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Little Known Destinations
north India Birding Tour With Ghani
Ghanshyam singh (Ghani)
October 17, 2011
Unexpected India 2010: Haryana and Uttar Pradesh with Ghani(GS)
From 2nd to 18th April 2010 myself and seven friends were engaged on a superbly successful birding trip around Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in the very capable hands of James Eaton of Birdtour Asia (www.birdtourasia.com). Full details of this trip are available
as a report on the Birdtour Asia Website.
After leaving Assam, four of us were due to transit via Delhi before continuing back to the UK, however Eyjafjallajökull Volcano had other plans and the now infamous ash cloud meant that we suddenly had a week to kill in the vicinity of Delhi. Our hastily
planned route took us first to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary for the chance to catch up with Sind Sparrow, and then up into the Himalayan Foothills of Naini Tal, Sat Tal, Pangot, Ramnagar and Corbett.
The Naini Tal area is traditionally a winter destination and we knew that our spring visit would miss various key seasonal species which winter at lower elevations in the Himalayas. This proved to be the case, however several Long-billed Thrushes were still
lingering and summering Spot-winged Starlings had arrived. More importantly, Rufous-chinned Laughing-Thrush appeared on cue and both Koklass and Cheer Pheasants performed magnificently.
It is interesting to note that ‘Birdquest’ missed both of the latter species in December 2009, so a Spring visit would certainly seem to bring certain advantages. Hopefully this short report will provide an insight into what the Himalayan Foothills have
to offer in a brief April visit.
Sunday 18th April
Prior to our departure from Assam, news of the Icelandic volcano and the disruption to West European travel had already started to filter through, however it was not until we reached Delhi that the full magnitude of the situation became apparent. As soon
as we knew that our British Airways flight to Heathrow on April 19th was cancelled we put plans into place to visit Sultanpur Jheels early the next morning.
The unexpected opportunity to visit Sultanpur provided a second bite of a cherry which had been cruelly denied to us the previous December. At our last attempt delayed flights meant that we only had half an hour at this excellent site after travelling up
from Nagpur, and we saw the range-restricted Sind Sparrow slip through our fingers as the daylight faded.
Monday 19th April
At 05.00 a very smart air-conditioned minibus awaits Andy Deighton, Martin Flack, Andy Bunting and myself, outside the Star Hotel. It is an hour-and-a-half drive to Sultanpur Jheels, which is actually in the adjacent Haryana State, and Guide(GS) with a
good knowledge of the area is essential.
Fortunately our man is suitably clued up and soon the ‘Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary’ signs start to appear. At the leafy Sanctuary car park , the local guide to whom we have been introduced just four months previously. GS informs us that our target Sind Sparrow
is actually present and breeding, but outside the reserve. A ten kilometre ride to the south therefore delivers us to Basi, an area of arable land and sewage ponds where we while away the next two hours with some great birding.
Initially our walk takes us through recently harvested cereal fields, where we are thankful that the temperature is still relatively cool under a low, hazy sun. An early success is a group of 7 migrant Red-headed Buntings, with males sporting full rufous-fronted
breeding regalia. Breeding plumaged Red Avadavats and smart Black Francolins add to the excitement of this unexpected morning of birding in a total different environment from that enjoyed during our previous two week’s travels. Ashy-crowned Finch-Larks, Oriental
Skylarks and Tawny Pipits feed beside the track, while Booted and Indian Reed Warblers forage in the bushes, and Grey Francolins scamper through the dry fields.
In the adjacent sewage ponds Black-winged Stilts wade, as large flocks of Ruff wheel above and Wood Sandpipers ‘chiff’ excitedly. Small numbers of Temminck’s Stink and Black-tailed Godwits feed in the newly flooded paddies, as half-a-dozen Black-naped Ibis
and several Greater Flamingos work the sewage pond shallows, all adding up to quite an impressive spectacle.
Our goal, however, is the Sind Sparrow, a somewhat enigmatic species whose very restricted range that has recently extended south from the Indus Floodplains. It doesn’t take long for Sanjay to locate a pair of the subtle
Passers, which are feeding young in an unseen nest at the best of a dense bush overhanging the sewage canal. Patience allows the study this close ally of the House Sparrow, and ultimately delivers some close photographic opportunities.
Next we travel back to Sultanpur, though we miss out the reserve and concentrate on the dry land behind, where a pair each of Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and stately Sarus Cranes are soon located. It takes a more determined search, below a fierce mid-morning
sun, before we secure our final target in the form of three magnificent Indian Coursers.
Our driver is Bola, who proves to be superbly competent at the wheel of his immaculate Toyota Innova, even in the face of the total mayhem which is Delhi’s rush-hour traffic. A storm of marble-sized hail stones is a shock to both us and Delhi’s local commuters,
and seems incredible in the near-fifty-degree heat.
After leaving the sprawling capital we make more rapid progress on good roads, with a sunset stop at the Ganges breaking our journey and providing an incredibly atmospheric evening spectacle across India’s most sacred river. Dozens of bathers gather in the
shallows, where floating tea lights bob downstream on the slow current. Further down the bank several funeral pyres flicker in the dimming, misty light, flanked by large gatherings of mourners; this really is a true taste of Indian life and provides one of
the most vivid and moving visions of our travels.
It is dark before we begin to climb into the foothills, where the cereal fields give way to roadside forest. It takes a full seven hours from Delhi to reach the Sat Tal , a wonderful high altitude sanctuary where we will spend the next two nights. A superb
meal awaits us, then we rapidly retire to the wonderfully cool luxury tented accommodation which could not contrast more greatly with the sweaty Star Hotel where we have spent the previous night.
Tuesday 20th April
After an appetising early breakfast we set off down the road which leads to Sat Tal Lake. At 1400m the temperature under the clear sky is reminiscent of a summer’s day in the UK, as we work our way through bird-laden pines and deciduous woodland. Orange-headed
Thrush, Grey-winged Blackbird and Blue-capped Rock-Thrush get us started, along with Green-backed, Grey and Black-throated Tits and some stunningly close views of the gorgeous Black-headed Jays which are garden birds here.
Grey-hooded and Greenish Warblers are the common Phylloscs, while Streaked Laughing-Thrushes, Grey Treepies and Plum-headed Parakeets are all plentiful. Scaly-bellied and Brown-fronted Woodpeckers feed in the trees, and Bar-tailed Treecreepers spiral up
mossy trunks. The appearance of a pair of Spot-winged Starlings, nectaring in a flowering tree, is a source of great excitement, as this east-to-west Himalayan migrant is a tick for all.
Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Long-tailed Minivet, Asian Brown and Blue-throated Flycatchers, Slaty-headed Parakeet, Tickell’s Thrush and Striated Prinia all add up to a memorable couple of hours in close proximity to the Lodge. Mid-morning our
bird guide appears, in the shape of
GS. Over the next week Ghani
as he becomes known, proves to be both a first class bird-finder and a great companion, with his Himalayan experience proving invaluable.
