Dibyajyoti Ghosh

An ode to “Stairway to Heaven”: Valley of Flowers National Park

An ode to “Stairway to Heaven”: Valley of Flowers National Park

“The journey not the arrival matters.”- T.S. Eliot, Famous British poet.

 

Uttarakhand is a northern Himalayan state of India famous for its serene pristine natural beauty. Uttarakhand is often at the top of the priority list for travellers. Dubbed as Deb Bhoomi because of its homage for a large number of Hindu temples, Uttarakhand has two divisions namely Kumaon and Garhwal with a large potential for destressing the modern man through breathtakingly beautiful scenic places, visiting several pilgrimages, forested areas as well as interesting cities like Dehradun, Musoorie, Nainital and others in the foothills of Himalaya. There are many protected areas in Uttarakhand with their unique biodiversity and charismatic wildlife which attract millions of tourists every year. However, unlike those the Valley of Flowers national Park holds special privilege due to its unique location and diverse journey experiences. If you love flowers, colours, wilderness and want to have some spiritual peace, Valley of Flowers is definitely a place for you to visit.

Location:

Valley of Flowers National Park is a part of Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, an UNESCO World heritage site declared in 1988 due to its unique geographical, topographical and climatic transition zone located in Chamoli district. It has a total area of 87 sq. km. The park is a feast to eyes due its undisturbed alpine location with unique vegetation and harbouring a great array of different flowers and wildlife.




Forest permissions and Logistics:

Ghangharia is the last town before entering Valley of Flowers National Park. The park is a protected area that requires permission at the entry gate from the forest officials. One can have ticket for entering the park from the check post there. The altitude of the park ranges from roughly 3400 meters to 4200 which gives the area an exposure of an alpine mountain. There are no available staying options inside the park, so one must trek back before evening.

The Journey to Tranquility: 

Journey to this mesmerising landscape starts by reaching Joshi math from Dehradun by four wheeler vehicle, which may take as long as 10 hours to cover around 295 km. Joshi Math has plenty of staying options available. The next step starts early in the morning with a  travel of around 20 km till Govind Ghat. Distance from Govind ghat  to Ghangharia is around 13 km. Private cars are available and charge Rs. 300/ head to reach Pulna village, a distance of 3 kms. From Pulna the rest of the journey has to be undertaken on foot. One may hire Khachars(mules)/ porters for carrying provisions or even to carry a tourist. Many local food joints are present along the trek route with options of noodles, tea, coffee and rice. Usually the trek takes 6-7 hours to reach Ghangharia depending on the capability of the individual. There are many staying options available in Ghangharia with prices ranging from 700- 3,500/ night. Non-veg food is not allowed as it is also the abode of Hem Kunt Sahib (a gurudwara located in almost 4200 m.).

Early mornings here can come as a shock to the city bred folks due to stillness all around till one gets accustomed to listen to the sounds of silence in the bone chilling weather. Early in the trek route and after a certain height comes a wide panoramic view of whole Ghangharia, misty with the clouds hugging the town, taking away all our negative vibes. Around 500 meters of the entry gate comes a river fall which still tells stories full of anecdotes by its sound and course. As the trek goes on finds that the undulating feature of the trails based on their exposure to the sun gives rise to different kinds of moisture in soil and harbour different vegetation types. One can enjoy dense vegetation along the road and suddenly the landscape changes to showcase a wide open panoramic view of the valley.

I wonder, how it can be possible to feel nostalgic about a place where I have never been before. A rough trek of 7 kms is to be completed to reach the actual Valley of Flowers where the blanket of flowers feels like touching the horizon. As cold breeze wafting over the carpet of flowers and drizzling rain touches our shivering cheeks, we just allow our eyes to wander in any movement and direction as they please to soak in the beauty of this incredible valley of flowers. One can just see different colours of flowers in different directions. According to folklore one can get disoriented in this place as our senses become numb with joy and then become ecstatic.  The only sounds present here are the running breeze and humming of bumble bees on different flowers.

Several kinds of wildlife like Bullfinches, rosefinches, laughing thrush, redstart; butterflies, spiders can be observed as the area still holds pristine aesthetics and have less human interactions. Pikas, lagomorphs that looks like in between hare and rodents are abundant in here which gives a certain cuddling feeling like cute and small teddy bears. Apart from those, Siberian weasel, Black bear, Blue sheep and Snow leopard is reported from the region. One needs to trek back to the check post before 1600 hrs. and report check out from the park due to security issues.

Locals have some food shops, hotels and stationary stores who sell different daily life belongings. People of Ghangharia abandon the region and migrate down to Pulna during the winter season when life becomes hard up here due to heavy snow fall. Ideal time for visiting the park is from March to September whereas March is flowering peak season. Nature lover especially flower lovers can visit from March to August to enjoy flowering feast. One will surely enjoy the peaceful and blissful nature in all its glory at the Valley of Flowers.

 

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Dibyajyoti Ghosh

Junior Project Fellow,
National Mission on Himalayan Studies (NMHS), Zoological Survey of India
Dibyajyoti Ghosh

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