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2023 - The Year That Was

Places impact you for a variety of reasons. And the same place impacts different people in different ways. This is especially true when it comes to spiritual experiences, where every single person’s experience is unique. And personally, every spiritual experience is unique, the same person can have different deeply spiritual experiences at different places, at different times. This thought has emerged because of my own experiences over the years, but especially so this year, with different and unique experiences at various places I have visited recently. I began this year with a visit to Baroda (Vadodara) with friends. It was meant to be a relaxed trip, a touristy trip, with our sons. We enjoyed ourselves to the hilt, but the highlight of that trip was a visit to the Lakulisha temple at Pavagadh. It was the iconography of the temple that I connected with, and I spent a few hours simply lost in the details of the figures carved around the temple. There was an indefinable connect with

Binsar - Part 3 - A trek to a river... with a bit of Bird Watching thrown in!

 Trekking is something I am least enthusiastic about, while Shankar loves to! No matter where we go, he manages to explore the place on foot every morning, sometimes even going seriously trekking with a guide. This time though, I was the one who wanted to go, when I saw that there was a bird watching trek on the anvil. Shankar, as usual, was sceptical about seeing any birds, but consented, especially since he knew that I wouldn’t be able to manage Samhith on my own while walking. I had expected to walk around the resort, maybe a short trek, and it was short, just 2 Kms one way, but the route took us over the hill and into the valley towards the villages and I was out of breath by the time we were even halfway through! To my surprise, we weren’t the only people on the trek, there were five others, one a solo traveller and the four others in a group, but all from Bombay! Even more interestingly, two of them were science teachers in coaching classes, and we had some very interesting discussions, ranging from birds (of course!), plants, and even Sanskrit and philosophy! It was really an interesting walk!

Shankar, with one of our companions, and our guide.

Instead of wasting any more words, let me take you along through my photographs….

We first walked down to the village which is where I found my hands free for the camera. Till then I was too busy concentrating on the mountain path! We all loved the setting for the beautiful house, and I wondered what it would be like to live there!

Our guide, Jack, a Nepali boy, whose father had served in the Indian army, and was now settled in Binsar, pointed out trees and plants as we walked along. The rhododendron was the most prominent, with its bright red flowers, which were not just beautiful to look at, but also extremely useful! The tree is locally known as Burransh, and the flowers are used to make a juice which is not just tasty, but is also considered curative, being good for asthma as well as heart problems!

Rhododendron Flowers

The area also abounds in other trees, chiefly, the pine trees which are all over, deodars (only at some places), and also apple and walnut trees.

Walnut pods

Itching Plant

As we walked along, Jack pointed out the nest of a bird, which turned out to be the Red Billed Blue Magpie.  We saw many of these birds, but unfortunately they were too fast for me to photograph, and in any case all of us were amateurs and not really good at photography or at bird watching! We did see a bird in the nest, which I tried to capture on camera. The result wasn’t all that good, but after a bit of editing, here is what it looks like……If you look carefully, you can see the long tail feathers on the left side and the red beak on the right!

Red Billed Blue Magpie... look carefully to see the red beak and the blue tailfeathers....

Later on our trip, we saw another bird which looked the same, and turned out to be a Yellow Billed Blue Magpie. While I did manage to get a pic of this one, it once again made me wish for a better camera! And some photography lessons too…….

Yellow Billed Blue Magpie

Making our way among the bushes, many of which were itching plants, we finally arrived at our destination, or rather, to be precise, the half-way point of our walk – a small stream, where there was still a little water.

Samhith just needs to see a bit of water, and he takes off his shoes in a moment…….. and this time was no different. In spite of our warnings that we had a long walk ahead, he refused to listen and was into the water before we could do anything about it. the best way then for us was to let him do what he liked… as if we had a choice……..

While we adults oohed and aahed over the beauty and tried to look out for birds, Samhith did what he does best – collected stones! And yes, we did bring back lots and lots of them! (Usha, there are some for you too….)

Dragging ourselves and Samhith reluctantly away from the peaceful stream, we made our way along fields towards another village, a route which would eventually lead us back to the resort…..

Here, we saw another bird which I managed to photograph, but I have forgotten the name… can anyone help me out????

Unknown Bird.. Identification please...

