The '30 years ago' section of this blog will be a personal account of a six-month birding trip, almost entirely based on diary entries made and scans of slides taken at the time. Initially the photos included were rather poor digital images of slides taken at the time and projected onto a white sheet of A4 paper, although they came out a bit too orangey. My father gave me a scanner which is much truer to the originals and by the time the 30 years ago blog is complete all photos should have been scanned.
Background to the trip. After spending pretty much as long as possible at University and not greatly enjoying a couple of jobs in between I decided that I needed a 'gap half year' before hopefully settling down. It was the end of 1981 and I was 27. Colin Winyard and Dave Mills were similarly minded and we decided to spend up to six months birding in SE Asia and Nepal. We left the UK in January 1982.
We flew to Kuala Lumpur and spent 5 weeks in Peninsular Malaysia, concentrating on Cameron Highlands and Taman Negara. We met Steve Gantlett in Malaysia by chance and shared his company at Taman Negara. The four of us travelled to Bangkok overland and hired a car for two weeks to visit various sites in the north of Thailand. Colin, Dave & I then flew to Kathmandu leaving Steve to continue on to the Philippines. We spent three months in Nepal, with Nick Preston coming out to join us at the end of the first month. In Nepal we occasionally met up with other British birders we knew including Jon Eames, Dave Farrow, Richard Grimmett, Tim & Carol Inskipp, Rod Martins, Mike Parr, Craig Robson & James Wolstencroft. The number of British birders in Nepal at this time, and the opportunity to compare notes, made it feel a rather special occasion to us.
The first month in Nepal was spent on the Jomson trek and then, with Nick having arrived, we went to Kosi Barrage. I became ill and left the others in E Nepal. After a couple of days back in Kathmandu I flew to Lukla and did the Everest trek on my own. We met up in Kathmandu a month later and I made a fleeting visit to Chitwan, the others having spent a few days there on their way back from the Ilam area. We then did the Langtang/Helambu trek although Colin decided to join Richard and some of the others who were doing it more ambitiously than we intended. Dave, Nick & I had planned a more restricted route (Langtang only) but meeting Colin and the others coming down off Helambu after a very successful time up there we decided to go too and so ended up covering the same ground anyway.
Dave, Nick and I travelled overland to Delhi and then on to Himachel Pradesh, spending a few days around Simla and Manali. In Manali we met up with Craig, James, Jon, Richard & Rod (Colin had returned home). Dave, Nick and I continued on to Ladakh and Kashmir spending a couple of weeks in each. Craig, James & Rod also went on to Kashmir and Ladakh although they visited sites in a different order to us and we only saw them briefly. Dave, Nick and I then returned to Delhi, by bus and train, before flying home.
The blog will be a personal account of the trip, almost entirely based on diary entries made at the time. Looking back I’m disappointed at the amount of time not spent birding (perhaps inevitable on a long trip) and that food and health issues seem to feature much more in this account than the magnificent scenery or the brilliant birds we were seeing. I guess the scenery and birds were rather taken for granted, as was the help given by generally very friendly locals to somewhat obsessive and impatient foreign visitors and also the contributions of my companions and the other birders we met in making the trip so memorable. In this respect I’d like to thank Steve and in particular Colin, Dave & Nick for being such good travelling companions. Without Colin & Dave the trip wouldn’t have got started, without Nick it would have finished a lot sooner than it did.
I personally saw 870 species in the 28 weeks I was away (173 I’d not seen before although quite a few more have been split since then) and the whole trip cost just £1300 - happy days indeed!
