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AFC Flag Expedition #4:
The Flora & Fauna of Bhutan - An Artist's Journey through the Land of the Thunderdragon
Expedition Artist: Pollyanna Pickering
Purpose: To highlight the natural history of Bhutan, and to stress the importance of conserving the ecology of the region.
Location: Bhutan
Scheduled For: March 28 - April 29, 2007
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Talk World Premiere!
Saturday, September 22, 2007
On the 17th September Pollyanna gave the first public presentation about her AFC expedition to Bhutan, to a packed house in Nottingham in the UK.  A huge poster outside the venue proudly proclaimed the event as the ‘World Premier’ of Pollyanna’s new talk!  

 

The lecture took the audience along with Pollyanna on her expedition across almost the entire width of the kingdom of Bhutan, from the Ha province in the east, right across to the borders of the Sakteng Wildlife reserve in the west, in her quest to find and paint the unique wildlife of this Himalayan region. The talk was illustrated with slides taken during the expedition by Pollyanna’s daughter and business partner Anna-Louise, and included pages from Pollyanna’s AFC journal, showing her sketches and notes.  After the talk, Pollyanna and Anna-Louise took part in a very lively question and answer session.

 

Pollyanna will give her next presentation about the expedition to the Natural History unit of pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in October.


Photos
  • Poster outside venue
  • Ticket to the talk!
 
Radio Days
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Pollyanna gives a twenty minute interview about the AFC expedition to Bhutan on BBC Radio Derby.  The flag goes along for its' last trip out before being returned home to Canada!
Photos
  • Pollyanna at the BBc studios
  • Pollyanna with presenter Aleena Naylor
 
Press Cuttings
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Back Home - a copy of the interview in Kantipur is emailed to us. 
Photos
  • Newspaper article
 
Homeward Bound
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
● Fly from Doha to London Heathrow

 

● Buy English paper in airport – eye caught by headline in international news section – ‘Plague of snakes invade Kathmandu’!

● Overnight hotel London

 

 


 

 
Meet the Press
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
 

● A journalist is waiting at our hotel to interview us about the Flag expedition into Bhutan.  He writes for Kantipur, the country’s most popular Nepalese newspaper, and also the Kathmandu Post, and English Language newspaper.

 

● Leave hotel for night flight to Qatar.  There is a great deal of political unrest in Nepal, and the drivers of public transport have been involved in a dispute with the police, gone on strike, and barricaded all the main roads in the capital with vehicles and burning tyres.  Three are also several Maoist demonstrations taking place, and for a while it looks very unlikely that we will be able to get back to the airport for our flight!


Photos
  • With Kantipur journalist
 
Conservation Challenges
Monday, April 30, 2007
 

● Invited to attend lunch at a conservation ‘summit’ taking place in a hotel resort on the outskirts of Kathmandu.  We meet with two representatives from the Ministry of Forestry of Nepal, also Siddhartha Bajracharya of the National Trust for Nature Conservation of Nepal, and representatives of other wildlife and conservation organisations who have been taking part ion workshops and exchanging information and ideas.

● We discuss conservation issues facing Himalayan wildlife including poaching, smuggling and the immense challenge of controlling exports through the Nepal/ china border areas.  Learn of proposals for wildlife orphanage, and pledge support through Pollyanna Pickering Foundation. 

● Overnight hotel Kathmandu


Photos
  • With conservation summit representatives
 
Back to Planet earth
Sunday, April 29, 2007
● day at leisure in Kathmandu – take opportunity to rest and recover from camping, and visit some local sites.

● evening meeting and dinner with Raj Bajgain of Ghurkha encounters who has organised our local transportation etc. – and two of his associates including Rajendra Suwal, a regional wildlife expert, who worked as organiser and facilitator for the BBC production team filming for the acclaimed ‘Planet Earth’ series, helping them to locate and film red pandas in Nepal, and snow leopards in Pakistan.  They offer to assist us in planning a future expedition to Nepal……

● Overnight hotel Kathmandu

 


Photos
  • Giant Golden Buddha
  • Temple
 
Mountains, monkeys and a mug
Saturday, April 28, 2007
● say our farewells to Yeshi and Prem, and fly from Paro to Kathmandu – mountains mainly shrouded in cloud, but peak of Everest just visible!

● In Kathmandu visit Swoyambunath the ‘Monkey Temple’ – famous for its resident rhesus macaques. See one rhesus macaque.  But a lot of pigeons. Move onto to Pashupathinath, one of the most important Shiva temples on the subcontinent – and here find large groups of macaques – many with young!

● In market stalls surrounding temple also find counterfeit Pollyanna Pickering mug!! – buy it to bring home and show publishers!

● Overnight hotel Kathmandu

 


Photos
  • Macaque at the Monkey Temple
  • macaque
  • Holy Man
 
Roadworks and repacking
Friday, April 27, 2007
 

● Return drive to Paro – back through roadworks!

● Auspicious day in Buddhist calendar so visit temple for blessing

● On arrival in Paro spend remainder of day trying to force sleeping bags, padded jackets, sketch folders etc. back into trek bags for tomorrows flight!

● Overnight hotel Paro


Photos
  • Stray Dog in Paro
  • Stray dog in Paro
  • Puppy
  • Temple
 
“When one generation plants a tree, the next sits in the shade”
Thursday, April 26, 2007
● Very early morning bird watching along river – fantastic sightings of palls fish eagle – also sit and watch osprey fishing along the river, see pair of hoopoes, water lapwing white-breasted kingfisher and other species.

● full days drive into a second part of Jigme Dorje national park. Spectacularly beautiful cloud forest.  Further sightings of Assamese macaques – also distant sighting of wild Takins.

● Visit only school to lie within the boundaries of the park. Very pleased to find education about the environment and conservation is high on the curriculum – visit the school’s conservation garden, which includes rare plants, and inspirational mottoes painted onto rocks.

● Overnight hotel Punakha

 


Photos
  • Pollyanna surrounded by schoochildren
  • Anna-Louise with the school children
  • Takin
 
In which we don’t see the world’s rarest heron
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
● Leave early to drive to Punakha

● arrive in time to visit Dzhong and witness ceremonial Buddhist ritual in the temple.

● the Dzhong is built at the confluence of two rivers, and is a prime location to view the white-bellied herons, one of the world’s rarest herons.  Spend whole afternoon in hide watching.  Do not se any.  (They are nesting this time of year so can be harder to spot!)

 ● Overnight hotel Punakha

 


Photos
  • Moth
 
The Road to Trongsa
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
● Full days drive back to Trongsa

● some sighting en route of golden langurs, Assamese macaques and giant Malayan squirrel close to road.  Also see grey wagtails, and more water red starts.

● Overnight hotel Trongsa

Photos
  • The Road!
 
Langurs and Cake!
Monday, April 23, 2007
● Full day hike south of camp

● closest sightings yet of Golden langurs – manage to get to with 6’ of very placid troupe. Excellent opportunities to sketch

● further sightings of Pallas squirrel, Assamese macaques, rufous-necked hornbills, and also white-breasted kingfisher.

● overnight tented camp – our last night under canvas – our ‘sherpas’ bake us a cake to celebrate!


 

 
Itching for England
Sunday, April 22, 2007
● Full days trek north of camp

● Excellent sightings of golden langurs and good opportunities to sketch.

● Good sighting of muntjac deer and also Assamese macaques, Giant Malayan Squirrel and Pallas Squirrel.  Also see Rufous-necked hornbill.

● It is very hot in the south, the vegetation is sub-tropical. We are both being attacked by insects, and have been bitten mercilessly, despite liberal use of repellents etc. Itching like crazy.

● overnight tented camp


 

 
A Giant Squirrel and a Clouded Leopard
Saturday, April 21, 2007
● Trek to next camp site through forest area in which deer, Himalayan black bears and hornbill are commonly spotted.  Do not spot any deer, Himalayan black bears or hornbills.  Do photograph red-vented bulbul.

● Best sighting of day very clear views of Malayan Giant Squirrel

● Visit tiny handmade paper factory in local village

● late evening a clouded leopard crosses the track behind our tent. The light is poor and we only get a very brief sighting.  It is carrying prey – we think a pheasant.

● overnight tented camp.


 

 
Bhutanese Gold
Friday, April 20, 2007
● Long drive south to next camp site

● fantastic views of the second of our key target species – Golden Langurs.  See at least five separate troupes – many with young.

● overnight tented camp.


 

 
Misty Mountains High
Thursday, April 19, 2007
● Break camp and drive to high mountains for early morning hike through freshly fallen snow. (Prime snow leopard territory!)#

● fabulous sightings of golden eagle

● As we leave Thrimsingla park, call at park HQ to meet ranger and discuss community conservation initiatives.

● Overnight hotel Jakar


Photos
  • Pollyanna with ranger at Park headquarters
 
Red pandas and rain
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
● Full day trekking in Thrimsingla National park

● excellent sightings of red pandas – one of our key target species.  Further distant views of caped langurs.

● also see black throated sunbirds

● afternoon brings another thunder storm followed by very heavy rains – which unfortunately both leak through the tent roof,  and bring out large numbers of leeches around our camp site

● overnight tented camp.

 

 


Photos
  • Red Panda
  • Red Panda
  • Water pours through the tent roof
 
The Roar of the Thunder Dragon
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
 

● Early morning hike into forest – see tracks and scat of clouded leopard.

● Break camp and return to Thrimsingla national Park

● excellent sightings of capped langurs en route – further opportunities to sketch and photograph.

● new bird species include white-throated laughing thrush, striated laughing thrush and barn swallows

● Huge and dramatic storm in evening – thunder echoing around mountains and flashes of lightening all around tent!

● overnight tented camp.


Photos
  • Pollyanna in Thrimsingla National Park
 
Temple in the Trees
Monday, April 16, 2007
● trek through forests to next campsite

● Excellent sights of:

Caped langurs

Himalayan Striped squirrel

Rufous-bellied woodpecker

Greater yellownape

Black eagle – hunting over forest canopy

● visit tiny remote temple in heart of forests. Struck by large amount of animal imagery in religious wall paintings

● meet elderly villagers – one of them tells us of his encounter with a yeti in the mountains – and also talk about regional legends.

● overnight tented camp

Photos
  • Holy script on stone
  • Temple Art : Tiger
  • Temple Art : Mongoose
  • Temple Art : Cranes
 
Bhutanese Blessings
Sunday, April 15, 2007
● Trek into national park, and find clear traces of big cats (tigers/leopards) inc. scent marking – and also red pandas inc. stripped bamboo stems and scat.  Further very good sightings of capped langurs.  Distant sighting of Himalayan black bear.

● late afternoon break camp and drive east towards boundary of Sakteng national park (the ‘Yeti reserve’) which is currently closed to foreigners.

●pass through village east of Mongar – A.L. receives blessing from the Head of Religion of Bhutan – the second most important public figure in the country after the King!

● Pitch camp at edge of forest.

● evening walk – see water buffalo

● overnight tented camp.


Photos
  • Young child in Mongar
  • Pollyanna befriends the locals!
 
"The Worst Road in the World"
Saturday, April 14, 2007
● Depart Jakar and drive east.  We are now on the road the Lonely planet guide describes as “the worst in Bhutan – and possibly the world”.  It is narrow with a sheer precipitous mountain drop and in a very bad state of repair, with much of the surface having been washed away in the previous rainy season.

● Enter Thrimsingla National park – home to some of Bhutan’s most endangered species including musk deer and red panda.

● excellent sightings of capped lemurs – sketch and photograph.

● Views of hornbills – other new bird species include magpie robin, verditer flycatcher and pale blue flycatcher

● problems finding camp site within park and two locations are occupied by migrant workers.  Eventually pitch tent at side of road, near village at edge of park

● A.L. makes dash to toilet tent in middle of night and startles passing leopard!!!!

● overnight tented camp.


Photos
  • A relaxed resident of Mongar!
  • Anna-Louise with our team!
  • Prayer Flags
  • Holy script on stone
 
Sheep farming in Bhutan
Friday, April 13, 2007
● Continue to travel east

● Excellent views of water red start by mountain stream – spend some tome observing and sketching.

● hang prayer flags at highest road pass on route.

● arrive Bumthang – cultural and spiritual heartland of Bhutan.

● visit sheep breeding centre – one small field of recently shorn sheep looking sorry for themselves in a hailstorm – and bizarrely otherwise just fields and barns of cows!

● sighting of samba deer near road

● overnight hotel Jakar

 


Photos
  • Pollyanna helps to hang a prayer flag
  • At the sheep farm!
 
On the Road of Travellers and Magicians
Thursday, April 12, 2007
● Visit Crane observation centre and meet staff – no cranes to observe this time of year, but interesting educational displays and beautiful photographs.

● see rescued crane in local village – able to observe and sketch.

● Continue journey eastwards along dramatic mountain roads – location of the recent film ‘travellers and magicians’.

● First good views of high Himalayas, capped with snow.

● Overnight hotel Trongsa

Photos
  • High Himalayas
 
Valley of Flowers
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
● A.L. very sick with Bhutanese stomach bug.

● Drive east from Thimpu to Phobjika

● Drive through very different woodland – less coniferous forest and more mixed and broadleaf woodland.  See beautiful blooms of rhododendrons, camellia and other blossoms.

● arrive Phobjika, Bhutan’s biggest wetland and winter home of the black-necked crane.

● Overnight hotel Phobjika

 


Photos
  • Traditional Farming methods
  • Magnolia
 
Birdlife of Jigme Dorje
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
● Full day trek into Jigme Dorje National park.

● More sightings of Goral, muntjac and samba deer, and a wide variety of birds including:

Spectacular views of crested serpent eagle

Kestrel

Yellow-billed blue magpie

Grey-backed shrike

Red-billed chough

Maroon oriole

Scarlet minivet

White-throated fantail

Blue whistling thrush

White-collared blackbird

● Evening meting with Lexang Pem Dechey Thinley, the daughter of the Minister of Home Affairs and her business partner Rinzing, who are in the process of founding ‘Green Dragon’ an environmental charity aimed at educating schoolchildren about the issue of litter and recycling.  Extremely interesting discussion – we are very keen to continue our support (and possible funding) of their work.

● overnight Druk Hotel Thimpu


Photos
  • Pollyanna with the founders of Green Dragon
  • Pollyanna st the entrance to Jigme Dorji National Park
 
World Wildlife and Tame Takins
Monday, April 9, 2007

● Visit national Art School of Bhutan.  PP shows sketches and gives demonstration of western painting techniques to final year students.

● Find Internet café & finally succeed in emailing first blog to AFC!

● in the afternoon have an excellent meeting at WWF offices with Kinzang Namgay, the country representative, and also Jack Gilmore, the Vice President of Internal Audit who is on an official visit from WWF USA. We are given an excellent presentation showing an overview of their work, and discuss conservation issues, their current and future projects, and the aims of the AFC.

● Escorted to the WWF Takin Park, where we view the national animal of Bhutan in excellent large enclosures.  Sketch and photograph.  Also view muntjac and samba deer.

● Visit local paper factory to see manufacture of Bhutanese handmade paper.  Select large quantities to bring home to studio!

● Overnight Druk Hotel, Thimpu


Photos
  • At WWF offices Kinzang Namgay & Jack Gilmore
  • Handmade paper factory
  • Pollyanna with a student at the national art school
  • Pollyanna with final year students
  • Pollyanna at handmade paper factory
  • Art materials
  • Pollyanna with flag outside Takin Preserve
  • Anna-Louise posts blog from internet cafe
 
Yaks Cheese & Yeti Scalps!
Sunday, April 8, 2007
 

● PP much recovered

● early morning visit to weekly market – sample Yak’s cheese – possibly the hardest substance known to man!

● Hike up to Cheri monastery – excellent area to view Goral (wild goats) spend several hours sketching and photographing.

● Invited to join Buddhist monk for cup of tea in his ‘cell’ – he then takes us around four of the temples at the monastery and shows us a ‘yeti scalp’!

● Overnight Druk hotel, Thimpu


Photos
  • Pollyanna with young buddhist monks
  • Goral
  • visit to weekly market
  • Chillies for sale in the market
  • Wall Painting
 
The Road to Thimpu
Saturday, April 7, 2007
 

 

● PP is very sick today – bad Bhutanese Stomach Bug!

● Break camp 8.30am and Drive back into Paro

● Visit Paro Dzhong

● Drive from Paro heading east towards capital Thimpu – through 60km of roadworks – hot, bumpy and very dusty, so a nightmare journey when you are not feeling well!

● Overnight Druk hotel, Thimpu

Photos
  • Bhutnese Woman and baby
 
A Peek at Pika!
Friday, April 6, 2007
Very early wildlife sighting - Pika just beyond out tent 5.30 am

Trek to Kinley Gonpa Nunnery - high on moutainside. Very good area for photography of small birds - including rufous vented tit, grey crested tit, rufous fronted tit, spotted laughing thrush.

Afternoon sketching Yak.

Overnight tented camp.
Photos
  • Young yak
 
Beautiful Country - Not Enough Oxygen!
Thursday, April 5, 2007
Both suffer effects of altitude badly during night - breathless (even when lying still!) headaches, nausea.

Trek to second camp site - excellent sightings of monal pheasant and blood pheasant close to trail.

Visit small bhuddist monastry

Overnight tented camp
Photos
  • Looking through the sketch folder
 
Camping in the Clouds
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Meeting with representative from the ministry of agriculture, the Director of the National Seed Corpoation of Bhutan to discuss organic farming programme and conflict with wildlife and farming in Bhutan as well as conservancy programme.

Drive towards Chilela pass - start point of first trek

Excellent views of Yak herds - able to sketch and photograph.

Just beyond highest road point in Bhutan (3889m) have fantastic sightings of lammergeiers - both close in trees and circling above.

Camp above Chilela pass at just over 4000m. Our tents are in the clouds - extremely cold and wet, very windy!
Photos
  • Meeting at the National Seed Corporation
  • National seed corporation
 
Inside the Tiger's Nest
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Decide to spend the day visiting classic cultural highlights of Paro before setting out on trek.

Hike to famous Tiger's Nest Dzhong (Temple/Fortress) perched high on cliff edge - spectacular

Visit National Museum - includes small natual history section including specimens of snow leopard, clouded leopard and takin.

Overnight Paro Hotel
Photos
  • Pollyanna and the flag arrive in Bhutan!
  • Tiger's Nest
  • Butter Candles
  • Pollyanna with prayer flags en route to the tigers nest.
 
Beyond Everest
Monday, April 2, 2007
 
  • Fly to Paro Airport - spectacular views of eight of the world's highest mountian peaks from plane including mount Everest.
  • Meet our interpeter Yeshi and our driver Prem
  • Visit final day of Paro festival - wonderful opportunity to photograph performers as well as people in the crowd.
  • Overnight Paro Hotel

Photos
  • Masked dancer at paro Festival
  • Masked dancer at festival
  • Dancer at the Paro festival
 
Return to the Yak and Yeti
Sunday, April 1, 2007
  • Bird walk in Chitwan highlights include : minah birds, red vented bulbul, grey woodpecker, excellent views of paradise flycatcher, also tracks of jungle cat and civet.
  • Fly back to Kathmandhu
  • Overnight Yak & Yeti

    •  
 
To Chitwan by Yeti Air
Saturday, March 31, 2007
 
  • We have 2 days before we can get a flight to Bhutan, so make a brief visit to the Chitwan national park
  • Fly to airstrip near Chitwan with Yeti Air!
  • Jeep Safari - see much wildlife - highlights include : Tiger!, Spotted Deer, paradise Flycatchers, Racket-tailed drongo, beeeaters
  • Elephant safari - highlights 3 x Indian one-horned rhino, mugger crocodile, langurs, fresh tiger tracks.
  • Overnight Tiger Mountain tented camp

Photos
  • Spotted Deer
 
The Yak and Yeti Hotel
Friday, March 30, 2007
Fly from Doha - Kathmandhu

Land safely - check into appropriately named Yak and Yeti hotel
 
 
Day 2 - Heathrow to Doha
Thursday, March 29, 2007
 
  • Fly from London Heathrow to Doha
  • In airport lounge chat to Neil Finn from recently reformed band Crowded House. He writes lovely good luck message in Anna-Louise's journal :
  • "To Pollyanna & Anna-Louise - Go into the wilds and bring the beauty back - Good Luck - Neil Finn"

Photos
  • Pollyanna with Neil Finn
 
Preparations for Bhutan in Place
Monday, March 26, 2007
It is hard to believe that our departure date is so close -we seem to have been planning and talking about this expedition for so long. In fact it is also most two years since Pollyanna's initial suggestion of visiting the remote Himalayan Kingdom, followed by many months of research and planning which lead to our submission of a proposal to the AFC flag expeditions programme.

The preparations for our expedition to Bhutan are all in place - we have our visas for our flights into Nepal, our permits for trekking in Bhutan, our arms are like pincushions from all the required injections and boosters, our trek bags are full of loo rolls and water purification tablets.. not to mention my camera equipment, and Pollyanna's sketch folder and materials. We have that familiar feeling of excitement and slight trepidation which is always with us before we depart on a trip to search for wildlife.

We fly to Kathmandu on Thursday March 28th, and from there will fly on to Paro in Bhutan. To fly to Bhutan you must travel with the national airline, Druk air - which has a fleet of two planes (!). As we have learnt their flight schedules are subject to very frequent alterations - and we will have two days in Nepal before our flight into Paro on 2nd April. We have decided to take advantage of this stop over to visit the Chitwan National Park. Chitwan is a World Heritage site, and one of Asia's finest wildlife sanctuaries, home to over 400 resident species of birds and many endangered mammals including the One horned rhino, Sloth Bear, Himalayan Black bear, leopard, gharial crocodile, and Royal Bengal Tiger.

On April 2nd we will fly into Paro, to begin the expedition through Bhutan.

We will be keeping a daily blog and hope to be able to post this on the flag expedition site as we travel - however access to an Internet connection in Bhutan is something of a rarity - and the lines of communication can be unreliable! While we will not be able to email at all during the trekking portions of the expedition, we are due to be in the capital, Thimpu, by the 12th April when we are meeting with the officers of the WWF operating in Bhutan. Hopefully while we are there we will be able to use one of the internet cafes, and may even be able to send some photographs of the travels so far. If all else fails, we will post the travel blog in one go on our return to the UK at the beginning of May!

 
 
 

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