Descending towards the lake, new species continue to appear thick-and-fast in what can only be described as a phenomenally bird-rich area. Speckled Piculet, Western Crowned Warbler, Black-lored Tit and Ashy Bulbul are noted, along with the very distinctive
bispecularis race of Eurasian Jay with its plain crown and lack of white wing patch. Striated, White-crested and White-throated Laughing-Thrushes are all seen, but the stars are a pair of stunning Rufous-chinned Laughing-Thrushes; unbelievably they
are our eighteenth species of laughing-thrush of this extended trip.
Sulphur-bellied and Tickell’s Leaf-Warblers, Red-billed Blue Magpie, a showy Scaly-breasted Wren-Babbler and a magnificent roosting Brown Wood Owl end a superb morning of Western Himalayan birding. Coincidentally, we have all independently visited the area
up to twenty years previously, but things really seem to have changed; I don’t remember it being this birdy last time around!
After a fine lunch at the Lodge we travel the short distance down to Kachi Temple, a scenic if somewhat bizarre spot in the pine-clad hills, beside a beautiful babbling stream. Here a gaudily painted Hindu Temple blasts out a relentless ‘Hare Krishna’ chant,
and has attracted a small attendant throng of white western would-be Hindus!
The crossing point to the temple affords spectacularly close views of Plumbeous and White-capped Redstarts, as well as an obliging pair of Crested Kingfishers. Our goal does not materialise, however, and we set off down the stream without a Long-billed Thrush,
fearing that it has already departed its wintering haunt. Brown Dipper and a superb Spotted Forktail conclude the afternoon, then it’s back to the Lodge via a session in the local PCOs (telephone call boxes), to find out the latest flight and volcano gossip.
Wednesday 21st April
Our 05.30 breakfast is a positive lie-in after the NE India regime, then it’s back down to Kachi Temple to sample the latest Hare Krishna soundtrack. The birding is much a repeat of the previous evening, and we are about to leave when an exciting
Ghani appears, waving his arms frantically and offering an exaggerated ‘long-bill’ gesticulation! It can mean only one thing, and a short sprint soon has us peering down onto one of the best thrushes there is. Resembling something of
a weird amalgamation of thrush, terrestrial babbler and curlew, the incredible beast rummages through the bank-side litter just a few metres below us, allowing exceptional views of this normally shy species.
The rest of our time in the valley produces the standard fare of Crested Kingfisher, Spotted Forktail, Striated Prinia, Booted Warbler and Steppe Eagle. Then we set off to the west and our next destination of Pangot, via a visit to Naini Tal for the internet
and telephones. This really is a trip down memory lane, as the thriving hill resort was our main base when we were last here in the early 1990s, and the famous boating late and its surrounds bring back many happy recollections.
Beyond the bustle of Naini Tal, we ascend further into a much more rural setting, where the tiny hamlet of Pangot sits between oak forest and terraced fields, at the head of a beautiful valley. After settling into our excellent chalet accommodation at the
Jungle Lore Birding Lodge, and feasting on yet another superb meal, we are back in the field, this time for a steady downhill walk amongst the magnificent scenery of the Bagar Valley.
Afternoon birds include Black Francolin, many dazzling Blue-capped Rock-Thrushes, Striated Prinias, White-capped Bunting, Common Rosefinches, Greenish, Sulphur-bellied, Hume’s Leaf and Blyth’s Reed Warblers. The calls of Indian, Common and Oriental Cuckoos
all echo down the valleys, along with those of our old friend from Arunachal Pradesh, Common Hill Partridge. It certainly isn’t the best time of year to bird this area, as the wintering specialities have departed to their high altitude breeding grounds and
summer visitors to this elevation are somewhat thin on the ground, but it really is a spectacular setting in which to wander and we return for our evening cuisine in a very contented frame of mind.
Back at the chalet a small but menacing black scorpion has climbed the wall amongst the conglomeration of moths which are attracted to the lights. After coaxing him into a more photogenic pose we all make a mental note to check our boots for unwelcome visitors
in the morning!
Thursday 22nd April
With pheasants firmly in our sights we eat early and set off towards the village of Vinyak, situated at an altitude of around 2300m. As we pass extensive work-in-progress, to pave the narrow track which winds through the mixed forest, the chances of catching
up with a roadside pheasant seem to grow remote. Chestnut-crowned Laughing-Thrush, Himalayan Pied Woodpecker and a reunion with the Whiskered Yuhinas are all welcome, a pair of Kaleej Pheasants faintly raises hopes, and then the sudden appearance of a displaying
Koklass Pheasants within a few metres of the track causes excitement within the car to reach new bounds.
Over the next twenty minutes, skilful manoeuvring of the car and even more skilful manoeuvring of cameras, scopes and bodies within the vehicular hide secure some mouth-watering footage of a pair of magnificent Koklass Pheasants, as the male repeatedly calls
from his chosen low perch. Having secured one pheasant target, the remainder of the morning is spent scouring the nearby steep grassy slopes for Cheer Pheasant, an even more sought-after Galliform confined to the Western Himalayas.
Himalayan Griffon Vultures and Lammergiers keep us entertained with spectacular fly-pasts, and streaky Upland Pipits perform song flights from rocky pinnacles, but the Cheer Pheasants fail to materialise before we retire for lunch in the heat of the day.
The afternoon birding session consists of a similar bout of scanning, as we all slowly become more and more intimate with every pheasant-shaped tussock and crag on the vast sloping hillside.
The certain highlight of the evening is the appearance of a magnificent Yellow-throated Martin, which proceeds to bound through the sparse grassland below us, possibly in search of a gamebird supper. We return to the Lodge where the day has one more surprise
in store, for AD at least. Today the old chap is fifty, and to add to the ‘Birthday Pheasant’ he has already received, the staff roll out a fine birthday cake, complete with iced name and candles!
Friday 23rd April
Today we are at the Vinyak Cheer Pheasant site to see the sun rise, in order to maximise the chances of connecting with our last remaining target bird. We have only just stepped out of the car at the allotted viewpoint when Ghani exclaims that he has a pair
of Cheer Pheasants! Even more amazing is the fact that they are not on a distant slope as we had expected, but literally right next to the road just a few hundred metres back towards the village. They are in fact so close that Ghani dashes back to prevent
them escaping uphill and away, while several of us sprint off in pursuit, before cameras blaze in honour of these absolutely stunning birds.
For five minutes we soak up every intricate plumage detail as the pair scamper through the sparse brown grass and over the loose rocks just metres below us, before they lose patience of all the attention and launch into a glide path which takes them way
down the valley; simply stunning.
A Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush is the only other notebook entry for the early morning, before we return for a final scrumptious breakfast at the lodge. Here we also take the opportunity to capture some of the incredibly photogenic occupants of the terraced
gardens, such as Black-headed Jay, Streaked Laughing-Thrush, Russet Sparrow and Tickell’s Leaf-Warbler.
The rest of the morning is taken up in the descent to the lower altitude sites where we will spend the remainder of our stay. As we pass Naini Tal some entertainment is had with the long brass telescopes available for hire to scan the distant Himalayas,
as we ponder how many Rupees we can amass by doing the same with our Kowas and Swarovskis!
