Here’s a link to the blog for the place we’re staying. It’s got more posts about what we’re doing, some of them written by us. http://www.insamagra.blogspot.in/
A quick (and possibly final) update – we made it back to Toronto today, tired but all in one piece. We had a whirlwind tour of Agra and a bit of Delhi too, and then headed on a (very) long trip out of India.
We are leaving Samagra and Dehra Dun today.
Since getting back from SIDH on the 28th we’ve spoken with a few doctors about healthcare in India, worked (ok, more played) a bit more with the kids at Samagra, and presented on our experience. We haven’t been particularly busy since our return from SIDH.
We’ll have a few more adventures in India in Delhi and Agra (especially visiting the Taj Mahal) but no promises that we’ll have access to the internet to update on those. Then we’ll be back in Canada.
Dr. Pratap Singh came to meet us at SIDH for our last fay or two for some more birding. We were out birding with him every morning and evening once he got there on the 27th (the birds are most active around dawn and dusk).
For all that the Western Himalayas are not particularly rich in terms of birds, we still saw more than we are used to. Furthermore, none of these birds are familiar to us. There are a number of colourful ones too, which are fun to watch. The Plum-headed Parakeet and Chestnut-headed Beeeater had the most vivid colours and the added advantage of being relatively easy to find.
This list of birds includes both those that w saw and a couple that Pratap identified by sound.
- Black Francolin
- Kalij Peasant
- Black Kite
- Himalayan Vulture
- Rock Dove
- Oriental Turtle Dove
- Spotted Dove
- Eurasian Collared Dove (Ring Dove)
- Plum-headed Parakeet
- Slaty-headed Parakeet (Himalayan Parakeet)
- Large-hawk Cuckoo
- Mountain Scops Owl
- Grey Nightjar
- Little Swift
- Chestnut-headed Beeeater
- Great Barbet
- Brown-fronted Woodpecker
- Ashy Drongo
- Asian Paradise Flycatcher
- Grey Treepie
- Great Tit
- Himalayan Bulbul
- Black Bulbul
- Red-vented Bulbul
- Greyheaded Warbler
- Grey-breasted Prinia
- Striated Prinia
- Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler
- Jungle Babller
- Black-Chinned Babbler
- Streaked Laughingthrush
- Chestnut-tailed Starling
- Blue Whistling Thrush
- Siberian Stonechit
- Pied Bush Chat
- Verditer Flycatcher (a gorgeous blue bird)
- Purple Sunbird (another one of the really striking birds)
- Russet Sparow
- Upland Pipit
- Crested Bunting
- Oriental White-eye
- White Throated Fantail
- Hill Barbet
Overall we encountered 42 species of birds. Only a few of which we would actually be able to recognise on our own now.
- Visiting a rural family near SIDH, in the Himalayas
- Walking with the SIDH children in the Himalayas
- View from SIDH
- Visit with Pawan and Anuradha, founders of SIDH, at their home in Mussoorie
- Sunset over SIDH
- After our little English test at Samagra
- Playing with goo (cornstarch and water) with the Samagra and children
Today we went to Kempty Falls, a local tourist hotspot. The falls are only about 4km down the road from SIDH, hence we walked over.
Even before we got to the falls, we could see lots of cars crowded around the falls and people on the bridges over the falls. Once we got to the main, paved road from Mussoorie there was lots of traffic. The falls are certainly a busy tourist attraction, as evidenced both by the crowd of visitors and the large number of shops in what would otherwise be the middle of the mountains.
Walking to the falls was certainly hot but walking along a road, rather than the steep mountain trails of our previous hike, was much less sweaty. Furthermore, once we arrived at the falls, we hiked up from the road to play in the refreshing cold water.
On our walk back from the falls, we found some goats. Tikaram called them over, but without salt we couldn’t sustain their attention.
SIDH employs a few people who live on the property with their families, including their children. The children found us interesting but were too shy to talk to us. Nancy got the children to come talk to her the evening we got there and they promptly started telling her the name of all the plants around SIDH (there are a lot of fruit trees, ranging from pomegranate to banana to fig). Once Nancy introduced the kids to us they took us on a short hike to the Shiva Temple down the road. On the way they pointed out all the different fruit trees and stopped to eat a few berries.
At the temple, one of the monks knew enough English to show us around. He also knew that Christina was studying life sciences and that Sarah was studying arts and science. He gave us all a candy of pure sugar, which the children certainly enjoyed.
The kids invited us to a dance party on the roof (it’s really a balcony) of one of the buildings after dinner but we were all too tired to take them up on it.
The next day – May 23rd – Jae, Sarah, and I played with the kids after climbing a mountain. They already knew Rock, Paper, Scissors (although the call it Stone, Paper, Scissors). We tried teaching them a few other games such as 007, Sticks, and Ninja with only minimal success. Asking them to teach us a game resulted in us playing tag. Once they exhausted us with their boundless energy our games disintegrated into tickling and me playing at being a monster.
On our last full day, the kids had a photo shoot with Sarah and Jae. The kids started by imitating Sarah and Jae’s every move at dinner and cumulated in the kids taking incredibly awkward photos of Jae and Sarah while Jae and Sarah took incredibly adorable photos of the kids.
Our last morning they gave us an absolutely adorable card before we left.
We are back from SIDH now. We’ll try to fill in many of the missing days to give you a flavour of our stay at SIDH (Society for the Integrated Development of the Himalayas).
On our way back this morning we stopped to spend a few hours in Mussoorie, the closest city to where we were staying (about 40 min away by car). Mussoorie was built as a resort town by the British and is still a tourist town.
As such, the town is well supplied by shops, many of them largely touristy. Our favourite was the wool store that Pratap took us to. Tikaram and Pratap took advantage of our proximity to excellent apricots and purchased 1.5 and 1 kg respectively.
While we mostly visited a few stores along the main drag, the beauty of the place was impossible to miss. Along our walk we had a beautiful view of the planes (including Dehra Dun) below us.
As we have yet to write full blog posts for all our days at SIDH, here are a few quick synopses of our days away from the internet:
May 22nd: We are in the Himalayas. Sarah peed on toilet lizard.
May 23rd: We climbed a Himalayan mountain today. And played tag with adorable children (if I said kids there might be ambiguity…).
May 24th: We played in a stream in the Himalayas and started learning the capitals of all the states in India.
May 25th: We talked about American Foreign Policy with a monk at 6:30 in the morning. We slept outside under the stars.
May 26th: We climbed a Himalayan mountain again.
May 27th: We finally fed some goats. It rained.
May 28th: We saw (and heard) birds.