Monday, 5 August 2013

Snow Swept Baspa Valley – Rakcham, Kinnaur, Himachal

It is rare to get ‘peak winter‘ like conditions in ‘peak summer’ at destinations like Rakcham in Himachal Pradesh. Tourists who were holed up at this place between 16th – 18th June, 2013, carried indelible impressions in their mind for having watched a continuous snowfall for two days, followed by a clear sunlit day. The extreme chill in the air notwithstanding, it was a god sent opportunity to capture the scenario through the lens, for once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and share it with nature lovers.

Frame 1 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:5.25 am
After getting up in the morning and coming to verandah, a cool surprise! Icicles hanging from corrugated roofing catch my eye. With the previous day’s rainfall being reinforced by today’s snowfall, it took everyone by surprise. One could foresee a chilled atmosphere for the rest of the day.

Frame 2 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:5.26 am
Not so distant view of Kailash View Camp offering luxury tents, the two parked cars indicated two families as inmates. The infiltration of cold air through the tent canvass in such a climate perhaps makes them rue the fact that they were not holed up in a hotel. The three lights are the mute spectators in the murky morning.

Frame 3 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:5.49 am
The neighboring stone and wood two storied building had the agglomerated snow mass hanging by the roof edges. The rain accompanying the snow was aiding in detaching the snow mass with wavy impressions from the roof and slide down the edge.

Frame 4 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:5.51 am
With canvass roofing holding on well, the onslaught of slanting snow mass and raindrops can easily leak through the zipped joints in canvass. That must be ominous for the inmates.

Frame 5 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:5.51 am
The bridge over the roaring Baspa river is conspicuous by the absence of people or animals like cows and sheep which is usual in early morning. From indoors one can vision the roaring river from extreme end of valley and passing by the hotel.

Frame 6 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:6.22 am
The brick colored two storied private bungalow in mid-ground with snow mass hanging down the roof and a lone light in one of the rooms indicates activity in the kitchen. The pine trees in backdrop collects some of the snow and the foreground apple trees make rest of the picture.

Frame 7 Date: 16.6.2013 Time: 6.24 am
Switching the location, I face the road from corridor running along the rooms in the hotel. The parked cars had a layer of snow with blistery appearance. Compounding the woes for the tourists, roads were blocked with boulders sliding down the hill. The cars will surely not see any people venturing anywhere near it. The guests holed up in hotel missed their chance of vacating the hotel with their tour itineraries going for a toss. 

Frame 8 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:7.40 am
The much touted picturesque Modern Village of Rakcham looks bereft of any activity. The lush green hill in backdrop as was visible yesterday takes a pale white hue. The accumulated snow on roof tops gives the impression of an destination in Indian Himalayas in winter. 

Frame 9 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:12.17 pm
By noon it was exceedingly clear that the inclement weather was there to stay. The drivers of the vehicle hold a conference on the wet road, discussing the prospects of their vehicles getting stranded for days due to blocked roads. The tourists resigned to fate with no option but to be confined in their rooms. 

Frame 10 Date: 16.6.2013 Time: 5.27 pm
Snowfall intensifying in afternoon, the cottages had roofs totally covered with snow and sliding down the edges, from time to time, with a spectacle of its own.

Frame 11 Date: 16.6.2013 Time: 5.33 pm
After a cup of evening tea and snacks to go with it to beat the chill, it was worthwhile exploring the scenario from hotel entry gate. The makeshift steps of wooden planks placed on stones, did not look too encouraging with a layer of snow cover, making it slippery. A few inmates did venture out as can be seen from foot marks on door mat. 

Frame 12 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 5.19 am
As has been a ritual with me, coming out on verandah after waking up in the morning, more surprises. Overnight heavy snowfall did not spare any portion of landmass, houses and trees. Pure and pristine white landscape was being displayed in all its glory. We reconciled for another cold, snowy, rainy and power starved day in hotel. 

   Frame 13 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 6.16 am
Switching my position to corridor and facing the road and the village, the lone villager, gingerly walking on snow gives some life on this snowy day. The overnight snowfall was very heavy, with about 10” snow on ground and prospect of more to come. We were like sitting ducks holed up in hotel. 

  Frame 14 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 6.17 am
Looking beyond, the village house roof tops were heavily loaded with snow as a result of lashing snow particles in full fury.