It is already very hot by the time we arrive at the Kosi River Barrage below Ramnagar Town, yet another site with many fond memories from previous trips, this time of Ibisbills, Wallcreepers and chronic food poisoning! Although such wintering species are
long gone by April, Streak-throated Swallows are nesting on the barrage, Ruddy Shelduck loaf on the river and a pair of Painted Snipe shelter from the heat at the water’s edge.
After checking in at the superb Tarangi Lodge, where our chalet accommodation overlooks the Kosi River, we head upstream to check for roosting Tawny Fish-Owls. The owls are more reliable in the winter months and cannot be located, but Large-tailed Nightjar,
Common Hawk Cuckoo and a surprise Long-billed Thrush all oblige.
With an afternoon game drive booked it’s soon time to return to our hotel, where an open-backed jeep awaits to whiz us off to Corbett Tiger Reserve. Entering via the Bijarani Gate we follow a rough track through a mixture dry Sal Forest and open grassland,
notching up a fine selection of birds and mammals as we drive. Jungle Babbler, Indian Grey Hornbill, Jungle Owlet and Collared Falconet are all welcome trip ticks, while Red Muntjac, Cheetal, Sambar and Asian Elephant help fill up our scant remaining camera
memory card space. Black Stork, Chestnut-shouldered Petronia, Crested Bunting, Black Francolin and some superbly-plumages Peacocks round off the listing, along with a Indian Grey Mongoose, as we make our way out of the park.
The restaurant at Tarangi Lodge conjures up what has to be the finest cuisine of a trip notable for its culinary excellence, providing a fitting end to a very memorable day.
Saturday 24th April
This morning’s dawn game drive is to commence at Corbett’s Jhirna Gate, a forty-five minute drive from the hotel. The habitat is a familiar mixture of Sal and grassland, but this area is reputedly the best for finding Tiger and the multitude of fresh prints
which litter the dusty dirt roads are certainly testament to a healthy population. Eyes remain glued to every bend in the road, willing an encounter with the stripy head of the forest food-chain, but our luck has clearly been exhausted on pheasants.
Fresh Sloth Bear tracks are also seen, but we have to be content with the usual variety of deer, another Indian Grey Mongoose, along with Indian Golden Oriole, Himalayan Flameback, White-rumped Shama, Puff-throated Babbler, Bay-backed Shrike and Brahmany
Myna. Particularly memorable are the highly photogenic colony of gorgeous Blue-tailed Bee-Eaters which are busily digging holes right next to the track. Booted Eagle and White-rumped Vulture pad out the raptor list as we vacate the Park, at which point a bearing
fails on our jeep, leaving us to limp to a village chai stall to await a replacement. Things could be much worse however, as we sip fine massala chai, whilst photographing the local Plum-headed Parakeets, Wrynecks, Indian Rollers and Blyth’s Reed Warblers.
Eventually we are rescued for a late brunch at Tarangi, with the remainder of the day being spent up river in the company of Brown Fish-Owls, White-browed Wagtails, Chestnut-tailed Starlings and Brown Dippers, beside the tranquil boulder-strewn flanks of
the Kosi River.
Sunday 25th April
With few options left to play out the final morning of our extended trip, Ghani suggests a trip to Ramganger, a rural resort on the higher reaches of the Kosi River. Our morning walk at this scenic spot commences by crossing the impressive suspension bridge,
before following a track high above the winding course of the river. Birding is rather uneventful, until we eventually pull the desired Lesser Fish Eagle out of the bag, and AD gets his final raptor fix of the trip!
A return to Tarangi sees up dining, packing our bags and warmly thanking the Ghani(GS) for making our unexpected trip extension such a success. Then it’s just a matter of seven hours in the car and we are back at Delhi Airport, where thankfully BA have our
names on four spare seats.
The ‘Eyjafjallajökull Extension’ has been a remarkable success, and special thanks must certainly be extended to GS, who ensured that everything ran smoothly in spite having virtually no advance warning of our arrival.And Ghani proved to be a first class
guide and turned into a personal friend through the course of our travels, whilst Balraj was a chauffeur par excellence! We would certainly recommend Ghani(GS), without hesitation, to anyone planning future travels anywhere on the North INDIA.
It could be said that every ash cloud does have a silver lining!
Ian Merrill May 2010 email@example.com http://firstname.lastname@example.org/default.htm
Bassi Wildlife Sanctuary
September 02, 2011
Bassi Wildlife Sanctuary is a wildlife sanctuary near Bassi in Chittorgarh district of Rajasthan, India.
5 kilometers from the Bassi Fort Palace.
1.5 hours of small journey from nearest Airport Maharana Pratap Air Port , Dabok , udaipur
It covers an area of 15,290 hectares and was established in 1988.
It has series of tableland, gentle slopes and vast stretches of large lakes, water channels of which penetrate into the forest.
Placed itself at the backdrop of lush green forests of Vindhyachal ranges, it is a noticeable wild life protection place, providing a natural habitat for varied species of wild life.
Orai dam and Bassi dam form part of this nice wildlife sanctuary. Antelopes, Leopards, mongoose and wild boar are some of animals inhabit the sanctuary.
Many migratory birds are spotted in the seasons.
No doubt, it’s a haven for wildlife enthusiasts.
Our one day experience to sanctuary was mind blogging ..as per photography level it was quite challenging that day because of heavy clouds..
01. Rock Eagle Owl or Bengal Eagle Owl (Bubo bengalensis)
02. Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker (Dinopium benghalense )
03. Savanna Nightjar, Caprimulgus affinis...ID nor confirmed..
04. Indian Pitta, Pitta brachyura
05. Jungle cat (Felis chaus)
06. Blue Bull
07. White-eyed Buzzard (Butastur teesa)
08. Painted Spurfowl (Galloperdix lunulata)
09. Black Francolin, Francolinus francolinus
10. Black-headed Cuckoo-shrike (Coracina melanoptera)
11. Asian Paradise-flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi)
12. Oriental White-eye, Zosterops palpebrosus
13. Knob-billed Duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos)
14. Lesser Whistling Duck
15. Painted Stork (Mycteria leucocephala)
16. Asian Openbill Stork, Anastomus oscitans
17. Asian Brown Flycatcher, Muscicapa dauurica
18. Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus)
19. Rufous Treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda)
20. Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia)
21. Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)
22. Shikra (Accipiter badius)
23. Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
24. Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Pterocles exustus
25. Brown Fish-owl (Bubo zeylonensis or Ketupa zeylonensis)
22. Oriental Honey Buzzard, Pernis ptilorhynchus
23. Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela)
24. Plum-headed Parakeet (Psittacula cyanocephala)
25. Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
26. Indian Peafowl or Blue Peafowl (Pavo cristatus)
27. Rufous-tailed Lark (Ammomanes phoenicura)
28. Common Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis
29. White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)
30. Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus)
31. Spotted Owlet (Athene brama)
& ETC ETC ETC...
Last not least KING OF SAARNA( LEOPARD) from Rishiraj Deval...
