Helen and Randall on the road

A bit about our adventures 2011-2012

Posts Tagged ‘Kingfisher

Thursday 29th March – Sunday 1st April: Jim Corbett National Park

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This is our beautiful lodge accommodation at Jim’s Jungle Retreat, Daleep’s lodge in Corbett National Park. The lodge accommodation is upstairs, with the downstairs sections being ‘researcher accommodation’ or in some cases not yet developed. You can just about spot the solar water heaters on the roof – they take their eco-credentials pretty seriously.

Inside, the rooms are beautifully furnished  and decorated…

…with beautiful fabrics and textiles designed by Daleep’s twin sister, and lovely touches like this funky antique phone (that worked of course) and photos, either wildlife ones (mostly taken by Inder, Daleep’s dad) or historical ones related to the park.

Why send your trophies home for taxidermy?

The seating area on our verandah – perfect for sundowners.

Steve Irwin reincarnated?

Tamsin posing on one of the winding paths around the property.

When they started building the property it was all cultivated fields, so they consulted a naturalist and a botanist to get the right mix of plants and trees for the grounds. The result is a series of shady pathways with the odd hammock slung between trees; not too manicured but very pretty.

We woke up early on our second day for the dawn jeep safari to Jhirna, the nearest reserve area in the park, we left before dawn which meant we saw the beautiful sunrise over the forest as we were entering the reserve.

Our guide was fantastic, particularly once he realised that – unlike many of the visitors to Corbett – we weren’t only obsessed with seeing a tiger. After that he went out of his way to point out all the other wildlife, including some amazing birdlife. We saw a kingfisher dive from midair for a fish – incredible. He was also good at identifying sounds – we heard a leopard calling to another across a dry river – and spotting animal sign:

Recent tiger prints!

This astonishing tree on the way to Jhirna from the lodge had over 60 bees’ nests in it.

Langur being, well, languorous .

Spotted deer. We also saw barking deer and sambar.

One of the hides managed by the forest reserve staff (a bit ricketty!)

Trying to spot (ha ha) the leopard we could hear.

The reserve closes to visitors at 10am (opening again later) so we were driven back to Jungle Jim’s in time for breakfast and a little light nap before leaving for our sunset safari to Bijrani reserve, this time a half-hour drive from the lodge with only our driver from Jim’s, as we were to pick up a forest reserve guide at the entrance to the reserve (them’s the rules).

This sign amused us on the way:

Here we are looking intrepid:

On this safari our guide was less interested in other wildlife and definitely a tiger-hunter. We still spotted plenty of cool birds including a jungle owlet and a brown fish owl, plus a mongoose, loads of deer and monkeys – both langurs and the ubiquitous rhesus macaques. The highlight was being only a few metres away from two tigers – we couldn’t see them as they were in a dry river bed not visible through the undergrowth from the road, but we listened to them growling for about half an hour. It was eerie; after the warning calls from the langurs and barking deer the entire area of forest went completely silent except for the tigers.

When we arrived back at the exit of the reserve we spotted a jungle cat too, which was beautiful (apparently they have been cross-breeding with the local domestic-type moggies) but a couple of the other people waiting there showed us a photo of the tiger we had been listening to shortly before we arrived – it crossed the road right in front of them…eek!

When we were almost back at the lodge we saw a couple of jeeps had stopped at the side of the road – it turned out that a herd of wild elephants was feeding just a few metres into the forest; a small tusker plus the matriarchal group, a couple of young and two nursing babies…SO CUTE!

Don’t mess…

The next day was a bonus extra  – we’d been planning to head to Delhi but we were invited to stay another night as we hadn’t really had time to catch up with our hosts. We spent the day doing some really hardcore relaxing:

Evening G&T on the verandah, before Inder summoned us to pre-dinner drinks with him by banging two bottles together. How well he had got to know us in such a short time!

After a lovely evening chatting, eating and drinking around the pool we retired as we had another early morning safari – this one a walking safari in the area around the park. We didn’t see anything big – plenty of deer, monkeys and birds though, and it was a glorious morning walk and sunrise.

Finally it was time to pack, have breakfast, and then head for Delhi by car.

The rest of the photos are here:


Friday 16th – Thursday 22nd March: Dharamsala

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We had a very cunning plan that involved an early flight from Bombay to Delhi, meeting Tamsin from her international flight (from London via Doha) and then taking a connecting flight to Dharamsala. Sadly it was not to be as our connecting flight was with the ailing Kingfisher airlines (yes THAT Kingfisher). Around 45 minutes before take-off the flight was cancelled so we booked ourselves into a car at the airport pre-paid taxi booth for the supposedly 10 hour journey. This turned into a 13-hour marathon that included a blown tyre, changing the wheel in the dark (by the light of our various head torches!), a short detour to the driver’s village to pick up a new spare, arguments with state border officials about ‘taxes’, a stop at a roadside dhaba where our driver ate dinner and Tamsin threatened (from afar, thankfully) the cook with tearing off his hat and ‘throwing it in the wee patch’ if he gave our driver another chapati, with a final exhausted arrival in Mcleod Ganj after midnight. We’d been in phone contact with the hostel though so they kindly sent people to carry our bags down the steep set of steps (in the dark) to The Pink House. In the morning we got to see it:

Indeed, tis VERY pink!

