#ValleyofFlowers Day Six Aug 6th 2019
What it feels like to achieve a goal – whether reaching the valley 4 kms up in the sky , or publishing a bestseller about it at the height of a pandemic – brilliant. Never give up on a dream.
It’s not a coincidence that this feels like worship. Ten thousand years of awe well up in me. A lingering legacy from ancestors who gazed at these mountains and wove them into a lasting mythology. Darshan is a two-way action, you look at God and He looks back at you.
From me “I am here, Lord”, and in reply, a simple all-encompassing “I am”.
Above me lush green meadows soften the harsh edges of the peaks, and the entire valley lies ahead. The sun comes out on a verdant flower-speckled space ringed by snowy peaks that look close enough to touch. As we are so high, the peaks – a picture-perfect range of snowy peaks like the cupped hand of God. “I will hold you in the palm of my Hand.”
Baman Daur or The Boulder Gate
The towering boulder marks the visual start of the valley. It’s where everyone sits down for a picnic lunch. A group sit down and begin handing round hot drinks, cold drinks and food, with laughter and a lot of clutter they eat and make merry.
We will eat on our way down, time is too precious to waste on picnicking. Not that I don’t enjoy picnicking, thanks to my adventurous parents, I’ve picnicked from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, and Amritsar to Arunachal Pradesh, but given the narrow sliver of time in this valley, I’d rather be walking. Alone or with my friends, in this space, I am not inclined to talk to strangers.
In the footsteps of fate
Pushing onwards, the meadows lush with a green never seen on the plains, fragrant embankments of flowers, through it all the sound of running water. We are now treading in the footsteps of the early explorers like Frank Smythe and Joan Legge.
Frank Smythe, an early twentieth-century mountaineer, discovered the valley and then returned here to camp for months recording and gathering plants. Was he a mountaineer or a technical writer? What a glorious way to produce a manual! Or a travel book.
In a classic real-life twist of the six degrees of separation, only two degrees separate Frank Smythe from myself. In a spot of research, I find that he contracted malaria in Darjeeling….And he was in Darjeeling to plan another expedition with Tenzing Norgay, and as every one who lived in Darjeeling knows, you would always bump into Mr. Tenzing Norgay, either at a school or college talk, in the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, or on the Mall or Chaurasta in “Darj”.
Frank Smythe may be forgotten in his homeland but he is remembered with fondness and admiration in both Hindi and English, at the ECO center in Ghangaria, where you can watch a short documentary about the Valley of Flowers, and his journey.
Much as I love his book, I do think it is time that the 21st century book about this magical valley is written by a brown-skinned woman – aka me
Read it now and join me on my journey.