The species underlined each day is the one that gave the most pleasure (a combination of the species, the views obtained and its rarity). * indicates first sighting of a new species for me. h = species heard (not seen). All times are local and on 24 hour clock. Approximate currency values equivalent to £1 at the time of the trip were 4 Malaysian ringit, 40 Thai bhat, 24 Nepali rupees and 16 Indian Rupees.
|I found room in my bag for most of this stuff|
Monday 11th January 1982: Brighton to Heathrow EnglandLeft home early (19:15) due to icy weather and possible train delays. Met Colin Winyard at Brighton station. As it was the train to Victoria was only 30 minutes late and got tube to Heathrow, arriving at 22:00 (12 hours before check in). Train £2.50 and tube £1.10. At last the trip is underway, the only thing I’ve forgotten to do so far is clean my shoes! Even Colin appears to have everything despite the mad rush to leave.
|leaving home in Hove|
Tuesday 12th January 1982: Heathrow to DubaiAfter a bad nights sleep, things went really well with Dave Mills arriving at 09:30. Checked in on Bangladesh Biman flight to Kuala Lumpur via Dacca on time at 10:00 and proceeded to boarding gate at 11:00. Here things took a rapid turn for the worst - the plane an antiquated Boeing 707 (City of Shah Jalal) not the 747 we were expecting. Crew late arriving and engine casing off on inner right wing (recalling last flight with this airline). Took off at 14:06 and crossed coast over Worthing with excellent views of Brighton and Beachy Head (all very snowy). Landed Rome in dark at 17:06 and took off 18:08 for 5 hour flight to Dubai, cruising at 37,000 ft. Food OK but seating cramped and not able to get much sleep.
|we crossed back over Brighton 21 hours after Colin and I had left|
|snowy Beachy, our last sight of UK for several months|
Wednesday 13th January 1982: Dubai to Kuala Lumpur BangladeshLanded in Dubai at 02:18. Dark again and oil flares in Gulf. Took off 03:38, 4 hours to Dacca. Brilliant sunrise, minor nosebleed, poor breakfast and feeling pretty tired. Landed Dacca 09:26, wandered around outside airport before flight to KL at 14:00 which left only 15 minutes late. Getting very hot. Landed in KL 19:30 (after 3:15 flight) just after dark. Changed £20 at airport and got bus (no 47) into town for M$1. Stayed in City Hotel M$15/night for 3.
Birds seen round Dacca airport included: Black Kite 20+, Black-shouldered Kite 1, Brahminy Kite 2, Pied Harrier 1, Asian White-backed Vulture 2, Asian Palm Swift 30, Magpie Robin 1, Common Myna 50, Asian Pied Starling 15, Black Drongo 5, Large-billed Crow 2. Also 25+ Little Swift nesting in KL Airport terminal.
Got up at 11:30 still feeling really tired after a long but disturbed sleep. Went down to Immigration Office to find it had moved. Very hot out. Back to hotel for Taman Negara booking address. Colin phoned them and we got a taxi there to find the park full from January 23-27 (Chinese New Year). Booked for 3 weeks from 27th. Walked back seeing few birds compared with India/Thailand, arriving at hotel soon after dark. Got maize and pineapple from street stall.
Birds seen included: Black Baza 8, Spotted Dove 3, White-breasted Kingfisher 1, Little Swift 20, Edible Nest Swiftlet 20, Grey-rumped Treeswift 5, Coppersmith Barbet 1, Pacific Swallow 2, Richard’s Pipit 2, Oriental Yellow-vented Bulbul 30, Brown Shrike 3, Black-naped Oriole 2, Asian Glossy Starling 30.
|KL January 1982|
Friday 15th January 1982: Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands Malaysia
Another poor nights sleep due to noise in lodge. Up at 08:30. Taxi to Immigration Office where got visa extension with no problems. Back into town where changed £40, then collected bags from hotel and got Ipoh bus as far as Tapah for M$7. It took 3 hours but little of note seen on the way. Taxi up to Tana Rata (37 miles for M$7) arriving at dusk but not too late for the first new bird of the trip - White-bellied Swiftlet. Stayed in Tana Rata Hotel (M$8/night for 3). A plateful of fried rice was too much to take.
Birds seen on journey included: Black Baza 2, Black-thighed Falconet 1, *White-bellied Swiftlet 8 at Tana Rata, Grey-rumped Treeswift 100+, White-breasted Kingfisher 3, Dollarbird 2, Brown Shrike 3, Black-naped Oriole 1.