Nepal is one of the few countries in Asia that my husband Rick & I have not visited, so when our trip to Bhutan was cancelled for the second time, we decided to switch to Nepal instead, leaving the Kingdom of Bhutan for another year. We discussed the trip with some friends who have trekked in Nepal many times & decided the Poon Hill section of the Annapurna Circuit would be suitable. Rick is not a birder so we needed a trip that incorporated birds, trekking & sightseeing to make our three weeks into a well balanced holiday. Obsessed birders often have to compromise & this is how Rick & I survive & it works well for us.
Once Nepal was decided upon I then set about seriously researching the trip. Flights were complicated, with very little choice - Qatar via Doha, Jet Airways via Mumbai, but surprisingly Singapore Airlines just happened to have a non-stopper to Singapore then on to Kathmandu & the price virtually matched the others. The total flight times were two hours longer but its an excellent airline & meant that we could visit our sons Chris & Max who live in Singapore, thus breaking up the two flights. We booked the tickets through STA, who always have the best prices & are very efficient & helpful (& will match the price of any company that quotes a cheaper price).
I then researched professional bird guides. We needed someone who was prepared to trek the very steep Poon Hill section of Annapurna Circuit as well as advise me on bird species. After several attempts I managed to find Ramgir Chaudhary, Ram for short (firstname.lastname@example.org) whose name was mentioned favourably in a report on surfbirds.com. He was actually a guide from Chitwan but was happy to fly to Kathmandu & start a birding/trekking journey from there. We sorted out cost & that was done, we had our guide.
ITINERARY - SINGAPORE
Thursday 12th & Friday 13th April
The departure day arrived. Our luggage consisted of two medium-sized solid, wheeled suitcases, plus a soft black bag holding a large backpack (for the sherpa to use on the trek). We each carried another small (me) & a medium (Rick) day packs as cabin baggage which we would also carry on the trek.
Our taxi to Heathrow, arrived well in advance of the departure time so we could spend several hours dining in Heston Blumenthal's excellent new restaurant (The Perfectionist) in Terminal Two. The flight was uneventful & we arrived at Changi Airport in Singapore at 5pm the next day. We took a taxi to my son Chris's flat which is only twenty minutes from the airport. As arranged, the porter was waiting for us at the gate of the complex with a key & we settled into Chris' very pleasant accommodation to wait for his arrival from work. Once Chris arrived we then taxied to the JUMBO RESTAURANT on the coast close by for a long anticipated, absolutely delicious Chinese meal. It was SO pleasant to be sitting outside under the stars in the 28 degrees heat after London's enclosed spaces.
Saturday 14th April
Rick's son Max had arranged for us all to go for an early morning walk in the CENTRAL CATCHMENT NATURE RESERVE, however he had come down with a cold, so we went without him. Singapore is such an efficient country that even the walk in the reserve was perfectly organised, including one way only over the free-standing suspension bridge!! This country park consists of well maintained wooden boardwalks through beautiful tropical forest dripping with humidity - & heaving with joggers & walkers on a saturday morning - but we enjoyed it nevertheless. Afterwards a quick taxi ride back to Chris's flat, a change into dry, smarter clothes & then off to a hotel close to where Max lives, for a posh afternoon tea. The hotel was up to the usual five star Singapore standard in fact it was the same hotel that Trump stayed in more recently. The afternoon tea & buffet was set up in an airy atrium complete with fountains, huge vases of flowers, crisp white linen napkins etc. all very grand & matching Max's five star taste these days! Later that afternoon when it was slightly cooler, we wandered through the Singapore streets, along the Formula One track & the Marina Bay Sands complex before finally ending up in Chinatown for the evening meal.
Sunday 15th April
As a treat Rick had booked a table in advance at the famous FULLERTON HOTEL SUNDAY BUFFET (at US$ 100 a head) - all you can eat & drink between midday & 3pm. None of us have ever seen such an incredibly extravagent display of food - five circular serving bays, with everything you could ever imagine - from personally grilled foie gras, Chinese roast pork & duckling carved as you liked, English roast meats, an array of shellfish that must have depleted a small ocean, a hundred assorted cheeses, & a dessert table to die for. Verve Clicquot champagne was served throughout, no holding back. Needless to say we enjoyed ourselves immensely in fact, we found it very difficult to leave & eventually we moved tables & stayed drinking our coffee because the Formula One Grand Prix was showing on the big screen at the far end of the huge dining room. All great fun & nice to get the boys together for once.
