A ‘flowery’ Tale
“There is no happiness to him who does not travel” -the Rig Veda
Life, at reasonable frequency, finds its ways to take your wisdom and maturity to a higher elevation. Maturity then, lies is how much we allow such experiences to permeate our lives.
My trek to the Valley of flowers was one of the most eventful, learning rich, soul warming experiences of my life.
Irrespective of what prevailing dictates persist of a given place, each traveller shapes for himself a unique experience, which is a confluence of what he knows, what he sees and what he takes away. Each day of my trek somehow dovetails with a fitting Bollywood number. So here I go, trying to pen my experiences in a classic Piscean way.
The state of Uttarakhand is referred to as ‘Dev Bhoomi’ –the abode of the Gods. Visit the Valley of flowers and Hemkund Sahib once and you will not for a split second feel that ‘Dev Bhoomi’ is an aggrandized sobriquet.
Day 1: Govindghat to Ghangria:
Chale chalo mitwa…. In unchi neechi raaho me..
After Managing to reach govindghat after a trilogy of landslides, which in itself was like an adventure before the trek began, I was in strange mix of emotions. Excited that I saw a small landlslide from a very short distance and dubious about the delays it would cause to our trek.
We were told that the mules and porters were on strike that day. It must have brought maximum agony to the women who thought they could safely unload their burden to someone else. (women are always women!). I thought I had come far from the urban lands of employees and union strikes. But heck, it’s a small world! We gradually started our climb, trying to feel the cool, take some ‘warm up’ photographs and getting to know each other better.
It was noon and our trekking leader found himself amidst an avalanche of questions about the distance, where our lunch would be and most importantly ‘WHEN’??. The seasoned and experienced man that he was, he greeted all our qualms and tantrums with a stoic smile and somehow managed to assuage our fears of going hungry till Ghangaria.
After a tiring walk to ghangaria, we were left roofless following some strike by the locals.Our guide returned after a while and managed to give us a sigh of relief. The gurudwara in ghangria had agreed to host all the tourists in ghangria that day. I entered, for the first time in my life a vibrant yet peaceful gurudwara with a plethora of people queuing near the office looking for accommodation. We entered a dorm with at least a hundred and fifty people inside. Men engrossed in discussions and mothers taking care of their children, amidst some trifle quarrels between people for blankets and beds.- the scene looked a bit tense and yet amusing.
In spite of the long walk, I didn’t seem to feel the fatigue. Gymming regimes seem to have helped. Drawn by the soulful chants in the adjacent prayer hall, I spent a lot of time there doing what generally brings utmost peace- prayer. The sanctity, the energy so refreshing and memorable. The contagious positivity among the sardars inspite of such unexpected aftermaths is a learning I have taken for lifetime. I see myself reflecting. “did I ever in the wildest dreams imagine that I would sleep alongside hundreds of people in a gurudwara- that too in the himalayan mountains?? . I realized that a single trek doesn’t go perfectly as planned. Let alone planning your life.
Day 2: Ghangria to VOF:
Yeh kahaa… aa gaye hum..
We had a relaxed walk to VOF after a breakfast in the gurudwara, amidst a ravishing scene of some mountains lit by the golden early morning sunlight. The beautiful mountains help you regain your calm a lot faster than normal. We start seeing the flowers on our way excited about what lay ahead- and we FINALLY arrive.
The soothing silence…. The misty breeze….the vast floral diaspora redolent with a mild perfume…. Multiple colors…gushing sound of the flowing waters….. the enormity of the surrounding mountains… and the delicate beauty of the omnipresent geraniums and pink balsams. These are perhaps what strike most when you enter the VOF. A famous aphorism goes thus : “Nature is never in a hurry, yet everything is accomplished’. At some level, nature seems to implicitly question the unpleasant haste and aggression that has meandered into our lives as an excuse for better achievements. It’s a subversive heterodoxy.
Each flower seems to tell you a tale, each bee is busy with its day’s work. When god is the artist and nature the canvas, the best role we could take then is that of an audience. The nature lover and biologist that I am, the valley left lasting impressions. Close my eyes for a second (even after 2 days) and what I see is the valley of flowers and mountains. Dineshji vindicates my plight, and says it’l be a while before we can get out of it completely.
The Icing on the cake- strike is lifted off in ghangria on our arrival.! We gorged on the Rotis and blackdal like never before. Like they say, in the end everything will be fine; & if its not, then it ain’t the end.
Day 3: Ghangria to Hemkund Sahib
Sama hai suhaana suhaana
After a lot of if and buts on who’s taking the mule and who’s not- (one even took the helicopter and flew back to govindghat. four of us determined souls decided to trek. There is a certain delicate charm to the trail from ghangria to hemkund. Alongside the fabric waterfalls, dainty clouds, glaciers and flowers, you bask in the warmth of a million smile s of fellow travellers and feel grateful that you’re blessed with good health when you encounter differently abled people. The kind gestures and energetic singing of co- travellers reinforces your vigor and faith in the goodness of humanity. Each person is cheering the other, the common purpose of reaching the holy Hemkund sahib being the subtle connecting chord between people.
After scraping through the many shortcuts on the way, we reached hemkund after a stiff climb on the last trail.
The soulful guru gobind singh chants grip you from quite a distance. The sweet waters of the hemkund lake, the chilling breeze at 4 degrees, the devotion in the air and the hot kichdi at the end of it all. Life cant be more beautiful. Adventure, spirituality, nature, trekking and peace of mind. A rare meeting indeed. After some rest and prayer in hemkund, you begin the long walk back but not before you see the vast stretch of the beautiful bramhakamals around. I return to ghangria- with blisters on my legs and every bone in my body aching after the irksome walk- and yet I find that I’m encompassed by a sense of evening calm and fulfillment. I trekked to hemkund and back after all!
zindagi…kaisi yeh paheli haa..ye…
The last day already. We begin an early start to govindghat from Ghangria. The attraction to watch out for- having a hot butter smeared Aloo paratha with achaar sitting next to a beautiful waterfall!!. The best breakfast ever.
We always return richer when we travel. For mostly the first time, I met people who think just the way I do, who share the same dreams and who just love to be silly like me. I’m forced to give up my long held belief that it takes years to build deep friendships. The epiphany dawns that it’s not years, but a common purpose, an adventure and unique experience that suffices to keep people bonded for a life time. I learnt something from everyone, savored the joy of making people laugh and seeing people’s compassion.
I realized that In just a few days- and I’m left transformed- to carry on with my life in a new and renewed fashion; with greater patience, lesser expectations and a certain openness to uncertainty. I’m thankful to Indiahikes for organizing such wonderful treks.
I returned to office- and yes, life goes on.