Vietnam – Saigon – Der Briefeschreiber von Saigon

Nun habe ich Ihn doch noch getroffen, den Briefeschreiber von Saigon. Mit Stolz erzählte mir Herr Ngo an seinem Arbeitsplatz im Postamt von Saigon, das er schon im deutschen Fernsehen war und kramte sogleich den Bericht einer deutschen Zeitung heraus. Herr Ngo spricht übrigens Englisch und Französisch, er übersetzt alle möglichen Dokumente und schreibt auch Liebesbriefe.

Einfach nur Beeindruckend der fast 90 Jahre alte Herr, toll das ich Ihn noch treffen durfte.

 

Vietnam – Da Nang – Der red-shanked douc

Da Nang die viertgrößte Stadt Vietnams boomt, die Grundstückspreise steigen stark und das hat seinen Grund. Im Verhältnis zu Saigon ist es hier weit weniger hektisch, die Durchschnittstemperatur liegt bei 25°C und der Ozean mit kilometerlangen Stränden lädt zum verweilen ein.

© Do Thi Thu Tra

Am Strand lässt sich morgens ein toller Sonnenaufgang beobachten, wenn es denn nicht wolkig und neblig ist wie bei meinem Aufenthalt.

Früh morgens kommen die Fischer in ihren typischen Booten an Land, um ihren Fang an den Mann oder die Frau zu bringen, frischer kann man ihn nicht bekommen.

© Do Thi Thu Tra

Auch die Linh Ung Pagoda ist immer einen Besuch wert, nicht nur die riesigen Bonsais und die riesige Buddha Statue sind sehenswert, die gesamte Anlage ist einfach großartig.

Aber natürlich bin ich nicht zum Sightseeing angereist, sondern wegen des bedrohten Red Shanked Doug [Pygathrix nemaeus] oder auch rotschenkliger Kleideraffe. Gute Fotos von diesem wunderschönen Primaten zu machen gestaltet sich nicht einfach, denn der Son Tra Mountain ist nicht nur ziemlich groß, sondern auch ein nahezu undurchdringlicher Dschungel. Zum Glück haben die bunten Familien-Clans ihre Lieblingsplätze und ihre Lieblingsspeisen, hat man diese einmal gefunden sind die Chancen auf Fotos deutlich größer. Allerdings erzählten mir die einheimischen Fotografen, die im Gegensatz zu mir täglich am Berg unterwegs sein können, das sie Jahre für gutes Material benötigt hätten. Auch mir sind in der kurzen Zeit keine erstklassigen Fotos gelungen, aber das ist ansporn noch einmal hierher zurückzukommen und es erneut zu versuchen.

© Do Thi Thu Tra

© Do Thi Thu Tra

© Do Thi Thu Tra

 

In einigen Tagen folgt ein Bericht aus dem Cát Tiên Nationalpark

Vietnam – Buôn Ma Thuột – Das Kaffeparadies

Damit die Tour nicht nur aus der anstrengenden Suche nach wilden Tieren besteht, habe ich einen kleinen Zwischenstopp auf einer Kaffeeplantage im zentralen Hochland gemacht, um zu erfahren wie der Kaffeeanbau aussieht und wie die Menschen davon leben.

Wer einmal eine Kaffeeplantage besucht und den harten und schlecht bezahlten Alltag der Kaffeebauern erlebt hat, der sieht das Getränk ganz sicher mit anderen Augen. Der kleine Familienbetrieb den ich mir angeschaut habe produziert neben Kaffee auch noch Pfeffer, Tee, Erdnüsse, Kautschuk und diverse Früchte um genügend Einkommen zu generieren.

In der Region wird fast ausschließlich die Sorte Robusta angebaut, da der Boden hier ideal für diese ist. Robusta Kaffee hat einen höheren Koffeingehalt als Arabica und die Pflanzen sind auch widerstandsfähiger. Der Kaffee wird hier übrigens meist aus kleinen Gläsern kalt mit Eisstücken getrunken. Die Farm die ich besucht habe ist etwa 10.000 qm groß und liefert etwa 6 Tonnen Ertrag im Jahr.

Fast alles hier ist Handarbeit und wie so eine Kaffeepflanze in die Erde kommt, das weiß ich jetzt auch. Da wurde mir kurzerhand eine Schaufel in die Hand gedrückt und wenigen Minuten später hatte ich meine erste Robusta in die Erde gepflanzt, ganz schön schweißtreibend bei über 35° in der Sonne. Hier wird keineswegs nur einfach ein Loch gemacht, es gilt zu beachten das ein entsprechendes Gefällte um die Pflanze ensteht so das die Pflanze nicht “ertrinkt” wenn es mal wieder heftig regnet. Zum Schluss wird der Boden um die Pflanze noch mit Zweigen belegt damit er nicht zu schnell austrocknet.

