The Goechala Sikkim Trek Part III

The Goechala Sikkim Trek Part III
Part I covered 
Day 114km
Yuksom(5600ft) to Bhakim(8636ft)

Day 212km
Bhakim(8638ft) to Dzongri(12981ft)

Day 3
Dzongri(12981ft) to Dzongri top (13676ft)and back to Dzongri

Read Part I by clicking on the link

Part II

Day 410km
Dzongri(12981ft) to Thansing (12894ft)

Day 510km
Thansing(12894ft to Lamuney(13600ft)to Samiti Lake(14100ft) and back to Lamuney

Read Part II by clicking on the link

Part III

Day 6    20km
Lamuney(13600ft)to Zemathang(16000ft)and back to 


Day 7    15km
Phedang(12068ft) to Yuksom (5600ft)


At the first view point of Goecha La, mountain ranges spanned almost 270 degrees around us.  It is worth taking five minutes to simply absorb the scene and then get to clicking the ranges and group photos.  That is, if your fingers are not already frozen by the time you take your camera out.  

We had taken along some breakfast of bread and boiled eggs to keep ourselves somewhat warm at the view point.  However, the snow capped peaks made us forget about it.  


The Himalyas are the most exquisite, yet most unforgiving terrain.  And the higher you go, although the view becomes so much better, the climb becomes impossibly more difficult.  But nothing compares to a sunrise in the mountains.  Nature puts on thrilling shows.  The stage is vast, the lighting is dramatic, the extras are innumerable and the budge for special effects is absolutely unlimited.  The rays streak through a black sky and soon you see an orchestra in which the sky changes from violet to red, then orange and finally blue. And add to that you will see the majestic snow-capped peaks, with wisps of snow blowing off them in the wind. 

 Overall, it was a great experience to breathe in the light mountain air and drink the purest water right off the Himalayan rivers.  Freedom from anything that ran on batteries was a refreshing experience.  "Good things come to those who wait." Never before have we felt the gravity of the words as much as on the trail.  Scaling the mountains, with each new place that we traveled to, more of mountains and less of humanity we saw.  In the theatre of nature, Kanchenjunga was the opus and the mountains passed for the actors that played up to her majesty.  As we took the long trek back home, this weird feeling of leaving something behind grew inside each one of us-indescribable and unspoken-and yet we knew that we all shared it. 

The names of photographers are: Deepak Maloo, Piyish Rathore, N. Abhinav, Harmohit Singh Toor and Rahul De. 
The text was a joint effort of the team.
Apart from the above photographers, the members of the team included Sandeep and Lapcha (Guides)


Explore the Earth-Google style

The Earth Day 2013 doodle by Google is the most interactive and educational tool one can get free on the Internet!

Explore the only planet we have using the check list below. 

Bird Watching

How to Photograph Birds in India-Part IV

How to Photograph Birds in India-Part IV

-Vijay Kavale
Contd from last month

E. Do your Homework
Once you are done with the common birds around you, you need to prepare yourself to go after the rare ones, the rarae aves. For this there is no other alternative than traveling to different parts of the country.
The more time you spend out there, the better!
Some birds migrate, while some stay at the same place all the year through. What you need to discover is where to find a particular bird. For example, the Sarus Crane, a magnificent bird that stands as tall as a human, is easily found in some parts of North India, while it is not found in South India at all. Birds are classified as ‘Widespread Residents’, ‘Winter Visitors’, ‘Endemic’ and so on. Copious data is available in the form of field-guides, check-lists and web-resources, regarding the distribution of birds found in India. Nine out of ten times I have been able to shoot rare birds that are found in restricted areas only. For example, I shot the Indian Bustard at Nannaj near Solapur in Maharashtra, the MacQueens Bustard at the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, the Lesser Florican at Sailana in Madhya Pradesh, the Bristled Grassbird in Van Vihar National Park, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh and the Sri Lanka Frogmouth in the Anamalais, Tamil Nadu.
If you learn where to find a rare bird you are more or less sure that it will be there for you to shoot. However, you will need local help and support to locate the bird.

