Clouded

 

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Clouds

puffy, soft, white, all abound

Peaks

Tall, snowy, monk like steady

Me

Sighing, gaping, soaking the moment

~

I wonder sometimes if they could converse with each other, we the lowly humans have decided that we are the living things, we have defined things, we claim to know it all, who knows, there is a realm beyond our inventions and discoveries, beyond our senses, maybe someone might just discover it someday, we conclude and hence I think we make a folly.

What is alive, what is living, who is a mortal, who is immortal, who communicates, who doesn’t?

What if thunder was a way of clouds hugging each other and shrieking out?!

What if an Avalanche were tears of a mountain?!

Mortal, mere, yes those are the only words I agree about us.

Oh Parvati!

A love story yet again begins….

 

Finally, after hearing about you so many times, from so many people, watching your pictures on the internet, jealously liking friends pictures posted on FB in your lap, reading the many stories about you, wondering if all of those were real, you do have some fantastic stories told about you, I must tell you that, eventually we had to meet and what an embrace you had in store for me! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Many a tales I have heard about you have amazed me, mystified me, geeked me up, glorified you, made you into a maze that I was sure I could never find my way out of. As the first fling happened, I must confess you had me at the first sight, there could be doubts in your mind, but let me quell them, I have fallen for you, absolutely, deeply and forever. The early misty spring morning when I first laid my eyes on you, I was transfixed, all the tiredness of not sleeping properly for two nights disappeared in an instant. The pristine pine trees, the shining peaks, the verdant valleys, the grating blue magpie all seemed to be enticing me into this wonderful world of yours.

 

For long I had heard many tales of small dwellings on stiff slopes in remote areas, about the warmth of people in these villages, that people here didn’t travel to visit mall roads but to discover new, small villages and then living with the villagers. This appealed, appealed a lot really, I always wanted to be one of the many among your lap, wanting to see you from up close like the cherished few of your own do, wake up to the first light and keep gazing till the last star disappeared and yes, for a few days I managed to do so!

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I must confess, whilst all describe you to be a mystical, unbelievable tale, which invoke the words like, really?, couldn’t be!, seriously!!!!, I must confess I was taken it by the simple acceptance of truth that exists in your lap more than anything. No pretense, the simplicity of the locals, the laid back, happy air the whole place has got is surreal.

 

I want to walk on every single trail there is, lie down in every meadow you nurture, gaze whilst gaping at all of your valleys, soak up the sun whilst I eye the snow clad peaks, graze along the Gaddi’s, get lost in you forever if thats possible.

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Until we meet again, I am thankful I atleast have some pictures and memories of you to last till I can come again to see you!

 

Pench National Park

I am sure most of you are aware that The Jungle Book is being remade and being released in April by Disney. Rudyard Kipling‘s imaginations about Mowgli, Bhageera, Sherkhan and Baloo is what most of us Indians have grown up on. I doubt there maybe any people of my generation that wouldn’t be aware of this story. What fuelled the imagination of Kipling were the jungles of Pench. Even the most famous documentary Tiger : The spy in the Jungle by BBC was shot here, which again I am sure most of us would have seen on TV.

 

Pench National Park derives its name from the river Pench, it can be best accesed via the Madhya Pradesh Side of Seoni and Chhindwara districts. The forest is a dry dedicious forest and sheds all leaves by March making it an excellent time for viewing during summers. We have made a pact as a family to spend atleast 2-4 days looking for a tiger in march every year and so this year it was the turn of Pench after we had visited Ranthambore, Kanha, Bandhavgarh & Melghat. The jungles of central India which many decades ago were all one are pretty diverse, whilst Bandhavgarh and Kanha side are sal forests which are evergreen, Melghat and Pench are dry deciduous forests with loads of teak trees.

 

The jungle was pretty dry when we went, there was a carpet of dry leaves all around the forest as the trees had shed them and were not yet ready with new growth. This is a great advantage if you want to spot birds, less leaves, less foliage always aid in great viewing of animals and birds.

