A jolly good wheeze!
After a relatively late start (7am) and a hearty breakfast, we headed out in the car to catch a morning view of the Himalayas. We climbed higher and were teased with glimpses through the trees and calls of 'wait', 'not yet' and 'there's a better spot round the next bend'. I can honestly say the wait was well worth it.
The morning mist that commonly plagued the view, had yet to arrive so we were graced with a crystal clear vista of the infamous mountain range. It was so clear it looked unreal - like an image had been cut from a magazine and stuck on the horizon. I quickly realised, I'd have to really screw up to take a bad photo and happily clicked away as the boys took the opportunity to scan for stray birds.
The hunt was on for pheasants today - two species in particular: the Cheer pheasant and the Koklass pheasant. For anyone acquainted with our Japanese adventures, you'll know the difficulty Mark has with this particular family of birds and understand my trepidation at yet another difficult search ahead. It would appear that Indian field skills are a little different to British ones. Pheasants being a somewhat secretive family, skilled in camouflage and concealment, they don't take too kindly to someone crashing through the undergrowth making bad approximations of their call. Although CB was very good at spotting things at a distance, his stealth technique lacked a certain finesse. I'll give my husband his due though, his frustration was only evident in the roll of eyes when yet another Koklass was flushed out of sight.
Abandoning the hunt for the Koklass, Ganesh took us to spot with an unobstructed view down a valley. The landscape of scrubby fields was a prime site for Cheer pheasants searching for food apparently. It was such a large area, I concluded that the hunt would involve both haystacks and needles so opted for the inner warmth of the car. The three boys spent a good 3/4 hour scanning the fields to no avail until CB called out. He'd wandered off to the next bend in the road and bye-gum, had spotted the elusive bird - an act which slightly redeemed some of his earlier actions. With the telescope trained on the oblivious feathery individual, we were treated to good views - even me who been collected from the car for the momentous occasion. Getting a decent photo, even using the telescope, proved near impossible however. At a distance of around 1m, the result is pretty fuzzy but you can just about see its a pheasant...just.
We were sad to leave Jungle Lore on our return and wished we'd had more than just one night there. However, the next site on the list beckoned so we packed up the car once again. The drive to Sattal was uneventful and we arrived at the Sattal Birding Lodge in time for lunch. Sited on a steep slope, the accommodations were in well-appointed tents and ours was at the very bottom of the slope. With Ganesh due to take us for a walk, we wrapped up warm before climbing the steps up to meet him. Nothing unusual in this other than by the time I reached the road at the top, I could not breathe. I'm not talking a simple shortness of breath from a little step work, I'm meaning a full-on incapability to get any kind of oxygen into my lungs, with added wheezing for effect. This freaked me out somewhat, particularly as we had actually descended in altitude from Pangot. With my dreams of climbing Everest now in tatters, I slowly returned to our tent to calm down for a bit. Any chance of catching a few surreptitious zees in the process were also shattered, as the lodge staff decided today was the day to noisily weed around the only occupied tent on site i.e. ours.
Mark got back a couple of hours later and was pleased to see me in good spirits and still breathing. We sat out with cups of restorative tea and chatted with Ganesh until we were called for dinner. Although we were well above 1500m, Ganesh informed me, with a disapproving look on his face, that I did not have altitude sickness. I guess coming from Nepal, he'd know.