It was a season of beautiful blossoms, with the adversity of winter gone and the monsoon much awaited. The trails were clear without bushes and the woods were dry. The seasonal spring waters has not yet swelled and the journey through the varied vegetation of Junipers, Fir, Rgododendron and of course the subtropical broadleved forests was a soothing adventure. It was arduous trek worth a trek. That was back in the month of May when I was leading a team of Foresters to set camera traps to study the wildlife diversity in Western Region of Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park, starting the journey from Phobjikha to Taksha.
|Captures from Earlier Trek (May).|
So after two months of remote camera trapping, in mid August, I was to again take the same route; this time, to monitor and retrieve the cameras. August and September were forecasted to have the maximum downpour by the local meteorologist but for the Foresters, there is no waiting.
|Furthest End of Phobjikha valley in the Morning.|
The Phobjikha valley looks swampy. The paths were muddy and in the fields, people were busy harvesting the potatoes. Our journey started from the Juniper vale at the far end of Gantey-Phobji stretch, but in the juniper valley was fog and rain. It would take us at least three days to reach the other settlement and the weather was not favouring.
|The Highest Pass where Fir Adorns.|
Early in the morning, when we readied for the journey, the weather was gloomy. We feared it would rain but as we walked on, clouds gave way to the rays of sunshine. After two hours of straight walk, we were to make a steep ascend which took us four hours. With the sun blazing, with no water by the trail, with heavy baggage, we sweated a lot and by the time we reached the peak, we were exhausted with zero calories. Out of thirst, we had no option but to drink from stagnant water on the main trail. I bought a bottle of Black Mountain for my porter, so the mixture of alcohol and stagnant water gave a better taste to quench our thirst.
|To Quench the Thirst.|
But the weather played a confusing role. No sooner did we drink from the stagnant water than there was a heavy downpour. This indeed provided us with fresh water to drink. The rhododendron leaves collects ample quantity of water making a clear flow of it downwards.
|A better Option.|
|Our Purpose of Endurance.|
Yet saddened I was. We had to still walk for three hours, to reach the campsite which we halted earlier. While we were descending the rain hit harder. The trails has turned into gorges, and through the gorges flowed huge muddy water. The streams that were so minute during our earlier trek have now turned into big rivers and we had to crisscross it several times. We were drenched head to toe. Luckily the elevation was quite high for the leeches to survive.
|Our lone porter Jigme Struggling to Cross the Swelled Stream.|
Reaching the spot where we were to camp, the spot was infested with bushes and the ground was swampy. “We have to halt here by any means.” I said. “Our camera station follows that river (earlier it was a mere stream) upward at a crow flight distance of 3 km (which we will retrieve the next day).” I then initiated the camping, while our young forester prepared fire. There was no dry wood. Everything was wet. The water was muddy, but then we had to halt there. The drying of bamboo was at our rescue. Nothing burnt but the wet dry-bamboos did, to make a campfire, to dry our cloths, and to prepare a delicious dinner after an tedious, enduring 9 hour trek without a lunch, and the days went on, wit shoes wet, blisters on the leg, with leech and insect bites, until we finished our tasks in next seven days.
Cameras lost its positions; Tigers are on the other side; Pains were endured but the result was not a good one and I for the first time in the wild, lost my Positive Energy.