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Uttarakhand Birding – Prologue

Almost after one year of my previous break, I got a chance to break free from everything and visit some place wild(ish). Armed with one week of leaves and limited budget I started looking for my options. I wanted a place where I could explore a little and not be bound to a schedule of morning and evening safaris on jeep tracks. As much as Ranthambhore sounded charming, I now want to visit a tiger reserve during summer months (having done previous three during winters). I shortlisted two places in two opposite parts of the country, Thakkadi and Uttarakhand. Both places were being sworn about by birders and photographers alike, both had specialist guides available, both were home-stay kind of places (hence pocket friendly). In the end, call of mighty Himalayas proved to be stronger, plus my work schedule agreed more with Uttarakhand.

Plumbeous water redstart

Plumbeous water redstart

 

Mr. Yashpal Negi’s name is synonymous with birding in Chopta region. He came highly recommended from several sources, trip reports etc.. Also, his home-stay provided a great option for accommodation. While his legendary camp in Kakkaragarh was destroyed during the Uttarakhanad floods, Mr. Negi has rebuilt a small home-stay in a village called Mukkumath (Mukku). Using my Googlefoo, I obtained his number from internet and dialed away. Negi Ji answered and confirmed his availability during the period of my visit. I was to stay at his new camp in Mukku an he was to ensure successful birding. We both kept our words πŸ™‚

As a part of preparation, I got me a fleece jacket, base layer and gloves. I also decided to carry a tripod instead of a Monopod like last year. While Monopod provides the quick support, sometimes you are left wanting for a better support system. From what I had read on blogs and trip reports, Himalayan birds are sadists who love skulking in the thick canopy where sunlight is not available most of the time. Turned out, this was a wise decision. Tripod was indispensable during the whole time. I also carried with me a monkey cap and my new binoculars. Both of these were used heavily during the whole trip. What I wish I should have carried was bathroom slippers. The temperatures over there were freezing and walking on the cold bathroom floor gives me chills by even writing about it.

Negi ji arranged for me to be picked up from Dehradun in his Bolero. Whole road to Mukku is along a river. My knowledge of rivers is limited so from what I understand, upto Devprayag it’s Ganga, and then we follow Mandakini upstream to reach our destination. Passing many adventure camps and insane people who were rafting in the river (temperatures must be close to freezing), we stopped at Rudraprayag for some shopping and a quick tea break. The banks near Rishikesh are dotted with various adventure camps that promise camping and river rafting, and some of these camps looked inviting. However I could not help but wonder the effect these will have on the river ecosystem.

Quick grab from moving vehicle

Quick grab from moving vehicle

A quick break on the road side

A quick break on the road side

Adventure and rafting camps on the river

Adventure and rafting camps on the river

I could feel the temperatures dipping and out came monkey cap. The sun was fast vanishing behind the mighty mountains. As road lights are an alien concept, soon we were surrounded by darkness save for the headlight of the jeep. I realized how skilful the driver have to be to traverse these roads in the night. At some points, I almost yelped in panic. We reached Mukku at 7:30 PM. Negi ji and his family welcomed me and shown me to the room. A welcome hot meal later I buried myself under quilts and blanket. Soon I slipped into fatigue induced sleep.

My base-camp for next few days - Negi Ji's camp

My base-camp for next few days – Negi Ji’s camp

About Negi Ji’s Camp: It is a simple, clean and no frills accommodation with simple amenities. Each room has two beds. It’s run with his family’s support and you get home made meals at the camp. Meals are simple but delicious. All rooms have attached bathrooms and WC. Geysers are provided in the bathrooms for hot water. Rooms have power backup via. inverter. Over all, this serves as an excellent base-camp for exploring areas near by. You can find many species right there in his backyard.

To be continued…

9 Comments

  1. sangeeta · January 5, 2015 Reply

    Oh new posts from you! I came here to re-read about your Ganeshgudi sessions and so nice to see the new posts up here. Sorry, I rushed to comment first. And now I’ll read the new ones πŸ™‚ Btw, your Goa posts acted as my guidebook towards birding in Goa and I took the Zuari river trip, too. Too busy to write but.

    • kartik · January 10, 2015 Reply

      Hey Sangeeta,

      I hope your Goa trip went well and you got to see the Malabar Trogon. I think that river trip is one of the must do activities in Goa. I have to update my Uttarakhand trip report too. Just got busy with some of the year end things in office plus travel. Hopefully I will have some updates this week.

      Cheers,
      Kartik

  2. Subrato · February 9, 2015 Reply

    Lovely introduction of a promising trip!I had been once at Kakragad and will remember always.those splendid days with Negiji and his birds
    Planning to visit Makku once again in next April.Eagerly waiting to read the next part of the trip report.

  3. Santosh · May 14, 2015 Reply

    Not sure how this missed all my attention all this time…! sounds exciting and so to say the foothills are yet to call me πŸ™‚

  4. Soumendu Das · November 23, 2016 Reply

    Lovely travelogue! Leaving for Chopta on coming 9th of Dec. Would like to check Negi ji’s settlement once. Can you kindly share his contact details?

  5. Soumendu Das · November 23, 2016 Reply

    Thanks for such a speedy response, mate! Sincerely appreciate the help here πŸ™‚

  6. Kaustuv Chatterjee · February 25, 2017 Reply

    Hi,

    A very nice write up..Am planning a trip to Chopra, can you share Negi ji’s number?

    Regards

    • kartik · February 26, 2017 Reply

      Hi Kaustuv,

      Glad you liked the trip report. I will email you the number. Good luck with your trip and do share your report πŸ™‚

      Cheers,
      Kartik

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