Early in the morning, we started our trek for the valley of flowers at about 8:00 am. It was a climb, at times, steep and strenuous. I had the luxury of money if I wanted one but this time, I avoided one. The valley was full of exotic flowers – yellow, purple, white and cream. These were the prevalent colours. After a while, it suddenly broke up into rocks and boulders with waterfalls gushing through making their own path through the jagged rocks and boulders. There was a bridge to cross the fall and I clicked away at the scenery with only the sound of wild water gushing away reverberating in my ear. That was the only noise that I could hear as I struggled to trek upwards in search of more exotic flowers. To my disappointment, I was told that this was the end of the season and thus, the variety of flowers was limited. I did manage to see the Bel Patra. This is a tree whose bark was used like paper to write on, especially, in the olden days. We had packed lunch which I gobbled up. Of course, my tour guide, Rawat, was with me throughout the journey making sure that I was healthy even at 16000 ft.
I was back at our hotel in the evening for a warm bath. Hot water was provided in buckets by the massage men. Tea and coffee were readily available. I had to get used to the vegetarian food. I enjoyed dosa and tomato soup as the evening dinner. There was a documentary on the Valley of Flowers that also played during the evening hours. Next day, I was dog tired and slept the entire day skipping my trip to Hemkund Sahib. I chatted with the Sardar pilgrims about their faith and resolved to come all the way up to their holy place. They told me about the histories of the Guru Dwara and how it was built by Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru Dwara is held in high esteem as a premier religious site for the Sikh faith in India. One of the Sikh friends told me that it ranks only after the Golden Temple.
BSNL was the only connection available and one could call from the landline phone service provided by the local Kirana shop owners or the local hotels and restaurant. I took the opportunity to duly call my grandmother and inform her of my wellbeing. It does get a bit chilly at night and one should carry a jacket, gloves and monkey cap, especially, at this time of the year. A raincoat is also advisable although I did not need one in this trip.
I had started falling in love with the Valley of Flowers and its waterfalls. It is the valley of meandering paths littered with horses and Khachars. There were palki walas as well carrying the old and the sick up the path to the gurudwara sahib. For those who wish to avoid the trek, there is also a helicopter service available. All in all, it was turning out to be an expedition of adventure and economy.