I’ve had two enjoyable days in Delhi. Sightseeing around the Tibetan, Indian handicraft and spices markets, lunch at the grand Imperial Hotel (best tandoori chicken I’ve ever tasted). I had a hot stone massage – first time ever – fantastic, so relaxing. Hard to believe being pummeled with hot stones could be relaxing but it is.
I had a driver for the 2 days, Jaspal from Amritsar, who turned out to be excellent and really knows his way around the roads and the use of the horn – a must in Delhi. We had a hiccup at the start though, when he screeched to a halt in the middle of the road and jumped out of the car, leaving me, surprised (!) in the back. He grabbed some plastic bags from the boot, ran onto a nearby nature strip and emptied seeds and bread into the air. This was immediately scooped up by a whirlwind of ravens, pigeons, butcher birds etc. I was in the hands of a “twitcher.”
But the highlight was definitely meeting up with Charu Mishra, Director India Program Snow Leopard Trust, and two of his team Yash Veer Bhatnagar and Koustuhb Sharma.
These guys really know snow leopards, between them have travelled thousands of miles in the Himalayas, worn out countless boots and studied the cats and their prey for many years. They’ve also been lobbying at the highest levels of government, state and federal for support to conserve India’s remaining snow leopards and their habitat.
Coincidentally we ended up meeting at Cafe Oz in Khan market. I promise I wasn’t missing Aussie food already after 2 days. When the head waiter found out I was from Australia I was grilled on the authenticity of their lamingtons and pavlovas. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d never made either but then I had tasted a few so I could give an opinion that theirs were delicious and authentic. They made sensational latte too.
Many snow leopard stories were shared but my favorite was about Shonkor, a radio collared cat, part of the Snow Leopard Trust Mongolia project. Shonkor is being a bad boy. He’s killing domestic livestock and hanging around where he isn’t wanted. Charu says he’s been watching Shonkor’s radio sign on the computer as the boy gets closer and closer to villagers, and he, Charu then yells at the computer, “Go back, go back! Somehow it doesn’t seen to influence him J”
Turns out so far the herder who’s had stock killed by Shonkor hasn’t taken a shot at him, even though he has a gun. Instead he fires into the air. Part of the problem, Charu says, is the herder’s dogs are old and don’t bark at the cat as it comes close to the sheep. “He needs to retire those old guys, and get some young ones to do a better job. ”
It’s a good sign of herder attitudes changing that Shonker hasn’t been killed, but he does need to learn what he’s allowed to eat and what not. Hopefully he does that soon with a bit of help from dogs, herders and snow leopard conservationists.
Anyway its now nearly 9 pm and I’ve got to get some sleep. There’s three of us here in Delhi and we leave for the airport to fly to Leh, Ladakh at 4 am. Ugh! The things we do for snow leopards.