The White Peaks , Part 2 – A tea garden, a temple & a lot of birds – A beautiful sunny day in Gagar

This post is a continuation of the series documenting our travels in a small part of the wonderful Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, India. We had started off in the birders paradise of Sattal & were now enjoying the comforts and views of the delightful bungalow called “The White Peaks” in Gagar. (The White Peaks , Part 1 – Mukteshwar and a short hike up the hill in Gagar).

I woke up early on our second day in Gagar, not because I didn’t sleep well. Rather I wanted to enjoy an early morning view of the Himalayas. For that I didn’t have to go very far, the view from the terrace of the bungalow was add good as it got in that region. The small town/ village of Gagar in the foreground followed by the green Himalayan foothills and the majestic snow covered peaks in the distance.

YOG_9040 copy
The breathtaking view from the terrace of The White Peaks.

It was much clearer that morning than the previous day and almost the whole range was clear.The famed “Trishul” and “Nandadevi” peaks among numerous others were clearly visible. At such times I never waste a chance to get on the trusty 300mm to take a closer view of the peaks and take a photo or two.

YOG_9098
The famous Trishul peak from the bungalow

Now that I was up I decided to go for a short walk around the bungalow. It was a lot colder here than at Sattal. Thankfully on that cold morning there was steaming hot water available for a bath. Refreshed I stepped out to see Kali waiting for me just outside the door. Luckily we had packed a few packets of biscuits and the both of us devoured a few before setting off to see what we could find.

Sadly there was not much bird activity in the vicinity that morning, or maybe it was still too cold for them to be up and about. As a friend has taught me when there are no birds in the sky you turn your attention downwards. Whenever I find birds I totally ignore the beautiful flora around ( The flora is the better half’s thing, I’m the fauna guy!). That birdless morning made me appreciate the beautiful wildflowers in the forest much more!

YOG_9053 copy
A pretty little wild flower at Gagar
YOG_9054
I can’t believe I totally ignored these earlier!

After wandering around for half an hour the sun started to shine brightly and the tummy started to rumble. I am used to a heavy breakfast to start the day and a few biscuits just don’t cut it. So both me and Kali returned to the bungalow. Mohan and Pawan were up and busy making breakfast. The better half was up too by now and enjoying the view from the terrace when I returned.

YOG_9096
Enjoying the view from the terrace

Pawan got us coffee and biscuits to start off as they laid out the breakfast. ( We had the coffee while Kali had the biscuits) It was beautiful and sunny by now and the cold dawn had given way to a pleasant morning. So I got rid of all the warm layers that I had bundled my self in.

I always carry a 35mm portrait lens with me on all trips. However it almost never gets used as I hardly ever get the chance to change lenses while on the move. There was no such hinderance here. The gorgeous view, the beautiful sunlight just was begging for few portraits. So out came the 35mm and we had fun posing around.

YOG_9063 copy
The better half poses for the 35mm on a beautiful day in Gagar
YOG_9073 copy
The beautiful background meant that even I had to get a photo or two
YOG_9071 copy
With my friend from Gagar – Kali
YOG_9079 1 copy
Good light, a great background and a beautiful model!

The light was so good that even my cheap mobile was taking great photos!

47290758_940465449674773_1222544754131075072_n
Enjoying coffee and a view

Mohan came to tell us that breakfast had been served and famished as I was that was music to my ears. He had made delicious aloo parathas that day, served with a fresh raita, butter & mint chutney. We must have eaten twice as much as we usually eat for breakfast, thats how good the parathas were!

47384163_732991380402184_3453593815577788416_n
Delicious Aloo Parathas with raita, butter & mint chutney!

After stuffing ourselves solid we were ready for the days sightseeing. I called up Mussaratbhai who was staying at the government rest house close by and told him that we were ready to leave. As we waited for him to arrive I took a few more photos of the wonderfully maintained house.

YOG_9090 copy
The well maintained living room where we spent all of our evenings
47486693_952055288317507_4487741469947330560_n
The beautiful plants (succulents) on the porch

YOG_9082

Soon Mussaratbhai arrived and we were off. We had left that days sightseeing totally upto him. I had just given him the brief that I didn’t want to go very far and that we had to be back at the White Peaks for a late lunch.

He had decided on a nearby tea garden, the Ghorakal Tea gardens near Bhowali as the first sight for the day and I wasn’t complaining. Tea gardens are usually a perfect place to just wander around, take in the typical smell of fresh tea leaves and take a photo or two. This region isn’t known for its tea and this was a recently started tea garden. While it isn’t of the grand scale as the tea gardens in Assam or even those around Ooty, this small tea garden had one thing going for it. We were the only ones there!

So we paid the entry fee and wandered around the tea garden and took a few photos. Mussaratbhai even got into the act and gave a few typical filmy poses.

YOG_9104 copy
The beautiful Ghorakal tea gardens at Bhowali
47375063_281945205997181_8963810636123340800_n
Mussaratbhai poses for the camera

As usual I was searching for birds wherever I went. So after we were done taking photos of the gardens themselves I put on the 300 mm and started searching for my winged friends, without much luck. The only bird around was a brown flycatcher enjoying the shade in the far end of the garden. Luckily it was flowering time and there were a lot of bees around and that kept me busy till I got a decent shot or two.

YOG_9109
A bee goes about his day at the tea gardens in Bhopal
YOG_9116
A Flycatcher sits in the distance at the tea gardens

We exited the gardens and bought a tin of the local green tea as an edible souvenir of the trip. As we exited a number of vehicles entered with a whole group of tourists, I was certainly glad that we had left early as that meant we enjoyed the tea gardens in peace.

