Pilgrim on the mountain: Mentok Kangri expedition

rockyfeet mentok kangri 2
Don’t tell my mother. From the top, you can barely see the last 20 meters. TR makes his final moves here.

When you are out climbing and have this massive prominence of a wall, really steep and high staring down at you, your body sends signs.If you’re like me the you-are-an-idiot-don’t-even-think-about-it sensors would go off. You’d look to the top end of what lies in front of you — your jaws naturally drop, your shoulders droop and you feel like you haven’t taken a dump since the beginning of time.

Had this been 9 degrees steeper and you might as well have placed a call to your mother asking her to take you home — and she would come, had you not been a top draw dreamer, landed yourself here a week from civilization and a year since you started thinking about how this day would look like and spending hours in the gym, on the roads and in your mind’s void bracing for a day like this.

The Flight to Leh

Getting used to these 4 AM airport coffees takes some beating out of you. Your body is aching for some sleep, boarding opens at 5:20 AM, nerves are jittery — not sure if it’s the coffee, the days that lie ahead or maybe I just need to take a dump. Either way — I pump in enough coffee in my system to make me feel it’s either of the three just so I don’t miss the morning sunrise peeping into the valleys of Ladakh and Kashmir.

The last time I was here, I stayed awake till we took off and I woke up just when the flight was about to land and while everyone around went “Whoa! That was such a view!” — I simply nodded my way past that wondering why I was dreaming of my mothers pancakes and french toast. So this time I dozed off before take-off … then I woke up to this very familiar massif on my left. I planted my face to window panes — I know this fucking mountain! It cannot be!

Kang Yatse pyramid’s climbing face at the center with the KY I just under the grey clouds.

My self projection stepped out on the fuselage, megaphone in hand — “Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for choosing Indigo Airlines, this is your bad-ass co-passenger speaking. To your left you will see the gorgeous pyramid of the Kang Yatse massif — and I, amigos, have climbed that shit.”

*mic drop*

Heaven in a nutshell: Stok Kangri, Stok Village and Leh

We made one loop around Leh, the wings tilted in and for about a minute I had the whole of Leh, Indus, Stok Village, Stok Kangri and the blue skies all in one frame. Its had to believe some of these places exist in the first place.

Touchdown at 7 AM. 10C outside with a truckload of windchill and I am in my shorts, a tee and my beautiful new Salomon hiking boots. Ever seen that video of the fish that sprung out of the arctic lake and froze instantly in mid air? Yeah, my extremities froze just like that giving me just enough time to place to call to the man you want by your side in the mountains — Boro.

Me: “Borooo! Where’s my red carpet welcome?”
Boro: “Put on a fucking jacket before you fall sick will you ?”

I’m not sure why that thought didn’t come to me, maybe because my down jacket was right at the bottom of my 70L backpack.


Leh Palace from the market

It is always such great joy meeting Boro and ET — They’ve made Ladakh their second home and my crash pad by virtue and boy is it a wondrous place. I was putting up with Ramzaan and his family at their home. A little garden on the outside, Ramzaan’s handcrafted furniture and his family’s warmth is something I still feel around me. The room I was shacked up in looked right to Stok Kangri the glam queen of Ladakh — we exchanged some smiles Stok and I.

Sid was napping away in his room having arrived a day earlier gearing up for his first expedition in almost 5 years the right way. Resting yourself is underrated — Sid knows. We’d spoken a lot about his return to the mountains and while he needed no convincing, he had his own demons to fight and battles to win. A little after some chai and biscuits, I met two of the most understated lads — Vasan and TR — fresh from a Kilimanjaro expedition and zero fucks to give in any life scenario also twinning with their gear all through!

I drank some ladakhi chai — which is a curious blend of butter, salt, milk and tea — to acclimatize since I was too lazy to go to the Palace and the Monastery or the Shanti Stupa which is the usual drill for most people and rightly so. But for the cocky lazy ones — the chai helps too.

Mentok Kangri had a bit of technicality to it and while we weren’t very sure what that was — it was best to prepare yourself so we spent the second day getting acquainted with the equipment :

1. Good ol’ jumar/ascender
2. Carabiners
3. Harnesses
4. Quickdraw
and the favorite
5. The figure 8 descender.

At a certain point I nearly soiled my pants trying to trust the descender to do the job while “standing” on a 45 degree wall.
ET Screamed — “ Push your butt inside! You wont fall!!!” . “Can you give it to me on a legal document that I wont fucking die?”, I said.

My watch recorded 2 hours of deep sleep that night, next day we set out for a 4 hour ride through Tanglang La to Tso Kar via NH1.

Tso Kar

“In the early 19th century a monk had a prophesy that a legend would be born in 1988 and set foot upon this lake in the spring of 2018 — touché. They named this lake after my family name apparently.”

NH1 is swarmed by bikers from Manali — This would be their last pit stop before they head to Leh — all downhill and you could smell the beer from The Biker Café in the city from up here. Something to do with the wind direction and the pressure drop I think. It is worth mentioning that I passed out somewhere in between “Whoa look at that!” and “Dude we are here already!” on our way to Tanglang La as the altitude put me nicely to bed on the way to the top.

We stopped for lunch in the gypsy huts on the highway before turning left off the smooth asphalt of NH1 towards Tso Kar over the dry basin of the yesteryear’s Tso Kar, marking the start of adventure.

Once we set up camp we head out for a stroll, all four in our own directions, to let the acclimatization process kick in for the days that would follow — the 5 hours in the jeep didn’t help our legs much anyway and my back and legs were screaming for some movement.

rockyfeet mentok kangri 1

The hillock and the poser.

I found a little hillock to myself — probably about 50m higher where we were camped — I decided to make a go for it, figured the view from the top would be worth it — which it was but I had to pay the cost of it with a splitting headache essentially for doing nothing more than walking 5km. At 4700m it doesn’t matter if you are a marathoner, brevet rider, Triathlete or an all round badass — I have news for you — mountains give two shits about you. You’re just a speck here — “Just another spot, like little polka dot” like good friend Anindya “Void” Roy puts it.

The headache was gone by 2 AM with a dose of paracetamol and I could get some sleep after — for those who are reading this for some serious information(and let me warn you, that might be a bit of struggle) — my oxygen saturation and my HR was pretty good which is why there was no need to do anything more about it.


Day two in the plateau

The one thing that I did not anticipate was the length of each days hike. On our way to Nuruchan, the scenery barely changed. The contrast of light golden haze that Ladakh is with the clean blue skies peppered with blinding white snow peaks might seem dramatic and oh-so-beautiful the first few hours but it will haunt you when the spirits are down. Luckily, we were chaperoned by wild asses as we made our way over one high pass at 4900m and then down, roughly to the same altitude that we started the day at. Work done in the mountains is often counted by the meters climbed. In this case — zilch. The mules/horses that carried our ration had a ball though, they rolled over the grassy patches, shook the day off as they easily finished loading themselves with 20 ton of pasture in the belly and a gallon of glacial water while I was still untying my shoelace.

I fucked off to the kitchen tent for some warmth, chai and the happy faces while I tried to tell myself that this is okay even if its not — What choice do I have after all? I am far far away from home.

Gyama Burma

Aaj do chota chota pass chadna hai” — which emotively translates to “ we’re gonna go over a couple of tiny passes”

Tiny in my mind is climbing 3 floors at sea level.
Tiny for our sherpas apparently is climbing two 500m passes at 4900m.

Here’s how it went:

Step 1: Walk four kilometers with a fifteen kilo backpack to reach the base of the climb at 4800m
Step 2: Climb 400m through winding trails to 5200m.
Step 2a: Fuck yeah because you were fast.
Step 2b: Stop rejoicing. Our delightful cook is lying belly up on the top already — catching a nap.
Step 3: Climbing down to 4800m like you’re a panda on a snowy slope.
Step 4: Climbing another 300m to 5100m and then climb down to 4800m because fuck you that’s why.

rockyfeet mentok kangri 1

Nowhere again and it looks exactly like it did; 5 hours back.

I did grab a grand alfresco lunch at the base of the second climb with the crew while fending my boiled potatoes from some very nosy mules as I waited for the 3 musketeers — Sid, TR and Harsha to march in. I could hear some rants and temper tantrums in the distance.

“Fuck this shit. What the fuck” dropping f-bombs like a goat drops poop pellets. Sid was the last one to walk in, I think he had a fall on the way here and was hilariously frustrated at that point. The cowboy that he is, he would have definitely half-assed a rebellion and tried to run off with the horses and mules in his pair of jocks — a lasso whipping in the air above his head. He is also a man of arrogant passion, so he went through with the climb huffing and puffing along the way while continuing the rant.

We pitched next to the stream, the sunlight cut through the ridge to the west and shone right through to the glacial stream. This was also a little after Ramadan, so the moon painted the valley dreamy white. When we hit the sack that night, there was nothing that broke the sound of water rolling over rocks and the distant cowbells but the mellow valley winds.

Under the cloud of snow and storm

I don’t remember when I slipped away into REM but when my senses somewhat started getting to work, the stream no longer sounded like it was rolling over the stones, it was a lot louder and closer. I didn’t pay much heed at that point and caught an additional 27 minutes after which I unzipped the tent — it was all blinding white. I couldn’t even tell which way the sun was, a thick cloud had moved in and spilled over all the way to the horizon cut by the mule’s lonesome silhouette. It was incredible in retrospect, but at that time we were just hoping for it to stop. Bad weather can cause a ruthless riot, one that you don’t want to be in the middle of and one that you’ll always be on the losing side of.

We left at about 0900 Hrs towards the 5400m pass we had been told about as the snowing stopped. The pass would be our first look at Tso Moriri and the first view of the Mentok Range.

Korzok Phu

This was just a hard day and I was beat mentally for the most part. The approach to the pass was through inhospitable glacial beds of loose unstable flat rocks of varying sizes and also endless through a winding gorge so you could never really see the end of the proverbial tunnel. The climb to the pass was long and steep. The sub zero windchill made my fingers scream. A carcass of a mountain goat greeted us at the top along with a big cat footprint. Our climbing guide Lepu who had been fairly quiet till today was in his zone at 5400m and loving it while we were far far away from it. Truth be told, I wanted to get to the other side of the pass as soon as possible.

All happy faces while heading out — I honestly though the pass on the center here would be the end of this day.

From the top, more than Tso Moriri, I was glad to see a green patch of land that would be our campsite at Korzok Phu barely 30 minutes from Korzok which was accessible through road and 7 hours from Leh. There’s comfort in being far from civilization and yet distant enough. Between the bars, almost there, but nowhere close.

The inner consultant in me ball parked the climb down to 45 minutes from the top to the camp site severely and underestimated the flattish walk from the base of the pass. It took me an hour and a half of walking steady, head tucked in, sun burning through to get there. The view around never changed throughout those 90 minutes that easily felt like twice of that. The grass patch looked far away every minute, the pass that I had climbed far away too. It just seemed that I was barely moving. I would be lying if I told you that I did not scream once or twice at that point — not a soul around, not a thing that moved with the wind. Just my boots treading through loose rocks.

Left Right Left.
And so it goes.

It was only after I saw a cribbing Sid again that I felt better frankly — atleast someone hates it more that I do because the Bangalore boys were vibing like it was a walk in the park for them. Their climb to Kilimanjiro had them well acclimatized. Sid was in the mountains after gap of 5 years and a hatred for mountains in general from the last time he was here. While I was here 2 years since Kang Yatse and Stok Kangri — we were feeling it.

Korzon Phu: Peace and Calm Before the Storm

Base Camp

We were a bit early in the season to climb Mentok Kangri. The fixed ropes to the top from the glacier had not been set up yet and we had over 1400m to climb in two days now — there was only one way forward. Up.

Korzok Phu — The Patch of green at the backdrop, Tso Moriri peeking and the trail of the gang — before it went sideways. Credits: Wriju

So we did our morning drills and started climbing one of the ridges that led towards the Base Camp. This would be at 5200m about 1 hour from the nearest approach point for the glacier. My body was responding very well at this point and I could push through the top of the climb at a steady effort. But once we got to the top, we realized we were on the wrong ridge altogether.

To get to the base camp we needed to laterally traverse a steep slope built up of large loose rocks the size of giant melons. The slope in itself was at about 40 degrees, maybe steeper. Ever piece of earth moved and everything looked like it was all a pack of cards that could give way into a rockfall any moment.

“Knees weak,
Arms are heavy,
There’s vomit on his sweater already.”

