Tag Archives: Adventure

Himalayan rides : Batal of Chacha-Chachi Dhaba

Rarely anybody passes through here without having a tea or something to eat.

Its all about love of nature and adventure that drives you to land unseen. The passion keeps accompanying you in your solo journeys. We have already travelled from Manali to Gramphoo via Rohtang pass.

Also See: Milestones to Ladakh:  Manali to Gramphoo

From Gramphoo, we moved right alongside the Chandra river towards Spiti valley and reached to Chatru.

Also See: Hiamalayan Rides: Gramphoo to Chatru

I was heading towards Chandratal lake. I had no intention to go towards Kaza as I had already travelled to Kaza some time back. From Chatru I had a very tough ride to Batal. As I said earlier, Batal is  a very important stopover. Once you cross the river Chandra at Batal and move uphill, there is a diversion. One road further up takes you to Kunzum top and then to Kaza in Spiti valley. Another road takes you deep inside the Chandra valley towards Chandratal. We will travel that distance next time. This time we are just talking about Batal.

Also read: Himalayan Rides: Chatru to Batal 

Approaching Batal from Chatru and Chota Dara

Batal is located at farther end of a wide fat valley. Valley narrows at this point and then again widens up towards Chandratal after a few kilometres. It also gets important as there is tough climb upto Kunzum pass after here. Chandratal is also further 14 kilometres from here. Hence it makes a good resting point and have some food and fun. But it is also a good place to stay overnight.

Looking back towards the way I came

Batal now has a few dhabas. Some time back there was only one- Chandra Dhaba. Actually Batal has now got associated closely with Chandra Dhaba, both of them have acquired a sort of legendary status. Chandra Dhaba, more so because of its owners Dorje Bodh and his wife Hishe Chhomo.

Dorje Bodh and his wife Hishe Chhomo

44 years is not a small period and this ever-loved couple fondly called as Chacha-chachi has been running Chandra Dhaba for last 44 years at one of the most difficult terrains in the world in most hostile conditions, weather and poor connectivity. Its not a mean business. They do it for the love of their work and this place. They have been providing adventurers- bikers, drivers, passengers, trekkers, et.al. with food and shelter for all this long in their very humble and jovial way. But not just this, they have also been helping and rescuing the travellers and adventures caught in sudden weather, snowfalls, landslides or any other emergencies.

Dorje Bodh serving tea to travellers at his Dhaba

This extraordinary couple is now part of many adventure folklores for decades and deservingly enough, have also been recognised with many awards, including Godfrey Philips bravery award. You can also a watch a video of a candid chat with Chacha Dorje Bodh by clicking on the link below-

Now few more dhabas have come round, although Chandra Dhaba still retains its premier status. In this region, all dhabas also double up as night shelters for the travellers. They are very handy for all those, who have to make emergency halts because of either getting late or adverse weather conditions. Travellers also make scheduled halts at these dhabas when they don’t want to carry tents with them.

Options to choose from

These dhabas are descent place to stay. Mostly there will be beds inside the dhaba on one side, like a dormitory. Dhaba owners will be providing the sleeping bags and blankets. Since the dhaba and the kitchen will also be inside in the same area, therefore it will be cozy and warm in the night, while it would be freezing cold outside. Dhabas provide the breakfast and meals.

Inside the Chandra Dhaba

For all those, who love extreme adventure, there is plenty of place around to pitch tents and enjoy starry nights. Besides, there is also a PWD rest house in Batal, just opposite the Chandra Dhaba, and also some igloo shaped fibreglass fabricated forest huts.

Buses going from Manali or Keylong to Kaza also stop here for some time. Truckers with essential supplies of the region will always make a halt here. Actually earlier, when there was no road connectivity to Chandratal then, people will make Batal as the base and then trek to Chandratal. Even today, whenever that road is blocked, or just for adventure, people will trek for 14 kms from Batal to Chandratal. There are people who will take a bus from Manali, get down at Batal, trek to Chandratal and come back, and then they will either take another bus to Kaza or back to Manali.

Also read: Mesmerising & Captivating Chandratal Lake

During the season time, you will find many tourists here at time during the day

Batal is at an altitude of 3910 metres and it is located in a very hostile terrain. This place remains inhabited for almost six months from April end to October end. Rest of the time it remind inaccessible and even reaching through helicopters might be tough task during winters. Even during so-called summer months of adventure season, occasionally there might be heavy snowfall leading to road blockades. One should always be prepared physically and mentally for any eventuality.

