Thursday, 29 July 2010

Trip to Valley of Flowers (Part 4)

According to the lonely Planet, which has become the bible for many of us in India (me included), there are approximately 300 different species of flowers that can be found in the Valley of Flowers. So after having climbed up another 4 even more dangerous km of rocky mountain paths, over the last 13 km climbed yesterday; I expected to see some magical scenery or some sort. But if India has taught me anything; its that I should never have high hopes, because I would most likely be deceived and disappointed. So going back a bit, past the ticket booth check point of last blog, I had to walk another 3 dangerous km up before actually entering the valley. Because it was uphill it took me sometime. But this allowed for the skies to clear up. From a distance I was able to see the valley. It looked magnificent. It was a vast field of green (the largest I have seen in India up to then) surrounded by towering gray mountains with threads of waterfall flowing down their surfaces and then across the valley. Filled with awe, I expected this feeling to continue as I pass through the valley expecting to see exotic flowers of all shapes and sizes. So at the beginning of the valley there was a map showing the paths to take. There were no distances marked down (Distances were only marked on stones along the paths) so I simply decided to walk the longest route, to increase my chances of encountering these wondrous flowers. On the first km or so I wasn't too surprised to be only seeing the same few flowers that I have seen since my entrance of the Valley of flowers, past the ticket booth. So I kept walking. 2 km later; nothing much. 3 km later; some bushy vegetation... but nothing much. I finally came to a stop near the 4 km mark. Over the last few km that I have walked since I have entered the valley, I have been only seeing the same 20-30 different species of flowers over and over again. Out of those ones, there was only one flower that I found quite exotic and interesting, the others were quite generic. The valley itself was breath taking, don't get me wrong, but it just didnt match up to descriptions that I have been hearing and reading about. There just wasn't enough flowers to see.
So having spent around 2 hours in the valley I finally came back out. With another 4 hours or so I got back down to Govindghat. Got myself a better room for the night to make sure that my cold would go away and got on the first bus next morning back to Rishikesh.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Trip to The Valley of Flower (Part 3)

So after 5 and a half hour of hiking with only one break in the middle, I finally reached Govinddam. Exhausted and out of breath I quickly got a cheap room and collapsed on the bed. But then I realized that I hadn't eaten anything all day, so I dragged my ass back out to the nearest restaurant and ordered some plain rice (good for the tummy). So from as early as the early afternoon, I locked myself in my room trying to rest until the next day, when I could go out again. The Valley of Flowers was another 4KM uphill from the town, but I simply couldn't walk it that day. It was a very painful and boring rest. There was absolutely nothing to do up in the town and yet I couldnt go anywhere because the distances were too far. And once again it was hard for me to sleep because of that small fever that I had, as well as the cold weather up in the mountains that I was unprepared for. Fortunately, that night, the sikhs that I met on the hike up, brought me to their temple to enjoy a hot cup of chai with them.

July 15
After maximum of 2 hours of good sleep, most of which I got in the early morning, I headed out for the valley at 7 AM. But During that time, it was still very hazy and rainy so I had to stop and take shelter under a shop, where for the first time I decided to buy a poncho. It was hard to even see the trees at a distance, let alone the mountains. It was just waves an waves of rain bearing mist rolling over from the top of the mountains and then down into the valley. By 8AM the rain got lighter, but it was still as misty as ever. So I still headed out hoping that things would clear up. 1KM later I reached the ticket booth to the Valley of flowers. They were charging me 600 rupees! That's nearly as expensive as visiting the Taj Mahal, which costs 750 Rupees for foreigners (but i got in free that day :D). I considered not going because it was still too foggy to enjoy the scenery. But then again I felt stupid for climbing all this way up for nothing. It would be like going to Agra but not visit the Taj Mahal because it's too expensive. So I payed the bum, got in and hoped to see my money's worth...

Too lazy to write, go see part 4

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Trip to The Valley of Flowers (Part 2)

So finally after the endless bus ride I ended up in Govindghat on the evening of the 13. At this point I still wasnt too sure what I was getting in to. So I was shocked to find out that this city was all ran by Sikhs. Everystore sold Sikh attires, items, trinkets etc. They all played Punjabi music. And all the pilgrims around me were Sikhs (and my were there a lot of them!) I later found out that at the top of the mountain there was another Sikh temple called Hem Kund where all the pilgrims were going. It's apparently on of the highest pilgramage hotspot at an altitude of around 4300M. Anyhow, after finishing my tour of the town, I got settled in a cheap hotel and had dinner. It was at the latest 7PM, but with nothing to do, I tried going to bed early. Unfortunately the noise and the party outside didnt stop till maybe half past midnight and started again the next day at 5 in the morning. Wost of all is that, on that night I had the chills, which was the start of the small fever that I had.

