But hold on, I have been doing crochet/knitting projects and have updated them in Ravelry. Once I get past these planned posts, I’ll post them here too.
Recently( he he, just last week), I undertook a trip cum trek to Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib.
I took the trip with Appoopanthadi, the ladies only travel group, based out of Trivandrum.
This was my 3rd trip with the group and I’m quite comfortable with the arrangements made by them in the past too.
My first trip was to Gandikota , aptly named as “Indian Grand Canyon” in Kadapa, AP.
And the second one was one day trip to Shravanabelagula and Shettihalli.
You can follow the facebook page and also be part of the Whatsapp group. Sajna, the founder and avid traveller arranges reasonable and interesting travel tours (mostly over weekends). When she had posted about Valley of Flowers, I guess I would have been one of the few who signed up early. Yes, for the trek which happened in July, I signed up in March-April time.
Promptly, I booked all my flight and train tickets.
The group facilitates by forming a whatsapp group will all fellow travellers. So you can wait and plan your travel along with others. But you are free to be on your own too.
As the trip date approaches, whatsapp group was buzzing with activity on things to carry, workout plans ( !!! yes) and with do’s and don’ts.
To brief you about the workouts(now that I have completed it).
Foremost, I could not do the squats as recommended.
What is required is good overall fitness. I have been jogging/walking for over 10 yrs. I guess that gave me quite confidence that I could do it.
I have knee pain so even when I attempted the squats, the knee pain increased and made me think over the whole trip plan.
But I persevered, believe me without squats too you can do the trek.
Regularly go for long walks and build your stamina. Walk preferably on roads with up and downs. Being in Bangalore, there was always some gradient on the roads.
Do not over stress yourself with any specific exercise, overall fitness and self confidence matters.
Water consumption is vital. Being hydrated is essential to prevent from altitude sickness. This is very easy. Carry a thermos( I carried milton water bottle flask) and keep sipping as you walk.
Things to buy: The group helps you with a check list and general guidance.
From Rishikesh to Govindghat, we went by tempo traveller
From Govindghat to Pulna, by Jeep
From Pulna, our luggages were sent by Pony to Ghangria.
We stayed in Ghangria for the next 3 days. Luggages were kept in room.
While coming back, Again luggages were sent back by Pony.
And later by Jeep, tempo traveller.
You can pack light but I would recommend, carry sufficient Winter clothing and full sleeve T-shirts. Because, up there, everything is damp( with incessant rains) and it is not comfortable re-using T-shirts. But it is your choice.
Feeling: Though I have gone over and paid for the entire trip, there was constant worry and doubt over whether I’ll be able to do the trek. Discuss with close friends and family. They will give you all the assurance and positive vibe. My husband was so supportive and said he is fully confident that I’ll be able to do it. I felt elated. Yes, it counts. He wanted to get me a handy messenger bag. I got a bag and the print as like this.
We both were laughing, I was not “Fearless”. Instead, doubt and worry was creeping all over me. Nevertheless, I was ready to go ahead and face the worst( if any !!)
On the day of travel, my husband dropped me near the bus stop to take bus to Airport.
Pls note, this is my first solo flight journey.I have flown before several times, but never alone. I know all the routine, but was never alone. People may say, what is there, it is nothing to worry, but all I’m saying is be ready to face the many “firsts” that you will encounter in life. Only the “first” matters, I did not even think about this during my return journey.
Yes, Check in done, Security check done. I must be the first one to arrive at the Gate for that Indigo flight which took me from bangalore to delhi.
I settled myself with Kindle and trying to get immersed in the ever interesting Agatha Christie murder mysteries.
Well, the flight happened, I reached Delhi.
I met two more fellow travellers Midhu and Sarika from Appoopanthadi. After seeing the New Delhi Railway station where we have to board the train to Haridwar, we roamed a bit around Delhi. We went to the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, loved the calm, serene and religious feeling.
Travel is all about experience, there were many in this travel for me.
In Gurudwara, you cannot waste food. They do not allow. We did not waste, but I was really moved by the insistence. I appreciate that they are showing the respect to food and to the farmer, cook and many more who toiled to bring it to our plate.
The train departure is at 11:45 PM. It was quite late and few in the platform. But we settled and was enthusiastically chatting about the trek and place that awaits us.
Once boarded, TTE came as usual past midnight. I feel very safe in train journey than in Bus. I have always travelled in train and very rarely in Bus. Kept an alarm for 3:45 as the train will reach at Hardiwar at 4:00 AM. Live train tracking status also helped us. ( yes it gets updated promptly with few mins delay here and there).