Monday 16th April
Chris had to go to work today but Max took the day off, so I left Rick with him to have a 'mans day' & took myself off to the SUNGEI BULOH WETLAND RESERVE on the north side of Singapore Island. The reserve is well set up & very peaceful after the streets of Singapore, virtually bereft of people but heaving with monitor lizards, Estuerine Crocodiles & a good selection of Asian bird species. It was three changes on the train either way plus, a taxi to the reserve & a mini bus back, but thoroughly worth it & a complete contrast to Singapore city's manicured streets & living wall buildings. Once back at Chris's flat six hours later, I had a cool shower & set off again on the train to meet the men in town for dinner in an Italian restaurant, a surprising choice by Max considering we were in Singapore!
ITINERARY – NEPAL - KATHMANDU
Tuesday 17th April
Taxi to the airport this morning & then onto a smaller plane for a five hour uneventful flight to Kathmandu. A taxi to the famous KATHMANDU GUESTHOUSE in the Thamel District of the city took about a half an hour through manic, badly rutted streets swirling with pollution & people. We had to walk the last 100M wheeling our suitcases because the hotel was situated in a pedestrianized section of the city & taxis were prohibited. Our first impression of the KGH as we walked through the gate past the smartly uniformed Ghurka guards into the beautiful garden was very, very positive. The staff were really friendly & after checking in we were whisked off to our three star 'deluxe' room on the ground floor of the old building through an archway & down an open fronted corridor which also led out into the garden. The hotel & gardens are literally a haven in amongst the mayhem that is Kathmandu & we thoroughly recommend this famous hotel. It is where most of the Everest climbers have stayed over the years & also many famous people - Clinton, Hugh Grant, Norbey Tinseng, etc – we know this because the stone walkways in the garden are embedded with named plaques.
After we had unpacked & sorted ourselves out we had lunch at one of the tables in the gardens, then literally holding our breath we ventured out into the streets. Within minutes we were coughing with the fumes, so much so that I decided to buy a face mask, many people were wearing them & it did seem to help. We managed to find the famous DURBAR SQUARE, where we could see that many of the shrines & temples had collapsed in the 2015 earthquake. We decided to return the next morning however, since there was a hefty charge to go into the area & we had little time left that afternoon. Instead we meandered through the back streets & tiny alleyways eventually finding our way back to the hotel via the Roadside Restaurant where we ordered Nepali momos & Rick his usual pizza, washed down with a couple of bottles of Everest beer.
Afterwards, back at the KGH garden, we noticed that a group of rather distinguished, extremely fit looking older men were surrounded by some young Nepali girls dressed in gold costumes, accompanied by a troupe of musicians. There seemed to be a ceremony going on. After some music & dancing by the Nepalis the men proceeded to lay a plaque in the pavement & it turned out that they were the team of 1978 climbers who had reached the top of Everest exactly 40 years ago to the day. Among them we recognized Reinholdt Messner, who was the first (only?) person to have ever climbed Everest without the help of extra oxygen.
Wednesday 18th April
Today we walked to DURBAR SQUARE, paid the admittance charge & wandered around amongst the collapsed temples. Happily, the building where the living Hindu child goddess the KUMARI lived was still intact so we sat in the courtyard until she appeared at the window & rather vaguely waved at us & the small crowd that had gathered below. She is only 3½ years old, quite sweet looking - she will stay a goddess until puberty apparently then be replaced. We then walked to the GARDEN OF DREAMS for lunch. This is another haven amongst the dirt & grime of Kathmandu, once a palace & badly damaged in the earthquake, but now converted into a tourist garden. Some of the palace is safe to walk into & is now being used as a cafe & this is where we had lunch as we gazed out onto the serene green garden albeit dotted with serene courting Nepali couples.
Later, we had supper in the gardens of the KGH as we had organised to meet our guide Ram. He was on time & after a bit of a chat we arranged for him to book flights to Pokhara for the three of us & also to take us to Pulchowki Hills for birdwatching the next day.
Thursday 19th April
We set off for the PULCHOWKI FOREST in a taxi at first light, travelling for about an hour, out of the city. On arrival, the forest looked promising with several different species of cuckoos & barbets already calling as we stepped out of the taxi. We set off up the track & into the forest. It was quite birdy & we soon clocked up a good number of species. As we climbed higher the birds changed so that by late morning we had seen over 50 species, nothing new that I had not seen before, but an excellent selection of Asian birds which I really enjoyed seeing & identifying again after several years away from Asia.
Highlights were: Black Eagle, Blue-throated & Golden-throated Barbets, Lesser Yellownape, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Striated Bulbul, Grey-bellied Tesia, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Grey-throated Babbler, White-throated, Striated & White-crested Laughing Thrushes, Nepal Fulvetta, Rufous-bellied & Small Niltavas to name but a few.