 

Pench has its own charm, at the outset you might even feel the jungle can’t hold enough life as it seems so dry, however, only a small matter of about 35000 spotted deer, over 8000 sambar survive, making it a perfect place for Tigers to live and thrive. We did most of our safari’s via the Turia gate and the area in which we were searching for the tiger some 4 tigress’ lived and all of them were with cubs. This news brought us all great happiness, for we are yet to witness a full family of tiger in one frame. I have always seen tigers who are alone, it would be great to watch a group of them, playing with each other.

 

Anticipation was ripe as we started our first morning safari at the crack of dawn, the weather was cold and a nip in the air, we needed a pull over for the first two hours of the safari. The bird life viewing was excellent, within an hour into the park we had spotted a Pied Malabar Hornbill, Mottled wood owl, spotted owlet, jungle owlet, racket-tailed drongo, Indian Roller, Wooly necked Stork, Rudy Shelduck, Painted Storks, Great Teat, Flameback woodpecker, Vultures of two species to name a few!

 

Bare(bear) necessities was the song on my mind all the time, the jungle seemed just enough for the wildlife to thrive without being lush in greenery or water. The waterholes were all full of activity, after about two hours of driving and no calls or any clue about the Tiger’s movement we decided it was better to sit at a waterhole and wait. We selected a waterhole that the guide told us was the Baigan Nala Tigress’ favourite spot. She had 3 cubs and that sounded like music to my ears.

 

We spent about an hour and half at that waterhole, during which we got an inkling of life in the jungle, as we reached the waterhole we saw an egret and a wild boar drinking water, whilst an Indian Roller dived around for insects that only it could see, there was a white breasted kingfisher who stood transfixed in its spot, two cormorants were drying their wings in the sun after a dip in the pool and a bee eater hunting about as well. As we waited we saw the Boar disappear after a while and a group of langur’s came to drink water, after they departed a group of spotted deer came to quench their thirst, they drunk water in a peculiar manner, the fawns and females all drank leaving space in the middle where the antler came and took position and drank to its hearts content, Rhesus macaque followed the deer and then it was the turn of the sambar to take a dip.

 

Life around a waterhole was so busy, I had once read a book whose name I forget, written by an english lady who spent about a month in Dudhwa National Park, she would go to a waterhole everyday morning where her Mahaout would drop her and she would sit all day like a wood log observing and soaking in the jungle till sunset when her elephant would come to pick her up. I had loved reading her experience back then and it was good to have a slight insight into that this day.

 

The calmness, the activity, the sounds of nature, the way life moves about sitting and watching, talking less and just soaking does it for me. It gives me a kick that I doubt anything else would. The jungle is there to soak and I tried my best to soak as much of it in as I could.

 

We didn’t get to see the tiger this time around, however, the jungle was still pretty hustling with a lot of life and that kept us busy. I was fortunate enough to witness a Peregrine Falcon sitting on a far off branch and then taking off leisurely. For those who might not know, it is the fastest diving bird and one of the fastest members in the animal world. When it makes it scoop to hunt it can reach a speed of 350 kmph. Go tell that to Ferrari folks, now thats a standard to match up to! Just imagine it for a second, the bird hunts parrots in mid air, parrots are pretty swift flyers themselves!

 

Our luck with the Tigers was overwhelming in Bandhavgarh last year and so this time around we were not lucky enough to spot one however, I still have fallen for this jungle as it makes for excellent viewing of animals, the dry trees and low foliage are an advantage which many green forests at times though far more beautiful do not offer.

 

I will leave you with a few pictures of the sights of Pench NP. Hope you like them!

A herd of Sambar cross the road

A herd of Sambar cross the road

A Grey Hornbill

A Grey Hornbill

A Changeable Hawk-Eagle awaits its turn at the waterhole

A Changeable Hawk-Eagle awaits its turn at the waterhole

A family of wild boar run about

A family of wild boar run about

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A shikra keenly keeps an eye on proceedings

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The head of the herd takes the prime position for a drink!

Pench River Bed has maximum greenery for the deer to graze, boars to dig the dirt, jackals stalk them, peacocks strut about, the Vultures await an opportune moment!

Pench River Bed has maximum greenery for the deer to graze, boars to dig the dirt, jackals stalk them, peacocks strut about, the Vultures await an opportune moment!

A mottled wood owl didn't seem to amused at spotting us in their territory!

A mottled wood owl didn’t seem too amused at spotting us in their territory!

This handsome dude wanted to pose..

