May 28, 2020

Valley of Flowers with Susan Jagannath

This week, The Musafir Stories speaks to Susan Jagannath, a best selling author and traveler as she takes us to the Valley of Flowers, with her new book titled 'The Valley of Flowers - The Ultimate guide to an adventure trek in the upper Himalaya'
Today's destination: Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand!
Nearest Airport: Jolly Grant, Dehradun 
Nearest Railway Station: Rishikesh
Prerequisites: Physical fitness, carry a form of ID (passport for foreigners)
Packing: Pack layers of clothes (warm, rain) along with hiking gear
Time of the year: June to September
Length of the itinerary: 10 days
Itinerary Highlights: 
- The Valley of Flowers (VoF) is a beautiful monsoon trek to the valley hidden in the heights of Uttarakhand in the Himalayan mountains, filled with carpets flowers, over 500 species that bloom during June - September
- Susan heads to the Valley of Flowers with her band of friends in the month of August. The trip inspired Susan to write the book (the only previous book written about this was in the early 1900s by British mountaineer Frank Smythe who discovered this place)
- The Valley is very close to Badrinath and the religious circuit of Chota Chardhaam. 
- Given that the valley is situated at a high altitude (14400 ft), it is imperative that one acclimatizes sufficiently. Hence traveling slowly and stopping over at other interesting places like Auli is a great option. 
- Gobind Ghat is the road head for the trek. One needs to trek from here to the base village Gangharia. 
- The Valley of Flowers national park is open only between 7-5PM, so it is advised to head to Gangharia the previous day and rest before heading to the VoF. 
- It is roughly a 10km trek from Gangharia to the VoF, so you will need to make the trip to the VoF and back the same day as staying there is not allowed. 
- One can either trek or avail the services of porters or a mule. The porters can carry you in bags called pittoos. 
- Options for food and lodging are plentiful in Ghangharia and around although the nicer places will need you to book accommodation  in advance. 
- The Ecocenter in Gangharia has a documentary screening every few hours that gives you information about the flora of the place. There are options to hire local guides from the centre who are very competent and knowledgeable. 
- Some of the flowers one can find are orchids, poppies, primulas, marigold, daisies, rhododendrons, Himalayan rose, Blue poppy, cobra lily amongst others. Best time is to visit after the monsoons since the flowers are in full bloom. 
- The Pushpavati river and some smaller streams criss cross as you walk from Gangharia to the VoF where you have to register yourself and pay the fee which is good for 3 days. 
- Milestones within the park include a big rock (baman pair), a glacier point and the grave of a botanist, Joanne Leigh. One can also trek to Badrinath all the way from the VoF with the help of a guide. 
- Hemkund Sahib is a separate trek which also starts from Gangharia and leads tot he very sacred Gurudwara Hemkund Sahib. Hemkund Sahib is at a height of over 15,000 ft. So precautions for AMS are necessary. 
- There is a langar service as well as accommodation for traveler in the Gurudwara. Other options around the area are Auli, Badrinath and the Chota CHardham locations.  
Link to the book:
The Valley of Flowers: The Ultimate Guide to an Adventure Trek in the Upper Himalaya
Shoutouts: Shabby and Man podcast!
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