July 11, 2017

MicroAdventure - August (Part1)

So this trip doesn't quite fit the definition of a micro-adventure. With over a couple months of planning, it definitely wasn't spontaneous. It wasn't that 'micro' either!

I finished my work with Nivasa at the end of July- a truly great place to work made it a very memorable year. I chose to trade in dust and cityscape for a week-long trip up to the mountains as a celebration. 

Location: Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand
Plan: Hike from Govindh Ghat to the Valley!

My Dad has been wanting to do this for ages. It didn't take much to convince the rest of us. Much reading up was done, itinerary making and ticket booking, new guide books, last minute Decathlon shopping and super light-weight packing and soon we were off- the four of us and Aunty Sonia. 

A 3 hour plane ride, half a day in Delhi and an overnight train ride to Haridwar before we began our long drive. Haridwar and Rishikesh are popular destinations for tourists and Hindu pilgrims. Rishikesh was quite beautiful- the Ganga in its full monsoon capacity widening as it hit the plains, temple spires sticking out over the roofs, the foothills of the Himalayas rising up in the background. 

We left the town far behind in no time as we started the ascent. Straight roads were traded in for winding hair pins and the views only improved with every hour. Our route followed the Alakananda (a tributary of the Ganga); a cementy-grey colour because of the clay content. The roads alternated between driving high above it to alongside the riverbed, sometimes crossing it over precarious rickety bridges! 

As we climbed, the rolling hills soon became steeper! August is not the most ideal time to travel in the Himalayan ranges. The rains have been pretty harsh and with each downpour have taken off big segments of the mountains blocking roads and flattening houses. A few times, we had to wait while the road ahead of us was cleared. After which we had to drive across the narrow junction between sheer faces of loose rock! 

Despite having a stomach that wasn't enjoying all the mountain roads, the dhaba we ate lunch at in Devprayag was worth every mouthful- simple and so satisfying. The second half of the day brought more changes to the landscape. The towns were less frequent, villages clung to the steep faces, mountains rose higher and the air became cooler. 

The last leg of the 10 hour drive took us down a narrow gorge from Joshimath to Govind Ghat. The small town sat at the confluence of the Alakananda and the Laxman Ganga. We were quite glad to be off the road. Our room overlooked the path that lay ahead of us and we fell asleep to the sound of cascading water! 

We set out early the next morning. Grateful to be off our butts and on our feet, we sent our bags off ahead with our trusty porter and began the 14km hike up, up and up towards Ghangaria. Mule carts carrying goods between the villages continuously interrupted the quiet landscape with their tinkling bells. Known as a popular Sikh pilgrimage up to the glacial lake Hemkund Sahib, the trail was paved with rock rubble and well marked. Besides a number of others like us headed to the valley, we shared the trail with many Sikh families on mule-back and many pilgrims making the journey barefoot. (It made it almost embarrassing to complain about achy feet in our sturdy trekking shoes)

The trail alternated between level pathways, steep uphills, and gradually climbing zig-zags, and sometimes even a rewarding downhill segment! The path went up through the large valley. Mountains towered over us on both sides with waterfalls a hundred feet from the rocky summits pouring into the lush valley; truly perfectly picturesque. There was no hurry complete this trail. We took time to smell the roses (quite literally), took pictures at every bend, followed every bird, took enough breaks to eat our snacks, and take in all the beauty around us. 

Being part of a flora and fauna loving family, meant that this trip with its rich biodiversity was quite a treat. Binoculars, bird and flower guide books, multiple lens cameras, sharp eyes and ears, and a lot of patience were necessary on this trail. So many varieties of wildflowers and we weren't even at the Valley of Flowers yet!

We passed villages and many stalls offering refreshments and hot aloo parathas. When lunchtime came, we reached our midpoint at the river crossing. We picked the lunch stall with the best view overlooking the river bed, the mountains and the glacier at the far end. Truly the view makes the food taste better (that and the butter of course!).

With full stomachs, the next uphill stretch was quite a strain. We persisted, the views continuing to reward us. A couple hours later, and 4000ft gained, we reached the opening in the valley. 

Feeling quite accomplished, we dragged our feet around the last few bends before reaching the little village of Ghangaria. The last village in the Bhyundar valley, this village gets buried under 12 feet of snow in the winter and is accessible for only 6 months of the year. The hotel owners make they way up here in June to replace all their pipe systems and repair the buildings to be ready for customers in May and at peak season the little hotels are full of travelers and pilgrims.

Nestled in the valley with waterfalls emptying into the basin, meadows with grazing mules, the bustling main street of Ghangaria, a satisfying dinner, warm duvets, and deep sleep- a happy end to the day.


Margaret Christo said...

Tanisha dearest - I enjoyed reading your blog and seeing your beautiful pictures. I wish I could have been with all of you. Waiting for part 2. Love you and miss you. Aunty Maggie

Ed Skau said...

Reading this made me feel alsmost as if I was there with you guys! Thanks for sharing! Share some more.