Sunday, 25 July 1982

30 years ago: 21-25 July 1982, Srinagar to Delhi and journey home


Wednesday 21st July 1982:  Srinagar to Jammu
The journey home begins.  We were up at 06:00 with breakfast on houseboat at 06:20.  Dave was better, but sensibly not eating.  We got to bus station just before 07:00 for a 07:30 departure which left at 07:55, quite an achievement for Jammu and Kashmir buses, but it was not to last.  We had a brief halt for tea and again at a tunnel, then an horrendous traffic jam/roadworks which held us up from 12:15 to 16:00 during which time we covered less than 10 kms!  This effectively blew our chance of connecting with the Delhi train we’d been at great pains to book, however to keep us on a knife edge we then made very good time until a ‘lunch’ break at 17:30 and 90 minutes after that a 20 minute tea stop, within 50 kms of Jammu.  By now it was well past the 19:00 arrival time we had been told at Srinagar (more fool us for believing it!).  We were also told in Srinagar that the bus went to Jammu Railway Station but it didn’t, along with our last chance of catching the train.  We arrived in Jammu at 22:25 but it took 35 minutes to get the gear off the bus and cross town to the station, where we missed the train by 20 minutes.  What a day.  We crashed out on the railway platform but it was too hot for a sleeping bag, although I was in mine most of the time for protection against insects.

Birds seen from bus included:  Black Kite 10, Egyptian Vulture 15, Asian White-backed Vulture 4, Collared Dove 5, Rufous Turtle Dove 1, Spotted Dove 3, Jacobin Cuckoo 1, Common Kingfisher 2, Hoopoe 4, Swallow 50, Red-rumped Swallow 2, White-cheeked Bulbul 6, Magpie Robin 1, Tickell’s Thrush 3, Long-tailed Shrike 5, Rose-coloured Starling 1 juvenile, Yellow-breasted Greenfinch 1, White-capped Bunting 3 in flight only, Rock Bunting 1, Crested Bunting 1.

Thursday 22nd July 1982:  Jammu to Pathankot
Unsurprisingly I slept poorly and dawn, at 05:00, was welcome, although with the prospect of a 12 hour wait before the next Delhi train wasn’t and a long lie in would have been preferable.  Fortunately we got reservations on the train without difficulty - the three days we spent parts of going to the Northern Railways Office in Srinagar turned out to be a complete waste of time.  We had to buy new tickets although were told we could obtain a refund on yesterday’s when we get to Delhi.  I bought a book from the local newsagents and had read over half of it when the train finally arrived.  It was a very comfortable journey, although quite hot, and I got a reasonable amount of sleep.

Birds seen from train included:  Indian Pond Heron 5, Black-shouldered Kite 2, Asian White-backed Vulture 10, Red-wattled Lapwing 6, Collared Dove 20, Red Turtle Dove 4, Spotted Dove 10, Jacobin Cuckoo 1, Little Swift 6, White-breasted Kingfisher 1, Little Green Bee-eater 10, Stonechat 8, Jungle Babbler 6, Long-tailed Shrike 5, Bank Myna 20, Crested Bunting 1.

Friday 23rd July 1982:  Delhi
The train arrived in Delhi at 05:00.  We stayed at Delhi Station, partly in the restaurant, until 07:30 when got a rickshaw into Connault Circus and Hotel Bright.  We checked in and retrieved the gear we’d left there in June before touring the book shops and milk bars.  I bought a few books and presents to take home then sat around in the room for rest of the day too tired to do much else.

Birds seen in central Delhi included:  Black Kite 5, Asian White-backed Vulture 5, Indian House Crow 5, Common Myna 5.

Saturday 24th July 1982:  Delhi/Yamuna Bund
We were up soon after 06:30 after a good nights sleep, although it was very hot.  We went out to Yamuna Bund, arriving at 07:10 for some pleasant birding before it got too hot although were soon wishing we’d been there at dawn.  By 08:50 there was little bird activity and we returned.  I wandered around emporiums for most of the rest of the day, buying a few more presents.  We got the Ex-servicemen’s bus to Delhi Airport at 21:00 (for 8 rupees).  After buying presents I will only have about £4 of rupees to change back.