Frame 15 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 6.50 am
Ordering for a cup of tea in canteen, looking through the window, the road to freedom to take us to Sangla, was totally covered in white deposits. So was the triangular arch with signage for Modern Village.

Frame 16 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 6.51 am
On the hill side the giant trees give an impression of having stopped quite a bit of snow, unable to shed all that was incident. One gets reminded of Christmas trees crafted out of paper and wood with white cotton stuffed to give impression of snow cover. Here a real life Christmas scenario in summer! That is the vagaries of Himalayan weather this year. 

Frame 17 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 6.53 am
The tourist cars were doomed to remain mute spectators for last two days. When they will whir to life is anybody’s guess. 

Frame 18 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 8.37 am
From the room verandah, facing the backyard consisting of apple trees, one can see the lone soul wondering about the desolate road,  which is usually sees a lot of activity on a normal day. Today was different.

Frame 19 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 9.02 am
The Baspa river, bridge and the pine trees and even the rocks see enough deposition of snow. The tented camp in far end is conspicuous by the absence of cars. This means the guests have abandoned the tents finding it not too comfortable a place to stay during heavy snowfall. What better place to move than the hotel where we were holed up. 

Frame 20 Date: 18.6.2013 Time: 6.05 am
At last rainfall and snowfall totally relenting, the morning view from verandah was prominently green and white with a splash of brown shade of river Baspa.  The bright sunlit day brought some warmth in weather and hope at heart. Can we come out of our hibernation today? 

Frame 21 Date: 18.6.2013 Time: 6.05 am
Another view of landscape with the river, the tented camp, the greenery, the fresh snow splattered hills in backdrop give a picture postcard scenario. 

Frame 22 Date:18.6.2013 Time: 6.10 am
The bright sunlit day and blue sky surfacing after 3 days in hibernation brings in the hope of moving to our next destination. Will the road reopen for vehicular movement today?  

As a post script, only on 20th June we were able to leave the hotel and trek 14 km to Sangla.

The readers can view some astounding footages of snow swept Baspa valley by taking the following link:

Monday, 15 April 2013

Glorious Landscape Images From Kedarnath Trek Route – Uttarakhand

Among the Himalayan shrines at Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, the most satisfying for a Yarti is to foot it out all of 14 km from Gaurikund to Kedarnath. Having made the trek three times in last 25 years, it is not surprising that I posses a large collection of images taken at various stages of trek. For one, the arduous trek necessitates one to take a large number of breaks to get one’s breath back. What better opportunity can be there to click some frames of the glorious display of nature’s landscape largesse. Following 18 images selected from my collection from three treks to Kedarnath for sharing with my readers.

