My Himalayan Trekking trip was a life-time memorable trekking expedition. We travelled by train up to Haridwar on 21st August or Day 1 and hired an SUV from there. We drove 4 hours and stayed overnight in a hotel at 1,837 ft above mean sea level at Srinagar overlooking Alaknanda River.
Day 2 - We drove 5 hours and reached Badrinath Temple at a height of 10,248 ft above mean sea level. Guarded on either side by the two mountains, Nar and Narain, the Neelkanth Peak provides the splendid backdrop to the Temple. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu came to the area called 'Badri Van' or the berry garden to meditate after Narad rebuked the Lord for being immersed in the worldly pleasures. The main deity in the temple is the meditating Lord Vishnu. Facing the temple is Alaknanda River. The temple has three parts - the Garbh Grih, the Darshan Mandap and the Sabha Mandap.
It is not just shrine and pilgrimage that Badrinath offers; it offers, in addition, the awesome beauty of the snow clad mountain peaks and the surging landscapes of Garhwal region. It makes the visitor spellbound with its unparalleled gorgeousness. Then we did our night stay at Joshimath at 6,000 ft in a hotel overlooking the Himalayas.
Day 3 - We drove up to Govindghat at 6,000 ft and started our trek from there. The trek up to Ghagharia was 14 kms (7 hours), alongside Pushpawati River, which we covered partly trekking and partly on ponies. The trail is alternatively sunny and shady. We saw numerous huge natural water-falls at close distance during our way. At around half way down the trek, we crossed the river and went to the other bank. After this we no longer trekked alongside the river. Ghagharia is the base camp town at 10,000 ft for going to the Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib. It has a helipad, ordinary hotels, eating places and public telephone booths - Wireless Land Lines (since from Govindghat onwards there are no mobile signals/ data plan). It also has a Gurudwara which offers free accommodation and food to all.
Day 4 - We did the memorable up and down 13 kms trek on foot to the Valley of Flowers National Park at 12,400 ft. This 2,400 ft climb (one-way) meant coming down 1,000 ft and climbing up 3,400 ft only on naked rocky paths (no soft earth). We even crossed many water streams balancing on bare stones or temporary logs and tin-sheets, the so called bridges. The National Park is one of the UNESCO declared World Heritage Parks, which opens only 3 months in a year (early June to early September) when it is free from snow and blooming with flowers. It is renowned for its variety of alpine flowers. The valley changes its colours every fortnight in July and August because different flowers bloom at fortnightly intervals. We also had a look at the awesome summit of Ratanban peaks and 14 kms expanse of beautiful valley.
Trekkers should keep aware of the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere at this height, and start their downward trek the moment they face any inconvenience. Many tales are spun around the Valley of Flowers - usually about trekkers falling unconscious from the heavy scent of flowers on the valley floor. Whatever the stories, they do have a grain of truth in them, in a good way. It is rare to find a valley so full of flowers. Flowers bloom everywhere in a riot of colours - purple, yellow, white, pink ... They blanket the valley in such a way that sometimes, you cannot see the valley floor at all.
There we even ran out of stock of our drinking water bottles and had to depend on natural water springs to quench our thirst. No stall for drinking water, beverages or snacks the moment we leave Ghagharia. Our total trek was 8 hours 30 minutes and we were dead tired after completing it, however memorable for the life-time.
Day 5 - We went to Hemkund Sahib at approx 14,000 to 15,000 ft (some say the altitude is 14,360 ft and others put it at 15,200 ft). Anyway, the up and down trek is 12 kms which we did partly trekking on foot and partly on ponies. We got the opportunity of viewing the 'Brahm-Kamal', the rare flower found only in this region.
On the top is a lake with holy water (Hemkund), next to which is situated the Sikh Gurudwara (Temple), claimed to be the highest in the world. In accordance with Bachitra Natak, the autobiographical account of the tenth Guru, Gobind Singhji, it was at Hemkund 'adorned with seven snow peaks' that he meditated in his previous birth. A small stream emerges from Hemkund and then flows for several kms until it meets Pushawati beyond Ghagharia and Alaknanda at Govindghat below.
In spite of the difficult terrain Sikh and other devotees from all over the world make it to bath in the holy waters of Hemkund lake and pray at this Sikh shrine every summer between June and September. Its design, which was done keeping in mind the location and climate, makes it the only pentagonal Gurudwara in the world.
Another legend says that long before Sikhs began coming to Hemkunt, the lake was known to the people who lived in the nearby valleys as a place of pilgrimage. Its name was Lokpal, and its sanctity derived from its association with the tales of Gods. Most notably the God Lakshman, the younger brother of Lord Ram, is said to have meditated or done penance at Lokpal after being mortally wounded in a battle with the son of Ravan. Lakshman's wife wept and prayed that her husband be saved. The monkey god Hanuman was then able to find a life saving herb 'Sanjeevani Buti'. Upon the herb being administered to Lakshman, he miraculously revived. In celebration, God showered flowers from Heaven, which fell to the earth and took roots in the Valley of Flowers.
Whatever the legends, the scenario is quite overwhelming and fills one with a sense of tranquillity. The might of the mountains is reflected all around. The way provided us sights of many water-falls, valleys and serpentine paths.
Then in the evening, we took a helicopter ride (7 minutes) from Ghagharia to Govindghat, where we did night stay in a hotel overlooking the confluence of Alaknanda and Pushpawati Rivers.
Day 6 - We reboarded the hired SUV and travelled 8 hours to reach Rishikesh early evening. Evening was spent in Rishikesh with nightstay in an eco-hotel surrounded by trees.
Day 7 - We boarded flight from Dehradun to New Delhi and with a 2 hour stopover New Delhi to Lucknow, carrying with us many happy memories of this wonderful trekking holiday.