I come from an ad agency background, and a couple of years back, we learnt that majority of the people spend their time on YouTube watching funny cat videos. It was an amazing insight. A lot of brands then started featuring animals in their ads just to appeal to their audience. We love watching animals being goofy, and catching them doing weird things in their natural habitat is even more special. And there are very few treks where you actually catch a glimpse of wild animals.
During our Vasuki Tal trek, we ate wild berries found on the trail and came across a few locals who have made the Grahwal mountains their home. Let’s see if you can spot them too.
1. The furry little Himalayan weasels:
These curious little creatures have a long body and short legs, which allow them to be extremely agile. This little one kept hopping in and out of the bushes to catch a glimpse of us. They primarily feed on Pikas, ground squirrels, small birds, lizards, insects and so on. Sadly, due to certain factors like reduction of their prey in the mountains, their existence has significantly declined in the past few years and they are in need of conservation.
2. The acrobats in the air - Alpine Choughs:
Crows generally are trusting, charming (in some ways) and intelligent birds. On Vasuki Tal trek, they would hover over us every time we had lunch or snacks outside, and sometimes would even come and grab food out of our hands if we offered it to them. However, did you know that they can remember faces and can hold a grudge against someone for a long time? So, just a heads up, try not upsetting a crow.
There are two kinds of alpine choughs – the red-billed and the yellow-billed ones and they are generally found up in the mountains or high-altitude coastal cliff areas. Legends claim that choughs are the spirits of mountaineers. This is kinda cool as, in symbolism, birds generally stand for spiritualization.
They are charming fliers, often playing in the air, suddenly tumbling and twisting or folding its wings, zooming downwards and catching themselves at the last second. They soar effortlessly up in air, while we struggle to breath at high altitudes.
3. The beautiful blue sheep (Bharal):
Bharal have become quite a common sight on several treks, however, that does not diminish the beauty of these delicate creatures. The most notable feature of mountain goats is their ability to camouflage up in the mountains, given their light brown colour, it sometimes is almost impossible to trace their movements on rocky mountains. That’s also how they survive and protect themselves from their preys. They are usually found in big herds, however, on Tapovan, we just saw 6-8 of them grazing the ground. The most beautiful thing about them is when you see a mama bharal teaching/protecting it’s little one, or helping him/her cross a stream. They come across as very maternal animals.
4. The entertaining wagtails:
Wagtails are quite a common site on Himalayan treks. They get their names because they are always seen wagging their long tail up and down. They migrate when it gets unbearably cold, sometimes moving from one continent to the other to find warmth. They are quite common in Europe and Africa too, apart from the Himalayas. What’s unusual about them is they sometimes nest in the most weirdest places like hollow trees, log piles, abandoned machinery, cars, greenhouses and in one particular case, the barrel of an 1894 battle cruiser gun. Their love for holes to make their nests sorta gets them into trouble. Silly birds.
5. The magical Rosehip berries:
Rosehip is a fruit that is super good for you. Now, just for safety sake, avoid eating any kinda wild berries on treks. You may never know which ones are poisonous and which are not. But find them wherever you live, and try to make them part of your diet.
Rosehip recipes are quite popular in Scandinavia; you can make rosehip soup, wine, tea, jam, syrups and jelly and so on. This fruit can save you in a million ways, it has incredible health benefits, for example, rosehip prevents cancer and chronic diseases, lowers cholesterol, increases blood circulation, prevents arthritis and can even help treat diabetes. Dig deeper and you’ll realize how much this fruit can benefit you and your family.
So, if I were to summarize what we saw, I'd say we met some curious weasels, fed crows who have so much swag, watched the elegant blue sheep, smiled at the flirty nature of wagtail bird and ate yummy berries.
All I would like to say is treat wildlife with kindness, care and most importantly, let them be.
I hope you get a chance to see wild animals just going about their business in the wilderness. It's the little things that are sometimes magical.