About midday we left the forest & walked along an adjacent road to the BOTANIC GARDENS, had lunch there & then took a wander around, but there was nothing much of note, in fact it was very quiet indeed. Happily we managed to find an available taxi to take us back to the city as Ram had been unable to book one to pick us up.
Friday 20th April
First thing in the morning, leaving Rick asleep, Ram & I set off a short distance for RANIBARI PARK in the centre of Kathmandu. A number of early morning joggers were circumnavigating the fairly small area of the park, or lighting joss sticks at the temple at the top of the hill. It was a pleasant, friendly little place & we did manage to see quite a few new birds:
Shikra, Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Greenish Warbler, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch & two nests containing a total of six young Spotted Owlets. We also glimpsed a Common Indian Mongoose running along an adjacent track.
We had also planned to visit the SHEOPURI WILDLIFE RESERVE today, but when Ram mentioned that it was compulsory to pay for a local reserve guide & that virtually the same species of birds as Pulchowki would be found there, we decided to give it a miss. Instead after lunch the three of us took a taxi to BHAKTAPUR, the ancient cultural capital, about a half an hour's taxi ride out of town. This was a fascinating place. Most of the temples were still pretty much intact after the earthquake, although many of the back streets were in a collapsed state, probably due to the poor building standards. We wandered around in the sunshine, through the back streets & into various temples, it was most atmospheric & well worthwhile if you have a spare day in the capital. Later, we had dinner in the gardens of the hotel for our last night in Kathmandu.
ITINERARY – NEPAL - POKHARA
Saturday 21st April
It was an early start today for the three of us as our flight to POKHARA on Buddha Airlines left at 9am. The small propeller driven plane looked in reasonable condition & was pretty much on time. Ram had suggested we book seats on the RHS of the plane so we could get a good view of the spectacular mountains en route, but in the event it was very hazy so we only caught glimpes of ice covered mountain tops, often higher than our plane & quite disconcerting.
On arrival we taxied to the MANDAP HOTEL which is located in the main street in the centre of town & only 100M from the lakeside. This was a friendly, family run three star hotel with spacious rooms, a double & a single bed in each room, a hot water shower in an open plan bathroom - which meant one had to remember to put the toilet seat up to keep it dry!! Each room opened up onto a large outside verandah set up with tables, very pleasant indeed. Our room was on the first floor with a view out over the entrance driveway & further across to the lake, which was just perfect. We can thoroughly recommend this hotel. We left Ram in the hotel with the manager who had offered to organise our trekking passes (all trekkers require a TIMS - Trekkers Information Management System permit = US$24 & an Annapurna Conservation Area Project permit = US$20) & then set off walking down to the lake. We headed west along the shore & then after about a mile turned inland along the main street & chose a restaurant where Rick & I shared a delicious pizza, chicken satees & a Ghurka beer. The lake was lovely, looked unpolluted, fresh & blue & surrounded by snow-capped mountains which reflected on the lake's surface.
In the afternoon Ram walked us along the lake edge again & onto a small ferry across to the five star Fishtail Hotel, where the garden was supposed to be full of birds, however it was quite disappointing, the day was grey & after doing a circuit we decided not to bother staying for tea. The only bird of note was a Crimson Sunbird. The rain that had been threatening started & then turned into hail, so we crossed back on the ferry, waited until a taxi arrived & then returned to our hotel.
In the evening we wandered down to the lakeside again & had beer & dinner in a small bar/restaurant on the lakeside. The first thing I noticed as we sat gazing out over the lake in the evening light was that there were several Red-rumped Swallows flying past in amongst the Barn Swallows!! The World Peace Pagoda tomorrow's destination, could be seen on top of the mountain to the west looming over the lake in the evening light.
Sunday 22nd April
We rose early, jumped into a taxi from the rank outside our hotel & drove out of town to a mountain road leading to the WORLD PEACE PAGODA. In fact it is not a pagoda but a huge stupa/gompa - paid for by the Japanese, hence the name I suppose. The taxi dropped us off at the last village before the top, so we set off up the steep track for the last mile. The first bird we heard was a Black Francolin & then in view standing on a rock, astonishing for a game bird. However our mission was the SPINY BABBLER the only Nepali endemic. We reached an open section of the road close to the pagoda & then walked down a path to the side along the fence line. The habitat of scrubby secondary growth was just the right habitat for the babbler so we settled ourselves down & I played the recording. Almost immediately there was a response & within 30 seconds the bird had flown to the bush close by & started belting out its song. We had excellent views & even Rick was impressed. Job done, I had my first target bird in the bag. High fives all round!!!
