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Hill tribe water buffulo herd girl in the Himalayas India 2003
One of my favourite photos from 2003, a hill tribe water buffalo herd girl in the Himalayas
Nilkanth Peak, Badrinath, Uttarakhand 2003
Nilkanth Peak, Badrinath, 2003

This story started in 2003 with I wonder what is up that Valley?

In 2003, on my first trip to the Himalayas, the travelling group I was with walked many tracks and trails. We visited sacred sites and ancient temples situated in green fertile river valleys such as Kalimath on the Saraswati River (Uttarakhand) and on high rocky peaks like Kartikeya temple (3050mt/10,006ft) with its 360-degree views of the Himalayas in Rudraprayag Mandakini valley also in Uttarakhand. We walked in the footsteps of saints, sages and yogis. I immersed myself in the beauty of this incredible landscape and I will never forget that journey – it was amazing, varied, interesting and challenging. We explored new places I had never even heard or dreamed of and it was at this time that I fell in love with the Himalayas.

With the high Himalayas as my backdrop I sit above the Chopta Forest and Tungnath temple Indian Himalayas 2003
On Chandrashila (4000m 13,000ft) above Chopta Forest and Tungnath Temple Himalayas India 2003
Karitikeya Temple (Kartik Swami Temple) 2003
360 Degree views of the high Himalayas are demonstrated from Kartikeya Temple, (Kartik Swami Temple) India
Old wandering Yogi, Karitikeya Temple, India 2003
Wandering yogi (sage) at Karitikeya temple (Kartik Swami) temple, Himalayas India 2003
Tungnath temple, Chopta Forest, India 2003
A very ancient temple above the Chopta forest area – called Tungnath. 2003

Some snippets from that journey to inspire you

I’m not going to share all of the previous stories, but on the road from Joshimath to Badrinath, high in the Garhwal mountains, there was one side valley that our guide Dev pointed to and said, ‘That walk is not for the faint hearted’. The trek to the Valley of Flowers was not on our itinerary; however after this trip I was left wondering… “what is it like up there?” I have always been curious and whilst travelling or tramping in New Zealand, would often speculate about what was up a side valley.

Mountains near Joshimath, Uttarakhand, Himalayas 2003
High mountains towards Valley of Flowers, India, 2003
Yogi and Dev having tea and swapping stories, Himalayas, India 2003
Dev (travel guide) and Yogi having tea and telling stories in the Himalayas 2003

The tour in 2003 ended but my love of the Himalayas remained. I continued to wonder what was this Valley of Flowers like, this track from the roadside town of Govind Ghat. And so, in 2006, having just completed some university study whilst working, I decided to reward myself with a journey to visit my children living around the world. I included my first return to India, I decided this was the time to find out – what is up that valley!

Chopta forest camp, Himalayas India 2003
Camping in the Chopta forest below Tungnath Temple, Himalayas India
Shiva statue in the grounds of Parmath Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, Shivalak Hills, Himalayas, India,
Shiva statue in the grounds of Parmath Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, Shivalak Hills, Himalayas, India,

Planning the 2006 trip

Working with my travel friend Suresh Check out Suresh’s website here and book your trip! we made our plan for this journey over email and phone calls. Plans included trekking to the Valley of Flowers.

Rice terraces, Himalayas, India, 2003
Beautiful terraced hillsides in the Himalayas in varying stages of rice and grain harvest, India 2003

Getting started

I arrived in Delhi from the UK and soon we were making our way to Rishikesh the holy city near Haridwar in the Shivalik foothills of the Himalayas. We stayed here for a few days enjoying ashram life, the Ganges, the ‘Beatles Ashram’ and meeting friends before embarking on the long drive to Joshimath (2,046mt/6,713ft), known as the Gateway to the Himalayas. This would be the last big stop before embarking on the trek the following day.