© Do Thi Thu Tra
© Do Thi Thu Tra

© Do Thi Thu Tra

Mit großem Aufwand wird in Buon Ma Thuot auch Forschung für die Ertragssteigerung betrieben. Dazu werden die Robusta Pflanzen in Handarbeit gekreuzt. Die Pflanzen werden dazu abgeschnitten eingekerbt und dann verbunden.

 

Im nächsten Bericht werde ich aus Da Nang und von der Suche nach den Rotschenkligen Kleideraffen auf Sơn Trà berichten.

Vietnam – Yok Đôn – Der Dschungel ruft

Die erste Location die ich mir angeschaut habe ist der Yok Đôn Nationalpark. Um diese Jahreszeit sind im Park meist nur wenige Touristen unterwegs, oder wie in meinem Fall sogar gar keine. Der Park beherbergt mehr als 40 Arten von Säugetieren darunter den seltenen asiatischen Elefant, die Fischkatze und auch den Nebelparder außerdem mehr als 200 Vogelarten und atemberaubende 85 Schmetterlingsarten. Leider hat Yok Đôn massiv mit illegaler Rodung und auch mit Wilderei zu kämpfen. Die Ranger sind alle an der Waffe ausgebildet, führen diese aber nicht standardmäßig mit sich. Absolutes MUSS bei solchen Touren sind übrigens halbhohe Wanderschuhe und lange Kleidung, denn es gibt hier eine große Anzahl an verschiedenen Giftschlangen, recht giftige Ameisen und zudem gefühlt einhundert Trillionen Mosquitos, die unter anderem auch Malaria übertragen. Und letztere interessieren sich offenbar besonders für deutsches Blut…

Der Wald ist teilweise sehr dicht und mit den Augen schwer zu durchdringen. Die Tiere außerhalb der erlaubten Bereiche sind extrem scheu, denn sie bekommen kaum Menschen zu Gesicht. Das sind Bedingungen wie ich sie liebe, echte Herausforderungen eben.
Für eine erste Einschätzung der Gegebenheiten habe ich zwei der Ranger Stationen als Ausgangspunkte genutzt. Wie alle Menschen denen ich bisher im Land begegnet bin, sind die Ranger sehr freundlich und lustig auch wenn es noch keine gemeinsame Sprache gibt, denn sie sprechen kein Englisch und ich noch kein Vietnamesisch. Das Leben hier ist sehr einfach aber auch grandios wenn man die Natur betrachtet. Damit es den Rangern in Ihrer freien Zeit nicht langweilig wird, sind alle Stationen mit Solarstrom und z.B. Satellitenfernsehen ausgerüstet, riesige Wassertanks fangen das Regenwasser auf.

Gegessen wird hier was der Dschungel hergibt. Fisch, Pflanzen, Früchte und auch Fleisch allerdings keine wilden Tiere kommen auf den Teller. Eine Suppe aus Dschungelpflanzen hat man nicht alle Tage und wenn diese dann auch noch köstlich schmeckt ist der Tag gerettet

Normalerweise ist das betreten des Waldes ohne Guide nicht erlaubt und das ist für mich ein großer Nachteil, denn so kann ich nicht planen wie ich es gewohnt bin. Aber ich hoffe auf eine Ausnahmegenehmigung bei meinem nächsten Besuch.

Die Bedingungen haben sich als extrem schwierig erwiesen, aber ich glaube das die Chancen für Fotos der seltenen Katzen in der Trockenzeit, wenn nur sehr wenige natürliche Wasserstellen vorhanden sind, sehr gut sein könnten. Daher werde ich noch einmal für einen längeren Aufenthalt zurückkehren.

 

Im nächsten Artikel erzähle ich etwas über meinen Kurzbesuch auf einer Kaffeeplantage in der Region Buon Ma Thuot.

 

 

Vietnam – Saigon

Xin chào! Hier werde ich nun gelegentlich von meiner aktuellen Tour durch Vietnam berichten. Wie immer geht es um Naturfotografie und die schwierige, meist nicht von Erfolg gekrönte Suche nach seltenen wilden Katzen. Die erste Tour in ein für mich neues Land dient immer dem ausloten der Möglichkeiten und der Suche nach erfolgversprechenden Locations, die ich dann auf einer weiteren Reise nutze um zum Erfolg zu kommen.

