On way to Valley of Flowers
A trek to the beautiful Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand is nothing short of a dream. With the sky-kissing Himalayas carefully overlooking the valleys, blooming with colourful wildflowers, this one sure makes it to the list of most picturesque places in the country. Especially, in the monsoons – when the rest of the country hits a speed breaker on the travel front. Valley of Flowers are in full bloom despite the rain pounding rain and slippery slopes. Despite that, it remains one of the most popular treks in the Uttarakhand circuit.
It's hard to weave into words, the beauty of Valley of Flowers, and equally hard to explain the serenity that engulfs you at Hemkund Sahib, a spiritual spot for the Sikhs, with a Gurudwara that commemorates Guru Gobind Singh, that is located close by. For travellers, the setting of the Gurudwara – think, a glacial lake and seven mountains around – is the definite highlight. Many a trekkers skip Hemkund Sahib while planning the VoF trek, but it can be added to the same trip if you have only two more days at hand. In truth, Hemkund Sahib is not an just an ‘add on’, but a must-do if you're planning this trek - for the sheer tranquillity of the surroundings and the unforgettable views that come along.
Thankfully, I didn't make that mistake of skipping Hemkund Sahib and experienced, what can easily be defined, as a life-altering moment. At Hemkund Sahib, I lost a piece of my soul and found myself as well, both at the same time.
Snowing without any warning
The trek to Hemkund Sahib is a tricky one, which takes around 7-8 hours. Steeper than the VoF trail, this one tests your spirit, but what awaits at the top is surlye more than worth the effort it takes to reach there. Being a religious trail, this one is lined with many a shops that serve tea, Maggi and provide stopovers to rest for a while. More than half-way through, one can choose between climbing a flight of stairs or carry on the hairpin dirt path. While the stairs look enticing and tempt the first-time trekker, they are more difficult to traverse that one can imagine. Also, if you take the longer route, you can spot the elusive blue poppies and the Bhrahmakamals in plenty. The surroundings are lush, curvilinear in every direction and filled with a marvellous palette of colours, with hundreds of flowers in bloom.
Himalayan Blue Poppies
The village of Ghangria serves as the base camp for both the treks. The enthusiasm and lines for the VoF trek are much larger, but the trails to Hemkund Sahib are mostly filled with pilgrims. Spiritual leanings might be one of the reasons for people to head to Hemkund, but it is definitely not the only reason to visit. The Gurudwara Hemkund Sahib is one of the most sacred ones in India and the holy lake nestled within the circle of mountains adds to the charm. At an altitude of 4329 meters above sea level, the beauty of the Himalayas take your breath away (quite literally). No traveller can do complete justice to the Himalayas. But this can be a start.
A hot cup of tea and a steaming bowl of khichdi awaits you as you reach Hemkund Sahib. The simplicity of this meal and the beauty of the arduous surroundings make it all the more special. It feels like soul-food - one that melts in your mouth as you thank nature or the power you believe in, for being able to experience this heart-warming moment. Once the stomach is full, the holy emerald coloured Hemkund Lake deserves a stroll till its edge. The water is crystal clear but icy cold, and a grey mist is often suspended on top of it. The chants from the Gurudwara fill the air around. The mind, body and the soul feel at ease immediately.
The serene Hemkund Sahib lake in the background
Long after coming back from Hemkund, I dip into the memories to feel positivity, peace and a sense of calmness, despite the chaos of the city. There are days I feel adrift, but the vision of the stunning Hemkund Sahib makes me centred and productive. This was a journey that was more than just travel.