Signpost to the Beatles Ashram, Rishikesh, India 2006
Signpost to the Beatles Ashram, Rishikesh, India 2006
Entrance to the Beatles Ashram Rishikesh India as it was in 2006
Entrance to the Beatles Ashram Rishikesh India as it was in 2006
Beatles ashram and Ganges, Rishikesh, Indai 2006
Meditation huts overlooking the Ganges, Beatles Ashram, Rishikesh
Misty mountains in the Himalayas from Joshimath India 2006
On the way to Joshimath. Misty Mountains Himalayas 2006

The trek begins

Early the next morning we drove to Govind Ghat where we left our car and driver. The plan was to walk the 13km up to Ghangaria (3049mt/10,003ft), the ‘base camp’ or last village on this trek before the walk the following day, into the Valley of Flowers. I still remember the excitement and trepidation. Excitement at the trip and the prospect of knowing what was up that valley and trepidation at the long walk, up-hill, at altitude. It was hot, long and tough. Our local guide was great at encouraging me to keep going even when I was so out of breath I could not respond. But the scenery of high cliffs, waterfalls, deep valleys and the rushing river Lakshman Ganga was amazing! The Lakshman Ganga runs into the Alaknanda river at Govind Ghat and on into the Ganges further down-stream.

Valley of Flowers track looking towards Govind Ghat
From the track to the Valley of Flowers looking back to Govind Ghat India 2006 – This town is where, in 2003, Dev said – ‘it is not for the feint hearted’….
Waterfall on way to Valley of Flowers, Himalayas, India 2006
A waterfall across the valley on the trek from Govind Ghat to Gangaria and the Valley of Flowers, India 2006

Meeting pilgrims along the trail

Looking back, it was truly a pilgrimage, where I walked with the Sikh pilgrims who were heading up the same track, trail and stone steps. Stopping at tea shops and a lunch break in a small trackside cafe, we eventually reached our destination after 78 hours of slow hard walking.

Govind Ghat Bridge to Valley of Flowers, India 2006
Suresh on the bridge, beginning the trek to the Vallely of Flowers along with many other pilgrims, Govind Ghat, Himalayas, India 2006
Lakshman Ganga, above Govind Ghat, towards Valley of Flowers, Himalayan India, 206
Walking with the Sikh pilgrims. Beside the rushing Lakshman Ganga on the trail to Gangaria, Valley of Flowers, India 2006

I was almost overwhelmed with the walk but was certainly overwhelmed with the beauty of the area and its scenery including the high mountains and glaciers which delighted all of my senses. I had no idea there was a waterfall in the vicinity of the Valley of Flowers base-camp of Ghangaria. This was late June so it was in its fullness, flowing freely and beautifully down the mountainside. I have never forgotten the sight and sound of it. I also did not know about the track up to the Hemkund Lake and temple – pilgrimage place to the Sikh community (4633mt/15,197ft).

Waterfall view and track to Hemkund from Gangaria, India 2006
From Gangaria looking towards Hemkund with the Pilgrims on the trail, Gangaria, Valley of Flowers, India 2006
Two Sikh pilgrims in Gangaria returning from Hemkund Valley Of Flowers, India, 2006
Two Sikh pilgrims in Gangaria returning from Hemkund, Valley Of Flowers, India 2006

The dream comes true

Arrival at Gangaria, base camp of the the Valley of Flowers - the gorge into the valley is behind me. 2006
Arrival at Gangaria, base camp of the the Valley of Flowers – the gorge into the valley is behind me. 2006
The river Pushpawati in the Valley of Flowers and the misty mountains, Valley of Flowers, India, 2006
The river Pushpawati and the misty mountains in the Valley of Flowers, India, 2006

The following day we walked the 3km into the much dreamed of Valley of Flowers (3658mt/10,200ft). The day was beautiful; sunny and warm but with some clouds threatening rain. Along the way we saw rare blue Himalayan Poppies nestling in the old bark of fallen trees and among the greenery of the low flowers and grass.