This handsome dude wanted to pose..

Finally a near good shot of the Greater Racket Tailed Drongo after 3 years!

Finally a near good shot of the Greater Racket Tailed Drongo after 3 years!

In the jungle, where ever you go, whatever you do, remember someone is watching you at all times!

In the jungle, where ever you go, whatever you do, remember someone is watching you at all times!

The Miracle

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“To be standing together in a frosty field, looking up into the sky, marvelling at birds and revelling in the natural world around us, was a simple miracle. And I wondered why we were so rarely able to appreciate it.”
Lynn Thomson, Birding with Yeats: A Memoir

I read that quote at Cedo centre in Moti Virani in Kutch and it made me stop and think, the world is abundant of things to marvel at and revelling in ain’t it? If you want to that is, if you are able to stop for a moment, pause, breathe, think and let it dawn upon you! How busy have we become in our routines that we have just stopped noticing so many wonderful things around us. Let us endeavour to just give things one moment more, let us soak up things around us, find the joy of small things and I am quite sure they can make us so much more thankful to this world around us! 🙂

Paragliding at Khajjiar

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This very popular meadow near Dalhousie, Khajjiar is sometimes a turn off due to too much crowd, however, it still is a magical landscape to photograph. On a cloudy day the sky turned magical for us to shoot some stunning photo’s of the place and the sky, which was marred with some paraglider’s who must have been having an unbelievable view I am sure!

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Whew!

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Ominous clouds above him! 🙂

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I am sure the flyers are enjoying a hell of a time!

Beloved Blue Mountains!

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I guess we have all read the mountains being described as blue somewhere or the other and frankly till a long time in my life I used to think its only poetic and that no such thing ever existed, that it was just a figment of imagination of some writers and they probably felt mountains being described as brown or green or black wouldn’t make them that exotic and wouldn’t bring that many people to the mountains and hence they used the adage “Blue Mountains”

Over the last few years I have been fortunate enough to be able to make a regular trip to the Himalaya’s and have been lucky enough to witness some vast mountain ranges, I have actually seen and realised that Blue Mountains exist! 🙂

There is something about these slopes on the surface of the earth, these high rising mountains lining up one after the other that just amazes me. Especially when you can find a spot to sit and actually gaze at the sheer enormity of the place they call The Himalaya’s you should consider yourself truly blessed to be able to absorb all this by your eyes. The above picture was taken when we were actually leaving the Himalayas and returning to the plains, I have always been enchanted by the mountains and will probably never ever be able to see the Himalaya’s enough in this life time and hence am always kind of sombre when leaving the mountains.

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Looking at the rear view or the side view mirror and realising and almost bemoaning the fact that I have to leave the mountains almost makes me sad, I sometimes get lost in the gazing and that it is almost fatal on a road trip! Thankfully the mountains have always been kind to me and always ensured and sent me back safely. I long already having come back just 10 days before to go back. I surely must have been somewhere there in the mountains in my last life, if there was any such thing!

Hut on a ledge!

In Dalhousie, we stayed at a humble homestay named birds and chirps, true to its name, it had a lot of birds around it, apart from the birds, there was this house on the edge of the mountain which really caught my fancy. I didn’t manage to go around to the house to check out what sort of views they got of the valley as their house seemed on the bend of the ledge. Regardless the house made for some good pictures especially with the sun setting behind it in the evenings and the clouds deciding to make unique patterns in the sky!

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Every evening, the residents of the house would all get together around this cot and chit chat and gaze around. I can seriously assure you, these guys although they live here are not at all bored of the view or perhaps never get enough of it! The thing about not going there or not interacting with them I can actually keep imagining what all they were thinking, doing or loving about the place.

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Here are some other hues of the same hut! 🙂

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Hunder

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Okay after the Bandhavgarh break in between the Ladakh story lets get back to on of the highest altitude desert in the world. Inside the Nubra valley, where the rivers Shyok and Siachen meet each other, lie the sand dunes of Hunder. The two humped camels rule the roost in this area.

The landscape here is so vast, with sand dunes, rivers (frozen), trees, rocky mountains and snow peaks all feature in one frame!

Thats Nubra for you, one of the most fertile places in Ladakh, this picture though was taken in the first week of January in the peak winter and hence appears more barren!