Two old beauties, a promise & The Valley of Flowers

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Two old beauties, a promise & The Valley of Flowers

Postby madhu » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:01 am

There is a reason why it's called The Valley of Flowers!

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"I did not tell half of what I saw, for I knew I would not be believed."
— Marco Polo, on his deathbed in 1324
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Re: Two old beauties, a promise & The Valley of Flowers

Postby NonStopDriver » Mon Aug 10, 2015 11:56 am

Amazing! The third pic from top is something I've never seen. Thank you Madhu bhai for starting this. :)
Spreading smiles is contagious, however, believe me, you'd love to be infected! :) -- Selfie :D

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Re: Two old beauties, a promise & The Valley of Flowers

Postby dheerajsharma14 » Mon Aug 10, 2015 3:57 pm

Wow, Madhu !! Bang on... another gem in the making it seems. I am all hooked here now.
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Re: Two old beauties, a promise & The Valley of Flowers

Postby MetalHead » Fri Aug 14, 2015 9:01 pm

Mind blowing photos Madhu.....Seems like its going to be a showtime now....Please pour on....Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Two old beauties, a promise & The Valley of Flowers

Postby navneet1986 » Sat Aug 15, 2015 12:28 am

Amazing Pics Madhu.

And yes now I know why it is called the Valley of Flowers.

Waiting for more.


:)
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Re: Two old beauties, a promise & The Valley of Flowers

Postby madhu » Sat Aug 15, 2015 11:13 pm

Thanks Guys!

Old Friends, New Times:
It is said that Travel brings the unlikeliest people together. I wouldn't have believed it for long, until it did in my case. I had no travel related friends out here in Salem, for most people here have no idea about what the Himalayas are. For some it is only Kailash. Badrinath & Kedarnath, for most others its a mystic place where Rajnikanth goes after every film, for other enlightened ones it is Haridwar & Rishikesh and there was one genius who once asked me "What is there in that one Hill Madhu that you go there at least twice a year?" So, as a matter of fact my stories stayed with me & my pictures slept in my hard drive. On the other hand I had a hand full ahem... much more than a hand full little friends who used to pester me for bird photographs for their school projects/assignments. They used to buzz around me like bees, tear my ear drum with questions ripping my vocal chords asking for answers. I've often pondered on a thought of how come such a fluid mind when young becomes so plastic as we grow?
One day a 4th Grade kid called me and said his grand mom want's to talk to me and I had a brief conversation with her. She was very interested in birding, appreciated the pics and wanted to know more about them. She herself asked out of the blue, if she could drop into my place once when I was free and talk more on birds and I said she was welcome. Three days passed & on a sunday she asked if she could come over and I said yes. In 15 mins there was a old lady, probably in her late 50s was limping up my stairs. It started with birds of course & when she was looking at the pics, in between a pic of me posing on the side of Khardung La board popped and she immediately asked, you've gone to Ladakh also? I was taken by surprise that someone from Salem back in 2009 knew about Ladakh and then we talked, talked & talked about the mountains sharing all the pics. She invited me to her home and when I went I was taken back by surprise. She had already done Char Dham & Kailash/Manasarovar. She had 6 years of cuttings about the Himalayas from Travel Magazines and since then she has been my inspiration & dear friend, Vasantha ma. Her knowledge and books, uff... I have had endless hours with her starting from Marco Polo & Mongolian wars, to the disappearance of River Saraswathi to Shangri La to Tibetian slaughter to Siachin Cold War. When she made the call I thought I would teach her about birds, but in the end I had so much to learn from her. The most amazing thing in life is, you never know what you would stumble upon. A third standard kid connected me to a wealth of knowledge. Times like these you actually start believing in Karma.
She had a tough side too. There was a reason why she was limping up the stairs when I first saw her. She happened to be the lone survivor of a major car crash in which she lost her husband, her daughter and her son-in-law. Her hip bone crushed and she had 7 fractures from hip to toe on her left leg. I still remember once when she told "With this leg I can't see the Himalayas in real. By reading about it & seeing pictures I can at least visualize it in my mind."

The Traveling Sisters:
She had a younger sister (4 years younger), Shyamala ma. She wasn't a history pundit nor was she a Himalayan expert. Her views about the mountains were pretty simple. Snow Peaks are Shiva Himself. My sister knows it best so I can just go with her to meet Lord Shiva. These two ladies had an amazing hobby. Whenever they used to get bored, they used to book a train ticket from Salem-Haridwar, take a dip in the ganges, eat hot puri/samosa, buy assorted Shiva items & return back home. They both have done Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Manali, Rohtang, Corbett, Peti Dwaraka just by themselves. It's been over 6 years & I haven't stopped being amazed on these two ladies.

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The one on left with specks is Vasantha ma & the one on right is Shyamala ma.
"I did not tell half of what I saw, for I knew I would not be believed."
— Marco Polo, on his deathbed in 1324
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Re: Two old beauties, a promise & The Valley of Flowers

Postby kushc » Sun Aug 16, 2015 6:49 am

this is turning out to be quite a gripping story Madhu.

