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Ladakh - Planning The Trip

Over 2000 Km by road, in around 10 days. Stunning landscapes, wonderful people. That sums up our Ladakh trip. But how did it actually work? How did we make it happen? Read on to find out!  Leh, the capital of Ladakh , is accessible by air and road. Flying into Leh is the easiest, and time-saving option, while the road is the time consuming one, but with the added advantage of driving past some of the most beautiful landscapes in our country. Each option has much to recommend it, and we chose the road for just one reason – altitude sickness. Altitude sickness was one of my biggest concerns, since I suffer from motion-sickness. Yes, I do travel a lot, but that is despite my condition, and, over the years, have learnt how to handle it. I struggled with it when we visited Nathu-La in Sikkim, and wondered if I would be able to manage a week at the even higher altitudes that we would encounter in Ladakh. This was the reason we stuck to a basic plan, of only 9 days in Ladakh, though we

Binsar - Part 4 - The Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary




The Binsar sanctuary is part of the Corbett National Park, and is reputed to have over 200 varieties of birds! Ever since I booked my trip, I had been reading about this, and was really looking forward to the trip. The sanctuary started about 15 Kms from the resort, and we stopped to get our entry tickets at the forest office. I had imagined that we would have to take another vehicle inside the sanctuary, but apparently vehicles are allowed inside, especially since there are at least 3 resorts within the sanctuary itself! We drove through the winding roads, seeing nothing but pines and rhododendrons, the petals fallen on the ground after the heavy wind the previous evening giving a red hue to the tar road. The road wound its way up the hill and I wondered if this was to be our safari – for we had, as yet, seen nothing interesting…and how could we??? Birds are too fast for motor vehicles, and can hear them miles away! As to animals, there are just a few barking deer in the sanctuary, say the locals….apart from a few foxes, which rarely make an appearance.



As we approach the summit, we pass an old temple, one dedicated to Shiva. Even in the middle of the jungle, there is a reminder of the divine!



Anyway, the vehicle made its way almost till the top, and stopped at the KMVN guest house. If you want to explore the sanctuary well on foot, and really see some interesting birds, this would be one of the best places to stay – and certainly the most economical too! To add to the lure, it gives you the best possible view of the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas!

The KMVN guest house 



Thankfully, there weren’t many tourists at the time we arrived, but the place was full of guides, all local boys, equipped with a field book of Indian birds, and ready to take curious tourists into the heart of the sanctuary. Of course, one doesn’t necessarily need to take one of them along… the path is marked very clearly, but I doubt we would have recognized any of the birds we would have seen without one!



I hadn’t anticipated this trek… from what I had read on the net, it seemed like just a short walk into the jungle… but this was a 2 km walk inside the forest, climbing up hill, towards the highest point of the sanctuary! And here I was, in my usual sandals, totally unprepared for the walk! Shankar gave me a look which said more than words could have hinted, and I swallowed my excuses, and with a deep breath, began the slow climb upwards……yes, the most important word here is ‘slow’ for I couldn’t possibly walk fast under the circumstances. Everyone in my family now knows that I slip even when I walk on a flat road, and fall in the most unusual places, meaning to say, where no one else would ever do so…and I was really cautious this time, and told both our guide and Shankar that they would have to walk slow enough to suit me!



As we walked along the mountain path, Samhith’s eyes were fixed on the ground…no, not to walk carefully, but to pick up stones J, while Shankar walked ahead with our guide, Sunder Singh, looking for birds. I followed with my camera, taking snaps all the time!

a moss covered branch fallen on the path.. the trees are all covered with moss like this... interesting to see so much moisture at this height!


We did see a few birds, though not many. Sunder Singh informed us that we had a better chance of seeing birds if we trekked to the village in the valley, but I had no stamina for that on this trip….. And was satisfied with the few we could sight long enough to identify. As to the others, we heard plenty of birds, but they were probably too wary of strangers and decided to stay hidden… here are the few birds that I managed to photograph….

I think this was a Verditer Flycatcher

Ultramarine Flycatcher

Another ultramarine Flycatcher

Eurasian Jay


As I mentioned before, animals are not too plentiful in this part of the forest, but we did manage to catch a glimpse of a couple of barking deer, which, true to their nature, ran away the moment they heard our approach! I was only able to capture their presence by a hoof mark one of them left behind!