For snaps from sanctuary plz look at the link bellow
For more details on BASSI WILDLIFE SANCTUARY plz call shri Rishiraj Deval ..his cell no. are +91 7891100000
Regards & regrets for mistakes
with many more to explore yet..
Little Known Destinations
a trip to north-east forests.....
April 13, 2011
it's about the forests in jalpaiguri,west bengal.....gorumara,chapramari,chilapota,jaldapara..........lots of greens,lesser no of big cats,huge no of elephants.........as these places are not so famous compared
to other forests like-corbett,bandhavgarh etc.,they are not hugely effected by our so called "tourism" & "civilization"......there is also a tiger rescue centre in khayerberi......still can't understand why those leapords are still not sent to jungles,although
they have overcome from thier injuries,after being looked after for so many years....is it for tourists???don't know...
March 25, 2011
i have visit to kanha national park 2 times.i want the save trees and tigers on worldwide level
Birding Trips in MP
March 05, 2011
I work as freelance birding guide to North India, Chambal, Bharatpur, Nainital, Corbett, Kanha, Pench and Bandhavgarh. Here are my observations at various places.
Find checklists of birds of Jabalpur, Kanha, Nauradehi, Amarkantak situated in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Most of these are less known less explored but fantastic birding destinations. Can add to sighting of different
avi fauna and add to your lists. The tiger reserves offer double benefits - Birding and Animal Watching...Tigers and birds together
Madhya Pradesh Birds
Bandhavgarh National park
March 01, 2011
Had a great time in Bandhavgarh. After visting other parks like Corbett, Kanha and Ranthambore, where the tiger sightings were not great, Bandhavgarh carried lots for expectations for me. Had read, watched and heard about this jungle being the best place
to spot a tiger properly and clearly it never disappointed me.
Right from the moment we entered our resort ( located right next to the boundary ), we were hopeful. Immediately met a guest in the resort who had just returned from morning safari and spotted and followed the tiger for 10 mins.
Our resort was nestled in 21 acres of raw forest with rooms being built on the trees. Truly marvellous experience of staying in the traquility and privacy. The resort had only 5 tree houses in the entire property and no room where visible from any of the tree
houses. staff was also polite and gave us good service.
Our first safari ( evening ) wasnt great as we failed to spot any of the tigers. We didnt even come close to it. However, we were hopeful.
At night we were woken up by a loud sound of a tiger roaring very nearby. It was precedded and followed by multiple alarm calls from Sambar and Langurs. For the first time we actually heard proper alarm calls at night. We had heard isolated alarm calls of
Sambar at Kanha before. But this was different. The next morning,the resort staff informed us that it was a tigress and sound was coming right behind the boundary of our tree!!!!
Morning safari was good. Typically like in Bandhavgarh, there was a tiger show. The forest dept has elephants with mahuts who track the tigers in the jungle. Once the tigers lay on the ground, people are taken on the same elephants to see the tiger. We reached
the centre point ( forest office ) inside the park and were informed about tiger show being happening on route D. We immediately rushed to the spot where the forest officer was organizing the same. Our sighting was good. Three tigers ( a mother and her grownup
cubs ) were lying near a hill. Our elephant took us right next to the tiger and we took some wonderful closeup photos.
The tigers were just unconcerned by our presence and were lying at leisure. Once back at the resort we took a tour of the resort in the afternoon. Believe me, the resort had a private natural watering hole where animals could be spotted. Our guide,the resort
watchman had his own version of exciting stories about the tiger. Me, my wife and even our 2 yr old kid walked the entire 3 KM stretch in dense forest. I have to say this was the best jungle resort I have stayed in.
Again during the morning safari next day, we spotted two tigers immediately as we entered the park. All the safari vehicles who had entered the park that morning got proper sighting of that male and female. However, distance was bit long. After 15 mins, the
female walked away followed by the male. But everyone was satisfied.
All in all, trip to Bandhavgarh was good. I will recomment this jungle only for tiger sightings. Other animals are not in abundance and hence its all about tigers. We saw 5 tigers in two days whereas in other three jungles put together we just spotted 2 tigers
only. The jungle is not beautiful like Corbett, nor is full of different species like Kanha. However, you can be rest assured about one thing. A good tiger sighting. This is a comment coming from me who has visited 3 jungles before this and had done 10 safaris
and never had a good view of a tiger. Bandhavgarh was my last option and it didnt disappoint me at all!!!!!
Little Known Destinations
Dalhousie - My First Love!
Ms Pintueli Gajjar
February 17, 2011
Dalhousie - my first love
Dalhousie was … Love at first sight! I had never before visited this part of the Himalayas and, I fell hook, line and sinker for it! I thought it was the perfect place to gather all the pieces of my life together…It would be a good place for me to get my spiritual
and emotional self back…It was a fabulous place for my children to spend their childhood in…And for all that I know, it was. I have spent 4 of the best years of my life here – teaching at the Hill Top School in Upper Bakhrota.
Dalhousie, established in 1854, is spread out on five beautiful hills and is surrounded by dense forests, deep valleys and from some point down, on a clear day, one can see the mighty river Ravi flowing down to Pakistan. It lies comfortably between 6000 to
9000 ft above sea level. There are only 3 main roads here – Garam Sadak, Thandi Sadak and, the Court road. The first two go around the first hill and the second one goes down the other smaller hill, where the Sacred Heart convent sits at the top. A fourth
road goes around the convent back to Subhash chowk. It is designed as the loop of 8.
The Court road goes all the way down to the pump house and towards my friend’s house. There’s a little garden across her house where one can sit and watch the sun set and the Ravi river snaking down the valley. It’s a beautiful place where one can even forget
The Garam sadak starts from Subhash chowk to Gandhi chowk and is a wide, sunny motorable road. The right side is lined with shops while the left side has the hotels overlooking the valley down to Bathri and Jhandri Ghati. Gandhi chowk is the hub of the town
where the GPO and most of the shops and eateries lie. It is always crowded with the locals, tourists and the taxi drivers. And occasionally, hordes of langurs! (Both the varieties – with and without tails!) A few meters away is the famous yoga institute, the
On the other hand, the Thandi sadak is a pleasant walk around the hill. It is much quieter and cooler as it is shaded by the numerous trees lining the sides. A few hotels have sprung up recently but otherwise, it is nice to walk and one can see the old part
of the town below. From Subhash chowk, one can either take the Court road or take the steps down to the Sadar bazaar in the old part of the town. The steps are lined on both sides by antiquated stone buildings and shops. People have been living here since
before independence and it has a unique ambience and architecture. The 150 year old Laxmi Narayan Temple stands testimony to generations of people living here. At the other end, the road takes you back up to the Court road. Court road has some beautiful hotels
amongst which is, the oldest one, Hotel Aroma-n-Claire. Unfortunately, in a recent accident, it was burnt down, and I lost my good friend, Rohit, in it. There’s also the oldest store here – B.C. Khanna. The town police station and the court are situated here
too. It’s much quieter than the Garam sadak. Up on the hill is the Sacred Heart convent school which is as old as the town itself. From behind the convent is another less-used road that meets Subhash chowk. From here, one can see the Canadian settlement and
some of the most awesome sunsets!