Adrenaline rushing through your veins is mostly a sign that you are not doing it right and you aren’t really up for it. Things can swing any way with adrenaline in your blood when oxygen is low. You’re essentially climbing high while you’re high. We knew we were in a bad spot with the lateral traverse. Every sideway step could go wrong and every minute tired your legs out. The balance was so tricky that looking up or down could throw you off.

You trust in the process in these moments. Accept fate as it comes — you try to keep your mind clear, do things technically right and are hyper aware. You try to eliminate the unknowns and reduce the variables. Your heart’s pumping it through, your legs shake every time it balances your entire weight on the ball of your foot, then transfer it to the toes. Every step is a measured gamble, every breath is drama unfolding in the cold crisp windy plateau of Tibet — Changthang. Took us over an hour of that to get to the other side, as we lined up one after the other and did it together — we had our moments of weakness and while I would have loved to tell myself that the worst is behind us but It lay ahead — in the form of a 600m vertical ice wall. MK looks deceivingly tame in the pictures — at this point I’m just wondering if I bit off more than I could chew?

The hours before the wake

“Still there?”
“Hasn’t become shorter? Moved closer? Vanished?”

We’d run through variations of this conversation every 30 minutes. When Gyaltsen Ji pointed the peak out to us, We did not really understand if at all this could be done because the prominence was of over a kilometer in front of us and it was staring right at us, blunt unperturbed, and oblivious to our presence like it aptly should be. There was nothing inviting about the peak once you saw it up close from the base camp.

Wind speed at the base camp easily hit 70kmph, anything left on the ground including lightweight people like me and Sid could be swept by the wind unless tethered to the ground.

Are you sure this will hold?

The dinner was served at 7 PM and we hit the sack soon after, except we couldn’t get any sleep. The wind battered our tent down to a sandwich and still for some odd reason — the Bangalore boys were watching a Charlie Sheen sitcom on Netflix. Sid and I wished we were that chill. We talked about life and its nuances and tried to get some shut eye.

My watch beeped at 2:30 AM. The wind had stopped and it was eerily quiet. That was our cue — the gates had been opened for the day, the drums were beating, the chest was thumping. It was show time and frankly — just like that my mind had moved into the gears. I live for days like these.


Man and the Mountain. Lepu against the Mentok Massif. Credits: Sid

You take whatever you get from this day.

I was packing a bunch of energy gels. The plan was for a 9 hour summit climb — we were planning to go slow and easy and get it done with the entire team and not having to drop people because someone was too fast or too slow. Took us a couple of hours to get to the glacier after meandering through the run offs and the omnipresent loose flat rocks. We had all kinds of problems getting the equipment right — mostly down to inexperience with the tools. I had a bit of an easier time because my fancy new Salomons fit very well on top of the Austrian crampons; that and I had suffered enough with tools the last time I was this high in the mountains.

Once we roped and started treading forward on the glacier the wind hit me. This is wind off the glacier and is extremely cold — so much so it froze the snot, my pansy sinuses inflated and blocked my nose almost instantly. I was breathing with half a nostril and some with my mouth. The throat got scratchy soon after and I was just hanging in there, right at the back hoping for things to get better. Had we been at a faster pace, I wouldn’t have been able to make to the beginning of the wall — summit day would have been over in 4 hours.

You try not to think of turning around. Adrenaline rushes don’t help tide you over here either and you’d ask why? It’s simple — adrenaline doesn’t rush for 9 hours. It is your last resort — the last push and I was just beginning here and had barely lay my first few steps.

The sun was coming up by now, we’d made it to the base of the ice wall and I’ve never seen anything like this up close. The sun shone through the blue ice at the top of the climb, the snow on the wall was mostly fresh to about 10 inches. Lepu had fixed the ropes through the 400 meters. Sid was the first to clip on his jumar to the rope, Vasan was feeling the altitude at this point and had fallen back by a little but he was still moving.

The first 200 made me smile, the next 200 would wipe that smirk away. Credits: Wriju

I was waiting on the rope to be freed which would happen midway through the climb, after Sid goes 200m, he would switch ropes and free up a line for the next guy to climb — moi. The wait was on the lower half of the wall — it was no wall but we were just anchored to the steep slope on a three point contact. I’m not sure what got to me but I saw Lepu climb the wall without the rope and it seemed to me like something I could do, if I get the technique right. So I asked him if I should solo it? The crazy genius he is — he said yes as long as my quickdraw is attached to the draw — this would catch my fall if I lost grip.

The next 10 minutes were the greatest in my climbing journey.

My inner Kilian Jornet woke up and next thing I knew — I was smashing the crampon through the ice, swinging the ice axes in the snow. I could feel the slightest change in gradient as I hit the actual vertical limit. With every swing of the axe, every punch into the wall, it got steeper and then before I knew it I actually made it to the top of the wall. I couldn’t help but get absolutely overwhelmed by the climb. I never looked back down from the minute I started. With no one around at the top — cried like a baby thinking this is it. Little did I know we were far- far away from the summit. Another near vertical 200 meters up.

We didn’t know much about what lay next, Gyaltsen Ji with his monk-like calm had told us that once we climb the wall, it’s all over and that it’s a walk from there. With that idea in mine we had sort of slowed down a little taken our own time to get up to the roof of the ice wall. If only we had known about what lay ahead of us. We were nowhere close to a ridge and we were 8 hours into our day already. While this was no wall of any kind it was still 60 degrees at the least. Vasan’s pace was down to a drag but surprisingly he was still moving, short roped to Gyaltsen Ji at this point. Lepu was leading the way up to the summit, we could see the flags flutter right above us, but the way there was over combination of climbing over rocks and ice — always a tricky affair for inexperienced climbers with crampons on.

After the climbing the ice wall, “Are you serious we still have that much to go? “- Sid. The two pointy ends are Mentok I and III. Credits: Sid

The wind picked up, the sun was under the clouds and the mountains were moody. It seemed like I was meandering endlessly through and over massive boulders when all of a sudden, we were there. The summit of Mentok III is almost a flat plateau — you can say that it is unceremonious compared to Kang Yatse and Stok Kangri. Mentok II is in about an hour away walk of a flat walk, to the right, while the seldom attempted Mentok I was a nasty sharp ridge walk on the left. My idea was to do either of them but going solo would’ve been too much of a risk. So I waited for the rest of the crew to join us at the summit of MK- III. By the time we were all there we made a call — I put my foot down to climb MK I or MK II. We were 10 hours into the day and fatigue had kicked in every where with everyone — add to that the gloomy clouds and the approaching storm. It was just me and the ever enthusiastic Sid at the end — we marched on towards MKII but the walk was taking more out of us than anticipated, and the clouds were getting close — dangerously close. About 30 minutes in — Lepu called it. When your mountain guide says risky, it usually means dangerous. It was time to bite the ego and turn around mid way. It was a hard pill to swallow. There was nothing to gain out of MK II, having already climbed the wall and made it to MK III. It was merely ceremonial for me but then again you don’t fight the weather in the mountain and you don’t want to get stranded in a snow storm at over 6000m.

On the way back — I remember getting dizzy and a bit disoriented and tried to get down as fast as I could. Things got easy just few meters down from the summit as I tried hard to not let the emotional and mental fatigue break me down physically.

rockyfeet mentok kangri

Looking back, one last time.

Back at the wall that gave me such joy, it was now time to go down and there was nothing I loved more than using the descender down the dreaded ice wall. Push off the wall, do a vertical jump down along the rope 20 meters at a time. I bet it looked cool, but frankly, we were all flustered with the 14 hours, our fingers were frozen as we were blasted by the snow winds on the way down. I just wanted it to be over. In the last stretch of our summit day, our darling cook climbed up a little up from base camp to meet us, hot tea and biscuits in tow. It was the most relieved I had been in the last 15 hours.

Breakfast of Champions. Credits: Wriju

The Next Day

I was aching to go back to Leh, to a comfortable bed and to a cold pint of beer and back to Varsha who’d made her first trip to Ladakh a couple of days back. Every summit expedition has it’s delirious effect on me that hits real hard — and it was getting to me like water in a submerged cabin with a sailor in it. It’s a familiar one but also something I still struggle with. People help at this point and the people I had around were the best I could ask for. After our delicious spread next morning, we set up the rock stupa — flat rocks stacked on top of each other. I parted with the rusty horse shoe that I found a couple of years on my way back from Stok Kangri, hoping that it would carry on the luck and all the good vibes with the icy winds.

Can I rollover and slide from here?

The way down seemed never ending as is the case in these parts of the world, no matter when I looked at it — the turquoise lake would seem although impressive yet very fucking far. Earphones blasting upbeat music and musing over how much longer I had to go — I heard a faint bark and scramble . The next thing I know — the beastliest dog I’ve known was charging at me with its teeth ready to bite into my skinny ass. And this was happening all in slow motion of course — just like the movies. My instinct kicked in as I jumped what I thought was 6 ft. into the sky and dog missed the bite. In truth, I had wandered too close to a gypsy shepherd’s hut and the doggo was the shepherd dog. I was just an odd dude with a backpack larger than most people in the dog’s territory.

I came to my senses and walked through right towards the lake — didn’t bother having much of a moment there. I was done with that shit. I wanted to see people, places and faces, drink some cola and munch on some junk food. That’s exactly what I did — walked on till I found the first shop at the periphery of Korzok.


Almost there. Korzok.

This quaint little village at the foothills of the mountains. Home to shepherds, farmers, carpet weavers and a lot of sheep. We found a little place to stay with walls white as day made of hay shoots and bamboos — a room with the view of the lake and some beds and a little punk who promised us warm water — Goose Homestay 🙂

A half broken ladder led you through to the roof of this place through a square shaped hole in the ceiling and the roof was where the magic was. You could see the whole village from here, the narrow alleys that crisscrossed through, the old man — smash drunk — taking a nap under the scorching sun through the thin air, the old ladies weaving carpet out of sheep wool and that usual one odd group of hooligans that these places somehow attract at the back of snow capped mountains and deep blue lakes.

I had everything I wished for at that moment except the company of Boro, Et and Varsha. Yet I was hurting. Hurting for the void that this creates every time. Hurting for I didn’t think of what I would do next. Hurting because all that had happened in the last few days is nothing but a memory now, a story to tell, a story that will always be as good as I remember it when I do.

“There may be questions in your head,
as a new day is dawning.
Like what things for us lie ahead
but woman I will see you in the morning”

I don’t know when I would meet all these people again, the bonds that were created strong but they will gather dust like teak in the attic. The faces that you’ve seen would perpetuate but be a blur in the mirror. When do we wipe the blur, when do we dust off the teak? A year from now? Five years from now? You don’t know and you never will. You just keep walking the walk, hoping that this puzzle would fit in someday, the picture would be painted right and then you’d realize, this was never about climbing mountains in the first place.



To Varsha for always being the one to go back to, believing and sticking through the hours of training.

To main man Sid — I would do this with you all over again.

To TR and Vasan for showing me how to take it easy and still ace things. You guys are champions.

To Boro and ET — You are home to me in mountains and in cities, as individuals and as RockyFeet!

To the best crew with Gyaltsen Ji and Lepu — we’re just city boys with mountain dreams after all.

To Ramzaan and his family.

Everything you need to know about ILP – Inner line Permit procedure around India

ILP - Inner line Permit

India shares its borders with multiple countries on different sides. Because of this, many areas are sensitive and require special permits. At a lot of places, foreigners require special permits to visit these areas and at times, the domestic tourists also require an ILP – Inner line Permit. This is important, not only in North East India but in the regions of Ladakh and Kashmir as well. Here are a few details on ways to obtain ILP – Inner line Permit while traveling –

Arunachal Pradesh

For Indian tourists

One can obtain an ILP – Inner line Permit for Arunachal Pradesh by applying online through eILP portal. During normal circumstances, the ILP is granted within a single working day. But during the peak tourist seasons like Ziro Music Festival and Tawang Festival, obtaining it online becomes a little tough.

Offline ILP is available through which the travelers are allowed to choose multiple districts. Arunachal ILP is granted for a period of 30 days at a time. Arunachal Tourism Department has listed multiple places from where you can apply for ILP offline. The most convenient ones are present in New Delhi, Guwahati, and Naharlagun.

Arunachal Pradesh administration is very strict about ILP – Inner line Permitand there are checking on various places. Always carry your papers and show whenever asked for.

