How we reached till here is in the first part
Gangharia is a temporary town on a half kilo meter-ish long road. Is the base camp for VoF and Hemkund. It has a Gurudwara, loads of hotels, an information center. The sole purpose of the locals there is to cater to the tourists. It is a wonder to have anything at that height. So mildew, mossy damp hotel was tolerated and slept in. We made a resolve to set out real early for the trek. So by early 9:30 am we set out post breakfast, beverages and medication for a “tonsilated” dotty dear. My advice in case you go there, stick to your resolve of early start. It will pay you much, this free advice.
The trek in VoF
Again the kids were to be in the Pithoos and we were having our walking sticks. Just at the end of the road at Gangharia there is a fork. Right one takes you to Hemkund via a small water fall. The left one takes you to a check point. The check point records your names and starts the path to the VoF. The flowers themselves do not know this and appear where ever you look. We started and soon found out that our guide is more of a mountain man than a flower guy. He know a bit and we went about pointing and identifying the flowers when he could.
The mountain air was in all of us. The air learns from the water to be naughty. It is cool, crisp and bit heady. It makes the heart happy. As it caresses the tree tops, ever present water floats down, sometimes gets caught on leaf or a needle. Perfect for a waiting photographer. The air there makes you young, the mind spiritual. We forgot about the life in the plains and get focused on the job on hand, despite a late night and the rum there in. The winding tracks, happy dogs make you think of life and universe and not on the next meal to cook or the next deliverable to meet. Flowers charm you into smiles and the mules make you close your nose. Luckily they are not allowed in the Valley, past the check post.
It is not legal to pluck and keep the flowers. So do not even think about it here. I used dotty dear as a shield and plucked a few and then found a lot of them already on the ground, detached. Picked them up and pressed them in a note book I had bought in Badri. As we climbed there are more flowers, pink, violet, blue, white, yellow. Poppy, Edelweiss, Aster, Germanium, Hogweed, Thyme …
The group slowly splintered once more and as I was shooting videos and photos only to get lost in thoughts. These walks have a way of finding the rhythm. Number of steps to a breath get negotiated and then settled. So does the wandering mind. All the “motor” functions get into auto-mode. So the everything becomes effort less, till a steep climb pains the muscles or a pretty waterfall captivates the eyes. The presence of those beautiful flowers add to the misty, in the clouds, ethereal feel. Soon I was not listening to the guide, nor was clicking at every different flower. That said did enough of zooming and macro-ing as done. Lost in thoughts rounded a corner and heard a roar saw a metal bridge. The rest of the group was posing near a massive waterfall. Between the bridge and the fall. And the trek got steeper after this.
As we walked we saw more flowers. By now the novelty of the flowers was wearing off, but the scenery made up for the loss. Huge mountains full of plants with flowers and large pines and other assorted trees, soaked with streams and mini falls. Drifting clouds playing the fiddle. Breaths were coming in even and deep. Photos were being clicked in couples, singles and groups. Prasad was the camera Guru and a magnet. It is wise to be around the guru if you want pretty pictures of yours.
The climb evened out and in a distance we saw a big boulder jutting out. Steady trot took us there and we saw people having lunch. We did too. And it started to rain. And dotty dear wanted to potty. We managed to clear that quietly. The rain brought the water and the zero visibility. So we had to stay put and wait. Time meanwhile did not have to, by the way it never does. It was late afternoon when it cleared and we marched forward. Other lunching groups were going back. See that advice on early start? They took it and we did not.
The walk in a mountain after the rain will never be forgotten. There is the magic of freshly washed landscape. The mountains re assert themselves and are more clearly visible. Eyes just cool and open up. Legs want to dance. The wisp-ing clouds hiding and revealing everything just add the icing needed to make it picture perfect. We walked to a clearing before a steep fall. The ferns there were light to progressively darker green in colour. The flowers were of all colours. They never seem to clash no matter what. Green , brown mountains, swaying flowers, curling ferns, they only complement each other, make the mosaic complete. White thin clouds were breaking the monotony.
It was slightly getting late and there was more to trek. Went ahead a bit more till a stream. And then we had to turn back. While we had covered all the flowers, there was ground that was left un explored. Heart heavy, pragmatism having won, the group tuned back. Paused at the bolder and the trip back started. Crickets were cacophony-ing as only they can in the trees. Birds were flying back as well. With slow, regular steps me and wify dear walked back lost in reflections. We regrouped near a stream and planned for the next leg.
Back in the hotel and dinner. All the restaurants here give basic Punjabi food that is ok. We started with hot Jelibies, aloo tikki and Rabdi on the road side. The dinner itself nothing to write home about. We had decided to trek down the next day and go to Auli after seeing Joshi math. Giving Hemkund a miss. Heard it is a very pretty place and the lake spectacular, so wanted to see it dearly. But Dotty dear was running fever and the rooms at the hotel were bugging us. So dinner, sleep and prepare for the third leg it was.
Next, trek down and the ski resort at Auli
Note: This post is little less in details and facts. It is about how we went about and what I thought. Look at this excellent article that has the facts and details presented nicely.