Saturday, 25 March 2017

Lava - Neora Valley (Birding Trip)

I added another birding place in my list with Lava & Neora Valley. It's in Kalimpong districtWest Bengal (India). I went there in April 2016 and I was very excited for a new place to experience and lots of Himalayan birds to see.

I made this trip with the GoingWild group. I have earlier done a wildlife photography trip with them to Sikkim (Read here) and completely trusted them for this one too. 

It was hot in my city 'Bhubaneswar' and what a relief that I was off to a colder place. As there are hardly any direct trains, I had to take two connecting trains to reach NewJalpaiguri via Kolkata. I reached and met Dibyendu, our tour guide and an excellent birder and photographer himself. We waited for two more companions to join. Mr. Sarbjit ji an Ex. army man and his wife Meena ji joined us. They were an extremely sweet couple. We started off to our destination. I kept dozing off in between and then finally after an 3 hour ride we reached Pedong. We were to stay there and visit out birding destinations and trails of Lava-Neora Valley.

It was a nice staying place called 'Neel Pahari'. Neat and full of flowering plants around. It was partly a primary school and home-stay. So we were surrounded by super cute school children. After some tea we went around for a walk in search of birds. Quite a good birding habitat. It was getting dark and we returned back hoping for good sightings tomorrow.

The overall location was beautiful; like a small town in a far away land. Little houses here and there, furry dogs, flowers everywhere and smiling people. There was also an Army base.

Next day early morning, we started our bird hunt in the vicinity and after some good sightings like leiothrix, thrushes, shrikes, bulbuls, minivets.. we took off in Sumo towards Lava. We did birding all along the way and trails. The roads weren't great but the surrounding region, the trees and the habitat were pleasant. After lunch we were off to a village called Sillery Gaon. The four km stretch was a terrible one. Full of stones and bumps. It was little far but worth it. On the way we got some special birds sighted by Dibyendu, called 'Himalayan Cutia.' The place was so pretty with bright colored houses and flowers all over. It was typically made as a touristy site. As it started getting cloudy, we turned back and it rained heavily. We enjoyed some tea and pakoras and had dinner around 8 over a good chat with my fellow birders, discussing places and birds and own experiences. I had a good time with them.

Following days too went birding from early morning on the trails of Lava and Neora valley till dawn. The places were ultimate. We used to roam in the Sumo and then get around and walk with lots of patience to hear the bird calls and spot them hoping for a good picture too. While birding Sir ji and Meena ji would be talking a lot of things about forest life. About various flowers and trees. I took some interest in various flora too.

We stopped at Lava town and shopped some cute mugs and wind-chimes as souvenirs. Evenings went in making bird listings and searching their names.

One time we spotted a 'Red-headed Trogon'. A rare species which are usually hard to find. It just flew in front of us and sat somewhere in bushes. Luckily  I too got a record shot. I was damn happy.

That night it rained again with hailstorm. There was no electricity and we enjoyed it like that and on top of it we even got Momos (Dumplings) as a treat. Yummy! 

Last day, early morning we again went to that Trogon place and roamed around in search of it. No luck for that but we saw 'Khalij Pheasant' on the way. It was awesome. I didn't get a picture. But loved that I sighted it. It was one of my dream birds.

After rain and hailstorm, the Jungle looked terrible. As if someone knowingly chopped of the trees and shrubs. It looked depressing. I didn't wanted to imagine the condition of birds and animals yesterday night. We did birding around and came back with no Trogon luck. Meena ji had packed and Sir ji and Dibyendu all bid goodbye for they were going to their next trip to Zuluk (Sikkim). I had been to Zuluk last year so I only opted for Lava birding trip this time.

This was a nice tour with everyone. I met amazing people and learned a great deal from them.

After they were off, I had some time in hand before my arranged driver came to pick me up. I roamed around the village area and did some birding there. I unknowingly took some long route and got back to hotel after a long 4-5 km tiring walk. After lunch I met the drive Bhaiya and off we were to New Jalpaiguri. He was a good company, telling me about Pedong, his village Algarah which was on the way and Kalimpong which was another popular tourist hill station. We kept moving towards city and it kept getting hotter. The weather change was so unwelcoming. After hill stations, plains are difficult to take all of a sudden. Literally like low altitude sickness. I was dropped off at Railway Station and after sometime took my train to Kolkata. And from there to Bhubaneswar; my Home!

I overall had an amazing trip with awesome people, birds and location. Traveling to North-eastern India had will always be a pleasure.

Sharing some pictures from the trip. Enjoy :) 

View from our home-stay
The birding group

After the rains

The beautiful green chirpy place

Me :)

A little girl in Lava

Somewhere towards our destination

Sleepy dog

 ~ Birds ~

You can check out GoingWild guys here:

Pedong is 4070 feet, 3 hours (100 km drive) from New Jalpaiguri. Lava-Neora valley is around 24 km (1 hr) from Pedong.



Sunday, 1 January 2017

Year of Travel :)

This whole while I had been on a continuous adventure spree. Trying my best to travel every month to a new place and explore what it got for me! And I think I have done good. 

I literally worked-saved-traveled-repeated.

I tried covering all Indian sides; West, North, South, North-East and my own Eastern zone of India. I have really pushed my limits, tried new stuffs, took a little pain to see the world, challenged and surprised my own self.  I had many solo trips, one with friends group, few with sister and some organized tour. Truly the most loved ones were solo, because once you get the hang of solo-traveling and the freedom and comfort with it, there’s no looking back. I seriously got a boost of confidence like never before. I find myself as a changed person, while all these times I had been so much introverted. I still am but there’s a side of me who is wild and crazy.

I felt the beaches, I explored the mountains, I visited temples, I scuba-dived, I trekked, I went villages, I went cities, I was at archaeology sites, I went for bird-watching, I went to watch wildlife. I met folks, I let myself loose. I traveled in summer, winter and in rain. I photographed and I communicated.

Traveling had been soothing to me. Traveling had been healing to me. And traveling had been my rescue world. 

If a budget women traveler can do it, then certainly you can do even better. Don’t think of saving a lot and then going on a tour. Start now. Go out. It doesn’t take much even with all the plannings and stuff. I’d be happy to help anyone who wants to go exploring, or any information I can give out of my adventures. Specially women travelers, you can drop an e-mail for any travel-related query. 

I couldn’t give much of my time putting travel stories in the blog, but I have written all in my notebooks and this year I’ll be penning down all travel tales for you all. 

India is beautiful. Go explore.