Journey By Road In India
Road travel is fun and apart from the regular local flavor one gets to see beautiful landscape too. We usually love to explore unusual places especially in the hilly region of Uttaranchal, Himachal etc. Each time it is a new experience. These snaps were taken on way to Jim Corbett National park in Northern India. Driving down on an Indian national highway can be a very interesting experience. Every few miles the terrain, flavor, sights and sound change. The trucks, the local people, dhabas ( local roadside eatery), the food and landscape, everything tells a story.
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The enchanting Valley of Flowers National Park is nestled at the altitude of 3,250 m. to 6,750 m. above the sea level in Chamoli district of Garhwal hills of Uttaranchal. The reference to this secluded heaven can be found in ancient Indian literature like Ramayana and Mahabharata.
In Indian mythology the valley was named valley as ‘Nandan Kanan’ (the Garden of Lord Indra, the king of Gods). It has many stories attached to it and is revered by Sikhs as well as Hindus.
Full of Silver birches, sparking brooks, gushing streams and flowery pastures, this beautiful valley is protested by magnificent snow peaks. For many centuries advent of summer brought riots of colors to this frozen valley with millions of flowers adding to the beauty of the place. Untouched by humans, the valley only came into focus when mountaineer, botanist, and explorer Frank Smith discovered it in 1931.
Valley of flowers which stretches over expanse of 87.5 sq km was considered by the locals to be inhabited by the fairies and nymphs soon became a National Park and a World Heritage Sight. The local Shepard grazed their sheep there but the place was generally avoided by locals to keep its serenity and celestial magic alive.
It has a heterogeneous landscape which ranges from low-lying plains to steep slopes, forest meadows and stream banks and also snow bound areas.
The soft sensuous fragrance of exotic flowers, rare birds, verdant plains and pure fresh air makes it one of the most sought after places for nature enthusiast, botanists, zoologists, ornithologists, and trekkers.
This U shape alpine valley is a result of retreating glaciers. June marks the beginning of splendor. Many exquisite flowers like the Brahmakamal (Saussurea obvallata), the Blue Himalayan Poppy, the Cobra Lily, Straw berries and Rhododendron, Aster, Morina, Marsh Marigold, Geranium, Calendulas, Daisies, Sun Flowers, Delphinium, and thousands of Marsh orchids are some of flowering plants found here. Arum is one of the most stunning flowers flower found here. With its cobra like head it grows in isolated colonies and can be spotted from a distance. Brahmakamal is a cream color flower with brown and red stamens in the center. These flowers grow up to six to eight inches and has lotus like petals.
Delicately graceful blue poppies grow along the banks of Pushpavati River giving it a magical look. “The Nag Tal” or the Poisonous patch near the left bank of this river has a variety of poisonous plants which can prove to be fatal if touched, crushed or smelled. Visitors are advised to lay off these flowers. Wild roses grow in abundance all over along with hundreds of other plants, some 500 species, which are native of this valley only. The Valley is also known as the Scotland of India for its immense variety of flowers. Many of he flowers have medicinal value.
Apart from the flowers one can find a huge variety of insects, butterflies, birds and animals like Musk Dears, Snow Leopard, red fox, Mountain Goats, and Himalayan Bears etc. Among the birds one can see the Snow Partridge, Himalayan Golden Eagle, Snow Pigeon, Himalayan Monal, Griffon Vulture, Himalayan Snow Cock, Sparrows and Hawk.
The valley opens for tourists from late April when the snow melts and the warmth of the sun brings out innumerable shoots of flowering plants. The whole valley pulsates with life with high altitude alpine flowers and the scenic beauty of the valley is worth viewing. Approaching Monsoon and the moist turf provides the plants to burst into colors as the season advances into summer.
The heavenly French blue of the Primula covers the terraces. Its soft scent and dew covered petals fills one with such awe and wonder. White Anemones fill the verdant meadows and the valley is dotted with pink, red, violet colors along with the yellow, purple and white colors of the season
Valley of flowers is at its best from July to August and the sight is magical at this time. As the new varieties of yellow flowers mingle with the earlier ones and the aroma drifts with the gentle monsoon breeze through out the valley, one can not but admire the gift nature has given us in such abundance.
In September, with the coming of autumn, the plants stat to pod and brown becomes the dominating color. Soon the crystal clean rain washed mountain ranges where sparkling streams flow into sun-kissed pastures, gets ready to be covered in spotless snow-white.
The trees especially Oaks, Blue Pines and the rare Birch trees (known as Bhojpatra, the bark of these trees was used for writing scriptures) get covered with ferns and look stunning. Asmanda fern can be found here in abundance unlike other Himalayan valleys.
As there are no tracks for walking in the valley, one has to wade through the knee-high flowers or stand on a vantage point to inhale the subtle fragrance and view the glory of the Valley of Flowers in its full splendor.
The area is perfect for trekking and as one crosses the Lakshman Ganga ‘Forget -me- not’, roses and Primulas greet us amidst shrubs and thick foliage along the track.
One has to cross the serene and beautiful Alakhnanda River (a tributary of Ganges) on a hanging Bridge to reach Govind Ghat from where the 14Km.trek to Ghanghria begins. The mule track takes one through the terraces and dense vegetation. A breathtaking Lakshman Ganga cascades down to meet the Alakhnanda around Pulna and from here the real trek starts.
On the journey from Pulna to Bhyundar village one comes across cool cascading water falls and marvelous scenic beauty. Amidst the flaming red, rosy pink and green shrubs one can stop for a hot cup of tea at the many tea stalls. From Bhyundar the trek to Valley of flowers along the Lakshman Ganga takes you in an enchanting world of nature’s splendors.
