31 August 2014

Palm squirrel, New Delhi

India has many appealing animals, but for me these must rank among the most delightful. When watching their antics it's impossible not to think of Scrat from the Ice Age movies. This was one of many scampering around the Hauz Khas complex in South Delhi but they're common throughout most of the cities I've visited in India.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

25 August 2014

The road from Leh to Manali

We drove over the second highest road in the world by moonlight and carried on down into the dawn. Somewhere a long way from here -- and a long way from anywhere -- the minibus ran over a large rock which destroyed the radiator and sump.

We should have arrived in Manali in the early evening. I finally reached my guest house about half past midnight.

This is one of the very few parts of the road with a good surface. Most is little more than a four-wheel-drive track.

I'm currently in Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir), enjoying a few days' relief from the Delhi furnace.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

24 August 2014

Babbler at Bharatpur

I love these birds, with their crazed look and their whimsical habits (like preening each other's armpits). At Keoladeo National Park, near Bharatpur, I renewed my acquaintance with them and realised they delighted me just as much as they had eight years ago.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

22 August 2014

Rumbak Valley and Stok La, Hemis NP, Ladakh

This is the head of the Rumbak Valley; Stok La is the lowest point on the skyline. 'Lowest' means 4900 m. Rumbak itself is the small village in the middle distance and sits somewhere around 4000 m. Most of the elevation gain is a steep climb up the face of that ridge, via an interminable series of switchbacks. It's further than it looks in the photograph, and the trick is to just keep plodding along at whatever pace you can manage.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

20 August 2014

Palace dog, Leh

At Zhoen's request, here's the dog that appeared on the latest pohanginapete post. It sat on the steps below the palace at Leh, but clearly had no interest in guard duties.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

18 August 2014

'Romance are not allowed'

This hand-scrawled notice on the way to the palace above Leh's Old Town amused me.I have no idea what prompted it (and probably don't want to imagine), but I note what appears to be an attempt to scratch out the 'not'.

[There's a new post up on Pohanginapete]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

15 August 2014

Trail in the Rumbak Valley, Ladakh

Much of Ladakh struck me as desperately arid, and my admiration for the people and animals that survive here grew the longer I spent there. I walked this trail in the early morning, looking for bharal and seeing none, although they're so perfectly camouflaged they might well have been there, watching me.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

14 August 2014

Tandoor Bakery, Leh (2)

Here's another view of this ancient bakery in Old Leh. You're probably tired of my whingeing about trying to process these photographs using Photomate and Android, but the output from Photomate looks markedly different from the photograph while it's being processed. Oh for Lightroom and Windows!

I'm now back in Delhi after a highly eventful trip from Leh to Manali (almost 25 hours of travelling) and a frustrating bus journey from Manali to Delhi. The delays cost me any chance of getting to the Kazakhstan embassy today, so that will have to wait until Friday now. Delhi's still sweltering, although the temperature has dropped a little compared to a month ago.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

12 August 2014

Tandoor baker, Leh

This bakery in Leh's Old Town has been operating for 600 to 700 years. I assume the bakers aren't the originals, though ;^)

I couldn't walk past this without stopping. Almost everything about it -- the wonderful smell, the simplicity, the thick layer of black tar on the ceiling from hundreds of years of smoke, the dexterity and rhythm of the baker as he formed the dough and slapped it onto the inside of the oven -- fascinated me.

Later in the morning after I photographed this, the entrance was a scrum of people packed several deep, waiting to buy the fresh breads.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

09 August 2014

Charismatic macrofauna: lizard near Stok, Ladakh

Small things are oten overlooked in favour of the so-called 'charismatic megafauna' like snow leopards. Look closely, though, and some of these small things have their own charisma, not just in appearance but also in their behaviour. This little lizard, photographed on the walk from Changma Chan camp to Stok, at first wouldn't let me close but later relented and allowed me to wriggle close enough for a reasonable photograph.

I've posted a selection of impressions of my four days in the Rumbak/Changma/Stok area on the other blog.

By the time you get to see this post, I'll probably be on a minibus from Leh back to Manali. Posting might be sparse for a few days.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

08 August 2014

Bharal (blue sheep), Rumbak Valley, Ladakh

Bharal were the subject of the study undertaken by George Schaller and the late Peter Matthiessen, and described so marvellously in Matthiessen's classic, The Snow Leopard. The Rumbak Valley in Ladakh is the best place in the world to see wild snow leopard; unfortunately, not at this time of year, However, the bharal are abundant here, and tame. This is what they look like. They're very scruffy at the moment because most are still losing their winter coats.

With luck, I'll have some impressions of my four days here up on Pohanginapete very shortly. [Update: It's posted.]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

Stok La, Rumbak Valley, Ladakh

The Stok La ('La' = 'Pass') sits about 4800 metres a.s.l. -- opinions vary regarding the true height, but I certainly felt the effects of the altitude on my legs. Still, I made it satisfactorily, and the descent to Changma camp, where just three of us stayed the night, was over in short order. This photograph gives an impression of the landscape, although the area around Changma camp is much more rugged; in fact, it's some of the most savage landscape I've ever seen.

I spent four days in this area and saw plenty of bharal (blue sheep) and birds of various species, the highlight for me being the sighting of five spectacular Himalayan snowcock (no photographs, unfortunately). I'm currently working on a Pohanginapete post, which I hope to have up in a day or two.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

02 August 2014

Leh, in Ladakh

Leh continues to grow on me. The longer I stay here, the more I appreciate its charms. This morning I climbed again to the rocky knoll that forms the attachment point for the prayer flags from the monastery (the red building). I'd beaten the crowds and was rewarded with the sight of a pair of chukar making their way along the ridge in the early morning sun. Shortly after, a kestrel circled overhead, the sunlight through its wings and tail making it seem as if the bird had been illuminated by its own intensity.

I made my way back down the gritty track, though cool shade and burning sunlight, towards the old city where the smell of bread baking in tandoor ovens hundreds of years old drifted up the mountainside, with the dust of Ladakh on my shoes and the memory of birds in my heart.

(I leave tomorrow for several days in the Rumbak Valley-Namlang La-Stok area on the edge of Hemis National Park. Nothing more from me until I'm back in Leh.)

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor