It was a cold night, and with the altitude and the weight of the blankest on top of me I would get exhausted just trying to turn over. It was also the first time I have slept in a hat. We awoke at 5.30, and I didn’t hesitate to unzip the entrance to the and get outside to see what would be in front of us. I wasn’t disappointed.
Very quickly the birds woke up, and as I walked about in the rhododendrons, I came face to face with a White-throated Tit. Unfortunately it was still very dark, and it was difficult to make out the many warblers flitting about in the bushes. After a while I was able to identify Hume’s Leaf Warbler, a Grey-cheeked Warbler, and a Lemon-rumped Warbler, but I am sure there were others.
Olive-backed Pipits called from the tops of the trees, this one perched nicely in front of the blurred distant mountains.
The sun was now gaining height and was picking out the peaks of the mountains.
It still hadn’t made into our valley though, and the snow capped peaks stood out from the dark sides of the hills in front of us.
The pipits continued to be the dominant bird, but I also heard White-collared Blackbirds, Laughing Thrushes.
The sun continued to climb, changing the wonderful scene in front of us.
I continued to walk around the bushes, and in amongst the warblers I noticed a crested bird. I t finally stuck its head out and I was able to photograph it, and then identify it as Stripe-throated Yuhina.
By now the sun was high enough to light, and heat up the camp site. Pink-browed Rosefinches flew in to call from the trees near to the tent. Away to the west the sun highlighted the Rhododendrons against the snow fields.
The first butterflies were seen moving west at 7.45, white first followed by the clouded yellows. A little after this we could hear the bees buzzing in the trees behind us. The pipits were not to be silenced though and they took prime position on the tops of the pines
We sat outside, and had breakfast looking at the mountains and the tent we had just spent the night in.
The butterfly procession gradually increased until it reached the same intensity as we had watched yesterday afternoon. Tortoiseshells were now joining the others.
After breakfast we were to climb up a further 200 metres to the zero point, and then make our way down the other side of the valley to our next village Dhurr. The walk took us across the remaining snow fields, which didn’t look too difficult, but when we started to walk across them we found the snow to be deep, and both Helen and I nearly fell. When we got to the edge of the woods we turned to look back, and then realised that we had not picked up the lunch tins, so Yash Pal went all the way back to camp to get them.
Looking back, the sun was now well up in the sky, and the whole scene was perfectly set.
The walk took us through forest similar to that which we had walked through yesterday afternoon. In places there was snow, and we were able to either walk on it, or through it. Every so often we would stop to look at the view, and at one point the Panchchuli range became visible, we had not been able to see these from camp. They have caught my imagination, because to me they look like teeth of a crocodile.
Finally we came to an area of golden brown grass, and some more snow, that led up to a wall, and beyond that a temple. Pointing up to the sky was a large trident, and on that a string of bells. It looked fitting against the distant mountains.
We had to remove our boots to go onto the temple, it was worth the effort, as the views all around were stunning, we had reached our highest point of the holiday.
Looking down towards the direction we would be going it was covered in the reds and pinks of the rhododendrons.
The mountains were now attracting wispy clouds that produced a lovely scene with the white clouds in the blue sky matching the snow on the mountain peaks.
I missed a Crested Serpent Eagle that glided past below us. I was looking the other way at the time, taking in the views. Looking down to the south we were shown where we would be walking and as we did we saw a group of women walking up probably coming up to gather firewood. Words are difficult to describe the views, the pictures tell the story.
After putting our boots back on we started the descent down the other side. The ground was carpeted with primulas. Almost half of the primula species come from the Himalayas, these seemed to be two types, a stalk like, and a primrose type. The stalk types were at the higher elevations the primrose types lower down. They were providing vital sustenance to the butterflies though, allowing me the opportunity to capture at last a Clouded Yellow.
The path took us down through the rhododendron forests which were spectacular. Looking back it was incredible to see the colours that contrasted against the blue sky, Exbury Gardens would never be the same again.
The path was difficult even though it was going down. At one point I tripped on the rocks, and caught myself on a branch. As a result I spooked a pair of pheasant type birds that flew out of the surrounding bushes calling. The guide immediately told us they were Himalayan Monal Pheasants, the State bird of Uttarakhand, and Nepal. I must admit the glimpse I had was not good, and I would never have been able to identify them.
We came out of the forest, and walked along a ridge, and looked across open pasture with Sheep and goats grazing around a small pool. We stopped here, and took yet another rest. As we looked across the pasture, a pair of Snow Pigeons flew past us and away.
We walked off the ridge and across more grass with butterflies moving still past us. We then took a winding path through woodland that seemed like a park, and we met people coming up, including the Melbourne walking party, who were on their way to the camp. We didn’t let on how steep the climb was going to be, they had a long walk in front of them.
By now I wasn’t feeling too well. It was approaching lunch time, but I wasn’t hungry which wasn’t usual, by now I would be ready to eat. We reached a government guest house where there was a little shop selling food and drink. I didn’t eat anything but was able to get a couple of pepsi, which tasted like nectar. We also picked up some water, and then continued on to Dhurr.
The guest house was a little different to what we had been used to, with a separate bedroom away from the dining area. The shower was another challenge, and while the water was quite warm, it started coming from everywhere. All it needed was a wrench to tighten the fittings but nobody had one, and in the end a fix was fashioned up through a plastic bag tied around the tap. It kind of worked!
I felt completely exhausted, and just wanted to sleep, which I did in the afternoon, which is very unusual for me. I felt a little better when I woke up, but still did not have an appetite, and just ate some rice that evening. The one feature of this village were the flies, they had been everywhere, but by the time we had gone to bed we had managed to get rid of them from the room. We went to bed at the usual time, and I hoped that I would feel better in the morning.