Rare blue Himalayan poppy in the Valley of Flowers India 2006
I have waited over 10 years to share this photo of the rare blue Himalayan poppy in the Valley of Flowers India 2006
 On the low river track, which is now gone, in 2006 Valley of Flowers, India
On the low river track, which is now gone, in 2006 Valley of Flowers, India

It was a time of year when many flowers are in bloom and I took some nice photos.

One of the blooms in the Valley of Flowers, India 2006
One of the blooms in the Valley of Flowers, India 2006
Our guide on the trek through the Valley of Flowers, India, 2006
Our guide on the path of the trek through the Valley of Flowers, India, 2006
Flower in the Valley of Flowers India-2006
Flower in the Valley of Flowers India-2006

After about 2 hours, our guide and I arrived at the ‘big rock’ deep in the valley. We took the main path and headed some way up this track. After sitting on a smaller rock, having a snack and drink, we realised Suresh was not following us up the track. We called and looked for him for quite some time and then the rain started. Reluctantly I left with our guide to return to the village and await Suresh’s return. The alternative was to call for a rescue mission. I imagined telling Kumud, Suresh’s wife, that we had lost him. I pictured in my mind the last photo I took of him approaching the small bridge and handing this photo to her, and I felt anxious and sad. This was a very real situation we were facing; people have gone missing in the Valley of Flowers, never to be found.

Suresh on the track in the Valley of Flowers India 2006
Suresh on the track in the Valley of Flowers India 2006

Suresh’s return

It had gotten quite cold and I changed into dry warm clothes. Sitting in a restaurant in Ghangaria, an open room with tables and benches, being offered warm soup and tea I anxiously waited whilst our guide went back into the Valley in the rain to look for Suresh. He had tried to reassure me he would find him, but I was seriously worried. About 2 hours later, when the rain stopped, I walked up to the stone bridge over the river that came down from the base of the waterfall and, with eyes glued to the turnoff to where they would come out of the Valley track, I waited.

I sat there for some time – I cannot remember how long, feeling tortured and sad that I had lost my friend and leader when around the corner they came, waving their arms at me, with big smiles on their faces, wet from the rain, but unharmed. I cried and jumped with joy and ran up as best I could in the altitude to meet them. Suresh had followed us across the bridge, and in deep contemplation had taken the turn up a side track thinking we had walked up there ahead of him. When he could not find us up near the top of the track and the rain started, he headed back to the bridge where our guide met him on the track.

Suresh and our guide returning from being 'lost' in the Valley of Flowers, India 2006
Suresh (happy smiles) and our guide returning from being ‘lost’ in the Valley of Flowers, India 2006

Memories kept alive

That night we went to a small shop in Ghangaria where they sell DVDs, photographs and other souvenirs of the Valley of Flowers and the surrounding area. I purchased items to bring home. To this day I look at those photos and think lovingly of my time in this beautiful place in the high Himalayas. I would dream of returning and making the trek into the Valley again and of climbing the track beside the waterfall to Hemkund to see the temple, the lake and the view I never knew was there until I came to this remote and stunning valley.

I have since done just that, with three friends in September 2017 – (Link to this story will be inserted here following publication)

The following day we walked back down the mountain and headed for Badrinath, also known as ‘The Abode of the Gods’ – which was a surprise side trip for me that Suresh had arranged. I was like an excited child jumping up and down in these Himalayan mountains where I love to roam. Suresh’s smile covered his whole face at my delight and childlike reaction.