Papers required:

  • Any proof of identity like PAN Card / Voter ID Card / DL / Passport
  • Passport size photograph

Fees: INR 100 per person

Fees: INR 400 (same day) and INR 200 (next day)

For Foreigners

PAP or Protected Area Permit is required for all foreign tourists entering Arunachal Pradesh. Protected Area Permit can be obtained from

  • All Indian Missions abroad
  • All Foreigners Regional Registration Officers (FRRO) at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chief Immigration Officer, Chennai, Home Ministry, Govt. of India
  • Home Commissioner, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh, Itanagar.

It takes 2 to 5 working days to process the permit. The PAP is valid for thirty days and is provided to a group of a minimum of two travelers or more.

Papers required

  • Name
  • Copy of the Passport
  • A copy of your Indian visa and entry stamp
  • The filled in application form (the form can be obtained from the office)
  • Passport size photographs
  • Visitors are needed to provide all the details regarding the place of the birth, profession, proposed duration of stay and purpose of visit.
  • The fee for the permit is USD 50 per head and is needed to be paid in Indian currency.
  • Applications for PAP can be submitted from Monday to Friday until 2 PM.


Unlike Arunachal, Nagaland ILP – Inner line Permit is a little tough to obtain. Their online portal doesn’t work and hasn’t been updated for a long time. The only way to obtain an ILP is by visiting the permit office in Guwahati, Shillong, Kolkata or Dimapur.

Like Arunachal Pradesh, always carry your papers with you because one can check the permits at random spots.

Papers required

  • Any proof of identity like PAN Card / Voter ID Card / Adhar Card (Mandatory) and DL, Passport, Bank Passbook, Ration Card (Non-mandatory)
  • Passport size photograph.

Fees: INR 50 (from Nagaland House in Delhi) INR 140 (from Dimapur DC Office)

For Foreign Tourists

There is no Protected Area Permit for Nagaland for the foreigners. But there are supposed to register themselves at the local Foreigner Registration Office (FRO) of the districts within 24 hours of arrival. The citizens of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China are still banned from visiting the PAP restricted area.


For Indian tourists

There is no online portal to apply for Mizoram ILP – Inner line Permit but the facility is available at Mizoram house in Delhi, Kolkata, Shillong, Guwahati, and Silchar. ILP can also be obtained from Lengpui Airport at Aizawl, Mizoram for tourists coming in by flight.

Papers required

  • Any proof of identity including PAN Card / Voter ID Card / Adhar Card or DL, Passport, Bank Passbook, Ration Card (Non-mandatory)
  • 2 to 3 Passport size photographs.
  • ILP is valid for 15 days and can be extended for another 15 days.

Fees: INR 140 (INR 20 for the application form and INR 120 as processing fees)

For Foreign Tourists

There is no Protected Area Permit for Mizoram for the foreigners. But there are supposed to register themselves at the local Foreigner Registration Office (FRO) of the districts within 24 hours of arrival. The citizens of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China are still banned from visiting the PAP restricted area.


Sikkim has certain places where an ILP – Inner line Permit is required. This permit is only to be prepared by a registered travel agent. The places that are only accessible via a permit are –

East Sikkim

Tsomgo Lake, Baba Mandir, and Nathula Pass

Kupup and Menmecho Lake

West Sikkim

Dzongri and Goechela Trek – Permits can be obtained from Adventure Cell of Sikkim Tourism & Civil Aviation Department. Trek operators can get permits.

Singalila area – Here too permits are obtained from the Adventure Cell of Sikkim Tourism & Civil Aviation Department.

North Sikkim

Yumthang, Yumesamdong, Thangu and Chopta Valley. The permit is issued by Police check post for Domestic Tourists.

Gurudongmar Lake, Cholamu Lake.

Dzongu Reserve Area

South Sikkim

No permits are required

For Foreigners

ILP is mandatory for tourists coming from foreign countries. It is available easily at Melli and Rangpo border-crossing checkpoint between 8 AM to 7.30 PM. The duration of the ILP – Inner line Permit is 15 days.

Papers required

  • Photocopies of passport
  • Indian visa
  • Two passport-sized photos.

They can apply online here.

Protected Area Permits (PAP) is also required for the foreigners for visiting the interior areas and for trekking. They are also needed to travel with a registered travel agent in Sikkim in order to get a PAP.

PAP is needed for the following destinations:

East Sikkim

Tsomgo Lake – Permit is issued by Sikkim Tourism & Civil Aviation Department. Baba Mandir and Nathula Pass are restricted to foreigners.

West Sikkim

Dzongri and Goechela Trek – Adventure Cell of Sikkim Tourism & Civil Aviation Department provide the permit and is usually obtained by trek operators.

Singalila Trek –Adventure Cell of Sikkim Tourism & Civil Aviation Department issues the permit.

North Sikkim

Yumthang, Yumesamdong, Thangu/Chopta Valley – Tourism Department issues the permit

Gurudongmar Lake – Gurudongmar Lake is restricted to foreigners. PAP is issued only till Thangu.

South Sikkim

South Sikkim can be explored with an ILP – Inner line Permit


Apart from North East India states, exploring the border areas of Ladakh also requires a permit.

Both Indian and foreigner tourists are required to have Ladakh Inner Line Permits (ILP) is required for Indians and Ladakh Protected Area Permits (PAP) is mandatory for foreigners. Visitors can travel to Nubra Valley, Khardung La, Pangong Tso, Turtuk, Tyakshi, Chusul, Hanle, Loma Bend, Digger La, Tangyar, Tso Moriri, Dah, Hanu Villages, Man, Merak, and Nyoma. There are no permits required to visit Manali Leh Highway or Srinagar Leh Highway or Zanskar Valley.

Protected Area Permits (PAP) and Inner Line Permits (ILP) are available on the official website of Leh Administration www.lahdclehpermit.in

One needs to pay

  • INR 300 as environment fee
  • INR 100 for Red Cross Fund fee
  • INR 20 per day for the inner line permit fee

Papers required

  • Valid photo ID proof
  • Passport size photo
  • Travel plan

Hope this detailed guide to obtain ILP in any part of India helped you. Now you can plan your trip in a better and efficient way.


The magnificent, thrilling trail across the Pin Parvati Pass was first crossed by Sir Louis Dane in August 1884 but still, it is rarely visited. The trail can be accessed from the month of July to September end. Although it is considered as one of the difficult Trans-Himalayan treks, when the offer came I couldn’t resist my greed to walk on such a variegated terrain last September. Besides being a sleep – snatching event it was heightened by the charming company of my co-trekkers.


Pin Parvati Pass trek Himachal Himalayas

Crevasse-ridden Parvati Valley


People generally start from Bhunter, the confluence of the Beas and the Parvati river but in order to collect some materials we stayed at Manali and it was a thrilling journey I ever had while riding from Chandigarh to Manali in heavy rain.  The frequent rainfall was one hell of an experience at Manali.


Manali to Barseni ( 6-7 hours drive ) – Pulga Campsite ( 7068 ft )

It was almost a six hours drive from Manali to Barseni, the confluence of the Parvati river and the Tosh Nala, where the macadamized motorable pavement ends. The peaceful locality includes a hydel power plant established over the flowing Parvati river. In the middle of the ride, the weather condition was improved but again it started to be retrograde which forced us to run to Pulga campsite.

After a few steps, the asphalted path to Tosh village takes a diversion and descends to a metal bridge crossing the gushing Tosh Nala. The trail to Pulga campsite was totally muddy and feculent due to the continuous movement of sheep in rain. The campsite is quite dampish as it is situated in the midst of an apple forest. People should move carefully because the ground is crowded with thistles and nestles.


Pulga to Kheerganga ( 8950 ft – 13 km – 5-6 hours)


It was a busy morning as there was a need to dry up all the wet clothes and the porters started to pack the luggage according to the weight. At first, the track ascends for a while gradually and then it reaches to the traditional Himachali village, Nakathan through the alluring apple and pomegranate orchards. There are several establishments for travellers too. After a while, the Rudranag comes and an agitated waterfall strikes the mind. Only a short walk away a tottering bridge crossing the Parvati stream leads the way up. Here the rushing river sounds a boomed mainsail. In the midway, we came across a huge but quite serene waterfall over which a dhaba is established in a cluttered way. By relishing the wondrous beauty of the forest, playing hide and seek of the sunshine, the magical movement of clouds we moved on and reached Kheerganga. As described in the mythology, Lord Shiva came here and is said to have meditated for thousands of years. “Kheerganga” means “milky white sacred water” as the hot water spring is considered sacred by the locals. There is a lot of temporary establishments to accommodate hikers. In this context I must tell that this place of magical Himalaya is quite popular for the sacred hot spring and these mountains are quite fertile for the marijuana, hemp etc, even the campsite doesn’t get darkened because of the trail-side huge electronic lamps. The rumbling of river Parvati created a wonderful charming cacophony.


Kheerganga to Tunda Bhuj (10675 ft – 14 Km – 5-6 hours )

Kheerganga Campsite


To avoid the evening shower the wise decision is to leave the campsite early. The trail beside the Shiva temple leads the way to the next campsite having the river Parvati in the left. At first, the track ascends gradually through the towering pines and mighty Rhododendron trees and later on opened up to vast meadows. The footsteps on dry leaves make a hypnotic sound-track like an anklet-tone. Tunda Bhuj is named so maybe because of the innumerable presence of the Bhuj trees in this portion. There is no chance of getting out of the water as en route to Tunda Bhuj we crossed two major rivulets and several streamlets. On the trail, a huge flock of sheep may obstruct you occasionally. Before the last ascend there we noticed a waving red flag few humps away. We tried our best to establish the campsite but no, it’s not covered up, the event delayed due to the tremendous sleet-shower. This is a heavenly kingdom of waterfalls. In the morning, the skyscape looked as if buckets of blue paint were outpoured. The wide valley cut by the silvery waterline, peeping of few snowcapped peaks made me fettle.


Tunda Bhuj to Thakur Kuan  ( 11350 ft – 11 Km – 4-5 hours )


It was a pulley bridge which was destroyed years ago


The day starts by walking through the meadows first, then few portions through the coniferous forest on the right bank of the boisterous river Parvati. After that, the lust green meadows ended up from where we had to cross a massive landslide being like spiders. The brooks flowing over made the rocks oozy. Gradually the spiral track opened again to a wide valley where the sun kissed the tip of the leaves. The strenuous course called an end at a soapy meadow which was a riot of colours.


Thakur Kuan to Odi Thach ( 11861 ft – 9 Km – 3-4 hours )



With the dawning sun, the indolence was shaken off fully. The tricky day started with a variety of acclivity and declivity. The riming of the mighty Parvati valley moderately ascends to two natural rock bridges. The smaller one comes first which crosses one wide tributary falling from the right and the huge one, named as Pandu Bridge comes at a distance. It is said that the bridges are examples of the strengths of the Pandava brothers. When they faltered to cross the turbulent river they took a halt in nearby caves, while in the night dream goddess Kali directed the way. Accordingly, the rocks were put over the river.

Pandu Bridge

Rain may increase the difficulty level to cross the bridges as these become oozy. After crossing the Pandu bridge the track on the left bank of the river Parvati ascends gradually and sometimes it wanders away into the deep, black bushes of Juniper. The wide valley of the upper Parvati is decorated with abundant tiny flowers and rocky outcrops where few species of mushroom can also be found. The wide vale of Odi Thach has several rocky windows from where massive snow-covered mountains peeped in. The flaming sunset scene accompanied by wavy clouds was mind-snatching.


Odi Tach to Mantalai ( 13100 ft – 15 km – 6 hours )

With the movements of clock-hands, bit by bit, the artistic golden sun got up like a baby and started painting the smoky sky into a bright blue one. In such a warm morning I prepared myself for another long stretch to Mantalai, a glacial lake from where gorgeous river Parvati had been initiated.

Odi Thach


Mythology says that Lord Shiva meditated there for years of duration and after that Parvati got pleased and started to flow. Initially, the trail transits through the broad meadows. Tiny but jewel-toned alpine flowers being clustered here and there glamorize the footsteps on the left bank of the river. It was hard to imagine that it’s the same river that can send shivers down the spine at a mere glimpse from the wooden bridge of Rudranag. Pretty straight forward track through a boulder-strewn vale takes to a lagoon called Mini Mantalai, surrounded by the skyrocketing snow-crowned peaks. Here it was noticed that thousands of streams flowing over a vast wide flat land and the mighty Parvati in its embryonic stage.