As we walked along the easier path, Samhith now started noticing things…… thanks to our BNHS camp, where we went for a trek in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, he could now recognize ant-lions, and thanks to our Hermitage visit, he knew what tunnel web spiders were! While the photo of the former did not come out well, here is one of the latter. See, vacation coupled with education! Just like a mom, wouldn’t you say???????

Tunnel Web Spider web

As we finally stepped on to the main road, which, I must admit, made things much easier for me, we espied two birds... The first was some kind of a dove. If any of you know the exact name, please let me know…..


The second gave me what I think is the best photograph of the lot! This was an Oriental White Eye, a bird I had never seen before. As it happened, we were facing the sun, and I could hardly see the details, as the sun was shining right into my eyes. I clicked the photographs wondering if anything would come, but surprisingly, it came out amazingly clear, especially the white ring over the eye which gives it its name!

Oriental White Eye

By the time we set foot into the resort, we were too tired for words, and all I could do was head out towards the restaurant for breakfast! The aches and pains started once I got back to the room, and we abandoned all further plans for the day, and I elected to relax with a book, as usual!

It was when we returned that we saw the Hoopoe, so I am adding it to this post too....


Incidentally, the resort had some wonderful books for kids and young adults, and, since I had already finished the books I had brought along, I elected to read whatever was available – which turned out to be Nancy Drew! I was reading these books after ages, but it was wonderful to do so again…….. In the five days I was there, I think I read about 6 Nancy Drews!


  1. Does Samhith had the same passion for reading?

    Your pictures want me to drop everything and go to the mountains right now. It is all the more tempting when one has a pile of grading to do!

  2. Nice explanation and I appreciate efforts you had put in these blogs. Photos are also very good - Itz worth going thru your blogs as usual!

    Jay :)

  3. Hey!
    As I was telling you yesterday, we saw lots of Hoopoes in Panghot. Also, various kinds of bulbuls, magpies, etc. The highpoint was in fact before we went birding: spotting a himalayan gryphon!

  4. @Mridula: well, he does read very well when he is in the mood, but he has to be pestered to read, unlike me...... hope he learns to read more as he grows older....
    and yes, i can guess how tempting it must be, esp since another friend who has shifted to delhi keeps saying the same thing!

    @Jay: time, u put up your pics and let me comment:)

    @Usha: hey, apparently, hoopoes are very common in all farms... so says my mami... she says u see lots of them in the south, and was surprised that i hadnt seen any before.... and we saw an himlayan gryfon too, but it was too high up to be sure, so i didnt mention it....

  5. Hey really liked your blig...
    its quite informative and nice to see some beautiful pictures in between :)

  6. @Anu - Me ?? writing blogs & uploading pictures!...No way... I am not a good author like you & as well I do not have that much of patience, unfortunately! :(

    So, please keep writing & let's just enjoy your blogs!

    Jay :)

  7. No words to express the beauty of the pictures. Loved it.

  8. Wonderful narration. Great pictures. I felt I was myself trekking along.
    Hats Off.

  9. Samhith must be getting vast knowledge out of these travels. Pretty much useful than those classroom sessions. This is going to help him in the long run.
    The post is very detailed and great captures too.
    The water is crystal clear..
    Going to read the previous parts too..

  10. @Ankita: thanks.... i am absolutely nuts about photos and keep looking at them again and again, and reliving my journeys when i have to stay home:)

    @Jay: you will never know until u try....

    @Chitra: thanks so much!

    @subu: Oh yes, thats one of the reasons i like to take him everywhere.... no matter where and when u go, there is so much to learn.... of course, i wonder if he will remember all these trips as he grows older.....

    and please do leave your comments at the other blogs too,,

  11. Brilliant write-up and photos Anu! Brings back memories of my trip to Binsar and the wonderful treks that I went on...

    Binsar WLS and the nearby areas are so beautiful that one can stay there for a very long while...

    BTW, did you try the rhododendron flower juice? I used to have one full glass every day I used to be in Himachal and Uttarakhand. It is unbelievably tasty....

  12. Trekking and birding! What a wonderful combination! :-)

  13. Sankara: thanks a lot! its really a beautiful place and next time we will stay inside the sanctuary... and yes, we too had the rhododendron juice... and samhith said it tasted like strawberry!

    @the couple: yes, it was... u must go there!

  14. Awesome...good to know that you had the rhododendron juice....

    makes me wanna go there again and soak in the beautiful sights with a glass of juice in my hand :-)

  15. sigh ! no birding for a long time ..good to see so many pics..



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