Thursday, January 28, 2021

THE FANTASTICAL KINGDOM OF LO | Guest Post by Persis Anklesaria

 


 

Persis Anklesaria, is a veteran South Col trekker, keen photographer and gifted writer. In this post she recounts her journey to the once forbidden kingdom of Mustang  - a fascinating part of the Himalayan rain shadow.




Wedged between the Himalayas and shuttered Tibet, lies an ancient Buddhist kingdom within the borders of Hindu Nepal. 

 

The kingdom of Lo.

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 In the year 1380, the warrior chieftain Ame Pal, gained control of the trade routes between India and Tibet, established a kingdom and built Lo Manthang --- a grand walled capital of palaces, monasteries and gompas.

 

Nothing much has changed since then.  Sheltered behind 26,000 ft. high peaks, the Lobas continue to live a centuries old existence, farming, raising livestock and preserving their ancient faith. Today, this domain of approximately 13 settlements is the last bastion of pure Tibetan culture, its monasteries the finest example of Buddhist art, and Ame Pal’s capital the best-preserved medieval fortification in the world.

 

Till the 1950’s the only route into Mustang was on horseback via treacherous passes. Now, a Chinese road extends from Lhasa to Kathmandu, daily flights bring in a gaggle of tourists.  Before a way of life disappears forever, eight Southcol Expedition trekkers including me, embark on a 7-day, 64km climb from Jomsom airstrip (9000 ft.), northwards to Lo Manthang (12,400ft.).  

 

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As the Tara Air, 16-seater lifts off, Pokhara’s lake and green fields slip away, melting into puffy clouds.   Within minutes the skies darken as we tunnel between the world’s two greatest mountain ranges at wingtip distance. The Annapurna Peak metamorphoses into her fabled fish tail, while across the aisle, the east face of Dhaulagiri, 26,000ft of dazzling beauty floats past the windows. Below us the light-speckled Kali Gandaki River, its plunging gorges, valleys and tributaries, bisect the terrain.  Half-an-hour later we are in Jomsom, a brown, barren, rocky desert.

 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Kanha National Park | Safari Permits and Charges

 


Kanha National Park Safaris

The updated safari charges and other rules for 2021 as on date (January 11th 2021) are given below:

Safari Permit bookings

All safaris except full day safaris can be booked on the official site  https://forest.mponline.gov.in/     . One has to register on tis site & after going to wild life section you need to fill details like name, age, gender, nationality, photo id proof numbers. For Indian nationals Aadhar card, passport, driving license, voter id etc are valid. For Non-Indians passport details & country is mandatory. Permits to enter the park must be booked on line prior to the date of visit. These permits get exhausted quickly so they should be booked well in advance. We had booked one month ahead. The cost of the permit of the full Gypsy (maximum six persons plus driver plus guide) is Rs 1550/-. 

Zones 

There are four core area zones in Kanha – Kanha, Kisli, Mukki and Sarhi.  There are also four buffer zones Khatia, Khapa, Sijora & Phen. There are two entry gates for all these zones Khatia and Mukki. The core areas are in great demand as sightings are usually better in the core area though tigers have been regularly seen in the buffer areas.  The vehicles permitted in each zone are given in the screenshot below.


Cost of Jeeps
The cost of hiring a jeep (gypsy) and driver at the park gates is Rs 2500/- per safari and usually from the hotels/lodges depending on the distance from the gate is around Rs 3000/- per safari. A maximum of six guests are allowed in each  jeep plus guide and driver.



Guide Fees
The forest department provides a guide with each jeep – cost of the guide is Rs 600 per safari. 

Single seat safari bookings
It is also possible to book single seat safaris on line – the cost for this is Rs 260 per person excluding jeep cost and guide. 

Khatia Night Safari at Kanha
Night Safari is organised at Khatia Zone in the buffer. The ride is in an open jeep from 7 pm to 10pm – only three vehicles are allowed and booking is on first come first serve basis one day before the safari. The cost of the full vehicle, permit, guide is presently around Rs 5000/- per night safari for six guests.

Full Day Safari
There is a provision for booking a full day safari at Kanha covering all the zones without restriction – this is often used by photographers and naturalists – there are six permitted in a jeep along with guide and driver. Charges are not quoted on the MP Tourism web site but can be are very high. Permission needs to be taken from the Field Director for the full day safaris.