But once you are here the beauty of the nature only steels the resolve to go further.

Way to Kunzum and Chandratal. You can see the bridge on the Chandra River.
Advertisements

Himalayan Rides : Chatru to Batal

In the last episode of Himalayan Rides, we (me and my readers) travelled from Gramphoo to Chatru on way to Chandratal. Now we are travelling from Chatru to Batal. Batal is a very important stopover. Once you move ahead of Batal there is a diversion. A road uphill takes you to Kunzum pass and then to Kaza in Spiti valley and another one moves deep inside the Chandra valley towards Chandratal.

Also see: Himalayan Rides : Gramphoo to Chatru

Moving between the himalayan walls!

Its a very small stretch in terms of the total ride but still I thought to devote a full post to this, as this one was very important in letting me know what to expect on the way ahead and what I need to do to keep myself better prepared.

Spiti valley Dhaba just a few kilometres from Chatru
Welcome to the territory unknown
Towards Chota Dara
Just before Chota Dara
Time for photography is time of rest for the machine!

Batal is just 31 kilometres from Chatru. Chhota Dara is 17 kms from Chatru and Batal is another 14 kms from there. But this 31 kms journey is no pushover, as it tests your riding skills. The route might not be too tough for four wheelers but it is tough one for bikes, specially the stretch from Chatru to Chhota Dara as at many places you have to ride through boulders and stones. This stretch can take a heavy toll on your vehicles, so keep them fit for it. There are few running streams to be crossed and one or two of them can be tricky for the first timers, more so if you don’t want to put your feet into the water.

Chota Dara: On paper this is a village, but there are only stones and stones around. A PWD pesthouse is there. Then there is also a Spiti Valley Dhaba on the way, which can provide you with some tents to stay and also breakfast and meals.

A milestone to announce a village!
Time to check the distances left!
PWD resthouse at Chota Dara
Alongside the whole route is work going on to lay optical fibre cables

I had a bit of uneasy experience on water crossing on the stretch. Actually, it was the first tricky one of the trip. I had brought a pair of water and snow proof shoes with me. But in the morning when I was packing the things at Chatru, I found that the sole of my both the shoes have not just only ripped off, but broken into pieces beyond any kind of repair. I actually tried to use the puncture solution to fix it but it only worsened. There was no alternative other than to how them. With heavy heart, I discarded them to dustbin. They had come to me all the way from Geneva, Switzerland.

Tips on hand!

But now there was an immediate problem for me. Till Chatru, I had not required to cross any stream, hence I didn’t fell any requirement for waterproof shoes and I carried on in my sports shoes. Now, if I required them then I can get a new pair only at Keylong. Till then I had to make sure that I don’t let my sports shoes get wet.

Beauty of the terrain
Along the Chandra River!
Valley widens up at many places
The view around always keeps us energetic!

And, I had a testing time just immediately. After I crossed Chota Dara, there was a stream flowing down from the mountains, crossing the road over to Chandra River. It was a tricky one as it was spread wide and it was tough for me to gauge the depth. Though, I was sure that it was not too deep but I had to ensure that I cross it smoothly so that I don’t have to touch me feet anywhere in between. Since I was bit weary of the stones and pebbles under the water, I was bit indecisive for more than a minute on which side to cross the stream. Luckily for me, a truck came from the behind and as it crossed the stream, I got an idea of the actual depth and concentration of stones, making it easier for me to follow and cross, that I finally did. Was I going to be equally lucky everytime till Keylong? Only time will tell.

Looks normal from a distance
Once I reached closer, I had to be careful
Passing truck guided me through

You can also see the video of this journey and my experience of crossing the stream by clicking below-

But it is definitely thoroughly enjoying as we pass through the beautiful Chandra Valley with snow-capped mountains all around from Indrasan, Deo Tibba, Ali Khan Tibba, White Sail, Papsura peaks and ranges. There is also a trek from Manikaran that brings to Chota Dara by crossing the Sara Umga pass. Stunning beauty around was actually reward for the tough ride.

Rising above everything!
A big glacier!

You can cover this stretch of 31 kms in about three hours, depending on your riding skills as well as on time you give yourself to enjoy the surroundings. Early morning departure from Chatru will give you good time at Batal to eat and enjoy.