Ausgangspunkt der Tour ist Saigon, welches man im Direktflug von Frankfurt in etwa 11 Stunden erreichen kann. Eine quirlige Stadt die scheinbar nie schläft. Es war unmöglich das Gewusel in den ersten beiden Tagen zu verstehen. Man benötigt z.B. einen Bus und schon steht man als “Neuling” vor dem ersten kleinen Problem. Die Haltestellen kann man zwar mit etwas Glück ausmachen, aber man fragt sich sogleichwann kommt denn nun der Bus?” Den Luxus eines aushängenden Fahrplans wie wir Europäer ihn gewohnt sind, nein, den gibt es hier so nicht. Und hat man einen der teilweise doch etwas in die Jahre gekommenen Busse erwischt, geht es sogleich in ein meist etwas längeres Abenteuer in den Stadtverkehr. Regeln scheinen nicht wirklich zu existieren. Hier gilt, jeder fährt wie und wo er will, aber alle passen irgendwie auf die anderen auf. Gerade als Fußgänger scheint mir Saigon nicht ganz ungefährlich zu sein, man muss seine Augen überall haben um die von allen Seiten herannahenden Motorroller zu erfassen. Das Überqueren einer größeren Straße zu den Stoßzeiten gleicht einer Mutprobe. Ach ja, Ampeln gibt es natürlich hier und da auch, nur sind die den Abertausenden Rollerfahrern herzlich egal. Die Luft in der Stadt ist übrigens so schlecht, das sich viele nur mit Schutzmaske nach draußen begeben.


In den wenigen ersten Tagen die mir in Saigon zur Verfügung standen, habe ich mich entschieden nur einige wenige Highlights anzuschauen. Dazu gehörte auch das Wasserpuppen-Theater “Múa Rối Nước“. Einfach nur großartig was die Studenten und Künstler dort vorführen.


Weitere Informationen findet man auch auf Wikipedia

Auch der Ben Thanh Market ist einen Besuch wert. Hier gibt es nahezu alles was man benötigt, wildes Gewusel und schlechte Luft inklusive. Wer sich in Vietnam nicht sicher ist ob er etwas kaufen möchte, sollte seinen Einkaufsbummel übrigens besser nicht am frühen Morgen beginnen, kann es doch passieren das man der erste Kunde in einem Laden ist und wenn dieser nichts einkauft bedeutet das für den Besitzer Unglück.

Den berühmten Briefschreiber Duong Van Ngo findet man im Hauptpostamt. Der über 80 Jahre alte Herr schreibt seit Jahrzehnten Briefe für seine Kundschaft. Jetzt tritt er ein wenig kürzer und ist nicht mehr so oft an seinem Arbeitsplatz zu finden, aber an den längst verdienten Ruhestand denkt er offenbar noch nicht. Leider war er bei meinem ersten Besuch nicht anwesend, aber ich werde ihn sicher noch treffen und die Fotos hier posten

Auch eine kleine Fahrt mit der Fähre über den Saigon kann ganz interessant sein, um die wachsende Skyline der Stadt anzuschauen.

 

Im nächsten Bericht werde ich über meinen ersten Aufenthalt in der Wildnis erzählen, es lohnt sich also wieder hier hereinzuschauen.

Canon CPS takes some super telephoto lenses out of support

Hard to believe, Canon CPS has taken the penultimate generation of some super telephoto lenses like my EF500 4.0 L IS MK I out of support ! Seems they hope for increasing sales of the new MK II version

I will probably replace the lens with the coming EF600 4.0 DO or EF400 4.0 DO. The DO lenses with their light weight and small size have a big advantage for those who often travel by plane.

The Canon EOS 1DX MKII and what I do not like on it

Especially when you are into nature photography and thus usually have to react very quickly to events, you often fight with poorly thought-out firmware of your camera. For years I have used the 1D family of Canon, because they convinced me in terms of ruggedness and reliability and just like any photographer I expect a perfect tool. On my last trip to the Himalayas I had a lot of excitement in this regard and I do not want to forget to tell about them here. Actually, the EOS 1DX MKII is the perfect tool for harsh and extreme environments and it performed well over the years. But if I would write down the curses that I gave at over 20,000 feet in nowhere at -20 ° I would probably end up on some index.

Here are my charts of “annoyances”

