Rain and snow over the past few weeks have blocked the progress of nature-lovers and adventure-seekers to Uttarakhand’s tourism showpiece, the picture-postcard Valley of Flowers nestled in the lap of Himalayas, officials said on Tuesday.
Since Monday, when the Unesco World Heritage Site was thrown open for visitors for the season, not a single visitor has been able to trek up to the Valley of Flowers, located at over 3,500 metres above sea level in Chamoli district.
The Valley of Flowers turns into a riot of colours at this time of the year when every wild flowers of every hue fill up an 87 square km expanse, drawing tourists and botanists to the place.
It was declared as a World Heritage Site in 2005 by Unesco which described it as a “richly diverse area….home to rare and endangered animals, including the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep.”
The Valley of Flowers is also part of the Nanda Devi National Park.
Official said that tourists will have to wait a little longer since a crucial 3-km stretch in the valley is covered with snow at some points.
Tourists have to negotiate 4 kms from the base camp at Ghangharia in Chamoli district, some 300 km from Dehradun to reach to meadows. The visitors are required to return on the same day since tourists are not allowed overnight stay in the valley.
“We are letting the glaciers to melt in a natural way. Chief minister Harish Rawat has also advised us not to clear glaciers artificially,” said Rajiv Dhiman, divisional forest officer (DFO) of Nanda Devi National Park.
“We are waiting for next 8-10 days and by then it is not advisable for tourists to trek.”
The hiking trails and small bridges in the valley were damaged in the 2013 flash floods which had killed over five thousand people in the Uttarakhand hills.
Prior to flash floods, thousands visited the valley but the numbers dropped sharply in the last two years, officials added.
In 2012, over 5000 tourists visited the Valley of Flowers while only 484 visited in 2013. Last year, the number came down to a mere 81.
“It took lot of time in maintaining treks and bridges. We were hoping the numbers to grow this year but weather seems erratic,” the DFO said.
Chandrashekhar Chauhan, a local explorer from nearby village Ghangheria who has taken pictures of almost 350 different species of flowers says valley is a visual treat for the trekkers.
“A visitor often goes to the valley with a mind set of watching the flowers in a great multitude of colour and most of the times it happens,” Chauhan added.