Exploration: A Trekker’s Delight

This blog is written by guest blogger Dr. Prasanna Sriya, a Dentist by profession. She has a lot of passion for wildlife, loves to explore the wilderness, and is passionate about Landscape Photography. Dr. Sriya travels a lot and has been on many birding trips, nature camps and treks. 

Photo by Dr. Prasanna Sriya; The setting sun revealing the hidden mountains
Photo by Dr. Prasanna Sriya; The setting sun revealing hidden mountains

Exploration and Geography go hand in hand. Geography should be seen and experienced where children/ adult are able to relate, rather than leaving it to their wildest, ambiguous imagination.  Geography as a subject in schools has become insignificant in a country like India from where I come.

What started as participation for a 3 day Bird Census in Uttrakhand October 18th to October 21st led to a life changing experience for me.

Uttarakhand is mainly known for its natural beauty of the Himalayas, the Bhabhar (Eulaliopsis binata) and the Terai. I was eager to participate this year as Uttrakhand had witnessed the worst natural disaster in June 2013 to an extent it transformed the contours and lives of many.

We were a team of 7, of mixed age, with different professional backgrounds, from different places meeting each other for the first time. We had a strong team of hard core trekkers, photographers, my son (an avid birder), a naturalist, girls from the Army School who had excellent observational and systematic note making skills, and myself – Team Leader assigned by ARCH Foundation (more of an explorer).

Our Trail – Magra – Thatyur – Swakholi – Devalsari – Dehradun

Photo by Dr. Prasanna Sriya; Trail Map
Photo by Dr. Prasanna Sriya; Trail Map

2 night stay at Magra forest rest house

1 night stay at Devalsari – Forest Rest House.

Our team was tipped by a researcher of the Zoological Survey of India that we had fairly good chance of seeing the migratory bird Amur Falcon in our trail at Everest House (point) at Hathi Paun.

Amur Falcon – a complete, trans-equatorial migrant. It breeds in south-eastern Siberia and Northern China, spends its time in Mongolia during summer and migrates to Africa during winter. I was bewildered as it had the longest migration routes of all raptor birds — up to 22,000 km in a year.

Falcons have stopover points on their migration route back to the breeding grounds, and fly south of the Himalayas in northern India. We rested our hopes on this.

Everest House – I was mesmerized because as far as my eyes could possibly see it was a natural setting which was constantly changing due to the mist, while the sun’s rays tried to peep out every now and then; this added to the unexplained mysticism. This place also had some spiritual significance as I saw lot of Tibetan Prayer flags. I had the sense of pride that my country had so much of beauty and serenity to offer. It was a revelation, especially for someone who lives in an urban setting for most of the year. And we saw 23 species of birds!

The place had an enchanting view of Doon Valley, the Aglar River and the snow peaks of the Himalayan range.

Sir George Everest- Surveyor-General of India from 1830 to 1843 had his house and laboratory here.  He was largely responsible for completing the section of the Great Trigonometric Survey of India along the meridian arc from southern India extending north to Nepal, a distance of about 2,400 kilometers (1,500 mi). This survey was started by William Lambton in 1806 and it lasted for several decades. In 1865, the Royal Geographical Society named Mount Everest as a sign of respect. I felt honored and I marveled being here because it was beyond my visual comprehension and perception as to how George Everest did this unfathomable, humongous task. While I was trying to explore with my GPS!

Magra – Thatyur Trek – Our trek started by 6.30 am in the morning .We took a local guide who knew the mountains well. Had we done the birding on road we would not have had the adventure and missed seeing the number of species of birds that we saw otherwise. We witnessed the after effects left behind by the incessant rain of June 2013 it had created landslides and we trekked through this , through steams, boulders, and we literally did rock climbing! We were rewarded with 40 species of birds.

Thatyur Village – Though the river bed was dry, we saw the physical damage the flash floods had left. The destruction was attributed, to unscientific developmental activities undertaken in recent decades. Roads constructed in haphazard style, illegal construction of new resorts and hotels built on fragile river banks and more than 70 hydroelectric projects in the watersheds. The tunnels built and blasts undertaken for these projects restricted the river water flow, contributing to the higher number of landslides and flooding. It was a disaster waiting to happen anytime. Humans do not adapt to their environment, they constantly alter the environment to suit their needs.

Photo by Dr. Prasanna Sriya; Illegal multi- storied construction by the river side
Photo by Dr. Prasanna Sriya; Illegal multi- storied construction by the river side

Magra – Swakholi Trek – This trek had more of a vertical climb; there was protective railing for some distance as this route was frequented by the locals. At this altitude of 9500 feet we got to see some of the amazing birds and stunning view of the entire west Himalayan range. We recorded 23 species and saw full skeletal remains of a horse.

Devalsari Trek – The most eerie and thrilling of all treks; as we trekked in the late hours of twilight with just emergency lamps to guide our way. A steep rugged vertical climb and the path was too narrow and nothing to hold. We crossed streams as I heard the constant flow of the water which kept me company all through the trek. Though it was a 3 kms trek, it looked endless.

Devalsari Meadows – Started our trek by 6 am as we wanted to catch up with the early birds; We were in a pine forest, surrounded by tall trees it was a visual treat As we proceeded to the open meadows, with the mountain ranges as the back drop and as the suns first rays fell on the ranges, it gave the mountains a golden appearance. We added 15 new species.

Our team recorded the maximum number of bird species, 93, with some first time records for my son.

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