Another surprising factor is that the same species of bird behaves differently at different locations. You can be completely frustrated going after a particular species of bird in one area, but the same species will afford you a great opportunity in another area without your even having to try. A typical example is the Rufous Treepie. In most parts of South India this is a shy bird which moves up into hidden tree branches, but at Ranthambore, I saw them sitting on the steering wheel of my car!
F. Understand habitats and focus your effort
If you have a small garden with a flowering creeper in your house, you will notice Sunbirds visiting the flowers regularly to feed, giving you great photo-ops. You can shoot over fifty species of birds in most urban habitats. Bulbuls, Sunbirds, Mynas, Crows, Swallows, Kites, and Owls are typical examples.
If you drive a bit outside any city you will find agricultural habitat. Here there are lakes, paddy fields and grasslands. A large number of species of birds reside in these areas. Weavers, Larks, Egrets, Herons, Bushchats, Robins, and Kingfishers are typical examples.
Thus, you will encounter birds in every type of habitat from the deserts to the wetlands, from the crowded cities to the Himalayan peaks. The shrub jungles, thick forests, grasslands and sholas all offer unique opportunities and challenges. For example, if you enter the shola you will be stepping on leeches perhaps, but there on a branch, in near darkness, will be sitting the Oriental Bay Owl! The grasslands, more often than not, will have ticks, but in compensation they offer a large variety of birds such as the Zitting Cisticola and the Bristled Grassbird!

Zitting Cisticola

Very well known bird habitats are mostly areas where ‘water birds’ thrive. These bird sanctuaries soon become major tourist attractions. The Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Bharatpur is the most famous one in India for water birds, many of them migratory. In this area you can shoot a hundred species of birds in about a week's time!
Also, there is no point venturing out in the monsoon months on long journeys when you are sure to get rained out; conversely, it would be foolish to sit at home in the winter months when most parts of India are full of winter visitors. Remember, in some parts of India it never stops raining, while in others it may never rain at all!
The point is if you know where you are headed and for what and when, you can be well prepared to face the challenges.
G. Network with like minds
Bird watching is a very popular hobby. Almost every state in India has a local bird watching group. Today, egroups are also very popular and you can find very useful data about birds in a particular region from these groups. Several websites offer a great deal of information on birds found in India. You will be surprised at how soon you will be able to connect with helpful birders from a region you plan to visit. It is not uncommon to see small groups of bird photographer traveling together photographing birds and having fun over the weekend.
Do take a look at to see and enjoy the work of hundreds of Bird Photographers from across the globe. Thousands of  images!! is another great place to network with like minds.
 To be contd………..
About the author:
Vijay Cavale has been a nature addict since birth. He lives in Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka State in South India. After almost two decades of a successful career in the Indian IT Industry, he decided to quit his corporate career at the age of 40 and follow his dream. For the last seven years Vijay Cavale has been traveling to several parts of India photographing its rich wildlife with a focus on birdlife. He has photographed close to 400 species of birds found in India, and gladly shares them on his homepage below. His work in this area is entirely non-commercial and is aimed at creating awareness and sharing the joy. He hopes his work will contribute in some way towards nature conservation. Although he does not offer any of his images for commercial use, he is glad to collaborate and discourse with like-minded people from around the world.
Homepage:   Email:
Vijay Cavale, Jan 2007.

Part I of this article can be read at 

Part II of this article can be read at 
Part III of this article can be read at 

Burning Issues

Bio-remediation of Waste water

Bio-remediation of Waste water

Ajit Seshadri* 

I have been dabbling with bio-remediation of waste water which happens naturally in nature.  The remedied clean water is consumed by humans and living-beings in nature.

Many a time I have noticed birds and animals, enjoying themselves more in cleaner water than dirty water.

I pay  special attention and observe this phenomenon which happens both in stagnant water i.e pools, ponds or lakes and also in flowing water in canals, rivulets, or a river.

