Sunday, September 2, 2012

Birding in Ladakh

Journey to the Land of Ladakh

14th August 2012, was the day we headed out to Ladakh which is a part of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir much called as the extension of The Tibetan land. (West)

Had read, that Ladakh can offer upto 300 species of birds and is considered an excellent place to sight migratory birds.

As we had included destinations like Kargil, Horse Ride into Rumbak Valley, Rafting On Zanskar river, Drive to Khardung La, and an overnight stay in tents on the famous Pangong Lake. Could only plan to visit Hemis from the other promising Birding spots:
  • ·         The Suru Valley Located at altitude of 2700mts, Suru valley is One of the most beautiful regions of Ladakh.
  • ·         Puga ValleyPuga valley is located in close parimeters of salt lake valley, Well-known for it borax & sulphur deposite this valley has offers great variety of habitat for birds, The valley has combinations meadows, marshes, streams & high rocky slopes.
  • ·         Tso moriri is one of the best birding spots of Ladakh Tsomoriri LakeTso Moriri is situated at altitude of 4595 m . Tsomiri is the largest of the High Altitude Lakes in India. Its a protected area officialy known as "Tsomoriri Wetland Conservation Reserve".
  • ·         Hemis National Park and the Rumbak Valley.
Hemis National park is located on the banks of River Indu, and can be reached from many ways from Leh.

·     Nubra Valley is an incredible valley in North of Leh, approached by Khardung La Pass (5700m), the highest motorable road in the world. Nubra valley has 70km long Siachen Glacier, which is the longest glacier in the Karakoram range.

Day 01: We had packed our backpacks, cameras and lens and took our flight to Srinagar from Mumbai, which transited through New Delhi.

It was a beautiful morning, it was just about 10.30am when we came out of the airport. We could  smell fresh air the moment we drove out of the airport into Srinagar city. The driver Asif, kept showing us sights from the moving vehicle. Most of the important and prominent places were well guarded by the armed forces. Enroute we picked up our driver Rinchen, who was to drive us from the city centre to Leh.

Srinagar Taxi Stand
Richen was short and had very peculiar Tibetan features. We were very excited and were of the opinion that the distance from Srinagar to Leh would be completed in few hours, as the distance was 425 odd kms.

The journey began as we crossed the famous Dal Lake, Moghul Gardens of Chesmashahi, passing through small towns. The lanes would get narrow with locals walking on both sides of the road. Vehicular heavy traffic was making the road even more crowded and soon after negotiating the chaos we were on National Highway No. 1 (NH1)
House Boats on Dal Lake
Dal Lake
Personally, I was shocked to see the width of NH1, barely two vehicles could pass at one time, and many a times, the vehicle from the opposite side had to drive off road, to let us pass.

It was close to 2.30PM and we were hungry and distance we had covered in the past four hours was barely 44 odd Kms. We stopped and ordered some fresh vegetables and lentils at the Dhabba, which was situated along a stream. While, the chef cum manager prepared the stuff, took a stroll along the stream. Birds, is what I was looking for, and birds is what I found… Eurasian Jackdaw, Wagtails, Mynas. Soon, the food was served and with a full tummy, started the journey.

Eurasian Jackdaw
(Corvus monedula)

While, we moved up and were crossing the Zojila Pass, the vital connecting pass between Kargil and Srinagar. It had started to drizzle and could see trucks skidding on the narrow road, which is at the height of about 3528 Meters! In fact it was after a few minutes we realised that we all were concentrating on the road, did not even know, which song was playing on the car audio system…

Just as the evening set in, we reached Kargil Memorial. We got a warm welcome by the Jawan’s there. One of the Jawan’s gave us the complete story, as to how the treaty was broken by the enemy. It was almost a 15-20 minute brief which covered, how the soldier’s laid their lives and took back the lost post. By the time, the brief was over, we all were charged. All we could say was “Jai Hind”

After moving around the museum and the memorial, ordered for hot Maggi Noodles and Masala tea. The climate started to get cooler and soon the jackets were out.

It took us another couple of hours to cover a distance of 45 odd kms, to Kargil town. We could manage to get the rooms for the night, and some dinner. All we had the strength was for getting into the blanket and retiring for the night...
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  1. reallly loved reading this.. looking fwd for part 2.. :)

    Maggi was the delish part n 44km in 4 hrs would have made people like me take a U-turn... :)

  2. Just relived those moments again reading this.....Written beautifully...candid...on the have a phenomenal memory as I know I didn't see you even for a single second making notes....this one should also be up here

    Now, we need to decide whether we go for Chopta this year or Ladakh Part II.....we have Nubra and Spiti left to conquer.... :-)

  3. Thanks @saji Nair, yes you are right had made no notes. Was not into the mood to blog then.

    The place was magical, so haven't forgotten any moment yet... Part two is up too!!

    Do plan, however i am booked for May 1st week already... going birding :)


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