How hard can it be, it’s just a 4-5 km hike uphill for Tungnath temple? I mean I do undertake regular walks on the treadmill. Well, may be not regular but once or twice a year is not so bad. Plus I think about exercise all the time (mostly on how to avoid it). I was feeling quite confident that the trek will be a breeze. Negi Ji, on the other hand did not feel as confident. He went ahead and arranged for a porter to carry the camera bag. We got some snacks and were all set for the trek next morning.
As you might have guessed, we were going to look for Himalayan Monal. It’s one of the most colorful bird in the world (Rohan said that: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-0GBHDwZ4Ktw/VARk0abIe9I/AAAAAAAAFQ4/yvpdePta2FU/s1600/himalayan%2Bmonal%2Bnature%2Btv%2Bcopy%2Bcopy.JPG). Having had a glimplse of this one earlier in the trip I was really looking forward to finding them. Trek to Tungnath is one of the most promising place for finding Monals.
We started very early in the morning and reached the starting point. Obviously no great adventure ever started on an empty stomach. Aloo Parathas and Maggi was the menu for power breakfast. I polished off a couple of these quickly, muttering something about building up the energy store for the upcoming excessive physical activity. Obviously I know very little about hiking on a very full stomach, as I found out.
Soon we started the walk towards the temple and after a super strenuous hike of about 50 meters, I was completely out of breath. Looking towards the rocky slope side I noticed a male Himalayan Monal moving quickly under the cover. I did not have the energy to pickup the camera to make any image. I just enjoyed the sighting. Soon I let Negi Ji and Dashrath take a lead, while I set my pace to something that was more suitable for a desk-ninja like me. A few hundred meter later, we stumbled across a small party of Monals again. Luckily there were a few females around and we were able to click a few images.
As we reached halfway, we took a breather at DevDarshini. This is the midway point and I saw the temple for the first time from here. While sitting there, we suddenly noticed a male Monal slowly moving into the bush. This was a chance for me. Quickly captured a few images before he disappeared. Thing with Monals is that their colors are most visible when they are in the shade. This also results in low shutter speed. Thankfully, this time around we got enough time to squeeze a couple of frames.
Reaching the temple was fun, if you consider the routine of “take 15 steps – catch one’s breath – take next 15 steps” fun. This method of hiking can be dubbed as “16 steps to Tungnath”, but i digress here. We reached up and were the only people up there. As this is the off season, whole temple area was a ghost town. We waited a while and were greeted with a small raptor making sorties over the a small party of Accentor. These Accentors were very weary of us and maintained their distance. On the bright side, I think this was the best view I have ever had while devouring tea and biscuits.
While getting down, we moved away from the regular path and walked down the slope on what seemed to be a game path. While managing to view a couple of flyby by Lammeringers and a very brief view of Golden Eagle we also managed to view some Alpine Accentors. Our search for Snow Partridges was futile however. We carried on till we encountered a mixed hunting party near the exit. Coal Tits, Rufous Naped Tits and a surprise appearance by White Throated Tit were the highlights. While we were busy watching them, a Monal silently retreated into the bushes.
To be continued..