August was all about reminiscing the memories of the trip to Gamgadi. A 10 day trip with Himalayan Medics to teach Wilderness First Aid to the hard-working people of Rural Access Program 3 who were there constructing the Mugu Humla Link Road. Gamgadi, is the district headquarters of Mugu in the Karnali region.
Being in the remote area of Nepal, Karnali has been overshadowed by development and as the road construction has finally connected the region with the developed cities in the plains of Nepal, influences in housing, lifestyle, and various other trends can be seen in the district headquarters. But, as we strolled an hour away to a couple of quaint old villages like Karkibada and Duma we could see that the influence has yet to reach there and the living styles haven’t seen the change of time. As an outsider and a city guy, this gave me a perception of what bliss of a life it was but the other side of my brain did tell me that although this looked like bliss this basic style of life was also a challenge for the people as the perceived modernization slowly spread on another side of the ravine.
My day when I am outside of Kathmandu starts with a walk in the wilderness from as early as 5 am with being back to work by 7:30 to 8 am. This time also it was no different. This is my form of meditation and also my chance to see and experience the local flora and fauna. Exploring Gamgadi’s wilderness was all about walking up the grassy slopes amongst the fog pushing myself through the dewdrops left in the leaves with the occasional balancing act of trying to make myself upright and the frequent stops to take pictures of the various local wildflowers and birds. Every morning the path changed as the inquisitive me wanted to see more of this place. One morning after a night of rain I headed to a new place that consisted of walking through a narrow valley having a dense jungle of mixed vegetation and a narrow path that kept on leading. For me, the anticipation of encountering some animals or reptiles around the corner was the motivating factor that kept pushing me forward. After reaching a small clearing with no such encounters it was back to work but even though there was a lack of mammal or reptile encounter I didn’t leave empty-handed as the flora around that area was amazing. As the days of staying in Gamgadi ended my desire to come back to this place grew even stronger. So little time and so much to explore and learn. The last glimpse of the place and I started missing it.
As our itinerary had us fly the next day to Nepalgunj we decided to visit Rara Lake and stay there for the night as it was in the same vicinity (3.5 hrs of walking from 2735m to 2990m elevation). It was a déjà vu of the same trip we made last year to Rara lake. This year due to the road conditions we had to change course midway and took the hiking route that started from Talcha Airport. The trail slowly winded towards the thick pine forest where the national park started. Followed the singletrack towards the lake we had our last glimpse of the wonderful Chankhaeli hill up in the distance. The beautiful path led us over stone walkways, streams and a temple in the middle of the forest. After walking for an hour the daylight slowly faded away leaving the already dark pine forest more mysterious filled with sounds of cicadas. Finally the vista opened up and the vastness of the lake overwhelmed the senses. Although the monsoon clouds didn’t bring in the drama during the sunset the dull lighting didn’t matter as calmness of the lake and the utter silence of the area with the occasional calls of the Red-billed Blue Magpie made it an experience to be had.
As we walked along the banks out in the distance I noticed a white bird taking off from the middle of the lake and heading to the shores away from us. My thoughts started running around trying to think what it was and after a while the flying pattern and the long wings made me narrow it down to a Gull. This excited me as I had only seen a Gull once and that was down in the plains of Chitwan National Park. Plans on what pictures to take next morning already overwhelmed the brain and priority fell upon documenting the Gull and a solitary duck which I also had a glimpse of in the distance. We reached the hotel around 8 pm and after a good dinner, it was time to crash with the hopes that there is a break in the clouds to get a glimpse of the Milkyway before I closed my eyes. Well, that didn’t happen and I was knocked out by I guess 10:30 pm. The next morning brought in light rain which slowly stopped as we started our hike back to the airport. Another 3 hours of walk to the airport alongside the banks of the lakes meant that I was able to take a lot of photos of the flora and the occasional faunas I was able to encounter. As we reached the airport and were checked in for the flight, I sat on the open-air grassy boarding slope happy to have been able to document the duck and the gull for future reference.
The mid-western adventure and the occasional sightings in the city during the rest of the month did allow me to photograph or witness old and new flora and fauna.
Bird: Peregrine Falcon, Spotted Nutcracker, Oriental Turtle Dove, Streaked Laughing Thrush, Grey-backed Shrike, Indian Pond Heron, Cattle Egret, Prinia, Common Stonechat, Bushchat, Long-tailed Minivet, Chestnut-eared Bunting, Gull, Baer’s Pochard, Gull, Sparrow, etc
Insects: Dragonfly, Damselfly, Ischnura montana, Black-tailed Marsh Dart (Ceriagrion fallax), Crimson-tailed Marsh Hawk (Orthetrum pruinosum), etc
Flora: Ligularia fischeri, Sunflower, androsace strigillosa , Iris, Lily, Daisy, Senecio, etc
Other: Rock Lizard, Indian Bull Frog, Hammerhead worm, water snail, various mushrooms, etc.
I have to say it has been a fantastic month of exploration and learning. One thing that pains me during these kinds of exploration is that plastic waste can be seen in every nook and corner that I have been to. Soft drink bottles, broken beer bottles, chewing tobacco wrappers, instant noodles wrappers, etc. My thought on this I guess is that we need to instill the younger generation on the importance of Leave No Trace concept and the adults with a strong sense of responsibility towards taking their own trash back home. But at the same time when the biggest polluters of plastic are the big soft drink companies challenges still continues. I guess for these companies saying their bottles are recyclable is the perfect answer but I hope they can also follow that word up with taking their own trash and recycling it by themselves.
As usual, can’t wait for another month of work in the alpine regions and this time in the western region of Nepal and share the story with you. Thank you so much for following this blog and visiting it time and again. Please feel free to directly message me and share your thoughts on the blog.
Ajay Narsingh Rana