After wandering up to view the actual pagoda which was really huge once you were close, Ram & I then set off further up the road whilst Rick walked back down to the lake on a steep path through the trees which led to a jetty where he could catch a boat back to the town. Ram & I birded around the area & further along the road for another two hours before it quietened down in the heat so we turned back & headed down towards the main road. Annoyingly we did not find a free taxi until we had also walked about two rather hot & noisy miles along the main highway towards Pokhara.
Highlights at the World Peace Pagoda: Black Francolin, Himalayan, White-rumped & Egyptian Vultures, Barred Cuckoo Dove, SPINY BABBLER, Puff-throated Babbler, Striated Prinia, Blue-capped Blue Rock Thrush
On our last evening before the trek, we seperated our luggage into one large back pack & two smaller packs for the trek the next day & organised to store the two suitcases at the hotel. We then wandered down to the lake & had beer & dinner in our usual bar/restaurant.
Monday 23rd April - THE TREK
DAY 1 – NAYAPUL (1070M) TO TIKHEDHUNGGA (1540M)
We were up early & in a taxi, firstly to pick up our sherpa Norben on the outskirts of Pokhara. We drove along the road towards Nayapul, at one point diverting through an area of road repair along the river bed & finally onto the side road that led to Nayapul, a journey of about two hours. On arrival there we were very disappointed to realise we were walking up this newly built gravel road all the way to Nayapul - it had been built by the Chinese since our map was printed, not a particularly positive start to the trek! This road followed the river but we saw no forktails or dippers. We arrived at our hotel in mid afternoon & settled into our three metre square room on the first floor, toilet & shower along the hall. On opening the window & looking out we could see a steel walking bridge across a river below & on the other side an extremely steep mountain. Here & there we could just make out a series of steps climbing up & up & up & finally out of sight & we presumed quite rightly that it was our route for the next day. Dinner was in the restaurant on shared tables – we joined a charming French couple a little younger than ourselves (we are both around 70). Everyone else in the room seemed to be much much younger!
Bird highlights: Verditer Flycatcher, Long-tailed Minivet, Crested Kingfisher, Blue-throated Flycatcher, Green Magpie, STRIATED PRINIA, Plumbeous & White-capped Redstarts. We also saw a Yellow-throated Martin.
Tuesday 24th April – DAY 2: TIKHEDHUNGGA (1540M) TO BANTHANTI (2210M)
Bracing ourselves for a tough day we set off at 5.30am, Rick heading off in advance with Norben. Ram & I walked down to the river where we found the first of a number of Spotted Forktails, then we steeled ourselves & headed up the steps. After birding, pausing for breath many times & stopping for an omelette breakfast at about 8am, Ram & I finally reached Nangge Thani at the top of the steps at around 1.30pm. Rick & Norben the sherpa apparently reached Ghorepani at about the same time. Whilst they were settling into their accommodation for an afternoon nap. Ram & I struggled on, at one point hearing a Nepal Wren Babbler way down below the steep-sided path, but too far to call in & impossible to reach. We finally arrived at Banthanti at about 3pm, exhausted but actually I was impressed that I had made it this far at all! Just to explain, although we only ended up 700m higher at the end of the day the path climbed up & down all day so in real terms we had climbed & descended many more than 700 metres in height. This was one of the toughest days of the trek & I was very aware of my age & the dozens of younger ruddy-faced walkers that passed us - it was a busy section of the Annapurna Circuit. The hotel in Banthanti was rather an attractive little building, set right on the path with flower boxes & freshly painted walls & best of all Rick had managed to organise an en-suite room on the first floor with a balcony, all excellent.
Bird highlights: Spotted Forktail, Striated & Streaked Laughing Thrushes, Rufous Sibia, Black & Mountain Bulbuls, Slaty Blue Flycatcher, White-tailed Nuthatch & a lone Lammergier.
Wednesday 25th April – DAY 3: BANTHANI (2210M) TO GHOREPANI & POON HILL (2858M)
We all set off early Rick again going ahead with Norben while Ram & I slowly birded our way up & down the path. Again it was busy with other walkers but they did not start passing us until about 8am, so we had the early mornings each day to get in some excellent birding. At 11.55am we stopped & recalled the eathquake that had hit Nepal exactly to the minute three years previously, an awful catastrophe with repercussions continuing still today. We had had no tremors so far on the trip & we hoped that it would stay that way. After our omelette, Tibetan bread & coffee, we set off again walking up steep steps & then down more steps, many many times, finally reaching Ghorepani just at about 3pm just before a huge hail storm. I was absolutely exhausted, could hardly get up the ladder to our room on the first floor. Ram had glibly predicted several times that we only had 'a half an hour to go', disappointing me several times before I finally staggered into the village. I did not find this in the least bit funny even though he thought it was a good joke (bless him)!! The village had fabulous views of the Annapurna Mountain Range, but because of the storm we did not see anything until some hours later when the clouds suddenly lifted & we all rushed outside, gasping in astonishment at the amazing view. We were at 2,860M but the Annapurna Mountains that seemed so close & were now looming over us were over 8000M!!