How it occurs is a bio- mechanism termed as "phyto- remediation" in layman words is cleaning up using rocks, stones plants and foliage. As the water flows along, it leaves a trail of good water in the  polluted stretches.  The fish, birds, small mammals, amphibians, and large mammals recognize the good/ cleaner water and would go just there for their habitation. 

In a village pond, you could easily spot the buffaloes flock together in cleaner water and avoid dirty patches. Also a she- buffaloe takes her young calf to safer waters and gets them into the habit.
( What I am telling is no- "Bull-shit" ! - pl. pardon my language all for good-sakes !!..) 

One such waste water plant has been created/ engineered by us at SOS Village Youth Hostel having around 50 boys staying in the Hostel and daily 5000 litres of waste-water- sewage, sullage- bath and wash and kitchen waste water is released and cleaned up. The reuse water created is used for kitchen-gardens, flower-pots and hedges and ornamental 
trees etc.

Here are some excerpts from the report on Decentralized Waste Water Treatment (DEWAT) System in SOS Village Youth Hostel, Tambaram, Chennai.  

“ Several options were considered for construction. However, since the project was the first of its kind in the organization, this novel system was selected to be constructed…….

Detailed site and topographic surveys were used to mark levels of gradient and water flows. As the DEWAT was to be built sourcing a running drain the design was made to allow for the same. Land around the building was excavated to accommodate the chambers. Construction was followed using the design and material specifications with minor 
alterations as per site conditions and in consultation with the organization persons.

The first two chambers are Screen Chamber and a Baffled Septic Tank   which are used for the sedimentation of the sludge, preparing the waste water for filtration.

The second four chambers is Baffled Filter Reactor Chambers  is filled with stone and accomplishes the filtration of the water.  

The third process has four chambers of  Root Zone Treatment  which is planted with Canna, the roots of these plants treat and make clean the waste water.

Canna Plant

DEWATS technology was selected for its low primary investment, requirement of simple technologies/ no use of powered machines etc. DEWATS being energy independent  has no power requirement. Its simple low-level technology/design ensures efficient construction locally with local resources. 

It does not require expensive and sophisticated maintenance. Local communities can easily manage the operation and maintenance, ensuring system sustainability. The campus can continue to use the waters (with minimal BOD and e-coliform levels of the processed water.”

Let the wild lives in nature thrive well in good waters in nature !

*Mr. Ajit Seshadri is a Consultant- Environment,.  He can be contacted at Email ID:>  and Ph. No, M: 9840226049


A visit to Buxa

A visit to Buxa 
-Anindya Das*

Wildlife- When you hear this word, you start associate it and imagine different creatures and animals which are non domesticated with a common background of thick green jungles. In India, almost each and every state has got an area covered with thick vegetation or jungles, with their unique features, which has got national importance. West Bengal, a state known for its unique art and culture, is also covered by jungles, mainly at its north (Duars) and some parts in the southern corner (sunderban). Duars have always fascinated me, due to its geographical location. Vegetation extending from plains 
to the mountains of eastern Himalaya, pose a breathtaking view. 

A view of Buxa Tiger Reserve

Buxa Forest

The jungles of Duars are sub divided into many parts and we decided to experience and see the biggest jungle of north Bengal: Buxa tiger reserve. This national reserve also extends itself up to Bhutan. The common entry point of the jungles of Buxa is from Alipurduar city and the first village or  moderately populated area coming from Alipurduar is Rajabhatkhawa. 
But if anyone wants to stay in the jungle, Jayanti (a small village in the jungle alongside river Jayanti from where the name of place has been derived) is the perfect location. We arranged our stay in Jayanti village. As a tourist and admirer of pure nature, I always look for destinations which we can explore by walking. Jayanti is slowly gathering importance since it ensures breathtaking view and one can stay inside the jungle. According to the locals, number of tourists per year has grown extensively over a span of just two years and thus local business has boomed which is boosting the economy of the village. Although a good sign for the economy but surely it is disturbing the beautiful nature that it exists there and the associated wildlife of the jungle.