In Haridwar, we took an Auto( travelling in group helps us save money. Everything is pooled by 3 or 4 and suddently even exorbitant rates becomes affordable). We had booked dormitory in “Bed Hubs”
The Hostel was very neat and comfortable. We dropped our luggage, quickly got ready to see the “Arathi”. Alas, we were late by few mins, we missed it. Also there was continous heavy drizzle in Haridwar. Unable to move further, we came back to dormitory and took rest. After few hours of sleep, we got ready to explore the city and to the next journey to Rishikesh.
The river is not impressive at first sight, but when you keep looking, I got deeply interested in its continuous motion, the force in which it keep taking things and moving forward, pushing everything in its course, leaving anything which is not coming along.
A tip from me here.. When you go to Haridwar to Rishikesh, take a share auto rather than city bus. We took City bus from Haridwar, first it took us all over the city. We would have enjoyed more if not for the sudden downpour. And the city bus was crowded.Then there was huge traffic jam for some reason, we could not comprehend. We had no idea of place or distance. We reached Rishikesh bus stop 3 hours later. From there, we hired an auto for Ram Jhula, from there, walked for 2 kms to Lakshman Jhula. When we went, there was a repair in Lakshman Jhula so the auto driver convinced and dropped us in Ram Jhula. And without lunch, we walked for close to 2 kms with all our luggage to Lakshman Jhula.
By share auto, I think it takes around 1 hr to 90 mins and it takes you directly to Lakshman Jhula.
After checking in, we had a sumptuous and heavy lunch in a iconic place Bhoj Mantra in Rishikesh again suggested by a fellow appoopanthadi..
After chatting endlessly, we took an Auto to see the Ganga Aarti in “Triveni Ghat”.
The wait for Aarthi was a long affair but it is worth all the wait. The sun is setting down and the sky is slowly transforming from pale pink to dark orange hues.The scened oil lamps are lit and they are performed by sastris who are adorned in traditional attire. The entire scene with the live bhajan and the chants resonates with the bells and the sound of moving river which takes everything offered makes you pensive. I believe in God but here I found beauty of the culture and the charm of ever moving Ganges.
There were Bharatanatyam performance and other crowd attractions. We returned back to Hotel to prepare for the long tempo traveller journey from Rishikesh to Govindghat.
Rishikesh to Gonvindghat is 270Kms which is lesser than Bangalore to chennai. While we have crossed Bangalore to chennai in less than 5 hours, the journey from Rishikesh to Govindghat took around 14 hours.
We started around 7 AM and reached around 9 pm with multiple breaks for food, beverages and washroom.
There were few landslides/rockslides and also road laying work which made the traffic slow. But note, we are energetic, because we are yet to take the trek. All of us are talking and thinking about the Valley and its flowers. We are not tired, neither impended by delay.
We reached Govindghat late evening, had dinner, get the briefing from the Trek leader and Guide.We also took trek sticks from here the same night.
Next day morning, we started the trek with full of enthusiasm and high energy levels, ready to catch up with the trek lead. Trek leader gently admonishes, “Dont race, you will get tired”. We smile non nonchalantly, we are first timers. We not know the distance then.
We take a jeep to Pulna. Having got down, there are stream of ponies. We cross them, we are moving forward, seeing the river always by our side. Minutes past, I start checking time. It is just one hour and I have covered less than Km, but I was getting little bored. yes, I’m seeing the river and forest, but yet to connect with it. I’m from city and love walking in busy roads as there are things to look and observe. So it takes time and mind, to appreciate the surrounding. Trek can be simply physical. I.e you walk for 10 Kms, you may be walking looking down, where you are placing feet and be physically exausted at the end, you may not have really connected with nature or appreciated its beauty.
It came to me a while later and very worth while only on the return journey. But I’m happy that I got the realization.
So for anyone who is trekking first time, take time to connect with the surroundings. When I say, it is not about to clicking endlessly in camera/mobile phones every step. Do watch the trees, barks, little insects, camouflaged birds.
The mist on the surface of the river, the union of several streams, how streams go under the glacier and appear far below. I’m happy that I felt the connection. Even if it is late, It happened.
So after the physically exhausting and strenuous climb( yes the last 2 hours of that 6 hour climb was almost never ending), we reached our stay. After a quick refresh and hot maggie and tea, we were ready to go around, but again there were rains. Maggie and tea are staple food in himalayan mountains, I tried to think and think, what would have suited before the invention of maggie.. Parata? Roti.. No , nothing can match the hot, juicy, slurpy sticky noodles.
I understood the reality that walking on plains for 5 kms and still able to walk few more kms is so different from mountain climbing, I had a drag my feet for last km cursing myself for going thru such pain.
Nevertheless, got charged again for the next most wanted climb. The climb and back down for Valley of flowers. The most popular trek and visual treat for the eyes.