Bird highlights: Mt Hawk Eagle, Whistler's, Blyth's & Ashy-throated Warblers, Chestnut-crowned Laughing Thrush, Pygmy Blue & Pale Blue Flycatchers, Indian Blue Robin, Nepal Wren Babbler (heard twice), Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler & wonderful views of many Rufous-gorgetted Flycatchers.
Thursday 26th April – DAY 4 – GHOREPANI (2860M) TO TADAPANI (2630M)
Rick & Norben headed up on the detour route to Poon Hill before first light to see the magnificent view (actually it clouded over again so a wasted trip) but Ram & I headed out at the usual 5.30am along the trekking path & again had at least two hours before anyone caught up with us, really excellent birding time. We managed to reach the Duerali Pass (2990M) by 8.30am. We sat on the stone wall below all the prayer flags gazing about in awe, the air was thin but not uncomfortably so & really fresh. After a rest we pressed onwards finally reaching the highest point of Ban Thanti (3180M) totally out of breath an hour later. The summit was mostly covered in huge Rhododedron trees & although the flowers were past their best they were still magnificent. Below the trees in more open areas grew stunted bamboo & as we gazed about, suddenly we heard some sharp calls & two large brown birds with huge yellow bills popped out onto a branch & I realised that they were GREAT PARROTBILLS. What a find & totally unexpected, I had not even dared to put them on my trip checklist! Later that morning we also had a pair of Brown Parrotbills. We trekked downhill, we trekked uphill, the path seemed never-ending but we finally made it to the hotel before the daily afternoon downpour. The very noisy group of Cantonese trekkers who we had been following, passing & following us all day, turned out to be staying at the same hotel, but although they were initially incredibly loud, when I 'shushed' them politely from the bedroom door & said we were trying to sleep, they realised & we never heard a single noise after that!
Bird Highlights: Spotted Laughing Thrush, Green-tailed Sunbird, Upland Pipit, Bar-tailed Siva, Yellow-billed Blue Magpie, Red Crossbill, Brown & GREAT PARROTBILLs & Crimson-breasted Woodpecker
Friday 27th April – DAY 5 – TADAPANI (2630M) – CHANDRUK (1940M)
I had been told that the area around Tadapani was where SATYR TRAGOPANS's had been seen a few years ago. We had not heard any males calling but when we asked a local wood cutter, she said yes, she regularly saw them - but only in the winter - down a path to the north of the village. We had nothing to lose so decided to spend a few hours checking out the habitat. We sent Norben off ahead with our luggage & Rick, Ram & I headed along this path. We could see how it was possible to see a tragopan easily because a lot of the undergrowth had been cut & the open areas made perfect viewing. We walked for an hour or so, finally reaching an almost collapsed hut where an ancient man peered out at us in total surprise, obviously he was not used to passers by. Heaven knows what he survived on & how he coped out there on his own.
We returned to Tadapani & then back onto the regular trekking path & had a very pleasant day together taking it fairly easy. The walking was not so steep today & we enjoyed the peace & tranquility - absolutely no noise, fresh air with a few birds to break up the tedium. It was still an awfully long way though & at about 3pm it started to rain so we were completely exhausted & soaking wet when we finally reached the edge of the village of Chandruk. Our hotel was just above the trekking path with excellent views of the mountains although more distant now. It was a small hotel with rooms along a veranda & a restaurant at one end. We were the only guests until an American couple arrived, very chatty, they were newly married & on their honeymoon.
Bird Highlights: Hodgson's Treecreeper, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, White-throated Laughing Thrush, Grey-winged Blackbird, Grey-bellied Tesia & Ultra-marine Flycatcher.
Saturday 28th – DAY 6 – CHANDRUK (1940M) – TOLKA (1700M)
Rick had again decided to join Ram & I today, so we sent Norben ahead with the luggage. We walked through Chandruk, which was quite a large village, then we started downhill on very steep stone steps. We could see the steps winding down & down to the river way below & we could also see the steps winding up the other side to Landruk, which was only just a little lower in altitude than where we were standing! A great pity that we couldn’t just fly across!! It took us several hours to get across to the other side & when we finally arrived, gasping for breath we could not believe we had actually done it, an excruciating day. We sat & ate lunch at a long table & then were joined by two very fit looking girls who told us they had trekked 400kms in 8 days!! This made us feel even more inadequate & very very old!
