After more than four years, I made my first visit to Charikot and Dolakha Bazaar. The city, situated on top of a hill, has undergone significant changes and has become more densely populated and bustling. However, this time I had a different purpose for being there. In May, the Freedom Project race is taking place, and I’m here as a consultant to help the team plan and manage the race. When I first heard about the concept of a mountain bike race that starts at an elevation of 3620m and ends at 916m, with teams stationed at four different stages, I couldn’t help but feel the urge to get back into racing. Although my role has changed, it still presents an enjoyable challenge.
During my stay, I had the opportunity to explore the terrain by walking along four different trails, starting from Kalinchowk and descending all the way to the Tama Koshi River. One of the most fascinating aspects was the ability to experience the transition from the temperate region to the subtropical zone within a horizontal span of just 11km.
While walking the trail from Kalinchowk to Gari, I witnessed the gradual transformation of Cool temperate grassy slopes into temperate forests. The sight of yaks grazing in the meadows and the melodious songs of warblers and pipits, as they hopped between branches of rhododendron trees, added to the enchantment. As I passed through Kuri village, the trees shifted from rhododendron to pine. The switchbacks of the jeep track intersected the old hiking trail which will be used for racing leading to the Kalinchowk temple.
Passing Gairi, we entered a dense Rhododendron, which eventually gave way to a mixed-temperate forest. This particular trail, appropriately named the Epic Trail, was one that I truly enjoyed hiking and had previously loved riding as well. Amidst the mixed forest, I couldn’t help but notice the majestic pine trees with their sprawling branches, allowing rays of sunlight to illuminate the forest floor below. It was a magical forest, where the melodies of birds blended harmoniously with the April breeze.
Further along the trail, we encountered Bhagwan Duar, a massive rock that appeared to have been carved to make way for the Kalinchowk trail. Descending through the rock garden, I didn’t come across any mammals, but the air was filled with the songs of numerous bird species, including the Spotted Nutcracker, Black-throated Tit, and various warblers. Slowly but steadily, we made our way down to Deurali, savoring the sights and sounds of nature along the journey.
The third trail commenced below the Charikot view tower and traversed through a pine forest. It was a seldom-used fire trail, with Ainselu shrubs flourishing on the eastern slope of the hill, while the western side was adorned with pine trees. As it was early in the day, I noticed abundant bird activity. Exiting the community forest, we continued towards the urban settlement until we reached Dolakha Bazaar.
Leaving the ancient settlement, we descended toward the Tama Koshi River. The trail starting from 1612m and descending down to 916m, presented steep sections and tight switchbacks, earning it the fitting name of Crazy Cobra. Walking down this trail we encountered a mixture of terrace farms and community forests. Giant Simal trees were scattered around the terrain, providing shade to those making their way up to Dolakha Bazaar. Ainselu and Chutro were also abundant, their fruits were slowly ripening.
The community forest had a lot of fodder trees for livestock such as Chilaune (Schima wallichii). As I walked downhill, I noticed a Mauwa tree (Engelhardia spicata) for the first time. Its remarkable feature was the arrangement of flowers stacked atop one another along the floral axis, gracefully hanging down. The tree looked enchanting with flowers adorning almost every branch.
While walking down the final section of the trail I caught a glimpse of a Barking deer crossing the trail and disappearing into the other side of the forest. The last 500m of the trail leading to Tama Koshi River once again was dominated by the pine forest. The temperature and humidity noticeably intensified compared to Kalinchowk. Sitting by the riverside, I dipped my feet into the refreshingly cold water and observed a couple of fishermen casting their nets in a section of the river.
The flow of the Tama Koshi was reduced due to the presence of multiple upstream hydroelectric projects. Intrigued with the activity, I headed towards the fisherman to see what they had caught. They had managed to catch around 6-7 fish and eagerly shared their story of the catch with me.
During our conversation, they expressed their dissatisfaction with the illegal practice of using electrical shocks for fishing, as it posed a threat to the fish population. Such actions complicated the traditional means of foraging for food while also striving to preserve the environment.
Upon returning to Kathmandu after my brief work trip to Dolakha, I resumed focusing on other assignments but managed to squeeze in a couple of birding trips around the valley. The first order of business was birding in Godavari.
Godavari and Phulchowki are excellent areas for observing wildlife. While walking through the forests, I was able to spot various bird species such as the Black-throated Tit, Grey-winged Blackbird (female), Blue-winged Minla, Black-lored Tit, Yuhina, Redstarts, and Great Barbets. During the walk, I also noticed that a small spring was attracting at least a couple of butterfly species.
It had been a while since I focused on the smaller world, but it was time to reconnect with it. Initially, I struggled to regain my touch by taking slow walks, but eventually, I managed to approach the insects without startling them. By lying on the ground, I was able to observe and document at least five different species.
With the monsoon approaching, I eagerly look forward to documenting the world of insects.
The second trip took me to the Shivapuri area, where I had the opportunity to introduce a 10th-grade student to the natural diversity that Shivapuri offers. As we walked up the road, the melodious songs of birds filled the surroundings. The distant calls of Great Barbets resonated with their distinctive “piioo..piooo,” while Blue-throated Barbets joined in, their songs accompanying the gentle touch of sunlight on the pine trees.
During our ascent, I noticed a vibrant green bird darting through the dark canopy of the pine forest. It was a Long-tailed Broadbill, gracefully moving from branch to branch until it disappeared into the distance. More Blue-throated Barbets continued their lively melodies in the open area. We decided to take a detour onto a single track and spent an hour there, minimizing our movements to better observe the birds I could show the young birder.
A Grey Bushchat teased us from 8m away with what seemed like a Crane Fly on its beak. An inquisitive bird it was flying and perched on branches around us before finally taking flight. A Grey-headed Woodpecker also flew in scaling the tree trunks in search of insects. Meanwhile, in the distance, I spotted a Eurasian Hobby grooming itself on a pine tree branch.
This was my first close encounter with a Eurasian Hobby, allowing me to document it properly. I also observed a Prinia singing frantically behind me, a Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch diligently exploring the tree trunks for food, and a flock of Black-throated Tits gracefully moving from one tree to another. Although the trip was short, it proved to be very fruitful.
Below are some of the species of flora and fauna that I was able to spot in April during my trip to Dolakha and some exploration around Kathmandu Valley.
Black-throated Tit, Grey-winged Blackbird (♀ ), Blue-winged Minla, Black-lored Tit, Eurasian Hobby, Grey Bushchat (♂), Kalij, Long-tailed Broadbill, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch, White-throated Kingfisher, etc.
White Commodore Butterfly, Common Windmill Butterfly, Common Sailer Butterfly, Hill Jezebel Butterfly, Punchinello Butterfly, Copper Butterfly Sp., Crane fly, etc.
Mauwa (Engelhardia spicata), Simal Tree (Bombax ceiba), Rhododendron Trees, Aiselu (Rubus ellipticus), Chutro (Berberis asiatica), Sal (Shorea Robusta), Chir Pine (Pinus roxburghii), Chilaune (Schima wallichii), Oak (Quercus semecarpifolia), Pipal (Ficus religiosa), Cacti, Figs, etc.
Subscribe to prakritinepal.com for blog updates. Stay informed!
Ajay Narsingh Rana