After an amazing 3 days in Corbett, we linked up once again with Hari Lama, bird guide extraordinaire and master of the Uttarakhand hills. This time we were headed to Chopta in the Upper Uttarakhand Himalayas, followed by another few days back in Sattal. Chopta was another destination on the 'must visit' list, with great sightings of some much coveted birds, with the signature bird being the Himalayan Monal. It doesn't get much better than that, does it?
|Scarlet Finch - Male|
We climbed (and I scrambled) up the slope which was no mean feat for my aging limbs and just as I got into position, something ripped into my right eye. I'd walked into bichhoo ghaas (nettles) And it started to smart and my eyes started watering; Lama announced that it was the finches' favourite food. Here I was, bleary eyed, trying to get clear images and there was this bird, in the same nettles, feeding without a care in the world. I managed to click some images with my good eye. Most of my time though, was spent admiring these spectacular little birds, so vividly visible even to a fuzzy eyed, clumsy soul like myself. The next challenge was climbing down the muddy slope - adrenaline (and the finches) had allowed me to clamber up but no bodily chemical came to the rescue on the way down. So as the rest of the group nimbly bounded down, I scraped and slid my way down, grateful that I reached flat land with only my ego bruised.
|Scaly Breasted Wren Babbler|
|Golden Bush Robin|
|Spot Winged Grosbeak - Female|
|Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture|
Vowing to return in the not too distant future.
Ramnagar (Corbett) or Sattal to Chopta would both be 9+ hour drives.
Up in Chopta, just beyond the village itself is a beautiful property called Snow View. It's got beautiful rooms; large, roomy and very well done up. The food is excellent and the owner is a lovely man. There's no electricity here, so he makes it up with a generator for 3 hours in the evening and 2 solar powered lamps for the night more than make up for no electricity.
There are many dhabas en route to Chopta where the food is stunning. Simple home style food like Roti-Sabzi or Kadhi-Chawal tastes even more special when cooked in the hills. Your driver/guide will know the best ones so please go with their recommendation. And yes, there is always Maggi if you're not happy with the choices on offer.
Mandal and around are great places to begin. The road from Mandal to Chopta can throw up surprises at any point. And Chopta itself has the Monal Point and Makku Farm.
The more adventurous can take the 3km trek up to Tungnath, supposed to be a stunning place with scores of Monals. And plus the lure of Lammergeiers and Golden Eagles.
You cannot get better than Hari Lama. Period. He's the king of the Western Himalaya, so call him on +919927935841.
|Stripe Throated Yuhina|
|White Collared Blackbird|
|Rufous Bellied Woodpecker|
|Long Billed Thrush|
|Grey Crested Tit|
|Blue Fronted Redstart|
|Ashy Throated Warbler|
|Black and Yellow Grosbeak|