Enjoy the journey from the start, read:

Milestones to Ladakh : Manali to Gramphoo

Next: Chacha-Chachi’s Batal!

Please feel free to share but not so free to copy and paste!

 

 

Himalayan Rides : Gramphoo to Chatru

Gramphoo is 15 kms downhill from Rohtang top. Gramphoo is the place where roads to Lahaul valley and Spiti valley bifurcate. We have already travelled from Manali to Gramphoo via Rohtang pass.

(In case you have missed it, you can read it hereMilestones to Ladakh : Manali to Gramphoo)

In Spring and autumn times, valley is laden with flowers

From Gramphoo one road leads to Keylong and then towards Leh and another one towards Kunzum Pass and then to Kaza. There is also stark difference between roads on the two sides. Keylong-Leh road is the sort of expressway compared to this one. Road from Gramphoo to Chatru passes through narrow valley along the Chandra river. However once you cross the Chatru village, Chandra valley widens up.

Some areas are barren, while some are rich in vegetation

While moving towards Chatru there are a couple of water falls on the road. They don’t pose any problems for the four wheelers and these ones are not even tricky for two-wheelers as well. But you never know when it is raining heavily, they might pose some difficulties. It is better to be careful as situations will be different in different months and it can always change very rapidly.

Waterfalls look beautiful on other side of the valley
Even waterfalls on our side look glorious from a distance
Seemingly innocent water-pools may suddenly turn into high-voltage streams

Route from Gramphoo to Chatru is comparatively enjoyable because of roads, landscape and bit of inhabitation. Actually one can also say that because of some what better road, this stretch gives you an opportunity to enjoy the surroundings.

Road to Chatru alongside Chandra River

Widening and work on roads is a constant process here. Also the whole area is being connected through OFC network, hence you will always find either BRO or other PWD teams on work at short distances.

Work on roads is a regular process

Networks: In the above image, you can see bulldozers camped at a distance. This spot is around eight kilometres before from Chatru. It is said that while going from Gramphoo to Chatru, this is the last spot where you might be able to connect to a mobile network (that too just BSNL). As soon as you move ahead of this point, you will not find any networks on your mobiles upto Chandratal or Kunzum pass.

Hanging bridge at Chatru that is not yet used

Once we reach Chatru, we cross on the Chandra river to the other side.

Old iron bridge used to cross the Chandra river at Chatru

Chatru is next village from Gramphoo towards Kunzum Pass. Located at an altitude of 3300 metres, Chatru is 17 kms from Gramphoo and in the perspective this stretch from Gramphoo to Chatru has the better roads in comparison to other stretches towards Batal, Chandratal and Kunzum pass.

Chandra river in full flow at Chatru

Actually it is tough to call Chatru even a village. There had never been a permanent village here. It was a base for nomadic tribes and shepherds. Chatru is also an important base as normally this is where Hampta Pass trek will end, if one does not include Chandratal in it. On the other side of river there is a plenty of grounds for camping. Just along the bridge are two restaurants. They have been here for many decades now. Actually for commuters these two restaurants (another one is coming near by) are what Chatru is all about.

Place for camping alongside the river
A view of Chatru and surrounding areas

Night Shelter: As with whole of this route in Spiti or Lahaul valley, dhabas also double up for night shelter

Chandra Dhaba at Chatru

In the above image, you can see the Chandra dhaba with a tent. Front portion of the tent works as store and kitchen and on the other end are beds for commuters to stay. They provide bed and blankets.

Prem Dhaba at Chatru

Another dhaba is the Prem dhaba that you can see in the image above. This has got more space. On the right is the kitchen and the eating area, while what we see right in front (where you can see my bike parked) is a pucca garage with many beds inside. This shelter prevents better from cold of the night. Besides these two (or may be three this year) dhabas, Chatru also has a PWD rest house where tourists can stay subject to availability of rooms. This PWD rest house is around three-quarter of a kilometre further ahead on a uphill diversion from the main road. Rest house has two sets, but doesn’t have a water supply or electricity. Actually, owner of Prem Dhaba is also the caretaker of this PWD rest house. Normally travellers will prefer (even he too will prefer) to stay at Prem Dhaba only, as it has more space, food, running water and some solar light. Secondly PWD rest house is off the route, while these two dhabas are right on the road.

Way ahead!