July 14
I got out at 8AM, seeing that I couldnt sleep through the noise anymore, and started my ascent to Govinddam. I didnt take any breakfast either for the fear that it might come spewing back out from my other end midway through my hike. But regardless, with/without breakfast; sick/not sick; that was probably the most painful hike I had ever done in my life. Even at midpoint I felt like collapsing from fatigue. And near the end, I just coudn't take more than 10 steps without needing to stop and catch my breath again. It was completely exhausting! But at least I met two other Sikh pilgrims that joined me for most of the way. Ohhh... I just noticed that I never described the route that I had to take:
-Its a 13 KM hike uphill
-Altitude of around 3500M
-Paths are covered of donkey shit
-Some parts paved, other are jus muddy beatten paths
-Endless zig zags up the hill
-But at least has stalls that vend refreshments.
I didnt really have a chance to enjoy the scenery much on my way up, because I had to concentrate on the road or else I would stub my toe (which I did plentiful). Also I had to avoid the donkey shit which made me want to puke a good couple of times. But by gods, when I got to the top and in to the vallley,I sure did take advantage of the view and the beautiful scenery...

More will come on Part 3

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Trip to The Valley of Flowers (July 13-16)

So for the last 4 days of absence, I was up north in the Himalayas visiting a place called The Valley of Flowers. Well actually I only spent 2 days in the mountains themselves, and on the 13th and 16th I was just cramped in the bus trying to reach my destination. But don’t get me wrong; though each trip took 10 strenuous long hours, these bus rides were far from any ordinary bumpy ride in a cage on wheels. These were the scariest bus rides ever! They even got me nautious at times. The whole adventure was so very demanding for the body. But lets just start from the beginning.

On the 13 I caught a bus from Rishikesh at 4:30AM bound for Govindghat, which is the city at the base of the mountain of the Valley of Flowers. From there you had to walk 13KM uphill to the town of Govinddham before you can reach the Valley of Flowers which was another 4KM away. So I was expecting a long and boring ride on the bus where I could catch up on the sleep that I missed on the night before. But the beautiful scenery and the death defying ride just kept me awake the whole time.
The bus was travelling on roads coasting the sides of the mountains which jus climbed higher and higher in altitude. If you look outside of the bus, you can see that the ledge jus cuts straight down to your iminent death... Also, all along the roads, there were clear evidence that there were landslides and rockslides that occured frequently. At every twist and turn you had the feeling that the bus would tip over and tumble down the mountain. I later found out that there were incidents where some busses never made it. The lanes were so narrow that the bus always had to yield for incomming traffic. But when you look away at the distance, you can see the beautiful valleys, waterfalls, towns in the mountains, rice fields and the river which was the calming and soothing part of the ride. So 13 hours later I finally reached Govindghat.

I'll update this later on my part 2

Friday, 16 July 2010

July 13 2010


Since the 10th of July, after having seen the Taj Mahal in Agra, I was already tired of all the Big Cities, as well as sight seeing in India. I was especially tired of all the tuk-tuk and rickshaw drivers bugging me and deceiving me (talking about deception, did I tell the story about Delhi’s National Indian Zoo?). That is why I decided to go up north to Rishikesh earlier than planned. (Rishikesh is known to be the world’s capital for Yoga. And its suppose to be really zen and serene up there, which it is! Its just mountains and rivers up here!) Originally, I was to stay in Agra for another day so that I can go visit the Futepur Shikri, which is just another palace/ fort an hour away from Agra. But I knew that it would only take up a maximum of 4 hours of my day; leaving me with the other half of the day with absolutely nothing to do. Also, it probably would of ended up costing me up to 500 rupies. So I weighted out my options and decided to instead book my train ticket back to Mumbai for the 21 (The day before I take my plane home!) and jumped on the next bus to rishikesh. Unfortunately the bus for Rishikesh only left at 2:30 pm and I got there at 12 pm. According to lonely planet, the bus should only take 10 hours to get from Agra to Rishikesh. But my trip ended up taking about 12 hours, thus ending in me sleeping outside the hotel as mentioned on the last blog.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

July 12 2010 12:00 PM

I'm in Rishikesh! Time to sit back and relax! Ohhh, and I slept outside of my new hotel last night for a good 2 hours before being able to check-in this morning at 5...

BUT all should be good now!

July 10, 2010 6:00 AM

Yes!! I finally got my luggages back! After having gone through several incompetent agents over these last few days; I finally managed to find a female representative that was able to sort everything out for me under 20 minutes! I am pretty sure that all those other bastards before her just disregarded my complaints and demands. They say Yes, Yes, Yes, I know, I know, I know, ok, ok, ok; but nothing actually gets done. They told me the day before that I would receive my luggages on that very evening; which did not end up happening. So when I called them again yesterday morning, from what they were trying to tell me, it seemed as if my luggages were still in the same situation as they were the day I got here: lost. It was also as if my calls had never been made because they kept asking for the same informations over and over again. The level of efficiency and competency of these workers is atrocious! I called them 5 times yesterday morning asking for the precise location of my luggages but all I got was the assurance that they were somewhere in Jaipur. I believe that the top-down management in India is the source of the problem. The orders given by the person at the top gets diluted at each level of the hierarchy, resulting in poor services and poor quality the bottom line. Since, there is lack of awareness; the people at top don’t necessarily know what the people at the bottom are doing because each follow their own system. Also, the middle and lower management positions seem as if they really don’t give a shit about whether a job gets done properly or not. Money and well being seems to be their only concern. So at the end of the day, pretty much everything becomes a free for all last minute rush to get things done; just like the preparations for the common wealth games as well as the delivery of my laggages.