We started out again only to find that the village of Landruk was connected by a basic road to the main highway, which meant we had to walk along on the rutted track for the rest of the afternoon. To top that off it started to rain again. We trudged on & on. I shall mention here that a few days previously Rick & then I had come down with a cold, caught in Singapore. Rick had recovered pretty quickly but at this juncture I had developed bronchitis & also my asthma had become a bit of a problem, especially when trudging uphill gasping for breath - as one does!
When we finally reached our hotel at Tolka, the rain had set in in earnest & we were soaked through. We had supper in a grey restaurant looking out at grey fog & realised we had to make a decision. The road was there outside, we could organise a jeep to drive us out the next day. There was also a seperate shorter trekking path leading to the main Pokhara road but when we studied the map, we decided that enough was enough, the path lead over the hills through the mist & it was silly to risk my bronchitus getting worse. We therefore instructed Ram to see if he could get hold of transport out for the next day. There was a group of enthusiastic Japanese climbers our age staying in the hotel, getting ready to walk the Annapurna Circuit, but we had no heart to talk to them.
Bird highlights: Black-chinned Babbler, Barred Cuckoo Dove, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon, Kalij Pheasant, Small Niltava, Thick-billed Warbler, Black Eagle, Tickells Thrush & White-browed Shrike Babbler
Sunday 29th April – DAY 7 – TOLKA (1700M) TO POKHARA
When we emerged from our bedroom in the morning, we saw with relief that an ancient jeep was parked at the gate of the hotel. It was still raining. We breakfasted, packed up, climbed into the jeep & headed off. What we did not know was that the route out by road was three times as long as the path over the mountain. The track wound around each mountain, into valleys, through villages, the jeep bumping over great mounds & into huge holes & at one point stalling so the three men had to kick start it. However it was a trusty ancient jeep built to withstand such treatment & eventually we reached the main road several hours later. The driver then hurtled along the main road at great speed & we all made it back to Pokhara safe & sound.
Once Back in the Mandap hotel we were greeted like long lost family. The manager took Rick off on the back of his motorcycle to go & buy flight tickets for the next day as we were keen to get back to Kathmandu. We had seen all there was to see in pretty little Pokhara & had decided that we would prefer to spend the last few days of our holiday in the 'big smoke'. We paid our guide Ram & our sherpa Norben & said goodbye to them both, Ram was going back to Chitwan by bus early the next morning.
Monday 30th April - POKHARA – KATHMANDU
Our flight this time with Yeti airlines was an hour late setting off & was slightly hair-raising. The plane was ancient, quite small with only 22 passenger seats & no arm rests to keep you in place during turbulence, luckily it was a fairly calm flight & the Valium kept me relaxed! We arrived, grabbed a taxi & soon we were back at the Kathmandu Guesthouse. The manager was so glad to see us that he upgraded us to the suite & we spent the next three nights in splendour. The apartment was palacial, with a huge bedroom, a massive sitting room & study, an open section with an area for baggage, wardrobes, a kitchen for making coffee & a spacious wet room, plus our own private balcony overlooking the gardens of the hotel. Such a treat & at no extra cost!!
We spent the afternoon wandering the streets close to the hotel selecting a few presents for the family, stopping for tea & a cake & then later for a beer. We also walked over to the infamous Freak Street, now a sad run down area of cheap hotels where once hippies & hash merged in a haze of euphoria.
Tuesday 1st May – KATHMANDU
Today we decided to take a taxi over to the other famous hotel in Kathmandu, the Yak & Yeti Hotel. Some of the original sections, once a palace, are still open, but used for wedding & parties, so after wandering in the gardens we walked across & looked at all the fascinating framed photos of days gone by which were hanging on all walls. The Famous Russian restaurant was closed for renovation but still interesting to see the past connection to Russia. A Coppersmith Barbet was feeding chicks in a nesthole in the hotel garden.
Wednesday 2nd May – KATHMANDU
We had seen all we wanted to see in Kathmandu but had one day left so we decided we ought to take a taxi to the infamous Monkey Temple also known as SWAYAMBANATH. We set off early morning in the cool in a taxi ordered the night before, a journey of about 40 minutes. The taxi driver recommended we walk up the back stairs to the temple, which we did, getting mobbed by ghastly Rhesus Macaques most of the way. At one stage a monkey jumped on a poor tourist's head as she passed us, luckily she didnt panic on the steep stairs! This Buddhist Temple is in a bit of a sorry state, a chaotic jumble of temples, some semi-toppled by the earthquake, all surrounded with rubbish, rice offerings, dead flowers & monkey droppings. However, being on a hill it offers an amazing view of the city itself, seen through a haze of pollution of course. We didnt stay long, it was just too....ghastly.