For photographs from Kanha please do visit -

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Sikkim | Phoktey Dara Trek November 2020 with South Col Expeditions

Kangchenjunga range from Rinchinpong/Kaluk West Sikkim 

 The Chiwabhanjan  Phoktey Dara Trek October 30th to November 8th 2020

October 30th 2020


After more than ten months since our last trek in December 2019, a South Col Expeditions team took a leap of faith and with proper protection and sanitization against covid 19 decided to do a small trek route in West Sikkim. The route popularly known as Phoktey Dara offers a dress circle view of Kangchenjunga and three other 8000 metre peaks Everest, Lhotse and Makalu. The route straddles the border of India and Nepal. After navigating the airports of Calcutta and Bagdogra with double masks, shields and sanitisers, we started around 1.40 pm in the afternoon from Bagdogra airport. The city traffic was heavy and we got to Sevoke and the Coronation bridge in about an hour. 


 Soon the Teesta was next to us but the Teesta dam project had changed the entire complexion of the river. It was now a silent reservoir, eerie and still. Nothing moved nothing stirred. There were no rapids no noise of the river rushing down from the high glaciers making its way to the plains of Bengal. The environmental degradation due to the Teesta project will definitely have a lost lasting impact on this region and unfortunately we could not prevent it. Soon after Rambi Bazar we entered the landslide zone and the road was ravaged after the monsoon. Going was slow and traffic also heavy. Finally around 3.50 pm we entered Teesta Bazar and crossed the bridge and headed to Melli passing the Kalimpong turn off. We crossed the Melli bridge in ten minutes and showed our Sikkim Tourist registration cards at the check post. There was no other covid related checking like temperature or any other self declaration. Sikkim does not require any covid negative certificate at present. The road from Melli to Jorethang which used to be a beautiful drive along the Rangeet has also been badly damaged by landslides- it took us an hour to reach Jorethang around 5.10 pm and we decided to stop by the Legship bridge for a quick meal for of delicious momos and soup.  We left Joretang at 5.30 pm in the dark and headed up to Reshi - on our right higher up we could see the lights of Namchi. Sikkim has a very strong electrification programme and I believe almost all villages big or small have now been given electricity. Around 7 pm we finally entered Rinchinpong and were greeted by an incredible sight - it was full moon night Lakshmi Purnima and the moon was shining bright and clear on the Kangchenjunga range from our lodge room - the Ghonday Resort. In front were the twin towns of Gayzing and Pelling brightly illuminated with flickering lights and the headlamps of the passing jeeps. It was an amazing view and the clarity after the monsoon was also incredible.

Bagdogra to Melli 2 hours 25 min; Melli to Jorethang 1 hour; Jorethang to Rinchinpong/ Kaluk 1 hour 30 min.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Nepal Trekking | Open and Closed regions Autumn 2020

 


Important information for all those who plan to trek in Nepal this autumn - please see below what is open and closed.

Please note that this information is collected from October 5th to 10th 2020 and can change at any time. Nepal rules can also change - there is a proposal as on date to allow tourists only from mid November 2020 and not October 17th 2020 - it is yet to be confirmed by the Government.

Other rules like PCR negative test 24 hours before any other restrictions like rapid antigen test on arrival is to be followed.

1. Tsho Rolpa -> No trekking and outsiders are allowed

contact -> Naa view point hotel 9843813119 / 9840531500

2. Everest Region -> Allowed, required PCR Negative result report required of no longer than 72 hours

3. Manang / Tilicho -> not allowed

Contact -> Hotel Yak and Resturant (Manang)9841461082, Khangsarkang hotel 9843172015

4. Gosaikunda -> Allowed

Contact -> Deurali Hotel 9849434107, Hotel yak n nak In chandanbari : 9741203099

5. Mustang -> Not Allowed

Majestic mustang "hotel north pole" 981-3727397

6. Timbung Pokhari Trek-> Allowed

facebook page "Timbung Pokhari -Trek Divine" for more informatio

7. Sikles Trek-> Trekking and outsiders are not Allowed

Contact -> Namaste Guest House

8. Annapurna Base Camp Trek -> Not Allowed

Contact -> Real Chhomrong: 9846359659

9. Mardi Himal Trek -> Allowed

Contact -> Hotel Fishtail And Restaurant (High Camp) 9856014765, Hotel Green View And Restaurant 98065369