Coming back to Gandhi Chowk, take the road going down to Ram Mandir and from there, go on to the famous Panchpula. Panchpula is about 3 kms from GPO and this is where several streams meet to form a huge pool. The main source springs from the north face of Dainkund
running down to Panchpula. There is a monument and a Samadhi here built in the memory of Sardar Ajit Singh, one of the great freedom fighters and uncle of Bhagat Singh. There is a bustling roadside café that serves snacks and tea. Due to a rise in tourism,
this place has lost its original charm but nevertheless, it’s worth a visit. On the way back, one can quench their thirst at the Satdhar Springs, which are believed to contain medicinal properties. The water is sweet and refreshing.
There are 2 churches here…St. John's and St. Francis. St. Francis church stands prominently in Subhash Chowk and has beautiful glass and stone work inside. St. John's church is in Gandhi chowk and belongs to the Protestants. At both the churches, services are
held on Sundays.
This, more or less, completes the little hill station called Dalhousie.
From Gandhi chowk, there’s a road that goes down to Karelu Khad where the Jandri Ghati palace is situated. Remember the song from the film 1942-Love Story “Kuch Na Kaho…” Well, it’s been shot at the palace! It passes through Subhash Bowli, from where it is
said, Subhas Chandra Bose, while hiding from the British, meditated and held party meetings in secret and kept himself healthy by drinking fresh mineral waters of the natural spring. The spring still exists and the water tastes just as sweet. Just after the
monsoons, Karelu Khad has the most beautiful waterfall and lies in the middle of nowhere, since it is not well known. There’s a motorable road all the way to the palace. The palace is out of bounds to the public but the library there is worth a visit and is
open on certain days.
Another road from Gandhi chowk goes up all the way to Chamba. The road passes through some of the most interesting places to see around Dalhousie. It passes through dense deodar forests and winding roads and little gurgling brooks and streams. As soon as you
take the road, you’ll first pass the famous Dalhousie Public School and get a panoramic view of its grounds and hostels. As soon as you reach the top of the incline, you’ve reached Dhupghadi, or, Upper Bakhrota. There is a beautiful walk around the hill from
here that meets up at Ala. From here the road is pretty straight all the way to Ala. Just before you reach Ala, you’ll pass by another famous school, The Hill Top School. Incidentally, the school lies bang in the middle of the Khajjiar-Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary
and if one is quiet or quite lucky, you can spot a Himalayan bear or a leopard, as I’ve had an opportunity to see quite a few times! It’s a beautiful road and is home to some of the most exotic birdlife of the Himalayan ranges.
In the mornings, you wake up to the melodious whistle of the whistling thrush. And just before the sun comes up, you can spot the long-tailed blue magpie, flitting from branch to branch, the babblers, barbets, hoopoes, wood peckers, nuthatches, sun birds, bush
chats, tree pies, the solitary fly catcher, the paradise flycatchers and hordes of other birds, not forgetting the cacophonic parakeets. Just before the rains, one can hear the continuous humming of the cicadas. Somewhere in the distance, you’ll hear the unforgettable
sound of the Great Indian barbet too. You might spy a mongoose, or a hare, or, if you are really lucky, the Himalayan pit viper, slinking away under a rock. And overhead, you’ll see the magnificent Lammergeiers, romancing the skies. There’s much to see for
both the amateurs as well as the professional birders. Don’t forget to take your field glasses and your bird guides. Ala is a tiny place with just a few homes and shops. From here, the road winds up to Lakarmandi. From behind the shops is a small 'Pag-Dandi'
or a path leading up to Diankund Airbase. The quietness of the trek is overwhelming and a solace to ones spirit.
Lakarmandi, as the name suggests, is a small settlement of coal making Dhogri community. It lies at an altitude of 8600 ft above sea level. The people living here burn trees and make coals which they sell down in the plains. If you haven’t had your breakfast,
this is the place to relish some really filling omelettes and aloo paranthas doubled up with the local chamba chukh, actually, pickled chillies. A halt here is a must if you want to see some of the most pristine woods around. Take a walk down the rustic road
to Kalatop, perched at 8000 ft, a place with fantastic views of the valley around. And all the better if you can book in advance at the Government Guest house (Booking can be done at the GFO, Wildlife, Chamba) and spend a night with candle-lit or, if the electricity
is not there, a starry-studded dinner!. Spending a night here is thrilling as in the wee hours of the morning you can hear the barking deer and maybe, a grunt of a prowling bear. You may also spot the elusive jungle cat, as we did so often. In the far distance,
one can see the town of Chamba, if it isn’t too foggy. The smell of the deodars and the sight of the lovely daisies in summer is worth the time spent here.
The Charcoal People
Walking along the snow-swept roads
Bent over with their heavy loads
Black charcoal filled gunnysacks
They walk with strong n’ sturdy backs!
Up and down the slope they go
With not a soul to goad them, though
Smiling and humming on their way
With not a minute to waste away!
From Lakadmandi to GPO
Back again and to n’ fro
Life is hard and a little rough
To survive, that is enough!
Neither a whimper nor a sigh
Escapes their lips and besides,
To complain or make an excuse
Does it help? Is it of any use?
To work and go calmly on
Whether it snows or shines on
They have no time to ponder…
…What strength they have, I wonder!
From Lakkarmandi, there’s another motorable road to the Airforce Base at Diankund. The road ends at the base and from here, one can trek up to the Pahalani Devi’s Temple. Interestingly, there is no idol of the devi here but some trishuls by which, it is said,
the devi killed the witches. There are two beautiful lakes, one of which is situated inside the base and beyond limits for civilians. The other one lies in the valley beyond the temple. There are two 60 ft radars there and photography is strictly prohibited.
Going along the same ridge past the temple, lies the ‘Jot’ pass and you get to view some really breath-taking valleys and fields along the way, not forgetting to mention the company of hundreds of butterflies on the expanses of wild white daisies and yellow
buttercups! Diankund is also known as the Whispering Hill because one can hear the wind whistling through the forests and glades in a multitude of different sounds. The winds are pretty strong up here and it’s a heavenly feeling that cannot be described but
has to be felt.
Back on the road to the next ‘Switzerland’ of India – Khajjiar!
Khajjiar is more than my words can describe it. The very sight of it sends ones pulse racing and when you reach there, you’ll be gasping for breath. There is a beautiful stone and wood temple that dates back to the 10th century dedicated to Khajji Naga – the
Serpent-God, and has intricate carvings on its pillars and the ceiling. The two smaller temples adjoining the main temple are of Shiva and Goddess Hidimba. ‘Halal’ or, sacrificing a goat, is still carried on at the temple during some festivals. Khajjiar is
shaped like a huge saucer. In the middle is a little floating island and from its position, one can judge which side the wind is blowing. Around it is acres and acres of green turf, enough to make any golfer regret carrying his tees! Early mornings are the
best time to be here, before the merry-makers arrive with all their noise and din. The fresh smell of the deodar trees and mist in the air rejuvenate your spirits and you come away thinking how beautiful our world really is.