In the afternoon we took another wander around the streets close to the hotel for last minute purchases & then back for last meal in the hotel gardens.
Thursday 3rd & 4th May – KATHMANDU – SINGAPORE AIRPORT – LONDON
We headed out to the airport quite early & took off at 13.05. Arrived in Singapore at 20.15, had a quick bowl of noodles in one of the airport restaurants, left again at 23.30 & landed at Heathrow early the next morning.
Rick & I concluded that the trip was a great success, an excellent combination of trekking, birding & sightseeing. We had also seen our two sons in Singapore en route. We had had an excellent time in Kathmandu & we had managed a seven day trek on one of the most scenic paths in Nepal. I had seen a total of 185 species of birds including three new species that I had never seen before (the ones in capital letters on my bird list attached). The total cost of the trip was just under £4000 for the two of us.
All in all, a GREAT SUCCESS.
Checklist of Birds Seen in Singapore
Mostly at the Sungei Buloh Reserve near Kranji
Javan Pond Heron
White-bellied Sea Eagle
Whimbrel – 100+
Pink-breasted Green Pigeon
Drongo Cuckoo - heard
Oriental Pied Hornbill
Coppersmith Barbet – Heard
Asian Glossy Starling
Pin-striped Tit Babbler
Checklist of Mammals etc seen in Singapore
Estuarine Crocodile – 3
Monitor Lizard – 10+
Lesser Short-nosed Bat
Checklist of Birds seen in Nepal
K = Kathmandu
PH = Pulchowki Hills near Kathmandu
RP = Ranibari Park in Kathmandu
P = Pokhara, including World Peace Pagoda - in the local hills
AT = Annapurna (Poon Hill) Trek
Hill Partridge – heard only – P, AT
Black Francolin – P
Kalij Pheasant – AT
Indian Peafowl – RP
Indian Pond Heron – P, AT
Eastern Cattle Egret – PH, RP, P
Intermediate Egret – P
Little Egret – K, PH, P
Common Kestrel – AT
Shahin Falcon (F. peregrinator) – P
Black-eared Kite – AT
Black Kite – K, PH, P
Lammergier – AT
Egyptian Vulture – P
White-rumped vulture - P
Himalayan Vulture – P, AT
Crested Serpent Eagle – PH, AT
Black Eagle – PH
Shikra – PH, AT
Besra – P
Steppe Eagle – P
Bonelli's Eagle – AT
Mountain Hawk Eagle – AT
White-breasted Waterhen – P
Oriental Turtle Dove – PH, AT
Spotted Dove – P
Barred Cuckoo Dove - AT
Yellow-footed Green Pigeon – AT
Wedge-tailed Green Pigeon - AT
Alexandrine Parakeet – PH
Rose-ringed Parakeet – PH, K
Slaty-headed Parakeet – AT
Asian Koel – K, PH, P, AT
Green-billed Malkoha - P
Large Hawk Cuckoo – PH, P, AT
Indian Hawk Cuckoo – AT
Eurasian Cuckoo – PH, K, AT
Himalayan Cuckoo – PH, AT
Lesser Cuckoo – AT
Drongo Cuckoo – PH,
Collared Scops Owl – AT
Collared Owlet – AT
Asian Barred Owlet - PH
Spotted Owlet – 2 nests with a total of 6 chicks - RP
Himalayan Swiftlet - AT
White-rumped Needletail (Spinetail) - AT
House Swift – K, P
Ashy Wood Swallow - AT
White-throated Kingfisher - , K, P
Common Kingfisher – P
Crested Kingfisher – AT
Golden-throated Barbet - PH
Blue-throated Barbet – PH, K, P, AT
Coppersmith Barbet – K
Great Barbet – PH, P, AT
Crimson-breasted Woodpecker – AT
Lesser Yellownape – PH, P
Grey-headed Woodpecker – PH, AT
Himalayan Goldenback – AT
Bay Woodpecker – PH
Large Cuckooshrike – AT
Black-winged Cuckooshrike – AT
Long-tailed Minivet – AT
Long-tailed Shrike – P, AT
Grey-backed Shrike – AT
Ashy Drongo - RP
Bronzed Drongo – PH
Lesser Racquet-tailed Drongo - PF
Spangled (Hair-crested) Drongo – PH, P, AT
