About_Craken · travel

Wild West Himalayan Expeditions

Pardon me for the title 😛


Disclaimer: This story should have published a year back. I have written a gist version as soon as I came back. I finished the draft after a year, apologize for the delay.

Fun Fact: The whole journey expenditure was around 5500 INR(per person) i.e < 100 USD

The idea of getting onto a bike and traveling solo was on my todo list for a long time. Being a follower of adventurous activities, trekking appeared to be a simple thing to pull off. when I was in my sophomore year, the Valley of Flowers trek was proposed by Murugavel Sundararasu, one of my friend. Despite the all the perk, that plan seemed way too ambitious at that time and I declined. When I was looking forward to some experience, again Murugavel proposed the same plan, and what we did, We trekked the Himalayas(Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve to be precise).

Here is our itinerary,

  • Day 1: We started from Pondicherry via 22403/Puducherry – New Delhi SF Express and reached New Delhi on Day 2 early Morning.
  • Day 2: New Delhi, Red Fort, Chandni Chowk, Jantar Mandir, Jantar Mandir Road(protest place), India Gate 🙂
  • Day 3: From New Delhi, we reached Haridwar on the Day 3 early morning. Cloudburst, Heavy rain, and landslide have blocked all the routes to Joshimath, we crashed at Uttarakhand Tourist resort for a night. Hoping that things would be fine the next day.
  • Day 4: It is evident that valleys want me to visit her. The sky was clear the next day and so was the road to some extent. We started our ride from Haridwar to GovindGhat.
  • Day 4: Evening: we reached Gurdwara Shri Hemkunt Sahib Trust and crashed there for free food and comfy stay. I am thankful for the Gurudwara’s all across my trip.
  • Day 5: Morning We started our trek, enrolled our ID and trekked across the mountain in the heavy downpour and reached govindGhat around 4 PM.
  • Day 6: Trek to Valley of Flowers
  • Day 7: Planned for Hemkundsahib but trekked across the river bed.
  • Day 8: Stay at Govind Ghat
  • Day 9: Back to Joshimath -> Haridwar -> New Delhi.
  • Day 11: We reached Pondicherry on Day 11.

From the itinerary, it is evident that we didn’t plan for the trip. 😛 that’s how we roll.

If you are here for a clear itinerary, wait till the end of the blog. 😀

This trek has played an important part in my current life. I would like to share some of the important moments that happened in the span of our journey.

The importance of having a national ID:

We booked a tatkal ticket for Mugundan, the journey from Pondicherry to New Delhi. When we reached Delhi, we were so tired that we were the last few people to be on the platform. When the TT approached us for the tickets, we came to know that Mugundan didn’t have a National ID card with him. His reason was we didn’t inform him. 😛 I am sure he might have changed now. But that time, who on India, travel across 2000+ KMs without a National ID of some sort. It was early 4 and we did our best to apologize, nothing worked out. The TT asked us to pay a hefty fine of 1200 INR. From there you must have guessed what happened.

So kids, always have an ID of some sort and make sure people who are tagging along yourself follow the same.

One of my favorite cities:

New Delhi, the capital of India. We had a bad start. Despite that, I instantly fell in love with the city. The big roads, busy streets, fast-paced life, the food, the monuments, I felt I should be part of that. 😛 We had one day in our hand, We visited, Red fort, Chandini Chowk( I am a fan of markets, especially flee markets and unorthodox shops) Jantar Mantar. Farmers from Tamil Nadu were protesting by that time at Jantar Mandir for a variety of needs, we visited them and chatted with them for a while. I did visit Delhi within a year. ❤

The irony of having control over your life:

Day 4 Journey was from Haridwar to Joshimath. We took a bus from Haridwar early in the morning. We already know that even after reaching Joshimath(Govind Ghat), the trek was uncertain because of the extreme weather condition. Despite that, we embarked on our journey. The scenic beauty of the mountains, the narrow road, more than enough hairpin bends :O and the sweet cashews we ate, everything felt in order and of course, everyone is sleeping. Around 14:30 Hours, we were taking a huge right turn around the corner of a mountain, a sudden burst, a few seconds which I could replay in my mind even now. When I heard that loud noise, I turned back, next to me Mugundan and Murugavel looking towards me, fear in the face of everyone. Snap, We are dead. I looked at the driver, he gave his full power to turn the bus to the right.

You know that I am alive now and nothing happened that day.

On that day, those few seconds, “flash” Valley in the left with a huge river, driver giving his fullest to turn right, panicked faces. The bus came to halt, we jumped out of the bus to understand what exactly happened. The right front tire, punctured and torn apart. I was sitting on the seat exactly above it. Because of the driver’s intuition, around 35 lives and a Mini bus was saved from a beautiful monstrous river ❤

Moments after burst

Some of the people panicked and took rides which were going on the route. We stayed with the driver, helped him to fix the tire. We were lucky that we were within 2 KMs to a mechanic shop. The airbrake pipe broke and torn the tire which made the bus unstabilized. We were 180 KMs in the middle of a mountain road. We didn’t have spare to fix the brake. The driver and the mechanic came up with a solution to use old rubber tubes to seal the pipe with help of Feviquick( which we heartfully gave 😛 ) It was a jugaad Solution. It worked. We reached safely to Govind Ghat.