Frame 1: May 1984
Dawn breaks as we commence the trek

Frame 2: May 1984
Pilgrims’ Progress

Frame 3: May 1984
Cloud Rise at Kedarnath Valley

Frame 4: May 1984
Arrival at Kedarnath Valley 

Frame 5: May 1984
Return Trek 

Frame 6: May 2006
The Initial Trek Route

Frame 7: May 2006
Breather at Waterfall

Frame 8: May 2006
Half Way Through Trek Nearing Ramwada

Frame 9: May 2006
Ramwada Village A Close View

Frame 10: May 2006
Through Cloud and Mist

Frame 11: May 2006
Top View of Trek Route

Frame 12: May 2006
Top View of Trek Route

Frame 13: May 2006
Arriving at Garud Chatti

Frame 14: May 2006
Reaching Kedarnath Plateau and Dwelling

Frame 15: May 2007
Bridge Overlooking Snow – mass

Frame 16:  May 2007
At Ramwada – Lazy day for horses

Frame 17: May 2007
View at Ramwada – A picture post card view

Frame 18: May 2007
View at Ramwada – The Village


Saturday, 9 March 2013

Tracking Flamingos’ Journey Through High Seas To Sewri Mudflats, Mumbai

This account of my experience of tracking Flamingos’ journey on 24th February, 2013, was not as per my intent but due to circumstances and some amount of luck. In my earlier visits to Sewri mudflats resulted in some videos and images of Flamingos and other migratory birds. For the present trip, as usual, I noted the high tide timing in morning to be at 11.15 am and decided to reach the jetty at 12.15 pm when Flamingos were expected arrive on mudflats with tide water receding. However, after reaching the site at 11.45 am, I realized that something had gone awry. The mudflat was fully engulfed with seawater with no birds at sight. There were a few first time visitors who came with anticipation to watch the Flamingos but disappointment writ large on their faces. The security personnel there informed me that in the morning around 7.30 am many visitors were at site and it was like mela. For me, there was no alternative but take shelter from hot sun in shade of security enclosure and mount my tripod and watch the Flamingos in high seas in LCD screen of my Handycam in maximum zoom setting. As time wore on, Flamingos advanced towards mudflats with tide water receding. In following photo essay, images are given frame by frame in different stages of Flamingos’ advance from high seas to mudflats. 

Frame 1 Time: 11.45 am
Flamingos congregated in deep sea, as seen through gap between two dilapidated fishing trawlers which are stuck in mud very close to jetty. In middle of the frame lies the pink colored band from end to end, with few hundreds of the lesser Flamingos packed very close to each other, swimming towards the shore.

Frame 2 Time: 11.46 am
A zoom image of a cluster of Flamingos in deep sea shows the Flamingos bobbing up and down on gentle sea wave and swimming towards the shore. Their long curved prominent red beak and pink body is conspicuous. The timing of their progress is so very calculated that they reach the mudflats when a large patch of it is devoid of tide water, making the place ideal for feed.

Frame 3 Time: 12.23 pm
It was rather boring for next 40 minutes with nothing to do but wait patiently for the Flamingos to advance. A high zoom shot at this point, the individual Flamingo could be seen distinctly and clearly, swimming in one file with Gulls flying overhead.

Frame 4 Time: 12.25 pm
As with anticipation we waited, something bizarre happened and Flamingos made an about turn to retrace their path towards deep sea.  We just realized a lone fishing boat with a lone fisherman had gone too close to the birds and frightened them away.

Frame 5 Time: 12.25 pm
The Flaminos take off from the water surface in unison, the sight captured in my Handycam will remain as my one of the most memorable footages.  The big birds at the moment of take off shows all the radiant pink and black color in their wings, the long legs fully stretched and body glistening by reflecting the harsh sunlight post noon, causing mini – turbulence in the seawater.

Frame 6 Time: 12.25 pm
The Flamingos make a semicircular turn in air and head towards another spot to enable them to take fresh positions in water to resume their routine of moving towards the mudflats.

Frame 7 Time: 12.26 pm
As the Flamingos moved out of range of my Handycam LCD, the fisherman who caused the exodus made his brief appearance with one of the last Flamingos to leave the scene. I mused, ‘The Flamingos will surely find a new location to settle dawn on sea water and continue with their ritual of moving towards the shore but it is not everyday one sees such a large number of Flamingos taking off in unison in mid-sea.’ I felt immensely lucky today and offered my silent thanks to the lone fisherman who unwittingly caused these flying moments to happen. 

Frame 8 Time: 1.09 pm
Having seen the Flamingo party disturbed, it was again a test of patience, waiting for the Flamingos to settle down in sea in new locations to commence their journey, which was getting delayed to our dismay. The two groups of Flamingos settled at two different locations and the one with a ‘Y’ formation looked attractive.

Frame 9 Time: 1.13 pm
It was few minutes later that I caught up with the Flamingos  who were moving pretty fast to make up for the lost time. They were into shallow water and no longer swimming. From their movement, one could say, they were walking although their body sans legs were only visible.

Frame 10 Time: 1.17 pm
A few minutes later the first batch of Flamingos reached very close to mangroves in mudflat with some of the birds flying overhead to keep up the pace with the group. The pink birds were now visible in full for a closer look.

Frame 11 Time: 1.20 pm
Zooming revealed, the Flamingo bunch was not the only species at the mudflats. There was a swarm of unnamed small birds and a Black headed Ibis busy with the same activity of picking food at regular intervals.

Frame 12 Time: 1.26 pm
Flamingos finally moved much closer and arrived at a spot where best possible view is available to the visitors. A final parting shot before we called it a pack up for the day.

* Author regrets that most of the images have been created from the frames of video clips and hence the clarity is lacking. The intent of this photo essay was to share my experience. Those readers, who desire to see this incredible Flamingos journey in best possible clarity on full computer screen need to click the following video link. Rest assured, they will not be disappointed.