Later the high altitude marshland led to the final assault, the holy place decorated with coloured flags, the phallus of Shiva came after a steep climb of around 300 meters. There as if the river stopped its howling, almost a profound and breathless silence swallowed the environment. When the moraine track snaked down to the lake, the beauty was seen just beyond the imagination. When the snow-flakes stopped showering, the graceful reflection of numerous towering peaks on the golden ripples in the lake is diligently enveloped in my mind’s ark.


Mantalai to Base Camp ( 15000 ft – 6 Km – 5-6 hours )


The very first portion of the hike includes a walk over huge boulders, expanded smudgy glacial plane forked by thousands of waterline originated from the surrounding snow-capped mountains, the crossing of a wider stream barefooted. It was a steep ascent of almost 800ft and there was hardly a well-defined trail, the trailside boulders were decorated with frozen waterlines of a different shape.


After the first ascent, the bird’s eye view of the glacial plain just dazzled all the senses. While going up through the last but not the least steep moraine track to the base camp, the massive Pyramid Peak, South Parvati Peak was standing behind like an instructor and watching the trekkers gasping. People can capture a spellbinding 360-degree panoramic shot only in the eyes. The place is like basin amidst the rocks and glaciers surrounded by ranges of snowy mountains of Parvati valley.


Base Camp


Base camp to Pin side base camp ( 14150 ft ) via Pin Parvati Pass ( 17400 ft ) – ( 10 Km – 3-4 hours )


Finally, the D-day has come and it is better to start as early as possible. In tremendous excitement besides having nervousness also early in the morning, I was found hustling and bustling with my shoes as those were found frozen stiff. Naturally, it consumed a few more time. Marching was started through an outstretched snowfield. As we pushed ahead facing to the extreme east negotiating hidden or open crevasses and icy slopes carefully, mighty Parvati glacier was found in a call. While walking on the permafrost region numerous snow-capped peaks were seen as the spectator of our live performance. Finally the highest point, Pin Parvati Pass is reached up, the time arrived for which I tormented myself for the last few months.


Pin Parvati Pass


The pass offered a wide panorama of peaks and snow-covered vales of Spiti as well as Parvati. The pristine snow-capped peaks nearby were spotted. The silent stretches of Pin valley with all its grandeur acted as a reward for all the labour. It was a spectacular view of both the valleys with flittering of prayer flags and unnamed peaks populating the sight. The lofty peaks of Kinnaur, Kullu and Spiti made the sight enchanting. Unfortunately, one cannot stay on the summit forever. Going up may be one’s choice but getting down is mandatory. Initially, walking down from the pass was quite comfortable negotiating the wide snowfield. The descend was although gradual but brutally crevasse-ridden and most of the crevasses are hidden. Still, the aligned mountains found some players crossing the hurdles. de-stresses and playing with snowballs in knee-deep snow.

Where the immense ice field had ended, steep, loose scree started. As we were moving down, we were being out of sorts. But according to Andy Andrews, “it is in the valley that we slog through the lush grass and rich soil, learning and becoming what enables us to summit life’s next peak”. Being motivated by this we followed the hefty path on the left bank of the Pin river.

Pin side base camp


Once we reached the Pin valley base camp it was totally another world, it was bare, rocky moon-land below the Pin glacier. It was quite warm and we had to conquer sudden dust breezes. It’s too not possible to stay inside the tent to get rid of getting a dustwrapper as there is unbearable heat inside the tent. There is a wide stream coming from the Pin glacier where people can get freshen up after such a tiring day. With the evening-fall, the cold started nipping bitterly. The black night held me close until the dawn. It was the only friendly blackness that allowed the eyes to rest.


Bedu Thach (Pin side base camp) to Tiyai (12650 ft – 15 Km – 4-5 hours)



Last camping day started with a glacial streamlet crossing barefooted which was a terrific experience as the feet almost got numb. It was quite a long stretch with beautiful views of Spiti valley decorated with rainbow coloured mountains. The view reminded me of the “Mackenna’s Gold” repeatedly. After crossing Shiya, a “shepherd’s campsite”, an undulating walk continued through the left bank of the Pin river on loose, sedimentary rocks including multiple glacial stream crossing. From the penultimate campsite, scenically proliferation of the rainbow-coloured mountains seemed just mesmerizing. It was quite fervent inside the tent while the mountains in the surrounding made me feel that those were the broken parts of the parapet of a Demon’s Castle. After a blisteringly hot day with the setting of the sun, a cold, black blanket wrapped us immediately.


Tiyai to Mudh ( 12361 ft – 10 Km – 3-4 hours )


Although it was a marvellous morning still a tinge of sadness filled the air. None was in their humour as it was the last day for then the tents were being packed. Trekking to Mudh was a flat walk through the wide enough dusty road. In the middle of the way Bhaba river was seen to be amalgamated with the Pin river and the point of confluence was so photogenic. We could manage a truck to carry us to Mudh, a typical Spitian village after crossing a gushing tributary, Pagla Nala. Mudh is a picture-postcard worthy village with whitewashed houses, peas and barley terraced fields. Changing the tastes with delicious lunch, we drove to Kaza. There was nothing much to do apart from enjoying and grabbing the landscape of the vistas – barren, colourful mountains and what not in the camera. As we moved forward having the Spiti river alongside the highway, the view started to widen up more and more.


Kaza connects to Manali via Rohtang Pass by a few buses of Himachal transport. Those leave Kaza before the cock crows. Otherwise, there are few more options to avail like small cars that take almost a drive of twelve hours.

Pin Parvati Pass trek Himachal Himalaya trek Himachal trek



CRESTED KINGFISHER - On the lookout for Trout

Place: Mungla, Tirthan Valley (dist: Kullu), Himachal Pradesh

Time: 20th to 23rd May 2018

I had no specific plans for the four days I had gifted myself this summer, in between trek leading assignments in Himachal Pradesh. I had thought that I would just land up in Tirthan Valley and be as instinctive and impulsive as possible. Of course, after five years of observing, admiring and often obsessing about birds, there was no doubt in my mind that birding would be a focal point of my vacation.

So, on the morning of 20th May 2018 (I had reached Mungla the previous night), I was out with my camera and all the bodily enthusiasm I could dig up after exhausting myself while trekking in the Parvati Valley region during the previous week. I had arrived at Mungla the previous evening at dusk. Trying to figure out which of the ten or so homes in a cluster was the homestay I was searching for, I encountered an Asian barred owlet. We both had more serious stuff to attend to; I was searching for the place I had booked to hide my head for the night while it was coming out of its hideout to roam the night.

Walking towards Gushaini for not more than 200 meters of Himalayan Bulbuls and Black Bulbuls in their early morning squabbles, I came across the fidgety Streaked Laughingthrush, perched on a rock and preening away hastily, never moving from the spot beside a narrow stream that crosses underneath the road and goes on to meet the Tirthan river a few meters away.

The magnetic property of a rolling Himalayan stream led me towards Tirthan. I had not reached the river bed when the unmistakable Crested Kingfisher came flying downstream and perched itself on a wire just above the left bank of the river (the bank where I was standing). It had a target in mind. With its head pointing downwards and tail cocked up in anticipation, it swooped down and then flew away to the other bank. By the time I could zoom in on the boulder it sat on, the poor fish in its beak was half dead. A few more blows against the perch, a swift disposal down the throat, few gulps of air and a shake of the body to arrange its big prey in the biggest kingfisher belly of the subcontinent and it had devoured Himachal’s favourite fish, a trout. I assume it had followed the fish downstream.

My hazy plans for the next few days suddenly started becoming clearer. I knew at that moment what I had wanted to do at the valley when I had planned my trip; to spend some time with the river and somehow that converged with the idea of spending some time with this rare bird making its living off Himalayan streams. I had only ever seen a Crested Kingfisher once before. That day, I trailed the river in the upstream direction (the direction from which the Kingfisher arrived) for about a kilometer or so and on multiple occasions in the long summer day, to no avail.

The next day, I hiked up towards the gate of Great Himalayan National Park at Rolla finding myself close to and quite far away from the river as the trail would take me, although always with an eye towards the rushing waters in hope of catching a glimpse of another king chasing trouts down the river. Slaty headed Parakeets, Yellow-billed Blue Magpies, Grey Treepies, Ashy Drongos were aplenty. Great Barbet calls ruled the air as it got towards midday. For the first time I could find a Green-backed Tit not being hasty as it within a tree with dense foliage and preened its feathers before stretching its wings and tail and flying off to its more fidgety routine. Seven or eight kilometers later, the pull of the river led me down to the bed where in quiet anticipation I fell asleep for a few minutes. The Kingfisher had eluded me.

A tune came to me that night as I practiced on my Ukulele. The next morning (22nd May), I was torn in two in deciding whether I should spend more time with the Uke or go searching for the crowned king. So I packed the instrument, the camera and some essentials to help me spend a few hours under the scorching summer sun and went straight to the spot where I had seen the Kingfisher first. Himalayan and Black Bulbuls crossed over the river in either direction. A pair of Kestrels called that part of the valley home much to the dislike of the Drongos, who would gang up and harry them at first sight. Plumbeous water redstarts were busy hunting water-borne insects and blue whistling thrushes sang their tunes as I tried strumming the instrument with the rhythm of the river.

At dusk that evening, I crossed over to the other side of the river over a foot bridge. Along the right bank, the trail led me through plantations of apples and oranges. This was further downstream than the spot where the kingfisher was sighted first and I had a hunch that my previous trails, upstream from that point was not where the Kingfisher lived. A juvenile brown dipper got comfortable with my presence and I could observe  it in its preening and stretching routine much like the Tit’s, the day before. As the sun went down and I hiked back towards my den, the redstarts were still active and in all probability they had hungry mouths to feed, hidden along the river banks in the cavities between boulders.

The foot bridge to crossover to the other side of the river was about a hundred steps down from where I was staying. Parallel to the bridge ran a wire across the river that seemed to be an ideal perch for the Crested kingfisher as it ran directly over the trout filled waters of Tirthan. It was also about a hundred meters downstream from that hallowed spot where I had seen the kingfisher, and very much in range of its broad wings. I knew where I needed to focus on the last meaningful day of my stay to be able to get over this compulsion for one last glimpse of this bird before I had to part courses with the river the morning after.

The morning went by swiftly on right bank of the river. Breeding Grey wagtails had found solace on this less inhabited side. A glimpse of a Paradise flycatcher got my spirits soaring like a Himalayan griffon. The Drongos were relentless in their check-post duties from their vantage points. There were Rock agamas basking in the sunshine everywhere the careful vision went, with the males displaying their partially faded post breeding colours. A Shikra, probably on the lookout for nourishing lizards, fell victim to the drongos’ vigilance and decided to move on.

As the morning rolled on towards midday, the unmistakable Crested Kingfisher came flying upstream this time and vanished in the thick shrubs hanging on the river side off a small cliff. The hundred or so steps are meant to negotiate that cliff to the houses of Mungla. I made ground to get to its perch but the shy bird had chosen it carefully to hide itself from onlookers. The bird must have gotten a mouthful again as it did not come out for minutes at a stretch and I gave up. I had got the glimpse I craved for and often conjured with my mind during dry birding hours for the last 3 days.

I was back at the bridge an hour later. Leaning on the iron railing and facing upstream I heard a familiar call and turned back to see that a Common kingfisher had perched on the opposite railing. Its brilliant plumage shone in the midday sun. That evening I hiked up to Chhamni gaon (village) which was on the right bank nad could be reached in 15-20 minutes after crossing over. On the way down, I found a Grey Treepies perched in the open, largely inactive. It is a common resident of the Himalayas, however an inactive Grey Treepie is a rare sight indeed, much like its cousin from the plain, the Rufous treepie. The sun was setting on my vacation as I hiked down to the bridge.

The sun had already hidden itself behind a silhouette of a mountain when the Crested Kingfisher, aptly so, decided to pay a final visit. More so, it sat on the wire that ran parallel to the bridge to confirm my hunch to be a good one. It sat there for a great minute and flew away to the same overhanging shrubs it had vanished inside in the morning. I waited there as the dusk died a slow death only to be reincarnated again, the next day. The river interlaced by bronze crests and dark troughs rolled on. The bird surely had called it a day too. I decided to follow suit, contented to the core and left the busy redstarts alone on the river.

I had a bus to catch early, the next morning. Hiking up the hundred steps, I had passed the Kingfisher in its roost midway. Just above the steps, and about ten more to the first floor of the homestay, I slept that night with the knowledge that a Crested Kingfisher rested next door, with the sky being the ceiling of its Himalayan home.