One can have control over his/her life by staying in a comfy space, his/her comfort zone. Even there, I doubt the command over their life. Life is uncertain.

The love for Gurudwara’s:

We were grateful to stay at Govind Ghat Gurudwara. We were allotted a room with comfortable bedsheets. We had our dinner at the Gurudwara and I don’t see other option there at that time and also because of the extreme climate. It started raining heavily from the evening and we witnessed quite a few landslides in the last few kilometers near Joshimath.

Landslide Joshimath

Courage is all it takes:

The next day, it was a little bit cloudy, we started our trek after enrolling at the starting point of the trek. Up to 5 Kms, road facility was there, we hired a jeep. We reached the trek starting point. We tagged along with a lovely family from Kolkata, who brought their kid for the trek. The kid was fortunate enough to witness one of the beautiful place on earth at a very young age.

It was 13 Kilometer uphill trek. There were pathways, rocky steps, and some places were a bit tough to climb. We reached Byundar valley and witnessed the unstoppable flow of the river and a tiny bridge which spans across the river. The bridge is clinging to both ends of the land like the confidence I have when I speak with my crush. 😛

I got adventurous and pushed myself and climbed the hill. The difficult terrain helped me to make a lot of friends on the route. I met Rajini, a solo Trekker from Mumbai. I was awestruck. She came to Uttarakhand all alone to mark this milestone on her list.

Valley of Flowers trek route

I got some confidence(mentally :P) after hearing her trekking expeditions. we climbed the hill and finished the first milestone, Gangharia by evening 16:00 Hours. It was too early and I had to wait for my buddies, I used this time to wander around. To be honest, I started panicking after 17:00 Hours, it became dark and there was no sign of these folks. They reached around 18:00 Hours. We stayed at a hotel, for the time being, finished our dinner at Gurudwara(Ghangria) and had a heavenly nap. Within a few hours, I got accustomed to the climate and was wandering around with shorts and Tshirt while everyone is wearing sweaters and fur cloth.

One Quick Moral Story:

We had our food at Gurudwara. I was a single child to my parents and I was brought up with lots of guardianship. I used to waste lots of food. I never realized the value of the things and the privileges I consume on my daily life. When we had our food at Gurudwara, I left some curry on my plate. One of the volunteers(grandpa ) who is serving noticed this, came to me and asked about the leftovers. I simply said I had enough. He got tensed and explained how tough it is to get the resources to prepare food in this extreme climate and place. Despite speaking in Hindi, which I don’t understand, I understood the context and the reason why his intention was important. I finished up the leftovers and made sure I am not wasting food from my side from then on.

The most awaited day:

We started our trek from the base-camp. The route was difficult than the trek from Joshimath to Ghangria. There were lots of slopes(60 Deg Up inclined up or more) and unstable paths along the edges. One should cross a man-made bridge to catch the valley. After the first few vertical climbs, the view was spectacular. The breeze and the fast-moving clouds brush you with its coldness. Despite seeing quite a few landslides along the trek path, you will still be impressed by the behemoth beauty of the valley.

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We forwarded with smiling faces and reached the destination. It started to rain a little bit. The whole valley was covered with greeneries and flowers. It was more of a blanket of flowers covering the mountains. We traversed all across the valley. The raining got intense. We still went to Joan Margaret Legge’s memorial grave which was considered to be the end of the trekking route. Post 5 PM, we were asked to get back to basecamp. I really enjoyed the few hours I spent over there. I feel terrible for not able to share those divine moments in words.

Joan Margaret Legge’s memorial grave

The moment I could cherish all my life:

We descended back to the base camp. I stayed with Murugavel in the forest area for quite some time. Everyone has gone to the base camp. Murugavel started taking snaps of the flowers and gigantic tree covering the sky ❤ We reached the corner of the hill. I sat on one of the corners, astounded by the magnificence of the mountains around me. The Himalayas is truly indeed a beautiful monster. With a tranquil mind, I listened to one of my favorite songs, Avalum Naanum by A.R Rahman. Those moments I could still cherish and of course, it felt Magical.

