Friday, January 06, 2012

Sattal (North India - Day 14)

New Years Day! We were headed for Sattal. During the night it had rained heavily, we estimated for about 90 minutes ... the metal roof helped us in this estimate...

From Pangot you have to go up to go down, anywhere. So we set out. We were the second car of the morning, you can tell from the tyre tracks left in the snow:

Yep. It had snowed higher up. Cue panic from me as we slid around on mountain roads adjacent to precipitous drops, some with large holes in and other hazards somewhat obscured now by the white powder.

As we headed down a growing number of visitors were heading up, anxious for the first experience with snow. Harry predicted traffic jams on our return later.

We drove through a very quiet Nainital and on down to Sattal, a major birding destination. Unfortunately it was very grey, damp and bird quiet. A couple of Grey Treepies were in the Sattal Birding Camp grounds, where we stopped for a tea/coffee:

The local Sattal guides had already been out but looked glum. Hey ho, we'd had splendid weather for the whole trip thus far, so couldn't grumble.

We did go for a walk in the forest by a small lake and then down the road to the main lake. We saw quite a lot too, however the light was appalling. Please excuse the quality of the images... so, White-throated Launghingthrush:

Whistler's Warbler (amongst a foraging group of some six species of warbler):

A close Rufous Sibia:

Red-billed Leiotherix:

More Red-billed Blue Magpie:

Long-tailed Minivet:

Greater Yellow-naped Woodpecker:

A noisy flock of Slaty-headed Parakeets:

Ashy Bulbul:

I would love to bird Sattal on a sunny day, or two, it has huge promise. At one point we followed a small group of White-crested Laughingthrushes. No decent images I'm afraid but listening to them was magic.

We had lunch back at the lodge then decided to head back to Pangot, approaching Nainital from the south:

The lake was much less busy as was the town in general as the crowds started to head back to Delhi for work the next day.

We were still wreathed in cloud though:

The trip back was properly stressful involving lots of drunk idiots, driving in the snow, standing in the snow, sliding around in the snow, all on the single track mountain road. It took ages. The car was hit twice by other drivers... lots of shouting, arm waving.,. more shouting... one chap parked his car alongside the hill. In un-parking he bashed-up the entire side of his car. It was mental and characterised by a few selfish and inexperienced drivers just parking anywhere they felt and leaving the roads to snarl-up around them.

We all needed a cup of tea when we got back.

That night the gas ran out at 01:30. By the time we got up for breakfast around 7am it was completely freezing in the room. At least it hadn't snowed any more though!

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