The trek to Valley of flowers was relatively easy( I can’t simply say easy) than the previous day.
The morning started with breakfast and packed lunch in our bags. With a rain coat, we start marching. The gradient was gentle, I was able to walk. The beginning of the trail had many flowers, big and small. The one which impressed me is the freshness of foliage in the forest. With a constant drizzle and mist, the leaves were the freshest thing. The flowers were of different size , in different colors many as buds and few dropping flowers.
We climbed up and down and again up and down.It took us 5 kms to get to the Valley. The valley is a beautiful sight. When we went, it was raining. Temperatures were going down. Breathing was difficult, so be prepared for some difficulty. The valley was not fully covered in flowers. We saw many plants with leaves more than flowers in the valley, but the varying green shades of the valley with and occasional blue sky with streak of clouds is a sight to watch.
We crossed a glacier and also many streams on the way. Water at its purest form you can say 🙂
There are no washrooms on the way to and from valley, relieve your self in natural way. We had our packed lunch, roamed a little in valley and started back.
The trek was again not very tiring, but took time to reach and happily satisfied.
The Altitude in the valley was .
Next day is the trek to Hemkund Sahib, without much arguments, the entire team agreed upon Pony to trek up and walk for climbing down.
The initial few steps of the Pony scares you to hell. Close your eyes. Thats what I did. Later I felt better and started looking around. The road was laid by cutting the glaciers. We also cross few glacier and many streams on the way.Trek to Hemkund is very steep and thanks to Pony otherwise it would have been very difficult to me.
Once reached, the Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara is a peaceful religious place. We look around see the glacier ladden mountains and the ice cold water in the lake.
We remove our shoes and go inside Gurudwara, which is very warm compared to outside. Listen to the Kirtans, devour the delicious and very warm karah prasad. As we swallow the sweet halwa, warmth spreads inside making us feel good.
We come down and out, have the Kitchidi and Tea langar offered by the Gurudwara for the pilgrims.
We look around again and again mesmerised by the surrounding mountains and reflection of it in the crystal clear water of the lake. Trying to capture as much in the camera, but drink the beauty of nature through the eyes would be a most applicable phrase.
The climb down from Hemkund Sahib is not an easy task. First, the rains, it rained heavily on our way back making us very cold and the way slippery. Then the trail is very steep and it pushes us forward, unless we make use of the momentum which pushes us down, it will be a heavy strain on the knees. I’m and was aware of my body weight, which refused me from going with the momentum and went with step by step descending. The strain was enormous, but I was prepared and informed. One step at a time, we are close to our accommodation. Keep going.
We reached tired and painful than the previous day. Rested immedietely. After dinner and bried discussion on each others pains ,we retired soon.
Next day is the descent to Govindghat. This descend was gradual, apart from the initial few kms, the rest was manageable. But mind you, you are already straining the strained knee. Take it easy and be gentle to yourself.
Climbing down took only half time of the climb. We reached early and had time to go to Mana – the last Indian village beyond which is the Indo- Tibetian border.
On the way back, we visit Bhadrinath and get the blessings. Little shopping on the way.
Reaching back Govindghat is like halfway Home. We do not talk much about trek now, we talk about our family and the loved ones. How much we miss them, often seeing the family picture in phone, we long to go back home.
The tempo traveller ride from Govindghat to Rishikesh happens but not so long this time, we reached Rishikesh. The stay was organized in Moustache Hostel, whose interiors were quirky, humour and with bit of sarcasm. I enjoyed ogling at the various wall arts they had put.
It reminded me heavily of Hercule Poirot of Agatha Christie murder mystery. But this moustache had heavy Indian touch. No it cannot be Hercule poirot’s.
Early morning, we took a train from Haridwar to Delhi. Had delicious Biriyani and bought famous “Agra Peta”. We are off to home.
We go to airport after the farewells who became the best buddies and walk with mixed emotion of leaving them but going to meet family.
The return flight, there were no firsts, so no butterflies, the landing was smooth and I should say I was happy that my husband came to Airport late in the night to pick me up.
Now, I want to give a big shout THANK YOU to Appoopanthadi. There may be hick ups, there may be slight miss here and there. But only because there are people like Sajna, who break barriers and myths, people like me come outside of the comfort zone and able to do many “first time” things and make friends. And to speak of friends, almost all of Appoopanthadi’s come from Kerala and speak Malayalam, well I do not speak it. I speak Tamil, but there was no hesitation from their side and they saw me just one of them. I would like to give heartfelt thanks to Midhu and Biji who made the trip so smooth with their warmth and friendliness. I will be talking about them for a long time in my circle of friends.