Wildlife Diaries – Kaziranga National Park – Mammals, Men, Mahout and Mishing

Running with the wild:

We have one life; one life of exploration, one life for understanding the world around us, its morals, its values and the intricacies tying up the wind, water, soil and the air with the life that moves around us in frames of time, quite different from our own individual perceptions.

I am a wildlife enthusiast in the pursuit of a deeper understanding of Nature; a pursuit through continuous exploration of the natural world and the intricate and often beautiful principles that govern it. It takes me from chasing common kingfishers who have lost their brilliant shine from frequent fishing dips in the canals transporting sewage in Kolkata to places well preserved through history, places like Kaziranga National Park.

In all my three visits to Assam in the first three months of 2018, I have been to Kaziranga National Park. This is a short account of the mammals of the park and it surroundings, including possibly the greatest of great apes to have spread across the blue-green-white planet we share with blue whales, rhinos and polar bears, human beings.


A Rhesus macaque feeding on the nectar of Indian Silk Cotton tree (Bombax ceiba)

The River:

Taking the NH 27 from Guwahati towards Kaziranga, one can find signs of the wild nature of the Brahmaputra flood plains of Assam. No statistic could truly measure the river’s importance for the wilderness and the civilizations of Assam. While crossing the river from Majuli to Nemati Ghat during my first visit in Assam, I could only imagine the extent to which the Brahmaputra must grow during the months of monsoon.

During my 2nd visit, standing by the river in the eastern range of Kaziranga National Park, a college professor leading a batch of students of biology mentioned that there are many bridges across this river and the longest of them is about 7.5 kilometres across. Well, that’s a statistic right there, for testing our power of comprehension. The river is the lifeline of one significant moist patch on the map of the world. However, the dual nature of the universe means that its life-giving characteristic comes with the bane of massive floods during the monsoons, displacing wildlife and people, even taking many lives with it on its westward journey.

Eastern range Kaziranga NP


The Park perimeter:

Kaziranga National Park is divided administratively into 4 parts, the Western, Central, Eastern and Southern ranges. The three distinct habitats found in the park are swamps/marshlands, grasslands and woodlands. Taking Jeep Safaris through the first three ranges, it is evident that the western range is marshier, the central range is dominated by tall elephant grass while the eastern range takes one deep inside tropical woods of Ajaar (Crepe-myrtle), Shimul (Indian Silk Cotton), Chalta (Elephant Apple) and Amloki (Indian Gooseberry) among others. However, all ranges display mixed habitats. These three ranges are bounded to the south by the NH27 and to the north by the Brahmaputra.

To the south of the highway lies the southern range, where exploration happens on foot. I have not been to this part of the park but it lies in the hills which run along the road with the region in between being excellent tea country. In the regions where there are no tea estates by the road, the forests are excellent habitat for Capped langurs as I got to learn from our guide during my 3rd visit to the park. Coming from a tea fanatic, this hot beverage that wakes us up every morning has put a lot of forests of the Himalayan Terai to sleep ever since its introduction by the British in the 1820’s.

Life of Mammals:

Kaziranga is often termed as the ‘Savannah of the east’. This is because these habitats are excellent country for the so called ‘Big 5’ to call it their home. They include the African relatives of Elephants, Rhinos, Water Buffalos, Leopards with only the African Lion being replaced by the Royal Bengal Tiger.

Kaziranga is home to two-thirds of the world’s population of the One-horned rhinoceros. Rhinos all around the world have been poached to near extinction mostly because the keratin (same tissues found in our fingernails and hair) in their horns wrongly find their place in Chinese traditional medicine as an ‘aphrodisiac’ for men, just another example of our patriarchal existence and a society entangled in the web of illusion that has locked up every one of us to various extents.

From a few conversations I could get the idea that about 900 guards are employed in the park mainly to protect the rhinos from invading poachers from Nagaland. The guards are armed with old rifles that found their use in World war II whereas the poachers carry weapons which are technically sounder. Still, the numbers of rhinos have risen in the 2015 census to 2401. I hope that the park authorities derive great pleasure from the fact and I am sure there will be motivated efforts in the future to keep the poachers and this merciless business at bay.

Two other magnificent creatures who are targeted by poachers are the Asiatic elephant and the Royal Bengal Tiger. The last survey recorded the number of tigers in the park to be 106, which incidentally is the highest density of tigers anywhere in the world. During the months of February and March, controlled burning of grasses are done in the park by the authorities to encourage the growth of fresh grass for grazing within the park’s boundaries. The boundaries are mostly defined by the river and the lands of human interest. The emptied-out grasslands give good opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts to spot the otherwise shy tigers whose cover is blown. In my three visits, I have failed to see any tigers though. The closest that I came to seeing one was in my most recent visit in March 2018. We were crossing a huge waterbody in the central range where there had been recent sightings. The Safari crew of a Gypsy who were lying in wait at the spot informed us that two tigers had just swam across the pond and headed in a southward direction, before vanishing on the other side. I stood and stared and played the visual in my mind. The only reassurance was that the life I have chosen would surely provide me with opportunities of witnessing this royal creature in its diminishing home.

The number of elephants cannot be specified as these giants keep moving in their herds, the patterns of which must be keeping passionate behavioural biologists many a sleepless night in their dens.

Alongside these giants, Kaziranga is also home to the largest population of Asiatic Water Buffalos, the only living population of the eastern subspecies of Swamp Deer (1148 individuals), with the males showcasing their massive antlers within herds comprised mostly of females. I was lucky enough to have witnessed a substantially large herd of these magnificent, calm and curious animals on either side of our Safari trail. We had cut across their mini migration in search of fresh grazing and aquatic plants to chew on.

Reports say that there are only 58 individuals of the vulnerable Sambar deer within the park. I was lucky to have witnessed a male within the woods of the central range. To be honest though, we were focussed on searching for the big cat that day, and this less probable sighting was only a mere consolation back then.


The Hog Deer are numerous throughout the park. I think there was not even a measure to survey for their numbers as there are other monumental tasks at hand for the park officials. The Hog Deer can be found in the woods, within the tall elephant grass as well the wide open expand of Mashes and around the waterbodies. They seem to have successfully adapted to the conditions of these mixed wilderness. The other substantially large mammal is the Wild Boar who can be quite bold and land up right beside the trail, with their children grazing alongside. All these animals are quite habituated with the green Gypsies with people and the sound of their engines that constitute a sizeable portion of the soundscape within the park.

Another part of the sound scape must be occasional gunfire. In February 2018, during my 2nd visit, a gunshot had rung out in the Eastern range followed by the wing beats of a flock of bar-headed geese, scared and fleeing in the opposite direction. The optimist in me is sure that it was from one of those World war II rifles of a guard doing his rounds on foot, trying to scare-off a lone Tusker on its morning trudge.

One magical sound that is a part of the sound scape of the region, is that of a trumpeting elephant. In contrast to the quick and burning hot shot of a gun that shoots its way across in every direction, the trumpet is long, warm and bellows through the forests and aims not for the sky but more towards the land; to inform its family of its location and possibly to warm its enemies. I had the luxury to witness such an event when a sub-adult elephant had crossed the trail in front of our Safari, crossed over a narrow stretch of water to the right to reunite with its family on the other side. It kept blowing its trumpet, as if asking for its herd to not leave it behind as it hurriedly swam across towards them.

Compared to the elephant, the rhinos are calmer, gentler and can be seen from close range, largely inactive and getting high on some good grass. The floods must change the course of life within the park. Some large mammals head towards the south, crossing the highway in the process and taking resort in the hills that lay out of harm’s way. There are natural high grounds in the lower regions called chapories. The authorities have built some chapories as well for animals to take resort during the high floods. All other challenges take the back seat of the open-hooded Gypsy of life. Life must hang on the edge of rising water levels for a few days before the mighty river recedes, leaving behind rich silt for the wilderness to sustain till the next turn of the wheel of fate.

Man, Mahout and Mishing:

No big mammal is of more significance to Kaziranga National Park than human beings. It is us, who have defined its boundaries in the first place; be it through constriction of the wilderness by settling down in these rich lands suitable for husbandry or administrative measures of conservation.

It was announced as a Reserve forest back in 1905 during the British rule in the sub-continent. Up a few further steps of amendment, Kaziranga became a National Park in 1974, almost three decades after the British had left.

The administration at the park also employ a few elephants and their ‘man’ gods, the mahouts. There are many more elephants owned privately. People invest millions of rupees in these animals who in turn return the amount by carrying around Safarists on their back in the western range, every morning.

The mahouts spend most of their waking hours caring for their huge vahanas; from feeding them to elaborate sessions of bathing, like they were their own children. However, the relationship between an elephant and its mahout is mostly bittersweet to the eye. The upsetting sight of the god beating its vahana around the head with a metal rod to maintain command, is very common. It’s almost difficult to fathom the idea of a such a massive and intelligent being to give in to the aggression of their man gods. I assume that in this age of financial competition and economic growth, the love between an elephant and its mahout is getting damaged further in the eagerness and the pressure to earn the extra buck.

On the southern boundaries of the western and central ranges of the park, live the Mishing tribe who had migrated hundreds of years ago from the north of the river. They carried with them the knowledge of fishing and survival by the mighty river. The Mishing huts are made of bamboo. They have thatched roofs and the floors are elevated roughly six feet above the ground as a measure against the floods. There are separate huts as granaries, smaller than the living huts.

The duties in the farmlands and ponds are shared by both men and women. I had walked up to Mishing man, who had just finished with his days fishing. He was throwing away the snails that he had caught on his net and the residue were small fishes. I was eager to understand his way of life and we talked for some time. I came to know that he knew six languages – Mishing, Assamese, Hindi, Bengali, Nepali and English. I was awed by this revelation and went around asking more people the same question. I came to know that most of them were quite adept in the first five languages in the list.


It is a must for every Mishing woman to learn the art of weaving from a very early age. Some girls weave the clothes for their wedding day which lie years into the future. All the mandalas and patterns woven on cloth are woven with the thread of imagination first, the language of art. One girl mentioned that all the patterns that she makes are unique and never repeated again. I am conflicted by the idea as to whether their complex weaving machine (made of bamboo) is more impressive than the handloom themselves. If there has to be a conclusion, I would suggest that it is the handloom. It is the product of un-weaving the mysteries of the complex machine first to weave the fine pieces of mosaic.

I wonder, if on a rainy day during monsoon, the civilized and the wild come together, displaced by rising flood waters to their elevated islands of hope, in the form of bamboo huts and mud embankments. With the water, life must rise above the scripted languages of mankind to the whims of the unspoken and unheard words of Nature. The language of the wild.

The knife edged southern border of Kaziranga National Park that lies between the majorly civilized world and one of its wildest patches is home to the Mishing tribe. They, on one hand have learnt to communicate with the outside world of modern men. On the other side, the music of the river plays in the background as stories are written in the language of the wild every day, some tragic ones ending with the fire of a gun.

Wild Tosa

The dense moist forest of bamboo, a stretch of four to six hour’s gruelling hike, is left behind and our team trudged up the patch of meadows  which had started to appear by now. As we climbed high ,mount Kanchenjonga (8595 m.) and the mountain chain of greater Himalaya appeared to rise higher, behind our back. The panoramic view was unearthly, afternoon sun gleaming off the high and white mountain ranges too brightly for the naked eye to fully appreciate. Each turn , every pause for breath seemed like an excuse to look back and admire at the marvellous view. Our route touched a yak stable at the head of the first substantially large meadow, then continued for the next meadows up the mountain slope.


Kanchenzonga zonga South, Central and Main (L-R) standing head high over a sea of cloud, as we hike up

It was 2 pm, by now the sea of clouds from the bottom of Teesta valley has risen high, riding the sun baked air. As a fine, discontinued veil of cloud gathered among the scrubby meadows, we managed to reach the intended stable for night stay, which was a worn out hut near a tiny trickling stream, at the foot of a steep bugiyal (meadow).