10. Dolpo Phoksundo Trek -> Trekking is Allowed with PCR Negative Report, documents from ward office and permit from NP

Contact -> Tashi Homestay, 9848304204 Tashi Lama, Ringmo

11. Mundhum Trail Trek -> Allowed

12. Panchpokhari Trek -> Allowed

Contact -> Resham Tamang 9741337147 Ngima chhiring Tamang 9843497149

13. Poonhill Trek -> Not Allowed

Contact -> Hotel Old Village Inn 9856047031, Kamala Lodge and Restaurant – 977-9846646349

14. Helambu, Ama Yangri -> Not Allowed from Tarkhegyang side

15. Langtang -> Allowed, required pcr report

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Green Lakes Trek Zemu Valley | Sikkim

Photo from the Zemu Valley with the peaks courtesy www.himalayan-info.org



The north east  base camp of Kangchenjunga in the Zemu Valley has been "out of bounds" due a rigid permit system imposed by the Government of India and Sikkim. However, if you can manage the hassles associated with getting the permits then it is one of the most rewarding walks in the Himalaya. South Col  has trekked this route twice the last time in October 2014. The details of the route are below:

October 27th 2014 Gangtok to Lachen 2750 metres 6-7 hours
We left Gangtok on a sunny autumn morning with Kangchenjunga floating in the clouds. The road followed the North Sikkim highway and we followed the valley of the Teesta river all the way to Chungthang where the permits were checked. Travelling along this road I thought of the early pioneers like Paul Bauer, Douglas Freshfield, and Vittorio Sella who has walked along Teesta valley on their way to Lachen. We stayed the night at the very luxurious and comfortable Apple Orchard Hotel.


October 28th 2014 - Drive Lachen to Zema and then trek Zema to Tallem 3250 metres  4½ hrs.
 The morning was cold and cloudy and the group had breakfast at Apple Orchard at 8 AM and left by 9.30 AM.  There was a problem with one of our vehicles so we walked part of the way until Zema.  There was another problem at Zema about the weight of porter loads but this was also sorted out. We left Zema at 10.30 AM after receiving Khadas for our full group.   The trail went down from Zema to the river and there were a lot of landslides to be crossed on the trail in the first two hours – the upper trail has been damaged by landslides and the current lower trail follows the Zemu Chu river. In many sections there is no trail and the path requires clambering from boulder to boulder using both hands. There is a steep section like a chimney which needs to be climbed up with cascading water spraying the trekker from a nearby waterfall.  We stopped for lunch around 1.20 PM in a clearing near the river. There is a proper trail after lunch which climbs above the Zemu Chu through some very pleasant forest of ferns and rhododendrons. Just before the camp site of Tallem, the trail passes through a large meadow which at this season had plenty of dried flowers. It would have been a spectacular site in summer. Tallem was reached around 3 PM – the walk took 4½ hours with a half hour lunch stop. The weather remained cloudy in the evening with low mist covering the tree tops.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Covid 19 | Trekking Update from South Col Expeditions






COVID 19 | AN UPDATE FROM SUJOY DAS, FOUNDER, SOUTH COL EXPEDITIONS

 As some of you would have seen from our whats app messenger posts, we have cancelled our summer treks in Ladakh for the period July to September 2020.  We are very sorry to lose the summer season in Ladakh with some of the best short camping treks in the Himalaya, some of which have been pioneered by South Col. However, Ladakh is under fourteen days quarantine for new arrivals at present and Delhi, the jumping off point for Ladakh is a major covid 19 hotspot in India, so it would be advisable not to trek this summer in Ladakh. Further, international insurance companies are not providing insurance for visits and treks to India, Nepal and Bhutan so far and this rules out a lot of our international clients.

We are still open to conducting treks in the November – December season 2020, if possible, but as days go by and with rising covid 19 numbers both in India and to a lesser extent in Nepal, it does seem to be a long shot at present.  Nepal flights are still not open and like India they are following fourteen days quarantine for any of their passengers arriving on repatriation flights. We will be constantly reviewing the situation and advising you as we get updated information.

