Suzie Eisfelder
December 6, 2021

I picked up this book as part of the Dymocks Book Challenge 2021. I met Jagannath during covid and she gave me some publishing advice. Ignore her being in Queensland and me in Victoria; Zoom is a thing and we had a lovely conversation. Because of that I chose her travel book as ‘An armchair travel book’ in the challenge. I had no idea what to expect but I did hope for some flower photos.

This book is part Lonely Planet and part memoir of her journey. Jagannath was born in India, but now lives in Australia. She had a fair idea of what to expect when she got together with some friends for this trip. This book gives some excellent practical advice about preparing for a trip such as this, including what to expect with Acute Mountain Sickness and how to cope with it. What you also see are some nicely crafted paragraphs about the actual journey and some of the dangers; including killer cows. What I didn’t get is photos of flowers. Jagannath did include appendices of the various flowers found there, and in the digital book I read there were links to photos, but I would have liked to have them included with the text.

The Valley of Flowers National Park is located in North Chamoli and Pithoragarh in the state of Uttarakhand in India. It is part of the Himalayas. It is a challenge to reach and I’m in absolute awe of the people who live there and how they manage the challenge of walking around at high altitudes. I mean, every step you take might find you sliding and plummeting, yet they casually live there. With a bit of googling you can find itineraries which sound similar to Jagannath’s. If you look you’ll find some that mention doing the round trip from Delhi, with two full days of walking and two part days of walking, takes up ten days. I mean, India is huge and some of the areas are hard to reach. Jagannath does give some insight into the types of problems she encountered during the travel and some of the lovely people who helped. I got lost in the content and totally missed how many days walking she did.

The trek to and around The Valley of Flowers sounds a challenge. I’m not sure I’d be up to the challenge, not just the physical part such as the walking but with my allergies it’d be hard to get food there I could eat. This is why I enjoyed reading this book. It gave me a slice of a place I’ll probably never visit. There was also some religious information and some history given to us. I enjoyed reading about all of this, I would have liked more history though. Maybe I’m just being greedy.

One thing I loved is the constant references to a book by a previous adventurer. Written by Frank S. Smythe, The Valley of Flowers; An Adventure in the Upper Himalaya looks to be a mound of information, and has the advantages of being written during an era when people went on lengthy adventures. Smythe was an English mountaineer, author, photographer and botanist. He was with the group who first discovered The Valley of Flowers as an English person. He was there twice, the first when finishing a successful ascent of Mount Kamet in 1931 and then he returned there in 1937 to explore the Valley, identifying and collecting flowers and seeds there. You can buy his book here if you want, or Jagannath’s book here. Why not buy both and see how different travelling there has become.

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