The cold windy December night was long and sleep was hard to come by, I checked my watch for the last time at 5:45 am and it was dawn by then. Out I went , to the end of the hut to face the frozen mountains. In front of me were, starting from left of the distant horizon, the Kabru sisters, Talung , K’zonga sisters (Main, Central, South) , Zemu, Zemugap , Simvu twins, Seniolchu to mount Lamo Ongden at extreme right. I could not see the Narsingh, Zopuno, Tinchenkhang and Pandim to the extreme east as the high bugiyal had blocked the view, so I started to hike up the northern side of the steep bugiyal. It was freezing cold , the dried grasses of winter were mixed with hard crunchy frost that cracked underfoot. Walking up a hundred yards I reached a slope I liked. The mountain range was as if waking up from it’s deep slumber. The ice wall looked formidable, at the same time lifeless and grey, under the blue of sky which was in contrast lit with vibrant reddish golden light. It was near 6:00 am and the first sun beams of the day were barely striking the tip of K’zongha main. Now ,almost inconceivably , the golden reddish orange light lit up the top of whole K’zonga massif. Gradually the glinting curtain descended , flooding the summits of Talung , Kabru , Pandim , Seniolchu , Simvu. Finally the lowest summits of Tinchenkhang, Jupuno , Lamo Ongden and the saddle of Zemu gap are illuminated by the first rays.  The long mountain chain , having completely lit up by the soft golden light at dawn, sparkled and pleasantly glittered, presenting a spectacular sight , which I would safely avoid describing, for I fear description would not do justice to the sight.


North western horizon at dawn

We started from the stable hut at 8. As we hiked up the steep bugiyal we could see to the north west the whole mountain chain brightly shining in white light of late morning.  Continuing on our easterly course , through dense scrubs of birch mixed with groves of rhododendrons interspersed with patches of grass where stood the old spruces and blue pines, we soon reached north eastern edge of the meadow area. Here , the high wall of the ridge running north-east towers above meadows , the ridge acts as the watershade between Teesta to my west and the rivers of Bhutan to further east i.e Raidak-Kaljani etc. The trail follows this ridge and traverses through its lower western slopes which gets little sun throughout day. Dwarf rhododendrons abound, thin sticks of what appears to be dwarf bamboo sticks out of thin layer of brittle snow. Layer of hard snow thickens at the darkest corners of the slopes, steep frozen streams through up challenges. At 11 we were taking a break in the next clearing which is a smallish, flat, sparkling meadow. Trail again traverses the frozen western slopes and moves north-east. At 12:30 we were atop a tiny patch of grassland commanding outstanding view of the western horizon.


Tired from the exhausting trail we melted some snow in our Kettle, cooked tea and took a 15 minute’s break. From here we followed the slope in same direction (NE) through shadows for over another hour , then following the ridge gradually, the trail turned east through a series of snow covered ups and downs. We were about to enter the high valley of lower Tosa (11500 ft). A long ascend later a great valley came into view. To my left (W) Teesta’s gorge plunges down, to my right(E) stood the high wall of the ridge I followed all day, in front of me the flat green pasture of lower Tosa valley spreading left from right(E) and abruptly plunging down into the thickly forested slopes of upper Teesta. The right ridge as earlier mentioned turning right (E) too, thereby acting as the guardian ridge of true left flank of Tosa valley. The ridge then joins the peaks Spirit of Tosa and others at the highest reaches of upper Tosa valley, where lies, at feet of the peaks, great sacred lake of Tosa.

The broad, flat, grassy meadow flanked by pristine woods of giant spruce, pine and deodars had only been visited by the few Yak herders and occasionally by pilgrims to the lake of Tosa. A couple of seasonal herders’ wooden hut at the lowest end of the valley, a deserted Indian army igloo tent amidst the woods and a few prayer flags, all of which barely come to notice against the dwarfing effect of the wild nature that prevails the valley. We took shelter in one of the huts, cooked , ate and slept.


It was bitter cold at 6 morning. The water in bucket froze. We prepared for the day’s hike that was to take us through the woods , up the steep gully below the first step, crossing high banks of the lake , into the large basin of the glacial meltwater. Post heavy breakfast , at 8 we started. The weather was sparkling, blue sky dazzled, the trail ran through dark deep woods , numerous streams meandering across the slopes of forest joining the Tosa watercourse.
Richness of birdlife was plainly aparent. Treekreepers climbing about the logs, Redstarts hopped about the murmuring streams , a Winter Wren froze at our approach and flew in a flash from a nearby dead log. Yellow Tit foraged the higher slopes of thinner forest. A loud call of some ground bird , probably a pheasant/francolin echoed the woods.
Richness of mammalian life was most striking. A pug mark, week old, of a Bengal tiger was found on the trail around a flat marshy plot where water divides into multiple streams, flows gently. The whole stretch of lower valley is well watered , with tall grasses , numerous caves and tributory ravines with apparently untamed wild life (especially prey animals like Tahrs/Gorals/Serow/Barking deer/Musk deer, we had seen drpppings of these animals throughtout the high trails above the valley) , it is not surprising that a tigress would come to call the valley home. In bhutan and sikkim Tigers previously have been recorded to be breeding at higher altitude’s coniferous forests and meadows. Still it came as a surprise to us when we first encountered the mark. It was not a mark left by a fully grown male Leopard , but by a Tigress , this understanding was based upon the fact that the mark was deep, longish as opposed to square/round shape of that of a Leopard and bigger fingers with less space between each, typical to that of a Tiger.


Looking down at the bustling , virgin lower Tosa valley , from frozen rock gully

By 11 the jungle ceased to exist, the trail climbed towards rocky cliffs to the east. From here down in the scrubby gorge Tosa watercourse could be seen and heard , for it was no longer the gentle stream but a raging white water speeding downhill. We climbed the steep rock gully which received less sun was partly covered with ice. At the head of the gully, where sun peeping through shrubs of dwarf rhododendrons had melted the snow , I discovered the foot prints of a Snow Leopard. The high mountains and barren high lands around Tosa lake are potentially prime territory of these elusive big cats.

The flat step beyond the gully is climbed as the high banks of the lake comes into view. After a 15 minutes trudge , it was quarter past 12 when we stepped atop the bank and witnessed the lake from a distance. It was a verditer blue lake , looked farely large, settled in a backdrop of high mountainscape. As we neared the water, across the lush grassy bed , the immensity of the lake grew. Climbing a small hillock we managed to take a few snaps which vaguely did justice to the surreal setting and vastness of the great lake of Tosa.
The long shoreline of the lake is of fine sand, tiny ripples of clear sweet fresh water nurtures the white sand while the deep stretch of verditer blue lake reflects a glaciated rock-icy peak’s daunting east face. Close to the shadows of Spirit of Tosa, the thick ice sheet cracked in midday heat, producing eerie high pitched cracking noises. We sat and stood dumbstruck on the shore in awe , humbled yet the state of mind was that of supreme peace.

IMG_1260Nature’s hidden bounty that is the lake Tosa, is not only for its sheer beauty and magnitude , but also for its hidden nature and wildlife it nurtures. It is a bit of a long stretch to imagine from the lower valley the existence of such a large glacial lake above, given the considerably moderate quantity of water flowing out the valley especially in winter. The entry to the lower valley is not straightforward either, requiring a moderately challenging to difficult trek to undertake depending upon the snow condition and season. Due to the apparent isolation , nature around the lake valley has found a stretch of land to herself , to continue her life cycle undisturbed.


Before we explore the valley, we need to understand how so few of these little known and unprotected natural hot spots remaining today. The number is shrinking by season. We should surely trek, observe and record the fascinating gifts of the high lakes, valley and mountains , however while doing so we must actively work towards keeping the effect to a minimum. That said, maintaining “no trace” is not an easy task , especially with large groups at higher altitudes. Plastic packets , bottles litter the trails by the end of the season.  Sadly, many treks lost souls this way as we all know all too well.

We, at Rockyfeet , work differently. Our three pillars of work are Explore, Educate and Conserve. We explore through trek , climb or other fieldworks, while educating ourselves as a group, through active sharing of knowledge. We encourage documentation. We do active birding, study flora, observe mammalian life, explore the glaciers, climb and/or study the mountain peaks and passes of the land. The sharing of knowledge and amazing, true tales of nature will ultimately create awareness to promote and establish conservation as a way of life.

We ensure safety, service and impeccable waste management by working with small group of trekkers.

Green meadows of Chandrashila – A detour hike through astounding natural life

A herd of male Himalayan Tahr, grazing the distant slopes behind Chandrashila
It was a cool night. Dew drops pattered the tin roof , a dull candle at the corner kept company till I fell asleep, to wake up at the first light in sky.
Behind temple, me and Haru ignored the clear trail going the top, kept walking the path which circles the hill and veers towards Bageshwar.
Sky was flooding with blissful rays of sun. Still it was dark enough down in hillside that I couldn’t conclusively identify the ungulates(was it a mountain goat or mountain sheep?) playing peek-a-boo at every turn of the loopy meandering trail.
Reaching other side of the hill, where the trail starts to go downhill , we turned left , headed towards the top. It was no longer the typical Chandrashilla trek any more, we were walking the steep bugiyal which otherwise stays hidden behind the summit.
Much coveted warm sunshine was now on my side; the green grass , blue poppy , yellow-white daisy were all happy and smiling. In fact that in all probability was a reflection of my mind. I was happy , contented , full yet asking for more.
I couldn’t ask for more. A male Impeyan pheasant was foraging the meadows. Its metallic green crest , golden purple back and rufous tail dazzled.
Female Himalayan Tahrs(species of mountain goat) with calves were grazing the rocky corners of the hills, climbing up and down with uncanny ease. A good 500 yards away towards east, a huge group of male Himalayan Tahrs were lazing on a sunny slope.
But there was more. Haru fell behind. So I pushed harder , found a cliff at the head of the bugiyal (meadow) , brown with dried grass with black patches of bare mud. It was not a rock climb, it was a climb where the ‘holds’ were thorny tiny berries or loose dead grass. It was near vertical for 30 feet , 80 degrees slope for 100 feet and so on. The meadow walk was more than one and half km with 60 degree steady slope.
The last bit negotiated, I landed on the top of Chandrashila out of nowhere. Couple of foreign nationals were practising Yoga and breathing. Them and a local guide asked me about my route. I took the local man to the southern edge of the summit, pointed at Haru who was still hiking the bugiyal , a good 200 yard below. The man protested at this scene and told it was not possible to climb through that route.
Any way, exploration was done for the day , and I ran down the hillside , took the very route that we took in the morning and shouted at Haru. He dejectedly climbed down the meadow and we climbed Chandrashila through the normal route again.

It was 2016, the year with devastating forest fire in the middle Himalayas , especially in Garhwal and Kumaon. Smoke blanket were omnipresent , everywhere. It was a disappointment that we could not see the Nandadevi, the Dunagiri or Panchachulli from Chandrashila because of smoke. But it was way more than that. It was a shame that so many trees had to die. It was a shame that so thick layer of carbon from the smoke had gathered atop the glaciers , melting them profusely. We left Chandrashila with a mixed return and sustained need to fight for the environment became particularly apparent.

Birding around Mudigere – Western Ghats

Documenting common bird species of Western ghats, with a focus on behaviour and habitat, has been the main intention; photography/videography are just one of the easiest (not necessarily most efficient!) ways to accomplish that. These winged, feathered, warm blooded animals of mesmerizing locomotion, plumage, vocalization and behaviour are not merely a spectacle, but a reliable indication itself, of the health of any ecosystem. It should be noted however, not only photo/video – dedicated observations, detailed field notes , meaningful audio recordings etc are equally important and encouraged.

oh minivet


wc barbet


m barbet


yellow browed bulbul


gh bulbul


lesser hill myna2


vernal hanging parrot


gfb woodpecker


vf nuthatch






tb flycatcher


pale billed flowerpecker


l sunbird


ibl tit


b. starling


c iora




bay backed shrike


g oriole



Ice Stupa, winter Ladakh

Ice Stupa winter Ladakh Ice Stupa Ladakh Sonam Wangchuk

Ice Stupa winter Ladakh Ice Stupa Ladakh Sonam Wangchuk

Ice Stupa winter Ladakh Ice Stupa Ladakh Sonam Wangchuk

Ice Stupa winter Ladakh Ice Stupa Ladakh Sonam Wangchuk

Ice Stupa winter Ladakh Ice Stupa Ladakh Sonam Wangchuk

I have witnessed the Ice Stupa, in the winter of Ladakh.

“High in the Himalaya, a desert is turning green.”  – This was the beginning of the article, A WATERY SHRINE, by Nina Strochlic drew my attention again in the month of March 2017. I was just back home in down south after leading a few group of the Chadar trek. I recollect 2 words again from the far away land of Ladakh, the cold desert of the Himalayas, The Ice Stupa and the engineer man Mr.Sonam Wangchuk; which I heard for the 1st time early 2016. I was biting my nails for missing to be an eyewitness of such a milestone in the history of human civilization. On that very moment, I decided to visit it next year of winter of Ladakh. My friends, I kept my promise to myself in the winter of 2018, and writing back to you with the eagerness of the cheerful emotion of a social animal, the human, – the happiness should be shared.