While staying in Jayanti, we went to some of the known destinations in and around. First we went to a place called Pukhri top. It’s a lake considered holy by the locals. One of the interesting facts with this lake is, fishing is prohibited in this lake. 

After that, we took a safari ride of the jungle. Much too my amusement, I found the jungle on the other side of the river Jayanti to be less vegetated. It was due to frequent cutting of trees for wood. And when asked about the purpose of making woods, the answer was to build more resorts to accommodate more tourists like you. 
Although we couldn’t spot a single wild animal during our safari, we came back and rested for the rest of the night. The next day we went for a jungle trek to a cave called Mahakal. The route is fascinating which ensures frequent river crossing and climbing streams up the mountain. The route guarantees some of the magnificient views of the jungles and mountains merged together. Its hard to spot any wild animal in this route but the hills beside you engrossed with big trees and bushes will make you shiver if you are alone.

Forests near Jayanti Reserve

Jungle around Jayanti Village

Coming back from this short trek we had our lunch in our resort and we were about to set for our next destination. In between, I was just walking on the river jayanti which has completely dried in the month of December and admiring the beauty in front, I spotted some of the boys who have came there for a picnic. As usual with their ordinary picnic items they were having alcohol. Astonishingly, when they were finished they just threw the bottle in the river, and it got smashed as it got hit on to a rock. The rivers are frequently used by the elephants and many other animals. According to the locals, these glass pieces often get stuck on the foot of these animals, and the pain makes them go mad, which in turn causes massacre in some of the nearby villages. Spotting the incident I quickly informed some of the locals, and went with them to the spot. The boys seemed reluctant about what they have done and hardly cared about the wild animals or the nature.
Frustrated, me along with some of the locals started gathering the large glass pieces but it hardly solved the matter. 

Pukhri Lake

The problem is awareness. We humans, in each and every location and situation, want to show that we are superior. We can’t tolerate others leaving peacefully. In the same trip, along with Buxa we also visited a forest range called Chillapata.  We were having safari ride, and in front of us were two other jeeps, which was boarded by a group where all were newly married couples (don’t know whether they were on a honeymoon or any casual trip). During the course of safari, the moment they were sighting any animal or a bird in the distance, they became so excited that actually they started screaming as if they have spotted ghosts. Even after repeated warning by the forest officials accompanying us, there level of excitation never dropped down, and in the process the animals used to ran away from our sight. People fail to understand that forests and jungles are the natural habitat of these wild animals, it’s not a zoo. We are bound to obey the laws of nature when we are on the lap of nature and maintain peace and co-existence. These types of uneventful incidences also pose threats to humans when they encounter a disturbed wild animal. An obvious solution is to stop tourism and restrict flow of humans entering forest or wildlife area. But in that process people will hardly know about wildlife and the associated local people will run out of business. Then what is ideal and necessary? A serious discussion is needed.
*     Anindya Das is a Senior Research Fellow, MST Division, Ph.D scholar, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Department, IIT Kharagpur.  He can be contacted at and at Mobile No. +917797137531 

Gardening for wildlife

The importance of composting

The importance of composting
-Marianne de Nazareth

Today I showed the Science Journalism class a DVD on composting. These are our city slicker kids who have grown up in apartments and have no idea what composting means! We who have been lucky to have grown up in gardens and composted the garden and kitchen waste in pits in our back yard, have always known the concept. Todays kids have to be shown PR kits which have been slickly made by companies who are in the composting business. They are wonderful educational tools as only then with actual pictures shown to them, I have great hopes that the future generation will think of the necessity of composting wet waste rather than the chucking everything into the garbage. 

I asked them if they had seen the stinking garbage lorries that come around, and the poor scavengers who have to clean out unhealthily dumped waste. They all screwed up their noses and said yes. After seeing the composting DVD they realised that wet waste is almost 90% water and that is why the garbage lorries have a constant stream of stinking liquid pouring out from them.

If the wet waste is composted instead by each of us, there would be much less of that liquid pouring off and much less for the poor scavengers to handle.And much less of that stink around our cities. 

Marianne de Nazareth writes a blog at

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