Next Mussaratbhai suggested that we go to the famous Kainchi Dham temple an hours drive away. This temple was founded by the disciples of a godman called Neem Karoli Maharaj just beside a small tributary of the Kosi. I am not a very religious person but I was curious to see this  ashram of the man whose photo adorns almost all establishments in the district!

We reached the ashram after negotiating the severe hair pin bends that the ashram is named after (It has got nothing to do with scissors, just in case you were wondering!). This is a popular spot and there were a lot of vehicles parked. After we found a spot, we disembarked and went towards the temple. At the gate was one of the biggest dogs I have seen. The gentle giant was just sitting there and enjoying the sunlight & I couldn’t resist taking a photo.

YOG_9120 copy
A huge dog at the gates of Kaichidham

As photos are not allowed inside the temple we took our turns to visit the temple premises while the other sat outside and guarded the gear. It’s a fairly modern temple and the only thing that makes it special (for me) is the location the valley just besides a river.

47384133_798995417100216_7239950805212594176_n
The pristine location of the Kaichidham Temple

What excited me more than the temple was the small rivulet along it. Such spots are prime hunting grounds for kingfishers. I had not seen any of the famous crested kingfisher of this region and I was hoping that we might chance on one in this location.

We scanned both sides of the rivulet from the bridge leading to the temple. Just near the temple was a white capped redstart enjoying the shade. Though it wasnt in a good light for photography I couldn’t let a bird so close by go without a photo.

YOG_9129
A White capped redstart 

As I moved to the other side, sitting there as if waiting for me was a crested Kingfisher. I could not believe my luck and without wasting time started rattling away shots.

YOG_9123

YOG_9128
Different poses of the Crested Kingfisher at KaichiDham

After a few minutes the kingfisher flew away to a perch further downstream. So we went back up to the road and went along the road to see if we could still find it. Sure enough at a perch on the far side was the crested kingfisher. But now he was joined by his better half. It could not have been any better.

YOG_9158
The Crested Kingfisher flies to his better half

The next half an hour was spent just observing these beautiful little birds as they posed for the 300mm. It made the whole journey to the temple worthwhile.

YOG_9168

YOG_9192
Mr and Mrs Crested Kingfisher pose for the 300mm

That was the end of the routine sightseeing for the day as I wanted to enjoy some time at the White Peaks itself. There is no point in staying at such a beautiful place if you don’t spend a day lazing around.

We went back and Mohan had kept lunch ready. It was delicious as always and we were left licking our fingers at the end. ( Even though this may get repetitive, I can’t stress enough how good the food was!)

47293021_2282936108608624_4983443655831322624_n
Mixed veggies, Dal and salads – A delicious lunch

Groggy after eating too much again we slept for some time before returning to the terrace to enjoy the sun before it disappeared and it got chilly again. Pawan served us hot coffee on the terrace itself. It was the ideal lazy afternoon, some sleep followed by a hot cup of coffee with a good book in hand, a great view and the best company.

47685097_192075288401875_1123144698207141888_n

47246592_705120686526173_7370081326369603584_n
A lazy afternoon spent on the terrace of the White Peaks

As the sun set we left the terrace and went down to the living room where Mohan lit up the fireplace and we followed up the lazy afternoon with a lazy evening. It was one of the most relaxing days of a vacation for us in a long time!

47363350_268201037379785_3121990119481933824_n
A lazy evening by the fireplace

We wanted to go see Ranikhet the next day which was a good 3 hours drive away. So we had requested Mohan to prepare dinner early that day. The butter chicken that he had made that day was divine and as on the previous night, I ate much more than I usually do back home. Perks of being on a vacation I guess!

47316064_202635780641688_209962800569647104_n
Delicious butter chicken , Paneer Matar for dinner on Day 2
47393099_380711876001215_565761202790072320_n
Jeera rice that looks straight out of a 5 star kitchen

The next morning we both got up early and got ready to leave for Ranikhet. It was a beautiful clear day and as usual Kali was up and about waiting for a  few biscuits & a belly rub.

YOG_9042 copy
Kali on a clear morning at the White peaks

That morning the birds seemed to have listened to me grumbling about the lack of bird activity and came out in full force. Even though we wanted to leave early it would have been criminal to ignore the beautiful birds just waiting to be photographed.

Chestnut bellied nuthatches, Chats, Green warblers, grey headed warblers, hill sparrows, minivets, jays and  green backed tits all took turns posing as I gladly took a gazillion photos.

 

YOG_9205
An Indian Chat in the sun
YOG_9207
A chestnut bellied nuthatch forages for food
YOG_9216
A mountain sparrow vies for the attention of the 300mm
YOG_9246
A Eurasian Jay peeks from amidst the branches
YOG_9256
A minuet poses royally on its perch
YOG_9278
A dainty green warbler searches for breakfast
YOG_9302
A colourful grey headed warbler poses for the 300mm
YOG_9305
A green backed tit at Gagar
YOG_9416
A black headed jay has a quick drink

That one hour of early morning birding put a big smile on my face for the rest of the day. As the aroma of breakfast started coming from the kitchen we moved in for breakfast. We would go to the famous hill station of Ranikhet that day and visit its famous golf course and temples. But that is story for another post, some other time some other day as I have again crossed my self set word limit again.

Till then,

Bye

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.