Common Iora – P
White-throated Fantail – K, AT
Yellow-billed Blue Magpie – AT
Red-billed Blue Magpie – PH, P, AT
Common Green Magpie – AT
Grey Treepie – PH, P, AT
House Crow – common everywhere
Large-billed Crow – common everywhere
Yellow-browed Tit – AT
Cinereous Tit – K, P, AT
Green-backed Tit – PH, AT
Coal Tit – (SS. Aemodius) – AT
Black-lored Tit – PH, AT
Red-crowned Tit (A. concinnus) – PH, AT
Barn Swallow – PH, RP, P
Red-rumped Swallow – P
Asian House Martin – RP, P
Nepal House Martin – 1000+ nesting on cliff – AT
STRIATED PRINIA – P, AT
Grey-breasted Prinia – P
Striated Bulbul – PH
Himalayan Bulbul – P, AT
Red-vented Bulbul – K, PH, P, AT
Mountain Bulbul – AT
Black Bulbul – AT
Grey-bellied Tesia – PH, AT
Common Tailorbird – K, PH, RP, AT
Thick-billed Warbler – AT
Chestnut-crowned Bush Warbler - AT
Blyth's Reed Warbler – PH, P
Tickell's Leaf Warbler – AT
Ashy-throated Warbler – AT
Lemon-rumped Warbler – AT
Green Warbler (Ph. Trochiloides nitidis) – PH, RP, AT
Southern Blyth's Warbler – AT
Green-crowned Warbler – AT
Whistler's Warbler – AT
Chestnut-crowned Warbler – PH, AT
Grey-hooded Warbler – AT
Black-faced Warbler – AT
Oriental White-eye – RP, P, AT
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler – PH, AT
Scaly-breasted Scimitar Babbler – AT
NEPAL WREN BABBLER – (Heard only) AT
Pygmy Wren Babbler – PH, AT
Black-chinned Babbler – AT
Grey-throated Babbler – PH
Puff-throated Babbler – P
SPINY BABBLER – P
White-throated Laughing Thrush – PH, AT
White-crested Laughing Thrush – PH, RP, AT
Striated Laughing Thrush – PH, AT
Spotted Laughing Thrush - AT
Streaked Laughing Thrush – AT
Chestnut-crowned Laughing Thrush – AT
Red-billed Leothrix – AT
Himalayan Shrike Babbler – AT
Rufous-winged Fulvetta – AT
White-browed Fulvetta – AT
Nepal Fulvetta - PH
Bar-throated Minla (Siva) – AT
Rufous Sibia – AT
Whiskered Yuhina – AT
Stripe-throated Yuhina – AT
Rufous-vented Yuhina – AT
GREAT PARROTBILL – AT
Brown Parrotbill - AT
Chestnut-bellied Nuthatch – RP
White-tailed Nuthatch – AT
Velvet-fronted Nuthatch – PH
Hodgsons Treecreeper – AT
Jungle Myna – P, AT
Common Myna – K, PH, P, AT
Blue Whistling Thrush – PH, P, AT
Tickell's Thrush - AT
Grey-winged Blackbird – AT
Indian Blue Robin – AT
Oriental Magpie Robin – K, PH, RP, P
Blue-fronted Redstart – AT
Plumbeous Water Redstart – AT
White-capped Redstart – AT
Little Forktail – AT
Spotted Forktail – AT
Grey Bushchat – AT
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush – AT
Blue-capped Rock Thrush – P, AT
Dark-sided Flycatcher – PH
Rusty-tailed Flycatcher - AT
Rufous-gorgetted Flycatcher – AT
Little Pied Flycatcher - AT
Ultramarine Flycatcher – AT
Slaty Blue Flycatcher – RP, AT
Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher – PH, RP, P, AT
Verditer Flycatcher – RP, AT
Pale Blue Flycatcher – AT
Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher – AT
Pygmy Blue Flycatcher – AT
Rufous-bellied Niltava - PH
Large Niltava - PH
Small Niltava – PH, AT
Brown Dipper – AT
Orange-bellied Leafbird – AT
Green-tailed Sunbird - AT
Black-throated Sunbird – AT
Crimson Sunbird – P
White-rumped Munia – P, AT
Grey Wagtail – AT
White-browed Wagtail – P
Upland Pipit - AT
House Sparrow – K, PH, RP, P, AT
Russet Sparrow – AT
Eurasian Tree Sparrow – PH, RP, P, AT
Yellow-breasted Greenfinch – AT
Common Rosefinch – AT
Crested Bunting – AT