Listening to Avalum Naanum ❤ | #happyme

It was pitch dark when we reached the base camp. The temperature would have been less than 15 C by that time. We were completely drenched and numbed. We changed our clothes and had dinner at Gurudwara. We were off the grid. BSNL worked intermittently, SMS was the only option. I texted my cousin, Nivas about my well-being. Despite that, my parents were worried. There was one shop which had BSNL, WLL. We paid him a hefty sum to make calls to home. We met a few construction workers, to the place where we were staying. They were preparing chicken curry for their dinner. They allowed us to get warm around the firewood stove. We tried our shoes and shirts in Bear Grylls Way 😛

The following day, we traversed the river valley. It was adventurous and thrilling and no one was there on that route. When we started the flow of the water was minimal, we crossed and started exploring the other side. Around evening, It started drizzling, within minutes the water flow was fearsome, we were scared and the path was deluged. After flopping into the river, we reached the other end. 😀

vof 1-min
PTC at river bed Valley of Flowers

Hopelessness: We started pretty late to descend back to Govind Ghat. The rain was heavy. We were advised not to leave by that time as the rain was abnormal. Despite that, We started trekking to Govind Ghat. Mugunthan went ahead of us. His shoe was completely torn off and he managed to hold it with a hack. We enjoyed our way back. The weather made this part of the trek extreme. Within an hour, we were the only few people on the trek route. we were completely drenched in spite of wearing rain dress and poncho. On the mid-way, we couldn’t see Mugundan ahead and we couldn’t revert back to Basecamp. We were completely lost since, in some places, the land started sliding on the right and the flow of the river was frightening. On top of all these, the path we trekked(slope in a few places), the flow of the water submerged our foot and the shoe was filled with Himalayan water :D. Note: It was slope, not terrain.

Without any choice, we climbed down with serene after realizing we had little control over the things happening around us. We were the last few people who reached the end of the trek point. We could see two vehicles waiting for us. We jumped into one and asked him to get back to Govind Ghat. Within a few seconds, there was a landslide behind us( It started when we reached the trek end point). The driver was used to these monstrosities, he was calm but we weren’t. We reached Joshimath and stayed at Gurudwara. The rain was heavy throughout the night. Our plan to get back to Haridwar was ruined. we started the next day. There was plenty of landslides, BRO and military were doing there best to clear the route.

Land slide Joshimath to Haridwar 2017
Landslide Joshimath to Haridwar 2017

Back to Haridwar:

We reached Haridwar and took a bus to New Delhi. It was one of the few worst bus travel experiences I have till today. We reached New Delhi in the Morning. We didn’t plan for our return journey. We booked a General Ticket from New Delhi and reached Villupuram. The travel time was around 48 Hours. I clearly understood the difficulties in traveling in GN ticket we didn’t have any choice by that time. The journey was gruesome as we don’t have a berth to sleep, We shared the chair we secured by boarding the running train. I slept for a few hours on the luggage shelf. We swapped places when we had to move away for the obvious reasons. We reached Villupuram at around 11 PM.

Train Journey

The end of an Epic Journey: We reached pondy with content. It was sort of an achievement. My first trek with 5000+ Kms journey with 50+ Kms of trekking over a span of 11 days. I was fortunate to have Mugundan on my side and Murugavel as the trek lead. A huge Shout out to Pondicherry Trekkers club too. ❤ I didn’t face any health issues or tiredness after the trek. I brought a stone from the river as a souvenir. The reason I am sharing the gloomy and joyous sides of the story was it wasn’t as easy as I thought would be and why it is worth the efforts.

Things that screwed up:

  • We planned for a lesser number of days, whereas the weather had other plans. We anticipated this and this is the reason we didn’t plan for our return journey.
  • I had plans for bungee jumping at Haridwar because of the weather, the place was shut down. We gave up that plan. Same happened with river rafting.
  • Mugundan Shoe’s sole peeled off. Wear shoes with a good sole for this kind of climates. Do not wear sports shoes like I did(cost cutting measure went bad)
  • Take adequate food. we took Nuts which has helped us a lot.
  • Take proper rain gear for monsoon treks. Poncho will work only for sprinkles.
  • Do not sleep while traveling especially on the train, at least keep an alarm for the destination stations. (Don’t end up at Dehradun if your destination is Haridwar 😛 )
  • Always have a National ID of some sort.

If you are here for the Itenary and you are a solo trekker you can follow what I have listed below( check with Uttarakhand tourism, travel agencies in Haridwar, trekking groups who handle VOF treks about the weather, and transport status)

If you are traveling from Tamil Nadu, You can reach New Delhi by train, it is affordable. If you are concerned about time, you know what to do.

  • New Delhi to Haridwar( Bus / Train | I would prefer train and travel at night)
  • Haridwar to Govind Ghat*( Jeep / Bus | Travel during daytime)
  • Govind Ghat to Ghangira ( 5 Kms by Jeep, rest by trek | travel during the day)
  • Ghangaria to VOF and back to Ghangaria ( start early | one full day trek)
  • Ghangaria to Hemkund Sahib and back to Ghangaria ( one full day trek)
  • Ghangaria to Govind Ghat ( Prefer early start, 8 hours descend)
  • Govind Ghat* to Haridwar ( Jeep / Bus | Travel during daytime )
  • Haridwar to New Delhi( Bus / Train)

* One can travel to Joshimath and from there one can reach Govind Ghat too.

Hope you had a great time reading my story. Your feedbacks are welcome in the comment section.


6 thoughts on “Wild West Himalayan Expeditions

  1. You may consider including a picture of a map with your stops shown on the map for visual learners. Thank you for sharing, I enjoyed your story. 🙂

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