REALLY pink.

Heath Robinson plumbing, everywhere in Dharamsala.

We liked this sign.

After a full day of recovery on Friday we walked to Bhagsu Falls on Saturday. Bhagsu was a tiny hamlet with a temple 16 years ago, but now is full of hotels and Indian tourists with attendant psycho taxi drivers and appalling litter problem. McLeod Ganj itself was much bigger and more built up than we remembered; there were very few buildings over one story 16 years ago, and now everything is built up. The little lawn and garden next to our old guest house now has a huge hotel built on it.

View across the valley. You can just about see our very pink guest house.

The bottom of the Bhagsu falls where 16 years ago we saw monks sunbathing in their pants. No monks in pants this time although they *were* drying their robes.

 The short hike up to Bhagsu falls is now a wide footpath with railings and a tea stall every few metres, but the walk and the views are still so pretty. Once again it was a shame about the tourists dropping rubbish where they stood; even the tea shop owners were getting mad about it.

The falls – tea shops abound

View up to the falls

Presumably unintentionally humorous sign.

Beers on the roof terrace of the McLlo

Tamsin and I decided to learn how to make momos – at this point Randall was very grateful of Tamsin’s presence as it meant he was let off a cooking class.

Rather pleasingly all the boring bits (chopping and such) had been done for us. A bit like on Blue Peter:

Our cooking teacher was Llamo, and he was VERY strict!:

Tamsin’s mixing skills were up to scratch

Kneading the dough was also performed suitably.

Once the dough was ready we had to practice making the momo casings without filling, and this is where the whip was truly cracked, as our first few offerings were deemed unworthy and were brutally scrunched back into dough-balls.

Finally we got proficient enough to be allowed to use fillings in our momos with the following results:

After 15 minutes of steaming we happily ate the results although we did save a few for Randall.

This was the view from the steps to our hostel when we returned from the class:

The next day we took a walk to the Dal Lake a few km out of town. The supposedly ‘holy’ lake was surrounded by concrete walls and the inevitable rubbish, but that said the view wasn’t bad:

We spent another couple of days mooching, eating and doing some gentle walking, and found Tushita, the monastery and meditation centre where Charlie, Tamsin and I took an introduction to Tibetan Buddhism course back in 1996. It was a long time ago, so the things we remembered most about it were the VERY steep walk up the hill each morning to get there, gentle farting in the meditation sessions, and teasing the westerners who were there on ‘silent retreat’. Very spiritual, us.

On our last full day we did the ‘big hike’ to Triund, 9km in distance and 1km in height away from McLeod Ganj:

The first hour, a gentle climb through pine forests

Some time into the second hour we came across the first patch of snow.

Hour 3 – time for a tea and chocolate stop:

The last hour of the hike was a steep climb up through the snow:

It was at this point that we met a party of young Koreans, many of whom were hiking in Crocs or flip flops, and one of whom was carrying a guitar.

The incredible views from the top:

The Koreans got there first and were having a sing song when we arrived.

We made it! Four and a half hours up!

Stretching at the top

Drinks and noodles in the inevitable tea stall.

Back through the snow on the way down

The long and winding road

Tea stop on the way down (another 4 hours of walking)

The yellow bag behind me in this photo is significant – a local action group Mountain Cleaners (started by a Brit) give them out so that hikers and the stall owners can collect the plastic rubbish that gets generated. The Mountain Cleaners then collect them and send the sorted contents for recycling. All kudos to Jodie ‘Garbage Girl’ Underhill for setting this up.

Randall on the terrace of Kunga Guest House where Charlie, Tamsin and I stayed in 1996 for a few days. It now has a second block and a huge outdoor terrace (Nick’s Italian Kitchen).

The other hostel we stayed in during our 1996 is no longer a hostel, and the little garden that surrounded it is now built up with bigger hotels. We popped in on the off chance though, and found Champa, one of the couple who ran the place back then. We had printed some photos of him, his wife and their little boy from 1996. Unfortunately we missed the latter two, but Champa was so pleased with the photos, and he gave us a loaf of his fabulous sourdough bread in return.

Tamsin and Champa 2012

Champa 1996 – making Tibetan bread.

The rest of the photos are here.

Written by helenbcn

March 22, 2012 at 7:17 pm