I witnessed the history. I was very much there when an Indian national flag was hosted to celebrate the 69th Republic day of the nation on top of an ice stupa, a creation truly – of the people, by the people, for the people. I am proud to be an Indian.

In the winter of Ladakh, near the Phyang Village, these 2 ice shrines become an amusement park for locals. With no offense, people are celebrating a true achievement of human and national history with their family. They may not even know the simplest details of the engineering of the Ice Stupa, but their future is secure.

Ice stupa in front of    69th Republic day of Indian on top of ice stupa


What is an Ice Stupa?

  1. Using a high mountain stream, or a higher altitude lake/ reservoir connect a pipe to release water at a lower altitude.
  2. Now, this piped away water due to altitude difference develop a great pressure to leave the vertical pipe as a water fountain. Something similar you may observe in your garden water pipe.
  3. Now at a winter night of -20C to -30C degree in Ladakh, exposed water drops freeze to ice and create this conical shrine of fantasy, the Ice Stupa. Collected twigs firms the base of the stupa and help it grow bigger.
ice Stupa Phyang

ice Stupa near Phyang


Why is Ice stupa so important?

Now finally the key to the magnificent invention of Wangchuk. He is a savior for the future when climate change is very much present in the land of Himalayas. Glacial meltwater is reducing in the high mountain. The window of agriculture for a mountain farmer is becoming smaller with unpredictable water supply. Many plants of apple, barley, apricot died in the desert. Now an Ice Shrine beyond winter, with the rising temperature of spring, releases slow melting water for their farmland. Wangchuk brings the glacier to them. Protected their children to be a climate refugee.

Even in winter, it generates income as a tourist attraction for a farmer.

inside of an ice stupa 2

inside of an ice stupa

inside of an ice stupa


This winter for 1st time an Ice stupa village has been planned beyond Ladakh at Morteratsch Valley of the Swiss Alps.

While rivers are disappearing, Glacial lakes are growing in size. Many of them are on the brink of causing floods that will wash away many cities downstream. One solution is not enough. We need more Wangchuk to step in. In 2015, its all started with a 125000 USD crowdfunding fund. Support conservation action.

You can read more about his effort or get involve at Ladakh SECMOL campus.

2 ice stupa ladakh phyang village Leh

Mountain views in Pangarchulla trek

Pangarchulla is a 4575 m high rocky hump enclosed from north-west,north and north-east by river gorges of Alakananda , Dhouli ganga and Rishi ganga, respectively. Although the trekking peak is merely one of thousands of Himalayan small peaks, it demands special mention and attention. Why ? Cause, not only the summit of Pangarchulla , but the whole Pangarchulla trail offers views of an astonishing array of mountain peaks. All these peaks are massive in scale, enigmatic in reputation , most of them are mountaineer’s subject of pursuit.

Before I take you to a visual tour of the Pangarchulla horizon, let us know exactly how the trek commands such views which 90 per cent of other treks can not. Due to its topographic position. As I already mentioned , north-west, north and north-east of Pangarchulla are deep wide river gorges. Beyond the distant river gorges rise the highest mountains from all three sides. With nothing standing in-between , mountains behind Mandakini valley (to extreme west), around Gangotri glacier (to north west), beyond Gangotri (north west), beyond Badri nath (north) , from circle of Nandadevi Sanctuary (to the east) , all can be seen.

Let us start from the extreme east , which is reasonable , as the trek generally starts from Auli , goes through Gorson bugiyal which offers east view. To the east-south-east we can see the Ronti spires, Bethartoli himal, Trishul (partially). Gorson offers grand west face of Nandadevi to witness behind the treacherous Rishi ganga gorge. Towards the north-east, from Gorson we can see mighty Dunagiri , flanked by faraway giants like Trishuli, Hardeol , Chang bang (partial view) and Kalanka (partial view). All these peaks mentioned , that are seen from Gorson, are part of Nandadevi inner sanctuary’s ring of mountains.

After Gorson, your next camp could be at Khulara. From here , peaks behind valley of flowers (Ghori, Hati) , peaks to the north-east of Badrinath (Kamet, Mukut, Mana, Deoban, Nilgiri etc) are visible.

The northern horizon dotted with sparkling gigantic peaks

The northern horizon dotted with sparkling gigantic peaks

From Khulara , it generally takes two more days to reach the top of Pangarchulla. The summit push is exhilarating and moderately challenging, but we are talking the view today, we’ll stick to it. As you get to the top of Pangarchulla, You can see peaks like Kedarnath, Kharchakund, Chaukhamba , Parvati parbat to the west; Nilkantha, Arwa tower , Avalanch peak to north; Sawaswati , Kamet , Mana, Mandir , Deoban, Rataban , Nilgiri , Ghori , Hati to the north-north-east. Dunagiri to north-east can also be seen.


"The horizon" , view from the summit

“The horizon” , view from the summit

Some of the other epic and priceless views from the trail –

The north-east horizon from Pangarchulla summit

The north-east horizon from Pangarchulla summit

Dzongri la | The best winter trek

Dzongri la

On the fringes of the vast plateau of Dzongri, away from the busy trail of Goecha la, isolated and neatly tucked within the shadows of Black Kabru, is the pass named Dzongri la (14500 ft).  An winter trek (Feb-March) to the pass involving substantial snow march, ought to be one of the most exhilarating experiences eastern Himalaya has to offer. The trek goes deep into the ecological hotspot and UNESCO world heritage site Kanchenzonga National park (KNP), offering a walk through varied terrain and diversified natural life. Lower mixed broadleaf forests, dry and brown in winter, give way to lively moist broadleaf (Oak , Rhododendron), at higher altitudes. With couple of feet of snow cloaking the ground and snow crystals of uncanny symmetry hanging down tree branches , the forest seems almost magical. Subsequently , thick and long stretch of sub-alpine conifers (Pine,Fir,Spruce) give way to alpine shrubs and grasses (albeit under a thick snow cover). Finally, the bleak, white meadows are left , and the narrow trail climbs the flanks of Black Kabru, where lies the pass. During the whole journey, you are continuously awed by glimpses of giant Himalayas peaks . From the lower jungles near Tsoka, Pandim(21952 ft) , Tinchenkhang(19700 ft), Jopuno(18475 ft) are visible. From the alpine pastures of Deorali , trekkers are struck by the scintillating view of Kanchenzonga South(27800 ft), Kabru north(24000 ft) , Dome , Frey(19500 ft) , Rathong(21900 ft), Pandim etc. Doreng meadows offer Pandim’s view up close. The final hike to Dzongri la offers detailed viewing of the black Kabru’s craggy rock fortress. To cap it all off, as the pass is crossed , clustered peaks of Frey , Kokthang (20160 ft), Rathong and Kabru sisters appear at the backdrop of the pristine Rathong valley. Evidently, there is no winter trek quite like this.

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Ichamati, a trans-boundary river

Ichamati river at Taki

I reached Taki on 31st December 2017.  There was no decisive purpose to travel or a destination to reach. But a few words to connect. Bangladesh, Ichamati and Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, these 3 words were enough to get lost within me on a year-end afternoon. Today’s world near the river is truly far from the painting, has been drawn by one of the finest craftsmen of Bengali literature Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay in his novel ‘Ichamati’. But it is not so hard for one who read him once. In my childhood, he taught me the power of imagination. A tool to travel the unknown world and the time with your untamed mind. So, in my 1st blog of 2018, a year-end, time, river, the novel, the partition, Bibhutibhusan and much more is creating an anarchy. I let them flow as imagination or a river goes on. And I wish all of you a green, calm and untamed new year on this beautiful planet. let’s welcome 2018.

taki rajbari

There is no end, my friend.  Nor a beginning. Moment after moment, year after year, time flows. Time unites people. Time divides too. Science says time is just a dimension. The way our river Ichamati has length, breadth and depth; It has time. Again, as you walk along the river bank from the origin to the ocean, you can travel the time too. Science is making progress alike light. That time is not so far when on an upcoming new year eve, you will experience the time travel with your family just like a 3D movie. On a button click, just after few ads, you will start experiencing the magic of a time machine. The spreading roots of a living banyan tree are disappearing from the ruins of old zamindari house Thakurdalan (a pavilion or arena of worship). Those destroyed walls and pillars, which has never seen before any of the new generation, is reconstructing with all it’s intricate art and artefacts in front of your senses. It will be in such a minute detail that you are not even going to miss the quintessence of an old essence stick burning in the Tulsi Mancha at the centre of the courtyard. I get goosebumps in wonder. I am scared too, mechanization to the imagination.  The thoughts of the experience of a time machine took me far from the noises of multiple loudspeakers playing music cheerfully at the year-end parties in front of the river Ichamati.

taki rajbari banyan tree

Taki rajbari banyan tree

Today at this junction, time is blending into the river. Ichamati is coalescing into the time. Still, the invisible division remains. Ichamati is the division between the very same people on both sides of the river. The history, the deeply rooted culture within them is waiting. Maybe for a new mechanism or an old idealism to arise.

River unites people. The river divides too. River teaches you, there is neither an end nor a beginning, but an ongoing process with all her wisdom and experiences, instilled in us.

Ichamati River is a trans-boundary river which flows through India and Bangladesh and also forms the boundary between the two countries. The river is facing the problem of siltation leading to the thin flow of water in the dry season and floods in the rainy season. Experts are handling the situation and remedial matters are being discussed between the governments of India and Bangladesh. The political border of 2 countries is just a 10 mins boat ride away from here, in Taki.

Ichamati Bangladesh border

Ichamati Bangladesh border

From Taki Rajbari Ghat, You can avail a boat ride in Ichamati river and view the Bangladesh Border as close as you can’t imagine. I found the destination as a perfect day out from Kolkata. But one wants to stay for a night, may venture out the following links; Amrapali Gust House OR a few other Staying options at Taki.

Magical Wetlands of Gajoldoba

Magical Wetlands of “Gajoldoba” is a major hotspot for bird lovers all over Bengal wherein thousands of ducks and waders congregate during winter months.

I had already contacted Thakur Da at Gajoldoba through Subhankar De –another birder from North Bengal who has vast knowledge about this North Bengal area and an avid birder.
After spending a day birding at a new destination “Rongtong” we descended down towards Teesta Barrage area the following day.
It was a long weekend of 26th Jan,2017 and you can imagine the crowd in any of the tourist attractions in Bengal and moreover if it is a river bed.
With speaker blaring in all corners there were picnics going on in full swing as we waded in our small boat through the waters and marshes.
Gajoldoba during winter is home to a lot of winter migrants’ waders and ducks and the habitat is quite rich.
However human infringement, ecotourism development, and its chaotic ecstasy is destroying the habitat big time and Government and authorities should take steps to curb this. Else, in near future we will lose this dreamland called Gajoldoba rather the immigrants would lose their winter home.

Day 1:

The entire area is a congregation of Ruddy Shelduck,Eurasian Wigeons,Lesser Whistling duck ,Northern Shoveler, Ferrugenious Pochard ,Red Crested Pochar,Gadwal etc and other waders as we move through the meandering course of the shallow waters of Teesta – a mesmerizing scene.

As Thakurda (our boatman) was steering the boat through the shallow waters of Teesta these two beauties emerged from nowhere to mesmerize us.

Ruddy Shellduck

Ruddy Shellduck

One of my favourite duck with a striking round orangish-brown head and red beak- as it is aptly called “Rangajhuti” . They are very frequent visitors at Purbasthali ox bow lake in Burdwan district . These diving ducks where moving gracefully in a flock and were busy posing for the camera, boasting of its beauty and elegance.

Red Crested Pochard

Red Crested Pochard

As we crossed the flocks of different ducks , Thakur Da with utmost care and precision took the boat close to a mud flat for the first lifer of this trip.

The “Three Musketeers” of Gajoldoba. As we were moving away from the loud cacaphony of Shelduck,Pochards etc these nocturnal creatures were busy foraging in broad daylight in a gravelled mud flat with very minimal movement,moving slowly and deliberately,with occassional short runs.We stood rooted to the spot admiring their beauty .


Great Thicknee

Great Thicknee

As we were busy spotting other waders on the mud flats, this migrant was busy foraging on the ground in search of food.

