Monday, October 29, 2012

Oh man, it's flipping hot

So, travelling time again.

I landed in Kathmandu last night after a 24 hour stopover in Oman. This was a bit short to do much birding, as without a car I was limited in how far I could get out of Muscat during the day. I stayed in the suburb of Muttrah, in the Hotel Corniche, seemingly the cheapest in Oman at 15 OR (bartered down from 20, like a boss!), still the priciest hotel i've ever stayed in (when i've been paying). It was decent enough mind, clean, safe, quiet, and it had a fan. I love hotels with a fan, it feels evocatively tropical and exotic. They may not be as efficient at cooling the room down as an A/C unit, but try re-enacting Martin Sheen in the opening sequence of Apocolypse Now and you'll find that the hum of an A/c just doesn't cut it for helicopter rotor blades. Still, crank The Doors right up, knock enough liquor back and it should work out fine. Just don't punch the mirror out, the sort of hotels I stay in like to inspect the room when you check out to make sure it's not too messed up, and that's the sort of thing they're looking for. Hearing the call to prayer from the muezzin for the first time was pretty cool too.

But I digress, birds, yes. My original plan was to just trek out into the desert, but I a hadn't counted on it being 37 flippin degrees, ouch! So I just took some  first up gentle strolls around Muttrah. First up was the harbour front in Muttrah where lifer Sooty Gulls and Crested Tern and Heuglin's Gull were loafing around. Walking along the watered gardens along the coast, Laughing Doves were the most obvious, alongside hideous Jungle Crows and Common Mynahs. Hume's Wheatear, and White-spectacled Bulbul were more lifers, and Purple Sunbird were as endearingly hyperactive as ever. I found some rocky track marked as a 'Geotrek' leading off into the hills so gave that a go. It was devastatingly hot and I ran out of water straight away, and hadn't seen any birds, and the frenzied barking of not-too distant dogs had me considering a retreat, but the track soon dropped down to some promising looking bushes, so I thought i'd carry on. This proved to be a good call as a Tawny Pipit fed around the bushes and 2 female Menetries Warblers eventually showed themselves after I pished 'til I was blue in the face.From there I reckoned it would be quicker back to Muttrah if I carried on. The barking sounded like it was coming from just one small yappy dog, so I thought i'd risk it, even though it doesn't really matter how small and yappy a dog is, if it's got rabies it only takes one scratch and its BANG, trip over, so i'm always wary of strays when travelling. The barking was getting louder and as I rounded a corner in a dried up stream bed, there was suddenly 6 or 7 really big off devil dogs in front of me, you know the sort, big bastards with short black hair, big pointy ears and a long snout, I thought I was in for it so stooped to pick up a stone to sling their way, and to my great surprise and relief, they all just calmly turned around and trotted away up the hill, PHEW!
Eventually, via lifer Rock Martin I emerged into the back end of Muttrah, through a Christian cemetry (conveniently placed for idiotic adventurous westerners?), and I necked a litre of water, and realised I was sunburnt all over, not a great start to my Middle Eastern birding career. Next morning I didn't really have time for birding very far but managed some nice stuff like Black-winged Stilt and Great White Egret before the flight. Quote of the country, overheard from some American chick in Muttrah 'Old Souk' was "I'm starting to suspect that this is just a tourist trap", Nooooo, there was me thinking that this was where the locals came to buy their paintings of camels..........

Here in Kathmandu i've been enjoying the mentalness that is Thamel. Motorbikes everywhere, everyone wearing knock-off 'The North Farce' gear, blokes sidling up "you want something?' No "You want Hashish?' No, "You want girl?" No, "You want boy?" No, Piss off.

Got my TIMS card earlier, not sure what it means, seems like just another way of fleecing trekkers of $20. It's simple and easy enough to fill in the form when you know how. The german couple in front of me were freaking out over whether the first stop on their trek was spelled 'Rinche', or 'Rimche'. my trek route read 'Makalu-Everest-Annapurna-Langtang', basically just named all the biggest mountains. Covers all bases if I decided to change my route, but probably wont be much use if I go missing and they try to find me. Moral of the story: don't go missing. Still, I am now officially a FIT (Free Independent Trekker), and that's the important thing.

After that it was up to Swayambhunath to laugh at the antics of the monkeys, also picked up a few birds. Speckled Piculet and Rufous-bellied Niltava (google it, stunning) being the best. Also Taiga Fly, Humes and Greenish Warblers etc.

Got a day of dossing/exploring tomorrow, and then it's off to Makalu on Wednesday. There's a chance I wont be back online til December, so, until then, All the best

No comments: