The Snow Leopard Magic
28TH FEB, PUNE AIRPORT
Trusting my luck and deliberating on my slight cold, I set out to capture with my eyes and my lens the fabled creature of the cold valley.
2ND MARCH, RUMBAK VALLEY, HEMIS SANCTUARY, LADAKH
Its a few degrees lower than minus 10 and I sit perched precariously over shifty gritty rubble, hunched over my lens, trembling due to the cold. I search in vain through my view finder to spot any movement, for what seems like an eon. As I take a break and bend down to reach for a fresh set of batteries from the bag lying beside me, one of the walkie-talkies crackles to life and relays a message to one of my crew that the spotters have spotted a mating pair of snow leopards just over the gorge towards the far east side.
My entourage bursts into an action like a cheetah gearing into a killer chase; they know time is of the utmost essence. They jump/ crawl/ squeeze through impasses easily; I am not even half way there by the time they have set up my camera and placed all of my equipment at the vantage point.
I scramble up to the viewing point at an excruciatingly slow pace, but with every step I find the excitement rising in my veins. I inhale deeply the sharp air to steady myself and look into the view finder. I take in another deep breath half expecting that I may not be able to capture the elusive cats or get a good frame. But I manage to square them off in a frame in a matter of couple of seconds.
I have made “the click”.
3RD MARCH, RUMBAK VALLEY, HEMIS SANCTUARY, LADAKH
I am still reeling from the amazement that my eyes were subjected to from last noon. I look around and I feel a sense of marvel at the survival of the fittest: the unbreakable spirit of the animals as well as the humans to brave such averse conditions by sheer will. And I realize even though I made the photograph it was possible because of my crew.
I would’ve never been able to capture the snow leopard in that challenging landscape by myself. I feel humbled by my team of porters namely tse wang gurmet, phuntsoa nangyal who helped me carry and set up my equipment and camera with amazing ease and how they helped me manoeuvre that terrain; the group of 4-5 spotters who worked tirelessly throughout, constantly moving around and identifying the leopard pair from their near perfect camouflage; Sajid Ali who helped me stay on the top of the harsh frigid conditions with his warm delicious food. Wasim and Salim who helped in putting the whole quest together. Smanla tsering and Tsering angchuk who worked selflessly round the clock to monitor and regulate the tourism within the national park and last but definitely not the least I would like to share my gratitude towards Sh. Jigmet Takpa, CF/RWLW, Leh, without whom this spectacle of nature wouldn’t have been immortalized by one of us wildlifers.
I made the click but the credit goes out to the contributions of the several people who work behind the scenes to make it all come together, in that one out of the world moment.
Published by Sandeep Desai