The clear view into the Valley of Flowers before leaving to go back to Govind Ghat, India 2006
The clear view into the Valley of Flowers before leaving to go back to Govind Ghat, India 2006
Me sitting on a wall on our return down the valley track - above Govind Ghat - happy that we have been to the Valley Of Flowers and achieved our goal! India 2006
Me sitting on a wall on our return down the valley track – above Govind Ghat – happy that we have been to the Valley Of Flowers and achieved our goal! India 2006
Suresh, on our return, above Govind Ghat - happy that we have been to the VOF and achieved our goal! India 2006
Suresh, on our return, above Govind Ghat – happy that we have been to the VOF and achieved our goal! India 2006
Badrinath Temple
Badrinath Temple

When I returned to New Zealand, I met my husband Manfred and he lovingly recalls that I never stopped talking about the Valley of Flowers and returning there someday – and now I have.

Suresh with snow and ice from the small glaciel river in the Valley of Flowers, India 2006
Suresh with snow and ice from the small glaciel river in the Valley of Flowers, India 2006
Himalayan mountain near Gangotri, India 2003
Himalayan mountain near Gangotri, India 2003

I have not given away too much of the story and beauty of this place I experienced in 2006 – I am saving those intricate details for the upcoming story of the journey in 2017 to be published very soon. Watch this space!

Some other great photos from those trips!

Beautiful Indian Lady at the Aarti at Parmath Niketan Ashram Rishikesh India 2006
Beautiful Indian Lady at the Aarti at Parmath Niketan Ashram Rishikesh India 2006
Myself with Pujya Swami Saraswatiji Munuji, Rishikesh, India 2006
Myself with Pujya Swami Saraswatiji Munuji, Parmath Niketna Ashram, Rishikesh, India 2006
Bramachari's at Parmath Niketan, Rishikesh, 2003
Bramachari’s at Parmath Niketan, Rishikesh, 2003
My first meeting with Seema at Balori when we first met 2003
My first meeting with Seema at Balori when we first met 2003
Ram Jula - Rishikesh bridge 2003
Ram Jula – Rishikesh bridge 2003
House of eternal flame Kalimath, India, 2003
House of eternal flame Kalimath, India, 2003
Ancient temple and eternal fire house Kalimath 2003
Ancient temple and eternal fire house Kalimath 2003
One of my favouite and most interesting temples is Kalimath Temple - photo taken 2003
One of my favouite and most interesting temples is Kalimath Temple – photo taken 2003 (I returned here in 2014)
Pathway and meditation huts, Beatles Ashram, Rishikesh, India 2003
Pathway and meditation huts, Beatles Ashram, Rishikesh, India 2003
A farming hill tribe woman carrying winter feed for the animals Himalayas India
A farming hill tribe woman carrying winter feed for the animals Himalayas India
One last look - Glaciers and mistiness in the Valley of Flowers, India 2006
One last look – Glaciers and mistiness in the Valley of Flowers, India 2006

#valleyofflowersindia #travelindia #Himalayanadventures #Himalayas #India #lettheadventurebegin #mistymountains #travel #worldtraveler #badrinath #Gangotri #Nalkinth #Tungnath

10 thoughts on “Himalayan India: Journeying towards the Valley of Flowers”

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments and it is great now to be writing the 2017 story – and there will be some nice new photos to share too. I like your comment about adding ‘spice’ to the travels. I might have to use that in my story!! thanks Teresa 🙂

  1. I love going back to some destination and see how they evolve. I’ve never heard of this valley, the views look beautiful and peaceful.
    Thanks for sharing

  2. Thank you Melanie, it is an very beautiful hidden gem and the history of the area is wonderful too… I will add a link to its history in my upcoming story of my 2017 journey! It is a place etched in my memories forever – but you probably got that picture from my story 🙂 thanks Teresa

    1. Thank you Varsha, that is lovely – I am trying to find time to get the follow up written – not easy this week! but soon 🙂

  3. The Himalayas… it feels so far from me and even though I would like to venture in this area…I just didn’t see it coming soon:) Well… maybe one day but thanks for sharing your adventure.

    1. It is definitly well worth putting on the list of great places to visit… keep the Himalayas in the background of your destinations until they come forward and beckon you to visit 🙂 regards Teresa

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