And BTW...late 50s is not being old man. These two adventures souls are pretty young at heart and thats how I see them...young :)
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Re: Two old beauties, a promise & The Valley of Flowers

Postby mosederbaer » Mon Aug 17, 2015 4:46 pm

Madhu bhai, beautiful narration and too good way to start this travel tale to the heaven on earth, I will say. Your write up is really interesting and keeps one hooked to the thread. Kindly post the next part, we all are waiting.... :D
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Re: Two old beauties, a promise & The Valley of Flowers

Postby MetalHead » Mon Aug 17, 2015 5:13 pm

Oh man! BOW to these two sisters for travellng togather all the way upto far north from there home.......Now, I can say, If it's there Himalayas will call people from any part of the world.......Even after going through such tuff time at her person end, Vasantha ma is young at her heart to have such zeal to travel.........

Too good....Bring more man.
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Re: Two old beauties, a promise & The Valley of Flowers

Postby madhu » Mon Aug 17, 2015 11:38 pm

Thanks Guys!

Vasantha Ma was 58 back in 2009. Now she is in her mid 60's and unfortunately her injured leg is creating more trouble but of course without a hint of doubt, they are much younger to me at heart. Sorry for delaying the story guys as the monsoons have pulled me away from a computer and arrested me inside the farm. Now back to the story.

Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve - The Mystery Frontier:
Most people dream about Mt.Everest, K2 or Kanchenjunga. They might be the highest peaks. Even though Nanda Devi peak Herself falls a little short of 8000 mts, the biosphere as such is no less than absolute mystery. To highlight a few, the last expedition attempt was way back in 1930 (The Great Shipton & Tilman). Since then, the govt banned any expedition to the peak itself. 70 years later the Govt hand picked 34 mountaineers on a Millennium Expedition and that was the last till date. Unlike most other 8000 mts peaks, the biosphere is a Labyrinth of over 2 dozen 6000+ meters peaks. Two rings of peaks & over half a dozen glaciers form the core and the Valley of flowers and Hemkund Sahib forms the western edge of the reserve, which is a UNESCO site and what many don't know is, the Nanda Devi Biosphere reserve holds some of the most vital keys in Evolution of Species. The Valley of Flowers itself is no short of magic with over 500 different species of flowering plants of which many are Endemic (found only here) and it also holds 6 species of Endemic Non-Migratory birds which are critically endangered.

The Promise:
The Nanda Devi Biosphere reserve has always fascinated me more than any other peak/range in the Himalayas. I have had more books on the Nanda Devi than any other range. Me & Vasantha ma have had indefinite chats about the Final Frontier. Vasantha ma being a B.Sc., Botany student of the early 60s taught so much about the Flora of the Valley and each bit of info, has always made me desperate to get there. It was back in 2011 that I decided to make a trip and since I was never there before, I was hesitant on taking her. I promised her that once i know the ground conditions there I would take her there the next year. As always I made the trip solo and I made it to the valley to and from Gangharia for 6 days (back then it was more often called Govind Dham) and came back with a load of pictures. I was able to ID a few basic Poppy & Orchinds and once back she helped me with a few others and she was cursing me for not taking her along. I still remember the words she said back then. "I don't know how many years I will be here and even if I did, I have no idea how my troubled leg will behave. But before I die, please take me there at least once". I made the promise not knowing what was on stock after that. 2012, I was preparing for a life changing decision and wasn't able to make it. I assured her in 2013. We booked the tickets during the 1st week of june and exactly 1 week after that, all hell broke loose. The floods! We still waited till july and things were sounding really ugly. Finally we cancelled the tickets with broken hearts. Back then there were also rumors that a major part of the valley was washed away. After that whenever I opened my mouth about the Valley, she would always say "Please stop." It was a broken dream, a paradise lost & I couldn't face her or talk to her due to my guilt. I could have taken her back in 2011 but I didn't. 2012 it was again me and now I was stuck with a broken promise to one of the best friend I ever had.
At last relief came around the September of 2014. The valley was briefly opened for a week. Sangwan of blue poppy adventures blogged that the valley was intact. After that I called a few friends I've made in GovindGhat & Ghangaria during my 2011 trip and they too said the same. The moment I knew about it, I rushed to her gave her the links and I gave the final word "If the park is open next year, no matter what may come, I will take you there" and deep inside I was hoping nothing happens in 2015.

Dicey Again:
May 2015, she started preparing. She vigorously practiced breathing exercises, religiously did her yoga, hiked 2 kms a day uphill yercaud, brought a Quechua Forclaz 500 shoes, Quechua Forclaz 500 walking stick and she packed all her luggage by early june. I went ahead and made the booking in Govindghat (2 Nights) & Ghangharia (4 Nights). The spirits where high and we were counting every passing day starting May. One lesson that the Himalayas always teaches us is, "Don't be so sure of anything!". Lightning stuck the same spot twice and June 20th, floods again, 3 bridges washed away and roads closed. When I called up Mr.Jaideep of Hotel Bhagat, he told they are in the process of evacuation. 3000 odd people stranded in Hemkund who were later evacuated and the park was closed at least until 20,July. Our train was on the 30th, July.
"I did not tell half of what I saw, for I knew I would not be believed."
— Marco Polo, on his deathbed in 1324
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