Ghanghria is the base camp for pilgrims headed for Hemkund Sahib and for tourists who want to walk the trails to Valley of Flowers. Camping is not permitted in the Valley of Flowers. Even ponies are not allowed so one has to walk through along the serpentine trails shaded by green mossy trees.
A log bridge, 3 Km. from Ghanghria marks the route to the Valley of flowers. 400 ft. downstream the Laxman Ganga meets the Pushpavati River. Glacier bridges can be seen at many places over the river but they are too dangerous to use for crossing over. Flanked by majestic Himalayas, the Valley of flowers is mainly on the east-west direction of the mighty river. All visitors have to get an entry permit at a nominal fee available at the Forest Check post at the entrance to the park. The pass is valid for three days. One also needs a special permit to carry any kind of photographic equipment.
One can take the Rishikesh, Srinagar route or the Haldwani, Ranikhet, Karna Prayag route to reach Govind Ghat.
A visit to the Valley of Flowers provides a great opportunity to learn about the rich diversity of flora and fauna. So listen to the bird songs, watch the rare exotic flowers, experience tranquility and peace and set your spirit free in this paradise set in the Western Himalayas.
My thirst for travel took me to one of the most amazing ancient creations in the Himalayas. A legendary cave complex is full of natural stalagmites and stalactites which is a must watch for any traveler to this region. The caves are made of limestone.
We were staying in Ranikhet, Uttarakhand when the wanderlust lured us to this beautiful place called Patal Bhubaneshwar situated at the height of 1350meters in Pithoragar district known as “Dev Bhumi” (abode of Gods) and “little Kashmir” for its virgin natural beauty. Its distance from Ranikhet is 115km. and the nearest town is Gangolihat. The drive is awesome as the roads are smooth and the view captivating.
Mesmerizing landscape, exotic flowers, the sweet scent of pine and mighty Oak trees were the first welcoming sights as we maneuvered the twisting, turning, dusty so called road from the main town. We had gathered enough information and were really excited to see the nature’s wonders.
Patal Bhubaneshwar (Patal means Hell) is an ancient cave temple complex, a subterranean shrine of Shiva. The place was retrieved by Adi Shankaracharya in around 8th or 10th Century A.D. It is believed to be the replica of the mythical underworld of Hindu religion. One has to go through a narrow tunnel to view the underground stone carvings. It is about 200steps and straight 90 ft down. The place is said to be abode of thirty-three billion Hindu Gods and Goddesses.
We had to crawl in a single line by holding the protective chains through a very narrow crevice to reach the cave. The lights are feeble and Photography in any form is not allowed inside the cave so one has to see it to believe it.
The whole place is enshrined in mystery and mythology. I was enchanted by the giant birds, serpents, ghostly figures and human forms which looked so seemingly alive. It was a sight I will never forget. We were bare feet as shoes are not allowed and the slippery ribbed floor gave us an eerie feeling. I thanked my stars that we had an ASI guide with us, for the place sure gave me goose bumps. The only drawback of having him around was the constant flow of legends and stories which distracted us from observing the amazing beauty of the place.
The main temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and one can also see the Narsimh (half lion half human) incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Legends say that Lord Bramha comes to this place with the other gods to worship Lord Shiva who resides in this place. A little ahead is the natural rock formation of Sheshnag holding the heaven, the earth and the world beneath. There is a thin stream of water along the tunnel. One has to go through several small caves to reach the sprawling interiors. Each cave unmasks some deep secret buried in its belly. The lime stone stalagmites that emerge from the walls all over the complex are known as the Jatas (locks) of Lord Shiva.
The sanctum sanatorium gives you the feeling of being at the center of the earth. It is said that the tunnel is the backbone of Sheshnag the mythological serpent God with thousand heads. As we reached the middle of the cave we found a beautiful Ganesh statue. There was a lotus flower engraved on the ceiling right above it and water tricking from the lotus fell directly on Lord Ganesh’s head. The water made different shapes and the legend says that these shapes are that of various Gods and Goddesses from Hindu Mythology.
The cave has the replicas of Badrinath, Kedarnath and other four important religious places and due to this it is highly revered by the Hindus. The place also has some features from the Indian Epic Mahabharata. It is believed that the Pandavas stayed and meditated here during their last journey to the Himalayas.
The priests of this complex, who have been part of the shrine for more than twenty generations, are a treasure-house of legends, folklore, anecdotes and information about this holy place.
Some of the stone carvings of Gods and Goddesses depict them in erotic forms. It sure proved to be a surreal experience. The sheer unspoiled charm of the area that surrounds these wonders is awe inspiring.
After this breathtaking experience we came out to inhale the fresh air fragrant with the scent of incense sticks and flowers. We decided to walk about the place and after going just a little further got a spectacular view of Himalayas stretching over the horizon. It was an enchanting view
of almost 600 km long mountain range stretching end to end from Garhwal to Nepal. Apart from the magnificent mountains our hearts were also captivated by the terraced fields and houses in the valley.
A hike in the Deodar forest revealed tiny caves scattered here and there that were the mini replicas of the big cave. It was a journey worth taking and we enjoyed every moment of it.
The evening sun was in its splendor and we relaxed on the green carpet of soft grass to enjoy the most beautiful sunset we had ever seen. It was also our last one for the trip. Filled with nostalgia and awe we drove back to Ranikhet. Silently watching the dark misty landscape.
The whole experience left unforgettable memories in our hearts.