Satellite connect: Since I had no prior information about (non) availability of networks here or the above mentioned spot with last signals of connectivity, I was desperate to get in touch after I reached Chatru. Also, because I had lost half day due to NGT permit issue requirement at Gulaba, my schedule was in haywire. I reached Chatru in evening tired. Originally I had planned to end the day at Chandratal. Hence I asked the owner of Prem Dhaba about any chance of connectivity. It was he who told me about the spot some seven kilometres back. I was in no mood to ride back to make a call and then come back here. It was than he told me about a satellite phone uphill in the village.

Road to PWD rest house at Chatru

There was a agro unit uphill, which actually formed the core of Chatru village. I went to PWD rest house, parked my bike there and jumped a few walls to reach to take a path towards some houses and a shed inside the fields. There was a agro unit which produced different crops here in the valley- peas, potatoes and few others and then packed and transported them to other areas. That unit had a satellite phone in its premises, services of which they also lend to commuters for a charge. I was able to make a call back home from there and actually at such height in these conditions it cost me just negligible to make a comfortable call. I might not be able to recollect precisely, but I made call for less than thirty rupees from there.

On to the next destination

My search for the satellite phone also gave me a bit of insight about this place. This valley is said to have one of the best quality of peas and potatoes produced in the entire region. The owner of the agro unit (his is the only private owner of such unit in whole valley) had more than 100 acres of land. He had a fairly descent set-up with a big house for himself (with water and solar lights) as well as place for his staff (of more than 50) to stay, and a power generating unit for his unit to process and pack the agri produce. That was an interesting story in itself.

You can also see a video of the route below:

 

Experience Ladakh Like Never Before

Ladakh, a land of myriad influences never ceases to amaze travellers with its iridescent colours. Ancient picturesque monasteries adorned with fluttering prayer flags, cobalt blue lakes merging into blue skies, grazing Pashmina goats in the backdrop of mineral rich snow-crowned mountains – every setting here is a dramatic performance with stunning colours.

Escape to another Realm with the Ultimate Travelling Camp

Nestled in the quaint hamlets of Ladakh, The Ultimate Travelling Camp’s widely popular Chamba Camp Thiksey and Chamba Camp Diskit is inviting travellers to fully immerse in the thin airs of Ladakh while being cushioned by luxuries of a glamorous abode. Known to have introduced ‘glamping’ in challenging landscapes of India, TUTC’s seasonal camps in Leh and Nubra Valley is beginning operations from 15th May 2017 until end of September, a favorable time to visit Ladakh. For those looking to deep dive into the soul of Ladakh TUTC’s signature itineraries promise experiential sojourns without comprising on luxury.

Thiksey Monastery near Leh

TUTC weaves together experiences like none other. Guests can rediscover the mystical energy of a Buddhist stupa, discover ancient stories of the divinities of Buddhism hiding beyond the secret symbolisms and colours of the monasteries, offer prayers of peace, raft down glacier fed rivers, cycle down mountain roads, watch a game of polo, a sport of the royals, experience a private séance with the village oracle or simply indulge in the multitude of extraordinary services at the camps.

Diskit Monastery in Nubra valley

At 11,000 ft., TUTC’s exceptional services cater to all the whims and fancies of its esteemed guests. Luxury is exemplified by the aesthetically beautiful tents furnished with wooden chandeliers, four poster beds, exquisite linen to wooden period furniture. The tents are triple layered and protected from the outside and the interiors are climate controlled to suit individual preferences. Each tent offers en-suite bathrooms with hot showers, in-house signature wash amenities, safe deposit, laundry service, private decks, unlimited Wi-Fi at the reception Tent, 24/7 security & paramedic on site, 24/7 electricity, boutique, library and services of a personal butler. TUTC’s in-house Chef uses garden fresh ingredients to prepare and pamper visitors with world class cuisine – Regional, Indian and International that suits the taste of the travellers.
Indian Bloggers

Milestones to Ladakh : Manali to Gramphoo

Although the number of bikers to Ladakh is constantly increasing every year, but even then biking to this terrain is no mean business. It is physically challenging and psychologically draining. The human & the machine, both need to be best of fitness. This journey can be divided in different parts. Although few bikers would try to do it the other way by taking off from Srinagar to Leh and then returning from Manali side, but still Manali-Leh is the most favoured route; and, there are various reason for this to be.

First part of the journey is from Manali to uphill Rohtang La and to downhill Gramphoo on the other side. Rohtang La at 13050 feet is the first mountain pass en route Leh.

