This post is the last of the series documenting our travels through the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. We were now staying at the Jungle Lore Birding Lodge in the birding hotspot village of Pangot near Nainital. On our first day here we had some great bird sighting with the beautiful Koklas Pheasant giving me some particularly pleasing poses. (Pangot, Part 1 – A memorable date with the Koklas Pheasant).
After the mornings birding we had decided to rest for some time post lunch and then set off again for some birding in the evening. When we finished our lunch it was bright and sunny. I decided to walk around the property for some time before returning to the cottage for an afternoon siesta.
As it was sunny the insects were out in full force and I tried to get a bee and a moth to pose around for me on the numerous flowering plants around the lodge. Feeding bees always are a challenge to photograph and I was lucky to get some good photos.
Even though it was not a great time for activity of birds I still got some of the local residents frolicking around in the bird bath and a lone goldfinch female high up in the tree. Enough to keep me both happy and occupied for some time.
I then returned to the cottage for a short nap before returning to the hide in an hour. It was the time when the Khalij Pheasant were known to frequent the area and I wanted one more sighting of this beautiful bird before we returned back home. So we sat at the hide and waited. We didn’t have to wait for long. At first the male popped his head through the grass to check if the coast was clear. After he ended the feeding area and started to feed he was followed by his harem of 3 female Pheasants. They scoured the ground for the scattered feed as I got busy taking a gazzilion photos.
I noticed that as the pheasants left the light suddenly got very dull. We were scheduled to go out for birding after some time at the hide. However the weather gods had other plans. Clouds descended into the valley, making it cold and dreary and light was awful for photography. So we decided not to travel around and just sit at the birding hide at the lodge and see what luck had in store for us that day.
The birds seemed to share our dislike for the dull weather and the hide was awfully silent. We still got a few laughing thrushes coming in periodically. But there was no frenzy of birds that usually defines a sunny day in this region. We had to grin and bear what nature had in store for us, silently thanking the Gods for keeping this bad weather away till the last day of our trip.
Once it got totally silent we left the hide and just walked around the beautiful property taking random photos wherever we felt like.
When it gets cloudy in the hills the mercury falls dramatically and it soon got very cold. We were not dressed for this weather and as it got dark we decided that it would be better if we added a layer or two before returning to the road to view the sunset.
Sunsets in Pangot are supposed to be very pretty. We had missed the sunset on our first day here as we were out birding. So today we decided that we would watch the sun go down into the hills. It had cleared out a fair bit from a few hours back and we got to see the beautiful colours of a Pangot Sunset.
Watching the sun set is always a peaceful experience. This was the last sun set of this vacation and we enjoyed it to the fullest before returning to the warmth and comfort of our cottage.
We enjoyed a few hours in our cottage reading and having a cup of hot coffee. Soon it was time for dinner and we hustled to the dinner cottage shivering in the cold. The warmed kitchen cottage and the piping hot dinner was even more pleasing in the cold night. We slept peacefully as had become the norm for this trip. All hotels / cottages we had stayed in were in silent locations which was a welcome change from the constant din that we encounter back home in Mumbai.
We were scheduled to leave soon after breakfast as Mussaratbhai, our driver wanted to show us the Corbett falls in Kaladhungi before dropping us off at the station for our train back. That meant that I had just a short time at the hide that morning. But a short time is better than no time and I went to say goodbye to my Himalayan feathered friends & get a few more photos in the bargain.
We had breakfast and fed Dolly the last of our biscuits and said goodbye to the Jungle Lore Birding lodge.
Mussaratbhai was ready for the journey and we loaded our bags and started our journey back. It was a clear and sunny day today and we decided to stop for sometime at the viewing point near Nainital from where the entire Uttarakhand Himalayas were clearly visible that day.
My aversion for crowds meant that we had skipped Nainital altogether and just jumped all around this most famous hill station and lake of the region. So we decided not to ignore the lake completely and at least get a good photo from high up above the lake, far away from the maddening crowds.
We thought that Nainital was the last of the lakes that we would be seeing on this trip. But Mussaratbhai informed us that another one was coming up. The last of the lakes was the beautiful emerald coloured Khurpatal. It was scenically located in a green valley and just perfect for taking photos.
We then descended from the hills and the layers of clothes started being peeled off inside the car. After driving about an hour and a half we reached Kaladhungi where the Corbett falls were located. We paid for our entry and proceeded to the parking area. The falls themselves were located a short level walk from the parking area. As we got near the frog we saw a frog jump across the path and into the grass on the other side a short distance ahead. I knew something must be chasing it so I stopped and got my camera ready, sure enough right behind the frog slithered a long snake. The snake got spooked seeing us and went right back into the thicket it came from. But not before I got a photo.
After that minor excitement we proceeded to see the small but beautiful Corbett Falls. There were just a handful of people around and we got some good photos.
Even here I spotted a Grey Wagtail jumping around in the rocks around the stream emanating from the falls. It was a curious little bird and got close enough for me to get a decent photo.
It was too beautiful a location not to have pictures of ourselves taken and Mussaratbhai was kind enough to do the needful.
We then returned to Haldwani and had lunch with a friend from my residency days whom I was meeting after 7 years. He had been kind enough to find out a reliable driver for our trip and that is very important when you are driving around steep curvy roads.
Mussaratbhai then dropped us off to the Kathgodam station where our train was waiting to take us back to Delhi from where we would fly back home to Mumbai. We said our goodbyes to Mussaratbhai, who had in addition to being a reliable driver had entertained us with his wacky choice of Hindi songs and unlimited quota of stories from his time in the hills.
It had been a great vacation all round. The birding had been par excellence, I had gotten photos of species that I had never seen and very good ones at that. The food had been excellent wherever we stayed and exceptional in Gagar where Mohan’s food still makes me drool thinking about it. We had discovered a great place for relaxation in the hills ” The White Peaks ” in Gagar, which I am sure I want to return to some day hopefully soon. So we returned home sad that the vacation had ended but happy with memories that would stay with us for long ( but extra kilos from all the delicious food that hopefully won’t!).
Till next time, from a new place with a new series documenting our travels across our country and the world.