Citrine Wagtail

“Mirror Image”- Citrine Wagtail

The next few hours was spent moving from one area to another and wherever you place your eyes you can see ducks gracefully coursing on water surface or waders constantly probing the muddy or sandy areas.

We spotted a pair of Bar Headed Goose,Dunlin,Common Sandpiper,Sand Lark,Northern Shoveler.

Sand Lark

Sand Lark



As light was fading away we could spot a Peregrine Falcon lurking in the sky and looking for an opportune moment to pounce on its prey – the ducks which were lazily wading

Day 2 :

Started the day early to venture downstream in search of Red Breasted Merganser -the first report from Bengal.

The journey started with the awakening of the ducks and waders as the morning chill was getting penetrated by the yellow glow.

Kingfishers always fascinates me with its agility and radiant colours .As we were frantically searching for the common merganser this “Black & White” beauty was hovering in front of us in search of breakfast. Unaware of our presence it lazily perched itself on the protruding branch above the water surface,a clear indication of its contentment with the morning meal.

Pied Kingfisher

This was followed by constant hide and seek of the Great Crested Grebe.

However frantic search for this migrant for a couple of hours did not bring desire result – that is the beauty of birding with lots of uncertainty, patience, and luck.

On our return, we got to see the most photographed bird this year far away from from the Arctic Tundra region.A rarety in this part of the hemisphere who found a home away from home in the company of a pair of Ruddy Shelduck- strange indeed !!!! The mystery will still remain whether it will find its way back home and whether this friendship will bring it to its second home again…

Tundra Bean Goose

“Lonely Vagrant” – Tundra Bean Goose


We were walking barefooted on the slippery mud flat in search of an unknown raptor spotted by Sourav and Avishek with constant chirping of these birds in the background. There were numerous of them camouflaged on the ground with roving eyes on us.

Small Pratincole

Small Pratincole

A couple of Black Stork flew away on the horizon as we were busy observing the pratincoles.

The most dominant inhabitant of the marshland , whose loud cacophony in unison can be heard throughout the day far across the distance.

Rudy Shellduck

Rudy Shellduck

It was the fag end of the day and as our boat was slowly moving past a water-soaked muddy stretch, this shorebird was foraging by looking, then stopping, then running and pecking to catch its prey.It was constantly probing the soil in search of insects or other invertebrates.

Kentish Plover

Kentish Plover

Another small plover characterized by the distinct yellow eye rings was present in abundance on the gravel river bed constantly probing the sand/mud flat for insects and worms.

Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover

Gradually our board entered the Lapwing territory and what a pleasing sight.

Its exuberance of colors and gracefulness mesmerizes me everytime I see this beauty from the lapwing family.Every year hundreds and hundreds of these near threatened lapwing species migrate to these grasslands to spend the winter at the foothills of the Himalayas.


Northern Lapwing

Northern Lapwing

It was August 2015 while birding in Sunderbans bio-reserve I was lucky enough to get a glimpse of this majestic beauty, and this time around the amazing marshland of Gajoldoba had revealed its biggest surprise – “Madan Tak” as it is aptly called bcoz of its bald head.As we were ruing the missed opportunity of a very close shot of a female Pied Harrier, the stork emerged from nowhere and started posing popping its head out from the marshes.Our beloved boatman “Thakur Da” took utmost care not to disturb the denizen and took the boat to a position where we get a close view of this vulnerable bird of the stork family.

Lesser Adjutant Stork

Lesser Adjutant Stork

The sheer presence of waders and ducks is a perfect foil for a raptor of the size of Marsh Harrier which constantly keeps a strict vigil over the area for any opportune moment to pounce on its prey.We very lucky enough to witness many such moments and capture it’s hovering over the marshy grassland in search of its prey.


The silent predator was hiding in the bushes constantly scanning the area in search of its prey with its protruding beak waiting for the final assault-the tall grasses of the marshland created a perfect ambush.

Purple Heron

Purple Heron

Hatt-ti-ti” as it is aptly called in native language bcoz of it’s loud and high pitched call.I have been fascinated by this bird numerous occasions during my birding trips all over Bengal but couldn’t get a decent picture of this colourful wader.As light was fading and our tired weary bodies wanted respite,this wader started fiddling in the soil and muddy waters in search of food and stock it up for dinner, unaware of our lurking existence.

With a tired body and contented soul we bid adieu to this amazing water land at the foothills of the Himalayas.

Red Wattled Lapwing

Red Wattled Lapwing


Little Grebe

Little Grebe

Pied Harrier

Pied Harrier

Kentish Plover

Kentish Plover

Spotted Redshank

Spotted Redshank












Birds List :

Common Teal,Eurasian Wigeon,Ruddy Shellduck,Northern Shoveler,Red Crested Pochard,Gadwall,Great Crested Grebe,Indian Cormorant,Great Cormorant,Asian Openbill Stork,Norther Lapwing,Spotted Redshank,Great Thicknee,Red Watlled Lapwing,Eurasian Marsh Harrier,Little Ringed Plover,Citrine Wagtail,Grey Wagtail,White Wagtail,Kentish Plover,Dunlin,Common Sandpiper,Tundra Bean Goose,Peregrine Falcon,Indian Cormorant,Little Egret,Intermediate Egret,Large Egret,Bar Headed Goose,Barn swallow,Asian Palm Swift,Siberian Stonechat,White Breasted Kingfisher,Pied Kingfisher,Purple Heron,Lesser Adjutant Stork,Spotted Dove,White Capped Water Redstart,White Browed Wagtail,Pond Heron,Bronze Winged Jacana,Common Coot,Moorhen,Pied Harrier,Steppe Eagle,Black Kite,Small Pratincole,Black Stork,Tufted Duck,Common Greenshank,Grey Heron,Pied Starling,Long tailed Shrike,Little Grebe,Sand Lark,Wire Tailed Swallow,Ferrogeneous Pochard

Birding Time :

6:30 AM – 5 PM

Ladakh Festivals Calendar

chaam mask dance at ladakh festivals

Ladakh Festival Calendar is important to one who wants to capture and feel the culture of Ladakh. This hamlet of trans-Himalayas is well known for their rich, vibrant and colorful culture.  The daily life of Ladakhi people in a town may look more western dressed up to fit today’s world, but a festival will surely be ethnic as it was 100 years ago. During the festival, the locals get dressed up in traditional clothes, where men wear cummerbunds and women wear vibrant headgears and loads of jewelry.  Read more

Best Himalayan trek for beginners

I have worked as exploration leader and managed multiple groups in Himalaya with beginners or 1st-time trekkers. Many of them successfully completed the trek and made me realized a fact – That any trek can be your 1st trek irrespective of the grade of the trek. And if you are one looking for an answer to the similar question like – What can be the best Himalayan trek for beginners? OR  Can chadar be my 1st trek? Or Can I go to Goecha La as a beginner?

 I will suggest a rational though steps to get an answer by ownself.

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Sunderban Biosphere- Trip to BIG CAT’s Den

It was monsoon time ,and a visit to the Sunderbans was long time due .When the proposal came in from my friend Sutonu that a group of bird enthusiasts and wildlife lovers are venturing into the largest estuarine delta in the world to explore and unravel the beauty of Sunderban’s rich marine diversity of flora and fauna, I could not say no to such a mouth-watering prospect. Read more


Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary (MWLS)” is not an uncommon name for the birders around Bengal and in India as well. The very elusive and endangered Rufous Necked Hornbill has made this place more famous.-the Sanctuary falls under Darjeeling Wildlife Division, West Bengal.
Latpanchar is a small hamlet on the outskirts of the MWLS. The treasure of trove of Latpanchar always fascinates me and it has become kind of a second home.

We embarked on our journey on 27th April from Kolkata with a return on 1st May.

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475 Kms Hike From Manali to Leh, the Journey of a Lifetime

In 2014, while on a backpacking trip to Bhutan, I  happened to meet a group of trekkers. After this encounter, the idea of trekking struck me and since then there was no looking back. I went on various high altitude treks , completed my BMC couse from HMI and also did a wilderness course from NOLS. In 2016, while I was working as an freelancer for an adventure company, the idea of hiking from Manali to Leh struck me. Read more

Birding Diaries (Bird Rescue) | Back from the web of death | Purbasthali

Alok Da checking the bird for injuries it might have sustained during the ordeal..

About Purbasthali Ox-bow Lake:

It was late December, 2014. I was dawning my 2nd winter plumage as a birder (after being introduced to birding and the world of birds in October, the previous year) and it would my first time at Purbasthali. I had heard about the place from my brother-in-law who had been there the previous year. ‘Lifer fever’ had struck with the thought that migrants had once again flocked in large numbers to the marshlands/wetlands in the lower course of the meandering Bhagirathi, a major distributory of the Ganges in South Bengal. Read more

Rupin Pass Waterfall crossing – in pre season

Rupin valley is nestled in between two approximately parallel runs of giant lateral ribs a.k.a spur, stretching south from the high snowfields just below the main ridge of Dhaula Dhar range. Rupin pass is situated on this ridge beyond the snowfield, where the ridge-altitude is as low as 4680 meters (15350 feet) thus allowing a crossing of the ridge without much risk. However, during the preseason, snow is found from an altitude of 2900-3000 meters (9500 feet) even when snowfall of previous year was less than average. In any case, during preseason you will have to climb at least 1700 meters (5600 feet) of snow slopes of varying gradient before reaching the pass, which offers a superb experience and learning for relatively less experienced trekkers.

Among all these sections of snow climbings, personally, I loved crossing the frozen Rupin waterfall the most. Let us look at it in greater detail.

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Trek Planning, beginning a trek

Why trek planning is important?

In a theoretical sense – Trekking is a necessary routine within a sport called Mountaineering. Any mountaineering expedition must involve trekking unless the full expedition team is being flown(by helicopter/small aeroplane) all the way to the climbing base camp of the target mountain. The more remote a mountain is , the more time and resources(i.e fuel,food,porter,pony/yak) are invested in trek just to reach a base camp.

In a more practical sense – Trekking is just hiking through any terrain , given you have the following major things in place –

  1. RESOURCES :Managing resources comes under administration. This is one thing which plays the most crucial role in a trek. Even without adequate planning ,information, or first aid, a trek can be done just because you have resources in place; but of course it will bevery risky and very childish. Or we can put it this way – if resources are not present , trek does not even start.In life threatening or simply challenging situations in a trek, quality ,quantity and management of resources decide the outcome. Read more

Bara Bhangal,A Secret Kingdom at the Headwater of Ravi ( Iravati )

A trudge on the time-worn routes of Bara and Chota Bhangal taxes one physically; although, at the same time it rewards the journeying soul with jaw dropping landscapes, bleak unique outposts and sense of timelessness. River Ravi, originating at the foot of Bara Bhangal village kept nurturing the valley’s life from time immemorial. For thousands of years, the dodgy, perilous routes from here to central Asia crossed over the massive Dhaula dhar and Pirpanjal mountain ranges, enabling the region’s trade and cultural exchange. Bara Bhangal with its population of over 750 is an important centre for the Gaddi shepherds. Till today, ponies are used to carry ration for the villagers from across the passes that connect the valley to rest of the world. A satellite phone for emergency purpose, installed by government is the sold mode of communication for the villagers. The obscurity and difficult approach has cast a veil of mystery and fancy in the minds of romanticists, about Bara Bhangal. It is about time that we explore the region in some meaningful detail.

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DZONGU – North Sikkim


The electoral district of Dzongu in remote North Sikkim is inhabited by the indigenous Lepcha people. It’s geographic boundary to the west is marked by Talung(7350 m) and Pandim(6691 m) peaks. To the north by mt. Kangchenzonga South(8476 m), mt. Zemu peak(7780 m), Zemu Gap(5870 m) , mt. Simvu(6811 m) , mt. Sinioulchu(6888 m) , Kishong la pass(4785 m) and mt. Lamo Angdong(5900 m). To the east by Teesta river and to the south by Narsingh(5800 m) group of peaks. The valley constitutes the remotest reaches of the rich and varied Kanchenjonga Biosphere Reserve, an UNESCO world heritage site.

Lepcha villages are thinly populated, always quiet ,and often wrapped up in a lively green cloak of vegetation. They worship nature whose care and protection are integral part of their philosophy. Many Lepcha has worked in fields of Butterflying, Birding etc ; Experts on Rhododendrons, master of bush craft can be found in these villages.

In this article I shall narrate only the nature and geographic setting of Dzongu valley, and touch upon the prospect of trekking.

Read more

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