It is a scenic journey throughout

Between Manali and Marhi, you may find some little waterfalls emerging out of melting snow and many tourists enjoying them, but bikers rarely get interested in them.

You will find many shops on the way renting out woollens, jackets, gloves and shoes to tourists going to Rohtang and wishing to play some games on snow. Though there is nothing for bikers in it, but it might still remind few of us to check, whether they have rain covers to protect from intermittent rains and shoes to steer them through some running streams on roads.

Shops renting woollens and gloves

Soon you reach to intersection which dissects road to two directions, one to Rohtang (towards the right in the image below) and another to Solang (one going straight in image below).

Solang valley intersection

Thereafter starts the steady climb. Its gradual till the top and enjoyable.

Rohtang is a favourite excursion for all tourists coming to Manali. This has often resulted in an unabated mess at the pass. With things going out of control, NGT (National Green Tribunal) has stepped in. It has made some strict regulations, permits are necessary and green tax has been imposed.

Vehicles lined up to get permits at Gulaba NGT check post

Check post is at Gulaba, which is roughly 24 kms from Manali. After this point, you can’t move ahead to Rohtang without a permit. But for bikers, permits are not issued here, it has to be obtained from Manali itself. Permit is issued for a fees of Rs 100 and you need a photo id card, PUCC for your vehicle, vehicle registration papers and valid driving license. Permits are separate for Lahaul valley (towards Leh) and Spiti valley (towards Kunjum and Kaza). Route has to be mentioned in application form. Permit for four wheelers can be obtained either from Manali or from Gulaba check post. Bikers going to Leh should be very careful about obtaining the permit, other wise one can loose precious time, energy and petrol, as I accidentally did. I missed the permit, was not allowed to go past Gulaba, had to go back to Manali to get permit. I lost almost four hours in the process and as a result could not reach my planned destination of the day.

Check post at Gulaba

From Gulaba we move towards Marhi. Manali-Rohtang is a scenic route of 52 kms and roads are perfect atleast till Marhi.

Just before Marhi

Marhi is an ideal point to have seem break before serious climb to Rohtang starts. You can even see the top from here. There are number of food joints here and lot of things to kill your time. People wary of cold, weather and thin air at Rohtang, like to spend more time in Marhi.

Marhi

After that roads start to deteriorate as we approach close to pass. AT many places, road is also being widened. Lot of construction activity makes riding challenging. Lets see what happens when the roads open this year.

Widening of road

Stretch from Marhi to Rohtang is also known for its traffic jams, prompting authorities to regulate movement of traffic. Narrow roads, high cliffs, bigger vehicles, potholes, streams, all these some times compound the chaos and for bikers it is a challenge to go past this mess.

Traffic chaos close to Rohatnag

It feels quite satisfying once we reach the Rohtang top, as it is first of the great passes on way to Leh.

Rohtang top

Its quite an atmosphere here with people all around, having fun.

Tourist vehicles at Rohtang top

Way to Rohtang is just prelude to the actual tough journey ahead. But it is still a major milestone.

Even army personnel like to pose here

After Rohtang only the locals going ahead or the adventures move ahead. Picnickers normally return from here.

Downhill ahead of Rohtang

Gramphoo is 15 kms downhill from Rohtang top.  Road from Rohtang top till 4-5 kms was good in condition but next ten odd kilometres to Gramphoo were terrible last year (2016) due to widening of road and large scale repair work.

Tough roads

One also needs to understand that road conditions on these two stretches is lot dependent on weather as well as month of travel. Early in the season (June) roads will be worse than what one will find towards the end (September-October). Month of travel will also decide the amount of snow and running water (nallahs) one might find on roads. Thats the reason, September end is considered to be one of the safest time to ride or drive on these roads.

Gramphoo

Gramphoo is the place where roads to Lahaul valley and Spiti valley bifurcate. Those going to Leh continue to move straight towards Keylong. And those going to either Kunjum Pass and Kaza or towards Chandratal lake take right turn at Gramphoo along the Chandra River. My final destination was Leh, but I also wanted to cover Chandratal lake, hence I took the road to Spiti valley.

Want to see a video of the route. Please click to the link below-

Getting ‘high’ in the hills!

