India's festival of colours, Holi, celebrates the advent of spring. Trees put on an amazing display of soft, green foliage; the mellifluous call of the cuckoo permeates the start of day; birds and butterflies are busy flitting from flower to flower-- Nature is at her glorious best. But today's fast paced life shuns the very meaning of leisure. There is no time to stand still and watch how spring magically breathes life and colour into the most abject of organisms. But this holi, we have decided to break the tradition: to skip the routine colour splashing and retreating, instead, into the arms of the mountains. There is nothing quite as fantasmagorical as Nature at her colourful best and when you return from these treks, the canvas of your soul will be splashed with the amber of oaks, the gold of daybreak, the green of meadows, the amethyst of lakes and rainbows of wildflowers.
Arguably, India's most colourful trek, the Valley of Flowers, a part of the Pushpawati Valley, is nestled in the upper reaches of the Bhyundar Ganga in Garhwal. Just after the outbreak of the monsoon, the entire valley comes alive with a melange of flowers. Orchids, poppies, primulas, marigold, daisies and anemones carpet the ground. Sub-alpine forests of birch and rhododendron burst into bloom. Wild rose bushes and wild strawberries add to the riot of colours. Butterflies and wild bees flutter about fervently, their feet and wings stained with nectar and golden pollen. The park is also home to numerous birds and rare species like the blue sheep, Asiatic black bear, and musk deer among others. Grim pleasure, we know, but we are so glad that Smyth and co. lost their way during that fateful expedition. Atleast they chanced upon this fairytale kingdom!
The Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary in Western Sikkim took the proverbial "through rose tinted glass" too literally! If you visit during late April to early June, you will be walking through kilometres and kilometres of forests adorned with dollops of scarlet, pink and white rhododendrons. There are flowers everywhere, so much that even the rays of sunlight filtering through the foliage assumes a reddish tinge! They lace the edges of your vision: the beady blue sky is framed with blossoms, they carpet the slopes and sprawl like immaculate filigrees on rocky outcrops. The beauty is, simply, overwhelming.
Barsey Rhododendron Trek, Sikkim
When it comes to beauty, Kashmir always overdoes it and the Great Lakes Trek is absolutely no exception! The trail winds through meadows where wildflowers grow in wild abandon, through woods populated with oaks, pines and spruces, over glacial moraines before opening up upon the shores of exquisite lakes. Bring your Pantone colour card if you may but trust us, it will fail you! Azures and indigos, lapis and turquoise and the glass-iest of sapphires and emeralds, robin's egg blue, aquamarine or jades-- every shade melts into one another to create the quintessence of magic! The banks are sheathed in poppies, anemones, and flowers you don't know the names of. Each of the 5 lakes-- Kishansar, Vishansar, Satsar, Gaganbal, Gadsar-- mirror the snowy Himalayan peaks that hem the horizon. Fall asleep in the arms of the Milky Way and wake up to rubicund skies and birdsong. Be prepared for ooohhs and aaahs because this trek will leave you absolutely tongue-tied!
The charming villages, smiling locals and their vibrant culture are what add a wonderful dose of colour to this trek in the Garhwal Himalayas. Mighty peaks like the Swargarohini, Bandarpoonch, Kalanaag, Har ki Dun glimmer in the sunlight. The valley is lush, and the abundance of greenery is startling. Ancient oaks and pines crowd the slopes. In summer, the ramadan fields come alive in soft shades of red and pink. The Har ki Dun stream flows through the valley like a ribbon of liquid crystal. With the towering peaks, open flower-strewn meadows that are blanketed with snow in winter, icy rivulets and colourful birds, the valley is superlatively gorgeous.
The Dzukou Valley is, perhaps, the Northeast’s best kept secret. Located in Manipur, right behind the Japfu Peak in Nagaland, the Dzukou Valley draws its identity from the rare Dzukou lily that blooms only here. From April to August, the entire valley erupts in a profusion of these delicate, fuchsia lilies. Even its botanical name, Lilium Chitrangadae is poetically enticing! Dense forests carpeted with moss and wild mushrooms give way to rolling hillocks and open unspoilt meadows in varying shades of green. An icy stream slices down the spine of the valley. When clouds roll in, the chiaroscuro is spectacular. The romance is further upped by the flat-petaled euphorbia, lavender aconitum, wild orchid and several species of rhododendron that carpets the valley. In a place as isolated and enchanting as this, legends of spirits and mythical beasts don't seem too unbecoming!
Dzukou Valley, Manipur (Image Courtesy: NatGeo Traveller India)
Let the impeccable, transcendental vibrancy of nature colour your soul, your senses this spring. Join us as we step towards a different Holi!