Spend a night at any one of the numerous hotels here and see the millions of stars shining down on you – make some wishes on the many falling stars that you see or catch a moonbeam in the stillness of the night. It’s an unforgettable experience.
Move on to Chamba – the land of a hundred temples!
Solo Trek - Valley of Flowers - Uttarakhand
Ms Pintueli Gajjar
February 17, 2011
Its late in the night as I sit in the comfortable confines of a railway compartment at the old Delhi railway station. Its a new experience traveling alone as I wait for the Mussoorie
Express to chug into the inky darkness which I hope will take me to a new dawn in my life. I feel more in control of myself and while trying to absorb the atmosphere, I get an occasional strange glance… a single Indian lady with a backpack! I feel good. The
train’s started on the dot at 10:15 pm, and I’m on my way. I quickly settle down for a nap and before I know it, am dreaming of flower-filled valleys and endless meadows with laughing brooks and singing rivers. Only when the train comes to a shuddering halt
at Haridwar, I’m jolted back to reality! The train, for reasons beyond my understanding, halts here for 3 hours before taking off for Rhishikesh, I decide to get off here and proceed to Rhishikesh by road.
Its 6.15 as I take an auto rickshaw called ‘Vikram’ from here to Rhishikesh which costs me a mere Rs 15 on a sharing basis. They charge per passenger and can crowd in about 10 passengers
at a time. It’s been drizzling for an hour now and I expect more rains as I proceed up. The clouds look ominously dark and are hanging low, a sure sign of showers along the way.
The Ganges in Haridwar is magnificent. Unfortunately, my camera is deep down in the rucksack and I’m already regretting not having removed it earlier. I can see a few sadhus having
an early dip in the morning chill.
The road passes up through dense Chilla forest of bamboo, teak and cherry and, Rhishikesh comes quickly. I head straight for Chotiwala’s across the Ram-jhula. This is a famous tea/lunch
stall and is so named, because a Chotiwala sits there, all pink and roly-poly, grinning at all and sundry. He looks weird with his ‘choti’ standing straight up in the air!
I have a quick breakfast and leave my rucksack at Chotiwala’s (he’s trustworthy and moreover having such a distinct hairdo he would be easy to spot anywhere) and join a group of
people on a small trek to Neelkantha. The cobbled path is slippery as it’s been raining and I enjoy the way up with a group of college kids from Lucknow.. Somewhere deep from the jungle comes the trumpeting of wild elephants and we all hurry along…the pachyderms
here are notorious for attacking and a series of stories start on the way up. It’s interesting to hear some of them while most of them are hearsay. We reach at 1:00 pm. I take a dip in the cool stream flowing by the temple and am feeling refreshed. The clouds
are now closing in and a damp atmosphere engulfs us. We hurriedly start the trek down and this time, we are almost running as the clouds threaten to break any moment. I quickly gather my sack from the Chotiwala’s and head back to town. As I check into Hotel
Uttaranchal, the heavens let loose…. I’m glad to be in my room. After a hot bath, I catch a few winks.
What a surprise when I wakeup at 5:00 pm... The sun’s shining as though it’s never rained! One of nature’s tricks!! I stroll down to the GMVN Office and meet a really nice gentleman,
Mr. Allan Sharma, who not only guides me but also lends me the beautiful map of Uttaranchal that is hanging behind his desk. I feel lucky to have met him. He gives me the details of all the probable places I could have a comfortable and affordable stay while
on the move. I profusely thank him and go and sit on the banks of the mighty river.
Watching the river flow, I’m lost in thoughts ~ on the creation of the earth, the bounty of nature and thank God that I’m born in such a traditionally rich, seeped in culture and
breathtakingly beautiful country. What freedom! I sit pondering until the twinkling golden and silver lights start sparkling through homes across the expanse, reflecting a million reflections in the rushing waters. I choose this moment to call my daughters
and my dad and share these happy moments with them. Reluctantly, I walk back to the hotel. On the way, at the market, there’s this sweetmeat shop, Saket, which has a tiny but clean restaurant at the back and serves excellent cutlets and fantastic coffee. My
dinner done, I pick up a few apples and nuts for the journey tomorrow and head back to the hotel and in minutes, I’m back in the land of flowers and mountain fragrances…as I dream on.
Up and away at 2:30 am…to the bus-stand to catch the 3:15 bus for Joshimath. As I settle down, I’m half-sleepy and groggy. As the bus starts, I realize with horror that I’m the
only passenger and the driver is driving like crazy….he has a terrible smoker’s cough and is continuously smoking bidis and coughing. At times I feel he might just double up any moment….and his driving is driving me nuts. I have all my fingers and toes crossed
and am chanting the gayatri mantra to save my own soul! I decide to close my eyes and try to sleep, but to no avail! On the contrary, I’m holding on to all available support with my extremities …and ability!
The journey is awfully beautiful and somewhere along the way, I have managed to lose the Ganges and have no idea when the Alaknanda has joined me … keeping me company… flowing…clouds
hanging really low…the mountains towering above and the yellow-vented bulbuls flying around. I can hear the whistling thrush, the low whistle of a bushchat and chirping of the other birds. We manage to arrive safely at Srinagar and as the bus halts, many Sikh
pilgrims, on their way to Hemkund Sahib are now boarding the bus. I’m relieved at the company. As the bus starts once again on its journey, I try to take some pictures of the narrow bridges across the river but find it difficult to hold steady … thanks to
our ‘Desi-Grand-Prix-Driver’. In fact, most of the passengers are holding on to the seats, windows, bars, each other, whatever … all for their dear lives! I know it sounds hilarious but it is sheer hell! We finally make it to Rudraprayag at 8:15 am. The driver
is having another bidi and I wonder what’s going to happen next… my gayatri mantras begin…Was my dream of a new freedom going to go up in a puff of bidi smoke?
We leave Rudraprayag at 9 am. The journey is slower due to the other traffic on the road – some blessing in disguise. Also, since the bus is now crowded with the pilgrims, the driver
has less opportunity of trying out his driving histrionics. I doze off until we reach Chamoli. There’s a landslide up ahead and all traffic has come to a standstill. I get off the bus and stretch my legs. The mountains are beckoning and I can’t wait to get
to the valley. Just one more night…I arrive at Joshimath at 5:40 pm and have a splitting headache. I check into the GMVN tourist bungalow, which luckily, is bang on the main road. I put my rucksack into the room and order some food, pop a dispirin and doze
off. I am awakened by a cacophony outside the hotel. I freshen up and decide to have a look at the town.
Joshimath is a small town, but a prominent one as Gobindghat (the staging point for Hemkund Sahib & the valley of flowers) up ahead does not have all facilities. As I stroll
down the main market road, there’s no electricity tonight but the whole place is aglow with the soft lights of the candle-lit evening and millions and trillions of stars studded in the sky above. I suddenly realize how dependent we are on technology and how
we have, in the name of progress, lost the many beautiful sights that nature has to offer. There’s a chill in the air and I feel snug in my overcoat and muffler. I walk into a small dhaba on the roadside and order some hot food. The strange glances towards
me continue…but am so hungry that I just ignore them and enjoy the food.