Fermented alcoholic drinks have been part of different local cultures  since time immemorial. They have been part of local traditions and the art has been transferred from generations to generation. Many survived and many modified themselves. In India, wherever you go, you will find such local flavours in deep interiors of the hinterland. One such famous drink is Tongba. You go into hills of Sikkim and West Bengal and you won’t be able to miss it. During my treks to Sandakphu and in North Sikkim over the years, we could see it everywhere and actually enjoyed it… if not for taste then for its culture, and of course the unique way it is served in a container which itself is called as Tongba.

This drink is actually traditional and indigenous drink of Limbu people of eastern Nepal and perhaps travelled with them to the nearby areas of mountains of Sikkim and Darjeeling and to some parts of Tibet an Bhutan as well. Border with Nepal in the hill regions of Darjeeling district are very porous and not just that, while trekking you will often not know when you have transcended the international boundaries. Hence there was no way that these borders would have stopped the amalgamation of cultures. Therefore, Tongba is very much now the part of the local culture in Indian regions of Sikkim and Darjeeling hills. Best part is that you have to be here to taste it, hence those who have not been here, rarely get to know about it, leave aside tasting it.

Enjoying Tongba at Lachung in North Sikkim

Tongba is actually a heady millet brew. Tongba is this traditional wooden vessel with copper rings on top, bottom and in centre. The beverage is also called as Jaand. It is prepared by cooking and fermenting whole grain millet. It is a long and tedious process, but local people are expert in doing this at their homes. Cooked millet is cooled and mixed with murcha, known to be source of moods, bacteria and yeast, required for fermentation.

A lady cooling the cooker millet at her grocery store cum home cum tongba brewery in her village near Kalapokhri in Singalila hills

Once this is done, the mixture is collected in bamboo baskets, lined with green leaves. The basket is then covered with cloth and left to get warmed naturally for a couple of days. Once this process is over, the mixture is transferred into earthen pot and then covered tight at the mouth to prevent any air from entering in. It is then left like this for couple of weeks or even more depending on fermentation required. Once its done, jaand is ready to be consumed. This is then left to mature.

Lovely hosts, who also run a guest house for travellers

This jaand might be stored for about six months. Longer it is kept, taste intensifies but it becomes more mellowed. Now comes the drinking part, that is further interesting. Whenever it has to be consumed, the mixture is put into wooden tongba and then it is filled with boiled water, left for few minutes and is then sipped with a bamboo straw. The boiled water instantly derives the alcoholic essence from the millets. Once the water is finished and tongba gets dry, you add more water to the same mixture and keep repeating it until the essence is exhausted from the mixture. Drinking itself is an art, so that only liquid is sipped and grains aren’t sucked to your mouth.

Cool night, hot Tongba and some fine tuning on harmonica at Gurdum in West Bengal
Tongba ready to drink

So, when somebody sits to drink Tongba, there is invariably kept a thermos of boiled water besides. In hills, tongba also serves as a community drink, where people get together for a chat and a tongba is shared by all by passing it to one-another after every sip. Gives a real feeling of brotherhood! In its drinking manner and sharing, it also reminds me of mate, favourite drink of latin America. Similarly, Tongba is culturally as well as religiously important to the Limbu people of Nepal. It is also offered as respect to guests coming to house or family gatherings.

A tongba drink is like what is beer to the commoners and it even tastes like that. Time magazine in an write-up commented long back, “tongba is like Guinness to the Irish or whisky to the Scots; it’s something to celebrate and revel in and to stumble and sing under its influence.”

Those who don’t love alcohol might detest on this, but as a traveller you ought to know and often have a feel of such things to be able to soak in the atmosphere.  Try it only if you are comfortable and never overdo a new taste, until you get used to it. Tongba is not that strong in terms of alcohol, but then different bodies, react differently on strange tastes. Better safe! You never know, when you will geta ‘high’!!


SHARE, DON’T COPY

——————————–

and finally… the pink flamingos

Moving ahead from Devayani, I was asking every other guy the way to Chatri (cenotaph) of Daadu Dayal. The way wasn’t far from Devayani. Just half a kilometre ahead was a railway crossing and the just before the railway line was a dusty path going inside the salt fields along side the now unused railway track. There were many structures in the area, all of them actually remnants of a very well-planned rail network meant for the salt extraction. It looked like a no-man’s land. I kept on moving ahead till there was a way. Till that time I didn’t even had an idea that how the chatri of Daadu Dayal looked like. Track wasn’t easy, but still negotiable and enjoyable. Then, I suddenly saw a man out of nowhere and asked him about the exact location of the cenotaph, and luckily also about the possibility of birds.

