Quest for the Western Tragopan

By Shraddha Mehta

Some Random snap of GHNP
Inside the Great Himalayan National Park (Photo: Shraddha Mehta)

It was late March when me, along with a few friends realised that it was high time we needed a break. And the first thought that popped in our minds unanimously was, ‘The mountains are calling and I must go,’ a proverb widely used by John Muir.

Photo: Shraddha Mehta
Photo: Shraddha Mehta

A Himalayan trek, away from Pune’s dry March heat seemed welcoming and thus was made the plan for Tirthan Valley and Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) where one can spot indigenous birds like Monals and the beautifully dotted red-necked Western Tragopan.

A high-altitude trek can be rather difficult (GHNP is at an altitude of about 4000 m AMSL). We would regularly practice at Sinhagad fort near Pune. Before we knew it, our date of departure had arrived and we headed towards Aut in Manali district from Delhi by bus on 19th May 2015.

Very sincerely, I could have walked towards the Nagini village with the picturesque Himalayas and the gorgeous valleys to my company, except that my sleep decided to hold a disobedience movement. Sigh!

Photo: Shraddha Mehta
Photo: Shraddha Mehta

I personally prefer homestays in the Himalayas. The hosts are very welcoming and the hospitality is beyond expectations. Day 1, we decided to relax and simply take a stroll around. We visited the banks of Tirthan river and a nearby waterfall later that day. The second location gave the feel of being on the sets of Avatar!

Avatar like scene
Photo: Shraddha Mehta

Next day post breakfast we reached Gushaini Village, the starting point of our trek. Filled with excitement, we started walking towards Rolla Campus (Altitude 2100 m) at about 11:30 in the morning. The path was not very steep, more like a regular uphill walk and by 5:30 pm we were at Rolla Campsite.

The next day was our real test of endurance. We started on steep walk at about 9:30 in the morning. The distance was only about 5 kms but the climb was tough with practically no spot to relax ourselves. After a rather gruelling trek we reached the Shilt campsite (Altitude 3100 m) around 2 pm. As soon as we set our sight on the view from our tent, that of the Tirthan peak and the adjacent ones, absolutely nothing else mattered. It was perhaps the closest I could reach to a heaven like view!

IMG_0159

We were to summit Rakhundi (Altitude 4,100 m) and descent to Ghuntaro (Altitude 3,400 m) the next day. For this, we started our trek early by 8:30 next morning. This one day of the trek was perhaps the toughest when we all pushed ourselves way beyond our limits and comfort zones. The walk seemed never ending! And by the time we reach Ghuntaro, it was 6:30 and we all were supremely exhausted, not to mention famished!

At about dinner time, the leader made an announcement that we would be resting at Ghuntaro for another day and return the same way we started. This was a disappointing yet right decision as the climb from Ghuntaro to Dhel was more difficult and strenuous. The weather went bad in night and it snowed.

The campsite was located on the slope of a hill within the area of barely some plain. It was probably the most beautiful campsite with rhododendrons surrounding it.

Shraddha Mehta

We sat back in our dining tent and chatted. Some of the members went for a walk further towards Dhel in the afternoon.

A day’s rest at Ghuntaro gave us the time to regain our energies. The next day we started our journey to Rakhundi and from thereon to Shilt. The walk was pleasant but the descent was a little difficult. We halted at Shilt for the night where it again rained the entire night.

Our team
Our team

Next day we decided to walk ahead of Rolla and camp at the gates of GHNP. We were hurrying off when the trek manager Roshan Singh spotted a snake which he mentioned as a Viper. We all took few photos and marched further. At Rolla, we took a good halt for lunch and then into the river.

Till Rolla, it was descent and then almost a plain walk. At about 4 pm, that day we reached the Gates of GHNP. The last member walked in and the rains started as if they were waiting for us to reach the shelters. Here we enjoyed campfire and the staff also sang some local songs for us.

Next day morning, we trekked to Gushaini Village and then to Manali with a quick stopover at Nagini to pick up our bags.

Rhododendrons

 

Trek in Tirthan Valley is not so popular as yet  and hence this part of forest is cleaner and peaceful and away from the clutters of commercialization. There are very few operators in this valley with excellent staff! We always felt especially cared for and the 9-year-old child on our trek was adored and looked after very well.

If I had to, I could mention a list of reasons why I would go back to Tirthan valley, but the most prominent of them all has to be the quest for the Western Tragopan.

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Amol Gawde

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