Friday, 10 May 2013

5th April – Supi to Jhuni

It was a good night’s sleep, and we woke again in anticipation of what the morning sun rise would bring.  The mountains surrounding us shaded the early sun, but as in other locations as the sun came up the first rays would clip the top of the mountains away to the north. 

As the sun climbed higher you could see the snow on the tops of the mountains being blown around.

It wasn’t just the mountains that looked impressive this morning, the fields surrounding the guest house had become a vivid green, and as the sun came up in front of us, it created a dark black background that seemed to enhance the effect.  The wheat and barley looking impressive close up with the sun behind them.

The guest house was painted blue and white, the same colour blue as the sky this morning, and it looked spectacular in the morning sunshine.  The window and door frames were all decorated with garlands, and you would have thought that would have been enough to make me duck my head as I went in and out, it wasn’t!

There was plenty of time before breakfast to take in the wonderful views, and the birds that started to arrive.  At least three Long-tailed Shrikes were on the wires and in the surrounding bushes, their chestnut side feathers looking lovely in the sunshine.

The women were back in the fields resuming their work from last evening.

As the sun got higher a few light clouds built up making the scene perfect looking north down the valley, and over the village houses. 

We packed our bags and after breakfast set off back through the village and off towards the hills, and the land of the thousand steps. 

We passed yet another small temple, the temple was decorated with small swastikas.  The Swastika in the Hindu religion literally means “being with higher self”.  The adoption of the swastika by Nazi Germany was because of their conjecture of the Aryan cultural descent of the German people.  The Nazis claimed that the early Aryans of India, from whom the tradition of the swastika came, were the prototypical white invaders.

After passing the temple we started to climb some steps, Yash Pal stopped us and pointed to a tree just below us.  In the tree was a Collared Owlet, one or two small birds mobbed it but they were not persistent and we were able to get some lovely views, as it seemed to watch us.

Climbing the steps took us around the ridge, and we could look down into the valley.  A pair of Kestrels circled around us, and looking just like insects beneath us was a huge flock of Nepal House Martins.  They are similar to our House Martins, with a white rump, but these have a dark throat bib.  They were impossible to photograph as they were so distant and as usual quick.
The steps came around into a valley and passed over a stream.  Pausing here we watched White-capped Water Redstarts, and Plumbeous Redstarts, the White-capped being the most colourful.

We only had the briefest glimpse of male Plumbeous; they have a chestnut tail, and blue grey body, but were able to watch a female which is basically grey with a white rump.  There turned out to be many opportunities to see the male over the rest of the trip.
We finally came out on to a rock that stuck out over the valley.  It reminded me of the Overhanging Rock in Yosemite in the US, which over the years had people photographed doing completely crazy acts on it.  That rock is now closed off, but this one we could walk on to.  Below you could watch the House Martins zipping about in small flocks like jet fighters.

As we set off again, I found a Common Lascar butterfly, you could only see the under wing, but consulting the book later this was definitely the impressive side of this lovely insect.

We thought that we had climbed all the steps, but when the guides suggested we have a rest before the big climb, we realised that the steps we had climbed did not count to the thousand steps.  As we rested and had a drink we could make out the steps up the side of the mountain in front of us.
There was also activity above us as Himalayan Griffon Vultures started to appear along the ridge above us.  They glided over, giving some lovely views.  At one stage there were sixteen circling above us. 

Some came below the ridge and glided along close to the rocks coming really close.

One even landed on the ground and stood looking around before awhile, before launching itself back into the air, with considerable effort.

Considerable effort was what we now required as we started to climb the thousand steps.  Black-throated Tits called from the trees and bushes that lined the route, and every opportunity to stop and look for them was taken.  Looking down, the steps wound back and forth, and it really emphasised the height we were climbing. 

When we finally made the top, the views were wonderful.

After a good rest we set off again, this time on a more level footing.  The trail took us through open grass land with scrubby bushes that had a flock of Rock Buntings flitting around underneath.  They eluded me but I did manage to get this lovely Grey-hooded Warbler.

The path came around to another stream, and we waited here to allow a group of pack mules cross, they are used to carry grain, potatoes and even cement between the villages.  They apparently do not go down the thousand steps, there is an easier, but longer alternative route.

The sun was now quite hot, and lizards and skinks could be seen on the rocks by the path.  The skinks were much too quick to get good views, but this Himalayan Agma posed beautifully on a rock by the side of the path.

The trail took us through a village where again we encountered the children, and the calves alongside the houses.  The cows look immaculate as they stand or lay down outside the houses, and you can’t help but want to pet the young ones.

As always when we walk through the villages you sense that you are a major attraction to the locals, and they take time to watch as you walk through.  We must be something unusual to them, plus they probably think we are mad!

The village was between two valleys, and as we left the village we came to another stream, where we decide to stop to have lunch.  As wesat down, I noticed a grey bird on the rocks, and under the bridge.  It was a male Plumbeous Water Redstart, and as it sat on the rocks it would fan the chestnut red tail.

After lunch we set off across the bridge, and immediately found another White-capped Water Redstart.

The walk now took us up the side of the mountain, and through some rhododendrons. 

At the top of the path we could see into the next valley, and the village of Jhuni stretched out below us.  We walked around several houses, some with glass windows, and came to the guest house.  The house was a lot different from the ones we had stayed in before; it was a concrete block, with a terrace out at the front, and an open area on the first floor in front of the dining room.
Once again the view from the terrace was amazing.  Jhuni is apparently the closest village to the Nepal border, and therefore the closest to the highest Himalayan Mountains.

One feature in front of me was a waterfall coming out of a snow field far off on the other side of the valley.

I went off with the guides for a walk around the village, coming up on to the ridge and looking to the south, the village below us looked atmospheric, with the afternoon sun on the terraces.

We walked around the gardens growing medicinal plants, and then sat a wall and talked about their life styles, and mine.  The guides were very interested in the way we live, and it was an interesting discussion.  By now the clouds were building up, and there were some light spots of rain. 
I then returned to guest house, and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and taking in the view.  A small flock of Pink-browed Rosefinches appeared in the bushes just before dusk. 

As the sun set the shadows lengthened and the terraces below us and the hills beyond were highlighted once again.

Once the sun had set it became quite cold, so we went into the dining room and enjoyed the fire as we read and waited for dinner and then of course the hot water bottles and bed


  1. Hi Chris,

    Great photos and write-up. I am assuming you did the trip with Village Ways since you have their link on the right. I had a favor to ask you: We are planning to take the same trip with Village Ways (Saryu and Pindar valleys) - Supi to Jaikuni Bhugiyal stretch - at the end of September. I will be travelling with my wife and 2 kids aged 11.5 and 9.5. I am a little nervous if kids that age can handle the hike - can you please give me your opinion since you have actually done it? You can email me at Really appreciate any input you may have. Thanks a ton in advance. Mayur Murthy (Bangalore, India)

  2. Dear Chris,
    We are wanting to use a photograph of yours for the design of a local event in Uttarakhand.
    Could you kindly provide your email, so we can discuss details further?

    Marta Lopez Fesser

    1. Happy to discuss, but please give me an email address to respond to

    Thanks Chris,



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