Chatri (canatoph) of Daadu Dayal
Chatri (cenotaph) of Daadu Dayal

Thankfully enough, that man told exactly about both the things and all of a sudden I had wings in my wheels. My primary interest was in birds. Cenotaph was bit ahead in the salt fields and I needed to walk. Bird site was towards left. I unhesitatingly turned towards the lake. I was so anxiously waiting for that moment. Already had pink salt and pink sunset as prelude to this. There was a ramp being built to connect the village directly presumably to the cenotaph. Ramp actually bifurcated the water body which sheltered the birds. I parked my bike on the ramp and then walked alongside the mud-mounded wall to separate the salt fields from the normal water body. And then I was filled with joy on seeing this-

Flamingo colony close to railway track
Flamingo colony close to railway track

That was how the flamingos looked from the distance while lake water was filled with different types of waterfowls. I laughed out at the fact that this was the same railway track from where I and Sohan Singh turned left towards the salt fields last evening. We were searching for birds, hardly aware that they were just on the other side of the railway track, but were not visible from that side as track was on high earthen mound. Now, they were, right in front of me.

I kept moving closer to the colony-

Sambhar Flamingos8

closer-

Sambhar Flamingos9

and yet more-

Sambhar Flamingos11

until they decided to move away a bit farther-

Sambhar Flamingos12

I will admit that my primary objective to go to Sambhar was to see some pink flamingos. The reports of their dwindling numbers were already making rounds for past many years. So I wanted to be there at the earliest available opportunity. Had seen flamingos earlier at few places in India, including Chilika and Rameshwaram. But Sambhar was ought to be quite different from others.

I was so amused that passengers travelling from Jaipur to Jodhpur via train can always enjoy these birds next to their coaches. These images were so interesting-

Saline wetlands of Sambhar have supported large population of flamingos and more than 70 species of other wetland birds. Flamingos have been found to breed in this area. Sambhar is said to be unique ecological habitat for winter avian migrants.

But this place has many challenges which actually threaten its very existence. What can be a bigger irony than this, that though Sambhar Lake was designated as a wetland of International importance under Ramsar convention way back in 1990 and was also marked as an Important Bird Area (IBA) but this is neither a bird sanctuary, nor a wildlife sanctuary or a national park. Hence there is no protection to this site under wildlife protection act. Isn’t this disgraceful to these wonderful creatures-

Sambhar Flamingos13

After Great Rann of Kutch, Sambhar Lake is the second largest wintering and breeding ground for flamingos in India. Its an ideal habitat. Its vast spread of open waters allows most aquatic birds to land in flocks and find for themselves enough space to remain aloof and separated with no resource competition.

Sambhar Flamingos7
fall in line!

Sambhar has both-Lesser flamingos as well as Greater flamingos. But there has been considerable decline in number of Lesser Flamingos in last few years.

Flamingos were aware of my presence and they kept moving from one place to other. There were other disturbances as well- grazing cattle, dogs, trains, humans, as this part of the lake was right adjacent to the Sambhar town. What was interesting that they all moved in unison.

Fly away
Fly away

Feeling threatened they will fly together, not high enough-

Sambhar Flamingos16

and then land to a safer place-

Sambhar Flamingos17

Even while walking in shallow waters, their movements were very swift-

Sambhar Flamingos19

All together-

Sambhar Flamingos20

But what looked most fascinating was their flight. Normally they will daily take rounds of the region in afternoon and then come back in the evening-

Flying high
Flying high

But what gave me best shots of the day was a little game between dogs and the flamingos. Two young dogs first kept playing with each other in the water and then all of a sudden they thought to give the flock of flamingos a chase in shallow waters of the lake, although very aware that it was very futile. But than it was all in the game and to my delight, I was able to get some satisfying images of their flight. See for yourself (click on images to have full view and enjoy)-

These were some low moments but there was also few high and close ones-

I kept on clicking and clicking till I touched the deadline to leave for the return journey of another 350 kms. Otherwise, it was never enough for me-

Sambhar Flamingos28

Sambhar Flamingos29

… and as if saying goodbye to me-

Sambhar Flamingos31

I will surely be back, for more time perhaps. But still this isn’t all from Sambhar…