Following this cancellation of our Ladakh summer treks, I would like to thank everyone for their support and kind words. As an adventure trek and photography tour operator focusing on Himalayan countries we are probably more used to the risks of losing seasons than most other regular travel operators. In the past, we have also dealt with cyclones during Autumn 2013 & 2014 seasons in Nepal and Bhutan. After the 2015 earthquake in Nepal we had to cancel our entire Spring season and though we were back in autumn in a limited way, it took some time to rebuild the numbers of trekkers again.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Everest | Reflections on the Solukhumbu



We are happy to share some good news at the time of the global pandemic - our book Everest Reflections on the Solukhumbu published by Bidur Dangol of Vajra Books was shortlisted amongst four books at the New Zealand Mountain Film and Book Festival for the Mountain Heritage Award. . We congratulate the winner The Great Unkown by Geoff Spearpoint and are happy that we were able to take part in the festival. The press release is below:

Mountain Books
Seven books have been shortlisted for the 4th annual Mountain Book Competition. Con-tenders for the Mountain Heritage Award include: Leading the Way, a historical account of 100 years of the Tararua Tramping Club, by Shaun Barnett and Chris Maclean, Exploring the Transantarctic Mountains by dog sledge, 1960-62 by Peter Otway, The Great Un-known, a chronicle of select trans-alpine journeys by Geoff Spearpoint, and Everest – Reflections on the Solkhumbu, with photography by Sujoy Das, and text by New Zealand’s Honorary Consul to Nepal, Lisa Choegyal.

For the Mountain Narratives Award Living the best day ever, celebrates the life of Hendri Coetzee, whose African whitewater adventures ended with a fatal encounter with a Salt-water Crocodile. Bewildered explores Laura Waters’ life changing catharsis of leaving toxic relationships and lifestyles for a long walk on Te Araroa. And In Fearless Chloe Phillips-Harris gives us a glimpse into the Mongol Derby; a 1000-kilometre endurance race across the wild steppes, desert and mountains of Mongolia – a competition with no marked course, no support team, that requires riders to switch horses every 40 km.

Competition is fierce for the NZ Mountain Book of the Year. This $1000 award was found-ed and is supported by Dave Bamford and John Nankervis. The award is only for a book of the very highest quality, and the judges say there are several books at that level.

For more details on our book do visit  https://www.amazon.in/Everest-Reflections-Solukhumbu-Choegyal-Sujoy/dp/9937928893/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=everest+sujoy+das&qid=1594447493&sr=8-1


Monday, June 8, 2020

Everest | 8th June 1924 - Mallory and Irvine

A historic image of Rongbuk monastery by Capt John Noel  with Everest in the background
On 8th June 1924, two men left  Camp VI (26,700 feet)  to make an attempt on the summit of Everest. 

Camp VI  was the highest camp of the British 1924 Everest expedition.

On the same morning, another British climber, Noel Odell, was making his way up from Camp IV to Camp VI. Odell was a geologist and he was collecting fossils from the slopes of Mount Everest. Odell recalls that it was not the perfect morning to climb Everest. " Rolling banks of mist" were sweeping  across the mountain and covering the north face. Neither the face nor the summit ridge could be seen by Odell. There was also a sharp wind which was making climbing very difficult.

Suddenly at 12.50 pm the mist cleared and Odell spotted high above on the ridge, a black dot climbing a rock step, which Odell at that point identified as the Second Step. Soon after Odell saw another black dot following the first black dot. But before Odell could be sure that the second black dot had joined the first,  the mist rolled in and blanketed the mountain and this fantastic vision was lost forever.

The two dots that Odell saw were George Mallory and Andrew Irvine "going strongly for the summit of Everest". 

Mallory and Irvine were never seen again.


George Mallory's body was found on Everest by the American mountaineer Conrad Anker in 1999 seventy five years after he vanished on the slopes of Everest. Andrew Irvine has not yet been found.

But even today, ninety six years after the disappearance of Mallory and Irvine, the legend of Mallory is still alive. Books are being written about Mallory, expeditions are being planned to find Andrew Irvine and his camera because Everest experts believe that the camera will unlock the secret of Mallory's last climb.

In this post we take a look at some photographs and other memorabilia from the Everest expeditions of 1921, 1922 and 1924.

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