I have a good sleep and am up before dawn. I take the 6:40 am bus to Badrinath. The bus is a hotchpotch mix of passengers. The back is filled with the locals while there are a few
Bengali tourists in the middle. There’s an antique-looking villager and he’s got a running commentary on… of his visits to Haridwar & is adding his own notions and ideas on religion. He keeps looking at all of us hoping someone would lend him ears, little
knowing that we have no choice but to listen to his ramblings….a child is crying somewhere in the back and the bus is packed. The bus conductor has a whacky sense of humor: Bumbai ka fashion…Uttaranchal ka rotation aur Gadhwaal ka mausam – koi garantee nahi!
I agree with him. The mountains are lush green and sheer drops of waterfalls dot the scenery. The clouds are still up there and I can see a build-up. Well, the whole valley is shrouded in fog. It’s going to be another wet day!
We reach Gobindghat at 7:15 and I get off the bus and feel my pulse quicken. I look up at the mighty mountains and breathe in the dew-laden air. It smells good. I take my time to
gauge the exact time I might take to reach Ghangharia and, realise that I have no idea! I walk through Gobindghat, taking in the ambiance created by the hundreds of pilgrims… some sturdy enough to climb in a short span of time while some are so old that I
wonder how’ll they make it??? While I contemplate taking a porter, one suddenly appears out of nowhere, GhanBahadur Singh. He has a kind face and I agree to hire him to carry my backpack. We agree on Rs 200. It has started raining now and I am huddled inside
As we cross the bridge and head towards Pulna, I’m slowing down. It takes some time getting used to walking in the mountains. The fresh air is too good for these hungry lungs of
pollution-laden Mumbai and the going becomes tougher. I stop at Pulna and watch the farmers in their fields. Alongside is a tributary, Pushpawati, in a mad rush to meet Alaknanda. The clouds are closing in now and visibility drops. To add to woes a cobbled
path, mixed with rain slush and horse-shit, makes it all the more difficult to walk and one has to be careful of putting one’s feet in the right place. A slip here would not only be painful but will cause much misery if not be fatal at this point in time.
I make two more stops to enjoy the flavors of the villages and keep a steady pace going. We finally reach Ghangharia at 2:30 in the afternoon.
Ghangharia lies bang in the middle of a dense forest shaped in a gorgeous V shaped valley. The tall pine trees shoot skywards like rockets as if to lay a personal claim to the bright
rejuvenating sunlight, while the clouds come rushing down, blanketing everything in sight. It has an ethereal feel and I suddenly get a feeling of Déjà vu. I can’t believe I’ve reached here – on my own. The tiny hamlet is bustling with pilgrims and I spot
a few Japanese tourists. Just before the hamlet lies an open meadow converted into a beautiful helipad. Today, there are some children playing hopscotch and I am tempted to go join them but I know, I can’t trust my legs now. The last bit was a trifle hard.
In fact, I felt like a Jack-in-the-box and my legs are so rubbery that I practically have no control over them.
I check in at the GMVN guest house and take a dorm-room – all to myself, as there are hardly any tourists. It’s a four-bed room with a bath attached. So far, so good. I dump my
backpack and go out to explore. I walk into a hotel opposite and order some food and afterwards, a hot ‘chai’ and watch the people around. There are all kinds… I meet a local couple from Bhyundar village and have a good chat – about their life … and, they
look so happy together. Somewhere deep inside, I envy them their blissfully simple lives and think of the madness of my own life in a metropolitan city. It is then that I realize what a loser I am! I go out and explore the small lane selling all the various
paraphernalia of temple offerings and flower garlands, sweetmeats and guide books. Spotting a photography shop, I walk in and am greeted by a pony-tailed youth, all smiles and at service. I look at the marvelous photographs of the flowers of the valley. Rajnish
Chauhan is an amazing person and a walking encyclopedia of Botany. A resident of the Bhyundar village, he’s been studying the flora and fauna of the valley and the upper regions of the Himalayas since the past 6 years. He’s passionate about his valley and
as he talks, a glow spreads across his face as he lovingly dishes out the almost-alien names of the flowers. His shop is full of the most exotic flowers I’ve ever seen – all frozen on postcard-sized glossy photographs.
It’s now 4:00pm but feels as though it’s 7:00 in the evening. Rajnish has invited me to come view his slide show at the library. As I come out of the library after the amazing show,
I can feel my toes and fingers going numb with the cold creeping in. I walk back into the restaurant and dive into some hot tomato soup with paranthas and rush back into my room. I order for some hot water for the water bottle I carry. As I wait for the water
to arrive, I pack for tomorrow’s trip to the valley. Everything in order, I jump under the blankets with my water bottle and try to sleep. Outside it is 12˚C and it is raining. The chill is too much and I find sleeping difficult. Have tried all positions and
am not sure if I’ve slept even a wink the whole night.
Am up, even before the alarm goes off and drag my numb body out of bed. Have a quick change of clothes, arrange my things neatly and as I step out of the room, I get a shock of
my life! I can’t see a thing as the fog has completely shrouded everything. And worse, it’s drizzling. I go to the reception area and ask for a chai. I have no choice but to enjoy the moments of a steaming cuppa. The clouds have rolled in too and except the
trees closest to me, can’t see anything beyond. I wait for an hour and then, decide to move on. It has cleared a bit and the receptionist assures me that it’ll completely clear in an hour or so. He was right.
Entrance to Valley of Flowers
I go up to the entrance of the valley and sit there twiddling my gloved fingers. My legs have taken their own sweet time to get there – after a long, sleepless night they seem out
of gear. I buy a ticket at the entrance and wander inside and am greeted by clusters of asters and erigrones – all in purples and yellow, complimenting each other with their unique identities. The path is cobbled through a thick forest of birch, maple and
oak. And yes, lots of ‘bhojpatra’ trees. I come upon a small waterfall and take a few pictures. I slow down here as the path now winds uphill while the Pushpawati flows downhill. After a kilometer I reach an old wooden bridge and standing on it, can feel the
tremendous power of the swollen tributary. Ahead, I bump into some college kids, who have come from Delhi. They are amazed that I’m doing this trek on my own… well, so am I! As we walk together, chatting about this and that, I spy a Himalayan Pit Viper under
a stone. I catch it and show it to the kids who have never seen it. After all the oohs and aahs, I let the snake slide back under the stone. We cross another log bridge and see a glacier where the Pushpawati has cut through. This whole region is now a protected
forest and is named as the Nanda Devi Sanctuary. You are not allowed to carry any eatables or disposable water bottles inside the sanctuary to prevent littering.
