Breathtaking vistas of deep valleys and mountains high enough that they pain the neck when looking up, rivers that run wild and unstoppable in its valleys supported from the melting snow, lakes clear and deep which remain so calm that only the reflections of the snowy mountains can be seen but not its surface – a few things that come in my mind when I remember the Himalayas. There are snow capped tips that dazzle in the brilliance of mid-day sun. Early morning and evening sun burns the peaks in orange splendor. Trees are so tall that they seem to be making a vain attempt to compete with the mountain itself.
These mountains are a celebration of nature. From the time I was planning my first ever trip to the Himalayas, I had been dreaming about all these and was fortunate to witness what were once mere photographs dancing in my mind morph into real wonder in my eyes.
Since my first visit to the high country at Sikkim, I have been seeing much more than the superb scenery of gigantic proportions. My eyes and my mind were caught up with tiny flowers that fill the trees or carpet the floor. When we hiked up to Gochela Pass walking forty kilometers in four days, trees were coloured by flowers and the forest shied away from traditional green. They bloomed en masse with splatters of pink, orange and white. Nature never ceases to entertain – when it was done working with the trees it spread colors all over the floor in white, purple and red. It was a big flower fest.
I continued to see the riot of flower in the Himalayas in all its stretches. My next visit was to Garhwal’s higher regions in the lap of Nanda Devi where ten feet high snow fills up the slopes in winter. Flowers bloom when the snow cover melts, filling up the earth with colors. When a fellow traveller who was with me wanted to gift his wife flowers on valentine’s day, he did not have to go in search of a florist but merely head to the forest and come back with the most beautiful bouquet he had ever given to anyone.
I kept looking for these flowers when I was in the lower regions of Arunachal but could not find much of them. But as we kept climbing higher, when we walked at a height just below the snow line, they surfaced with the same unfailing splendor. Bridle paths were littered with fallen rhododendrons and live flowers from tiny plants in all kind of colors. Groups of pretty purple flowers on the ground hugged each other tightly like a bunch of grapes, one of them so irresistible that we queued up to photograph it. Forest looked like it came from a Tolkein’s tale, with trees shrouded with drooping lichens.
Rohtang Pass is known for its almost perennial snow cover and traffic jams leading up to it. These traffic jams turned out to be appetizing my search for flowers. Purple and yellow flowers covered stretches of the mountain along the edges of randomly created streams made from the melting snow. Most travellers occupied with the traffic seemed unaware of them even as the flower carpets kept changing colors from purple to yellow to pink to white. They came in denser packs and brighter colors as we left Rohtang behind and headed further to less explored regions.
Flower fest seems to be a mountain phenomenon even in the south where the peaks are not as tall but the vegetation is thicker. Two years back when the news of Kurunjis flowering in large numbers broke out, I headed to see them coloring the green mountains into purple. They covered entire slopes in purple, and in places where they did not extend reach, tiny faintly visible flowers were spread out equally thick but seen only to the careful eyes.
I am heading back to the mountains this summer again, and while there, will be eagerly looking for more these bright beauties.