Barking Deer Hoof print


Our trek took us up the path towards the summit, leading to what is called the ‘Zero Point’ – the highest point in the sanctuary!

The structure at Zero Point


The most interesting thing about this place is the panoramic view of the snow capped Himalayas in the distance, and most people come here just for that!



It was indeed an impressive view, which, among other things, made me realize just how far the mighty mountains were, even from our location, and it also made me eager to return to the mountains themselves, which I haven’t set foot on, for more than 20 years!



As our guide rattled off the names of the peaks, I listened with half an ear, too engrossed in the beauty in front of me, wishing I was on one of those mountains instead!



The peace was shattered by the arrival of another family, also with a kid in tow, and we left them alone to enjoy the scene and began our descent. The birds seemed to have disappeared as we walked down, for there were hardly any calls as we walked down the hill. Surprisingly, this was even more tiring than the ascent, and I was absolutely bushed as I thankfully entered the car, and I resolved to try and do something about my fitness level so that I could actually go trekking properly into the jungle the next time I visited the place! Let’s see if I am able to do something about it, though!



Options for staying inside the sanctuary:

KMVN: the KMVN guest house is well located for bird watching from the room as well as some wonderful views of the Himalayas. Of course, there is the distraction of people arriving for the zero point trek, which might be a minus point, but it is economical enough to be worth it! Check the kmvn website for details and booking.

Khali Estate: supposedly the most expensive, but among the best options, this one is also within the sanctuary, but well hidden from view of the casual tourist. A great option if you have the moolah! As far as I was able to find out, bookings are through Nivalink and some other websites.

Binsar retreat: Also a good option, hidden away from prying eyes, this one is also supposedly expensive. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get more details about this one.

There are also plenty of homestays in the villages in and around Binsar, though I would not be able to recommend any at this point. Many of the villagers have opened up their homes for the bird enthusiasts who flock here, and some have just the bare necessities. Most of them are unorganized, while some of them are getting together under some well known banners. All you have to do is search, and plenty of options turn up. Just one warning: please do check up with other people who have visited the place before you make any bookings! 

Comments

  1. Anu,

    Excellent blog. I liked it very much. Photos of 'Verditer Flycathcer' and 'Panoramic view of the snow capped Himalayas' are very impressive.

    Jay :)

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  2. You are making me want to visit Binsar day by day :)

    Loved the view of the himalayas...

    And yes please do some exercising... I went on one such trek (when I was big fat pumpkin) and I became totally tired and bugged off.... One of the reasons which made me go on the reducing spree... am lighter and happier now :)

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  3. Wonderful trip. Corbett is on my mind for a long time now. Even I have read that this is the best place for variety of bird watching.

    The shots are beautiful. The view of the snow covered mountains from here is awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Enjoyed the trip with you Anu, nice photos

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Jay: thanks a lot!

    @Shilpa: next time u are in India, plan a visit... and abt losing weight, I have done that once before, but then I was unmarried... now with samhith, i have put on weight again, and this time it proves to be more stubborn!

    @Rajesh: yes, corbett is great for birdwatching too! I havent been there yet... this was my first brush with it, and next time i am planning to go to the main sanctuary itself...

    @Chitra: thanks a lot!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Excellent post. very interesting, you have a beautyful country...

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  7. Home-stay is a very good option. This will benefit tourism because staying at home is one of the best way to know custom/tradition.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Lovely Anu !
    I love trekking but don't get to trek at all. I really enjoy reading ur blogs.

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  9. @Ramadhani: Thanks a lot! I totally agree.......my country is really beautiful! but we need to keep it so...

    @ Hobo: homestays are definitely better than hotels... or even resorts.. the only thing is to find a good one!

    @pallavi: am in no condition to trek, though would love to!

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  10. Would love to stay in one of the homestays.
    And Anu, try visiting Karnala often. Will increase your stamina and, as a bonus, will get to see some birds as well. It's just an hour away. :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. @the couple: thats wonderful idea! can u believe i have never been there??????

    ReplyDelete

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