The Old Wooden Bridge over Pushpavati
Just as we turn the bend, I find myself gasping for breath. The valley ahead is miles and miles of a many-hued carpet. Yellows, pinks, blues, reds, purples and whites… all clambering
for attention! I feel tears roll down – out of sheer joy! It’s a dream come true. The Bhyundar glacier pass is clearly visible and I just sit there gaping! I am sure this is where the Gods live. I walk the length of the valley, marveling at each miracle of
nature. I take time to visit the resting place of Joan Margaret Legge and pay my respects to the brave lady who brought recognition of the valley to the world. I am almost at the end of the valley when I see the first cloud rolling in. Reluctantly I turn back
and feel certain heaviness in my step as I hasten back. By the time I reach the bridge, the clouds have overtaken me and I’m caught in the downpour. I find shelter under a birch tree. After a 20-minute pour, it suddenly stops and the skies are once again clear.
I’m tempted to go back but decide otherwise and head back to Ghangharia. After a quick meal, I join a group of pilgrims, on the way to Hemkund Sahib.
I start at 2 in the afternoon and although it is a mere 6 km trek, it takes me almost 6 hours to reach up. I think this is one the most arduous trips I’ve ever managed. It is 9
pm by the time I’m through visiting the holy shrine. Undecided whether to go down or stay put, I decide to stay put at the Lakshmanji’s temple. Although I now realize how risky it was to have stayed there, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do this again tomorrow.
Fighting the biting cold and fatigue, I manage to pass the night, singing songs to myself and exercising to keep the cold at bay. The mountains look beautiful in the luminance of the moonlight, not to mention the majestic Nanadadevi Parbat rising just behind
the Gurudwara. I don’t feel alone and the mountains seem friendly. At the first sign of dawn, I climb up a small hill beyond the Hemkund shrine and am again down on my knees – this time crying like a baby! The expanse of Brahma Kamals and Fen Kamals are the
tip of the cake!!! It is a tremendously overwhelming feeling, which still haunts me to this day! And what’s more, I am out of film!!! Sheer bad luck. But, I guess the power of memory is greater than any film roll… a life-long consolation!
I head back to Ghangharia, and head straight to the restaurant for a breakfast of the local ‘Madhve ki roti’ and black tea. I go to meet Rajnish but he’s gone off with some tourists
and missed meeting him. But I do meet his father, Mr. Jagdish Chauhan and promise to come back. Back at the hotel, I meet a family from Kerala who are also traveling to Joshimath. Going down was tougher than climbing up because it was slippery like hell! And
by the time I reached Gobindghat, my legs were like two stumps that just wouldn’t bend. I hitch hiked the ride with the family from Kerala, till Joshimath.
I stayed there for two days, visiting Auli. Later I went to Mussoorie and did another trek to Har-ki-Dun… but, that’s another story altogether! This visit to the valley wouldn’t
have been possible without the full support and motivation of my daughters. They believed in me more than I did and I do not have enough words to thank them. My only wish is for them to visit the place for themselves and re-live all the beautiful moments and
experiences that I did.
Valley of Flowers was indeed a dream come true. I have dreamt of visiting the valley ever since I first heard of it while still in school. Since this was my first solo trek, at
the ripe ole age of 45, with low blood pressure and a bout of arthritis, it has been a tremendous achievement. Someday, I want to go there again and open a small school for the village children and give them vocational training.
Some advice to first-time trekkers:
• Always plan your itinerary keeping in mind the delays due to the weather and landslides. They are unpredictable.
• Always carry some fruit, chocolate, candy and nuts with you while traveling.
• A torch, batteries, candle and a matchbox are essential commodities in your kit.
• Keep the contacts of the people you know or meet on the way. It’s nice to know you have someone in case of an emergency.
• Be nice to the local villagers. If you are buying something from them, do not haggle too much over the price – probably that’s the only source of income they have. Life in the
mountains is far tougher than we think or know.
• When traveling by road, keep a map, notepad and a pencil handy – it helps to jot down experiences.
• Keep your money safe – I usually travel with money in my socks!
• When packing, keep your woolies on the top – you never can tell when you may have to start layering yourself.
• Put all yr medicines in the same pocket as your water bottle for emergencies on the way and make sure it is not easily accessible.
• Especially while traveling in the mountains, carry an umbrella or a raincoat or a rainproof jacket.
• It is also advisable to carry an extra pair of shoes – in case one pair gets wet!
• One sure remedy to keep the cold at bay is to rub some Amrutanjan on the soles of your feet before wearing the socks, on hands and in the neck, just before you jump into bed.
• Never tell strangers of your plans nor let them know that you are new to the place.
• The best place to ask for directions is either the tourist office or the police station.
Birding in Rollapadu Landscape , Andhra Pradesh India.
January 18, 2011
Birding in Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh:
Grassland ecosystems are one of the finest ecosystems in the world which support very good populations of birds especially
the grasslands specialist. Among such grasslands ecosystems in India, Rollapadu wildlife sanctuary is one of the finest grasslands present in India. This sanctuary was formed in the year 1988especially to protect the endangered bird The Great Indian Bustard
(Ardeotis nigriceps) and also Lesser Florican (Sypheotides
indicus) which nests in this region.Topography of the sanctuary is gentle
undulating plains with an elevation of 290m and vegetation is of Southern Tropical Thorn Forest type. Climate is mostly hot and dry for a period of more than 8 months with mean annual temperatures about28°C, maximum being 42°C and minimum being 18°C.Average
rainfall of the area is 450mm and usually it varies. It is open dry grassland with interspersed thorny bushes. The flora includes grasses like Arisitida
funiculata, Chrysopogon fulvus, Heteropogan contortus, Sehima nervosum, Dicanthium pseudoischaemun and small tree species like Morinda sp,
Pheonix sp. etc. Fauna includes blackbuck, jackal, wolf, Indian fox, bonnet
macaque, Indian bustard, Indian roller, sparrows, mynas and pipits, Russell's viper, Indian cobras etc.
The sanctuary is
bordered with the agricultural lands cultivated with dry-land crops like that of sun flower, tobacco and cotton. A small village named Rollapadu lies closely to the sanctuary. A mud-road passes through the sanctuary, which bisects the sanctuary; it is used
for transportation by villagers to reach the agricultural fields present on the other side of the sanctuary. A small man-made water body is maintained in the sanctuary to quest the thirst of wildlife. Alaganur reservoir is another man-made reservoir present
adjacent to the sanctuary to store the rain water. This is located three km towards east of Rollapadu village. Prosopis
sp. covers the dry area during dry season.
Nearly132 species of birds were recorded which included the resident and migrants (winter). The resident birds included a wide
range of them starting from small sized warblers to the huge sized Short-toed snake eagle. The tall trees interspersed provided nesting for the large sized raptors like that of Eagles and the old abandoned wells acted as nesting sites for the Eurasian eagle-owl.
The reservoir served as a roosting and nesting place for many aquatic birds including winter migrants such as the Bar headed geese, demoiselle cranes, harriers etc. Short-eared owls roosted in scrubby areas. It is also doubted that Greater Flamingo’s use this
area as passage route during their migration to southern parts of India.
For check list of Birds, Please mail me @ (email@example.com)