Monday, January 21, 2008

Back to life, back to reality

Wow, wot a mission that was.
We finally arrived back in Pokhara this morning after a mammoth few weeks up in the mountains, and what a trek it was. Since my last update, this is a basic review of what happened:

We got up at stupid o'clock to climb upto the famous Poon Hill, at 3200m to watch the sunrise over the Annapurna Massif, incredible views and only spoilt by the noisy rabble of chinese tourists, you would have thought that having gone to the trouble of illegally invading tibet and brutally occupying it for 60 years, they would have enough moutains of their own, anyway, this is a birding blog, and not a political views forum, so i'll stop before i say something that might be construed as racialist.

errm, yes, after the poon hill dawn we trekked down to Tatopani, an absolute bastard of a day that was, dropping about 1500m over the course of 6 bloody hothours, luckily Tatopani has an awersome natural Hot Spring, which for 25p provided an excellent warm muscle soother , as the air outside dropped to near freezing.
The next day we went back uphill to Ghasa where we stayed for 2 nights, partly for a rest day, and partly because the area holds some quality birds. On the "day off" I got up at 5 am and started climbing up to the Black Forest, about 1000m above ghasa, armed only with a puny LED headlamp. Somehow i managed to get to the top without tripping and fallin gback down to the bottom, and importantly scored with good views of a pair of Koklass Pheasant, several Hill Partridge, a load of Kalij Pheasant and an Upland Pipit, then back down near the village, i flushed a group of 3 Cheer Pheasant, result. After a long, totally knackering day i returned to the guest house to find JP totally relaxed having found time for a shave, shower and even a haircut, i hate birding sometimes.
anyway, after that we continued uphill over the next few days via Tuckche, a right dump, Marpha, the apple growing centre of the region, and the best bottle of cider i've ever had (high praise indeed from a Westcountry boy). Plenty of good birds here: Guldenstadts Redstart, Red-fronted Serin, Stoliczsa's Tit-warbler and Brown Accentor to name but a few. After that it was on to Kagbeni, and the border of the mystical Mustnag NP, we managed a very short and brief border crossing but didnt have the balls for a full scale excursion over, it might have been the threat of a Nepli prison that stopped us.
After Kagbeni it was up to the Pilgrimage village of Muktinath at 3800m, and some quite incredible landscapes (plenty of piccies to come). Some serious quality birds here: Solitary Snipe, Red-fronted and Great Rosefinch, Robin and Rufous-breasted Accentor etc.

The next day was yet again "the hardest day of the trip", and this time it will be diffilcult to beat. We left the Hotel at Dawn and spent the next 6 hours climbing up to the Throung La Pass, at 5416metres above sea level ,yes thats right 5416 metres, fucking high!
At about 4500m we both started suffering from Acute Mountain Sickness, a bit like a really bad hangover, banging headache, being very close to throwing up, and promosing never to do it again, still, we caried on, and were rewarded (well, i was) by a group of 5 Himalayan Snowcock on the path, incredibly followed soon after by about 15 Tibetan Snowcocks flushed around a corner, clealrly showing a huge white patch on the secondaries as buzzed down the valley.
After a few more gruelling hours we made it to the pass, what a feeling, aside fro msevere ligh-headedness, we were totally euphoric, as neither of us had seriously considered that we could make it, one of the greatest achievements that either of us has ever done.
After recovering quickly at the top and taking the obligatory ahppy-snaps we descended the 1600m back to muktinath, in jsut 3hours.
The next day we trekked down to Jomsom ,ready for a flight back to Pokhara the next day. If only things were that simple, the next morning, fierce winds cancalled all flights, and then unbelievably, also for the next 2 days. By the 3rd day we had lost patience so decided to take matters into our own hads, rather than risk losing more time to the weather, so yesterday morning we caught a jeep back down the incomplete road as far as Ghasa, the trekked like demons to tatopani in just 3 hours (a 5 hour walk apparently) form there we stumbled across a bus that had just dropped off a load of workers for the night shift on the road and persuaded them to take us back to Beni with them, where we stayed the night, before finally catching a crammed local bus back to Pokhara this morning. A most exciting way to come back down, and much more like real travel than the flight would be, and 25squid cheaper too.

Anyway, thats the last 2 weeks, what happens now then, well, tomorrow morning we're catching a bus to Royal Chitwan for a few days in the jungle ,they got fun and games there apparently (kid-listers, ask your parents).

Thats a very brief account, and I know i've not really detailed much of the bird sightings but it's all i can be arsed to do for the moment, i'll put it all in a proper trip report sometime.

Hopefully the next update will be full of tales of tigers, rhinos and elephants, and possibly even Ibisbill, if i can get over to Hetauda, and now its tiem to hit the bars of Pokhara and celebrate making it back to civilisation!!!

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