Sunday, 10 April 2016

Leh - Zingchen - Rumbuk, Hemis NP.

So finally the day of departure had arrived, today was the day we head off in to the mountains but before that I have to break the ice on my washing bowl as the water had began to freeze. This is not a nice way of washing, a room with no heating, no hot water and then having to break the ice before commencing washing, however it was painfully undertaken and the breakfast was good. 

So before we knew it we was on the road and on route to Hemis National Park, the drive took around 2.5 hours and we had lots of White-winged Redsarts on route by the lower levels of the rivers.

And there it is, ever since watching the Land of the Tiger back in 2000 and seeing a Snow Leopard in Ladakh with Valmick Thapar leading the commentary about the ever elusive Grey Ghost of the Himalaya's I have wanted to get in to this place. Ok, it has been on the back back burner for a long time and niggling away at the back of my mind that I have to do this trip I have always left to one of on the "those to do list" well now it was time to do. The picture above does not do justice to the dramatic, powerful, harsh scenery.

We stopped at Zingchen and observed several Brown Accentors before continuing on to the end of the road just further down. There has been a lot of development within this area as they are currently undertaking the construction of a new road connecting Zingchen to Rumuk Village. This is resulting in lots of high explosions blowing through the valley and gorge as we were advised by the local we stayed with. 

As the road ended and so we had to take to foot and head in to the gorge at Rumbuk, it felt like something out of The lord of the Rings, this unknown & unfamiliar environment, dark, eerily quiet and of tough terrain.

The going wasn't as bad as what I had expected but still tough all the same, Adam struggled a little with the altitude of which i was fine with but it was current injuries that were causing me concern. The gorge seemed to be never ending, just walking through this unknown gorge, packs on, not being able to see an end to the gorge, just more rock face. We stopped several times on route. At one time we whilst we were stopped small rocks began to fall from above, as we looked up there were the first Blue Sheep, moving on the cliff face above us. That was a positive sign and so we continued onwards. Then the gorge opened up and the end was finally in sight. 

Once we had reached the end of the gorge the next set of mountain peaks became visible and so we had to continue towards Rumbuk.

Small trails became apparent and we knew we just had to continue, the ground was flatter and easier to walk on but we had now been going for a while and were starting to feel it. 

Then just as the village came in to view, distant but still in view along came along a local with several pack-mules which could take our packs, typical right but even so we threw our packs on top with the owners permission and soon enough we were in the village of Rumbuk-we had made it. Time for a cuppa!

Friday, 8 April 2016

3rd & Final day of Aclimatisation In Leh...

Today was to be the 3rd and final day aclimatising in Leh before heading off deeper and higher in to the mountains. The day didn't go quite to plan as there was a national strike taking place with all shops closed, no taxi's, no internet cafes just empty silent streets. 

The only thing present was a group of young local guys burning tyres at a junction of two main roads on the edge of town. This was their protest / picket line to stop any vehicles entering the town area of Leh. We spent the day wandering aimlesly around checking suitable habitatas for passerines but the area was almost as void of birds as it was people. We did bump in to one Israeli girl who was making her way out of town back to her accommodation.

The day was spent clicking at loacal people on the outskirts if town as per below:

By mid afternoon the sun decided to give up the fight for the day and the clouds covered the mountain peaks of the surrounding valley. It was cold today averaging around -14 and so the reallity of how the locals live in these harsh conditions hit home when we discoverred the two women below washing their clothes in the freezing cold waters of the river. The reason they do this is because most of, if not all the water pipes to their homes completely freezes up at this time of year.

Locals and Adam W blending in with them

And Finally late in the day we found a small area with Red Fronted Serins and a couple of Robin Accentor's as per below.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Liking Lingering in Leh....

The view from our Guesthouse (The Oriental Guesthouse) in Leh at dawn, it was a cold morning without heating or hot water available and so I really didn't relish the thought of getting of bed but with fresh Masala Chai and an omlette waiting at the breakfast table it had to be painfully done.   

After breakfast it was time for a wander and explore the town of Leh, Leh is not such a popular tourist destination at this time of year and during time spent here on three seperate occassions we only ever saw three other tourists, an American couple and a single Israeli girl. The walk to town was pleasant with a Brown Dipper singing from rocks in the river below.

Mantra's and prayer wheels appear on every street corner. Budism is the predominant religion here but there is also a Mosque and the call for prayer circulates around the town. The main high street of the town centre reminded me of Thamel, Nepal 16 years ago but quieter, less developed, much cleaner and less polluted. 

I was surprised at how set up for tourism Leh is and it gets very busy during May through to August. It is a very popular destination with Indian nationals as well as western travelers alike. 

The Leh-Long book shop below is an absolute winning "tea stop" location. The upper level has a huge selection of travel and wildlife books. They have a large, infact the largest selection of Tea's to choose from with nice coffee tables and comfy chairs to sit and watch the world go by and or grab a book and have a browse with a cuppa (the Kashmir tea was my favourite)  I actually did both and was pleasantly surprised to pick up a book and find a photo by yours-truly inside. A few plans were firmed up at this location and if you are ever in Leh make time for a visit to this place. 

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Into Ladakh....

The early morning flight from Delhi to Leh, Ladakh is impresive and only took one hour twenty minutes. At times it felt rather clse to the snow capped mountain peaks below but just to be finally heading into Ladakh it felt good.

Above shows the Indus River at Choklamsar a favoured site for wintering Ibisbills, we had 7 here as well as a single Greenshank, 2 Redshank and 2 Greensandpipers.