Birds recorded included:  Indian Shag 3, Little Cormorant 40, Indian Pond Heron 10, Yellow-billed Egret 2, Purple Heron 4, Painted Stork 15, Spot-billed Duck 10, Black Kite 10, Egyptian Vulture 10, Black Francolin h, Pheasant-tailed Jacana 1, Black-winged Stilt 20, Red-wattled Lapwing 10, Ruff 15, Gull-billed Tern 5, River Tern 15, Black-billed Tern 2, Little Tern 20, Ring-necked Parakeet 15, Ashy-crowned Finch Lark 3, Small Skylark 5, Paddyfeld Pipit 2, Ashy Prinia 2, Graceful Prinia 3, Zitting Cisticola 4, Common Babbler 3, Striated Babbler 4, Jungle Babbler 2, Purple Sunbird 1, Brahminy Starling 3, Asian Pied Starling 5, Bank Myna 20, Black-throated Weaver 2, Avadavat 4, Indian Silverbill 4.

locusts at Yamuna Bund
Indian Silverbill looking away at the critical moment, Yamuna Bund

Sunday 25th July 1982:  Delhi to Brighton
Soon after midnight we crashed out on the airport floor and I got a fair amount of sleep until 04:30 when we started the check in procedure for our Ariana Afghan flight to London via Kabul and Moscow.  Customs, immigration and security all went smothly and we were on the plane at 05:45.  We took off at 06:45, 1 hour 55 minutes to Kabul flying at 31,000 ft.  Cloudy.  Landed in Kabul at 07:55 but did not take off for Moscow until 13:15, over 4 hours late, most of the time we stayed on the plane.  The delay was apparently due to the non-arrival of joining passengers.  Flight time to Moscow was 4 hours 40 minutes and we touched down at 16:55 for an hour stop.  Left Moscow at 18:00 for 3 hours 20 minute flight to Frankfurt.  The area around Moscow very flat and green with some parts heavily forested.  I wondered how close the nearest Azure Tit might be.  We landed in Frankfurt at 18:45, sooner than anticipated, and left at 20:05, landing at London Heathrow at 20:00.  Through immigration, collected bag, customs, phoned home, said goodbye to Dave and Nick and I was on a tube into Victoria (£1) by 20:55.  I arrived at Victoria at 21:45 bought a ticket to Brighton (£2.50 with student railcard which I still had) and caught 22:06 train, 10 minutes walk up from Brighton Station and I was home at 23:30.  After nearly six and a half months away it is great to be back.  Not so good to find that I had just missed a Lesser Grey Shrike at Beachy!

Birds seen at Delhi Airport:  Indian House Crow 5, Bank Myna 8.
Birds seen at Kabul Airport:  Hoopoe 1, Swallow 1, Long-tailed Shrike 1, House Sparrow 10.
Birds seen at Moscow Airport:  Kestrel 3, Hooded Crow 8.

Over the Hindu Kush
Landing at Kabul, MIGs by the runway
leaving Kabul
approaching Moscow
Moscow suburbs

These postings reflect a personal account of the trip, almost entirely based on diary entries I made at the time, filled in with some sometimes dodgy memories (especially as to precisely where and when some of the accompanying photos were taken).   The trip cost £1300 in total and was certainly budget-conscious, it had to be for us to be away for as long as we were.  During the 28 weeks away I saw about 870 species of which over 170 were new.    

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 more than the magnificent scenery or the brilliant birds.  Those were rather taken for granted as was the help given to somewhat obsessive and impatient foreign visitors by generally very friendly locals.  

The contributions of my companions and the other birders we met made the trip especially memorable for me.  In this respect I’d like to thank Steve Gantlett and in particular Colin Winyard, Dave Mills & Nick Preston for being such good travelling companions.  Without Colin & Dave the trip wouldn’t have got started, without Nick it would have finished for me a lot sooner than it did.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this account of your trip Richard, it's made wonderful reading in what felt like 'real-time' over the last 6 months. I'm gong to be spending this winter in Nepal and hope that some of your gen will still prove useful 30 years down the line!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words Joe and I'm glad you enjoyed the postings. Doing them brought back some really great memories. I hope you have a great time there this winter. I wish I was going back - I was sure when we left that I would but there are so many other places and never enough time ... I'm sure I've left it too late now as I'd really struggle with some of the climbs so reliving the memories is the next best thing!

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