October 12, 2008

valley of flowers: part II

Day 2, Sun Aug 24: After spending a good night in Joshimath, time was now to further our journey. Our day started early. We got up at 6 and had checked out of the TRH by 7:30 am. Plan was to take some mode of transportation till Govindghat. From there we were to start our first trek, to Ghangharia. We got a jeep for Govindghat from Badrinath taxi stand in Joshimath. After a drive of less than an hour, the jeep dropped us just at the border of Govindghat. From the road itself, we could see Laxman Ganga, river that flows from glaciers beyond Hemkund, falling into Alaknanda. After walking for about 10-15 min, we reached our trek start point. By the way, our cellphones had stopped working as soon as we left Joshimath, so luckily we were unreachable now and we remained so till the end of our trip.

We hired a porter for our luggage here (for Rs. 405). Though there are lockers available in Govindghat for luggage, we didn't want to leave anything behind as we were going to be in Ghangharia for at least 3 days. It was 9:45 am now. Much to our surprise, it was quite nice and sunny; from whatever we had researched earlier, we were pretty sure that it was gonna be cloudy and rainy. Well, it was good for us because being as heedless as we sometimes are, we didn't carry any rain gear. Trek beginning was pretty easy as we were excited. But, long and quick steps that we were taking (at least I was) made us little breathless. After about 4 kms of trek, waterfall near Pulna village started to appear. We took a short break here. Next 5 km were comparatively easy. Trek leveled out at lot of places. We kept meeting Laxman Ganga on and off on the way.

The next village we encountered on the trek was Bhyundar village. Ghangharia was still 3kms from here. These were the most difficult 3 kms of this trek. It gets pretty steep from here, and unpaved trek, with uneven rocks on the path, makes it even more difficult. By this time we were in a sort of trance. We were just walking. We had learned the trick to walk on the mountains. Small steps, no hurry, and no long stops to make up for the slow pace. Believe me, it works.

Anyway, we reached Ghangharia by 3pm. We were mighty hungry by this time. But, we wanted to find a place to stay first. We chose to stay in GMVN TRH again, but not without checking other options. It was pretty expensive (Rs 950 per day and Rs 35 for a bucket of hot water) compared to other options, but somehow it felt more spacious. I think the nice courtyard in TRH made the difference. After putting our luggage inside and having lunch in the restaurant in front of our TRH, we fell asleep.

Now, Ghanghria is a makeshift village. After October 5, when Hemkund Sahib is closed and snow is all around, everybody starts moving to lower areas. They come back only in the beginning of June, when snow starts melting and Hemkund is reopened. That's the reason you can find only basic minimum things here and since there is no road connecting it to the rest of the world (only way to reach here is either by mules or by foot or helicopter) everything is quite expensive here. So be prepared for the prices like Rs 30 for a water bottle and Rs 35 for a butter toast (with miniature breads). Electricity is available here only between 7 pm and 10 pm. That's when telephone exchange works and even when it works, chances of your call getting through are pretty slim. You have to try for at least for 15 min to make a call. No wonder the telephone guy charges you 15 bucks per minute :) So as you can see, we were pretty discouraged to make any calls, which is good. After having a rather not so good dinner in TRH restaurant we called it a day and hit the sack.

Pics of the story so far.

I know, I know it took very long to publish second part. The delay was mainly due to short trip to Leh and other things that I have to do for living :) Hope to post other parts sooner.

Manu Garg / http://www.manugarg.com

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