  • Loading a configuration stored on the memory card takes several seconds!
    Canon builds a high-speed camera capable of producing 14 frames per second and 4K videos with 50FPs, but I have to wait for miserably long seconds, while my subject runs or flies away, to load a painstakingly created setup? As someone who has been active in hardware and software development for many years professionally and personally, I am somewhat lacking the words. Are you serious, Canon ? This can be done in fractions of a second, unless the hardware and software was poorly planned. Of course, you can make all the settings manually, but with more and more complex configuration options and menu depth, this takes far more time than one actually has. These features are more than just baubles, but only if they are well done, and this is clearly not the case here. Incidentally, the few custom setups also do NOT save the complete settings of the camera.
  • Copying of camera configurations between the memory cards is a mess
    Now it is supposed to happen that one actually fills a memory card completely with photos and films and must exchange accordingly. That one also removes the saved setup files, which are saved on the card, should be clear. Now you have a new memory card but just without its setups, but stop! One has saved his setups also on the second card the Cfast at home. You might think that you could simply load the setup from the CFast card and save it to the new CF card. Yes it’s possible, but stupidly also the selected “Main Card” for photo and film is saved. If you want to save your setup on the CFast card and after loading this setup also the CFast card should be selected as the main card because it can be used for example as setup for filming in 4K / 50FPs (and this is only with the CFast card possible!), you have to configure it so. It is therefore NOT possible to save a setup on the Compactflash card which has selected the CFast card as the main memory card ! The configuration is always saved on the card selected as the main card! Thus, Canon destroyed a quick switch between film and photo! I use, for example the Compactflash card exclusively for photographing and the CFast card exclusively for filming, a switch between the two modes via stored setup is not possible (unless you copy this awkward on a PC), you have to load the configuration and manual configure CFast as a storage location for filming, otherwise it will be a very short film…
  • Movie configuration only visible if the camera is also in movie mode
    Another incomprehensible annoyance to me! If you want to make configurations for filming you have to bring the camera in the power-eating movie mode. The mirror is folded up, the sensor permanently read out and displayed on the LCD screen. A completely superfluous nonsense which empties the battery and that is very annoying, especially in cold places!
  • Not possible to preconfigure one memory card for taking pictures and the other one for filming
    Why isn’t this possible? An elementary function that was simply left out. Of course the Canon representative will now state that the camera is primarily a photo and not a movie camera. Then please Canon stop to highlight this feature especially. You advertise a camera with great photo AND film features and then you cripple it that much that it barely makes sense to use. The managers in your executive board do not seriously believe that a photographer who also films with the EOS 1DX MKII buys it to determine then “oh, filming in 4K is possible but it‘s extreme unpractical, then I’ll buy an EOS Cxxx Camera for another thousands of Euros … “? I’ll tell you what he’s doing: He’s just buying a camera from one of your competitors who can do both equally well.
  • No automatic loading of a Movie Setup when switching to movie mode
    As I’m talking about filming, why on earth was this simple but extremely helpful feature not implemented? I changed to movie mode, and the camera automatically loaded a preset setup for filming. This could make the life of the camera users much easier.
  • No 4K Raw out
    Many times criticized and actually a joke. 4K Raw output is nowerdays implemented in much cheaper cameras. The argument to protect other product lines hardly works as mentioned above. The cost of storage is just when filming not insignificant, a 512GB CFast card currently costs about 800! € a 512GB SSD hard drive, however, just 320 €. Incidentally, the memory problem could easily be solved: Why does Canon not just build a slot for an mSATA hard drive instead of the card slots for two memory cards? A small step in this direction they already did, the CFast interface would indeed allow a simple integration. For 95% of all photographers this would mean NO MORE fiddeling around with different memory cards, because the least consume 1TB memory in one day (well, except the highspeed posers who take hundreds of photos in a minute and then afterwards check if there‘s a good pic… 😉
  • It is not possible to adjust the settings on the camera via switches on the Supertele lenses
    I have been wondering for years who actually fiddels around in the field with the switches of the Superteles? This is not only impractical it chases maybe also the wild motive. So if someone out there is using this, please report! 😉 The switches are for me a relic from the 70s and long completely redundant. All possible settings on the lense could be made on the body by menu setting. Positive side effect: nothing is as expensive and vulnerable in the development as mechanics. Here Canon could save huge costs.
  • Joystick does not wake up the camera
    Conveniently possible on earlier models, simply omitted on the 1DX MK II. The joystick will not wake up the camera! Why? And somehow you can not select the autofocus points there (I can not believe this so I have to deal with the manual again)
  • Touchscreen only limited use
    A touchscreen is something very practical and, above all, something silent, stupidly, the least functions of the camera are adjustable via touch screen. This feature has been trimmed that much that they could have left it out right away.

Time for a new adventure

The schedule is not fixed yet, but it’s time to start with the planning.
Where do I go ? This stays a secret for now, but the map gives you an idea. As usual it’s about cats, big cats and about beautiful colored buddies who are hanging around in the trees most of the time.

 

Face-to-face with the King of the Himalayas

It was a fantastic experience. After many years and countless attempts, I managed to photograph a wild snow leopard close up. It was the longest and most strenuous trip I’ve ever done to photograph the rare and shy cat.

At the start of the tour in December 2016 the conditions on site were anything but favorable, because snow was only sporadic available. So I spent a week of acclimatization in Leh – the provincial capital of the Indian state Jammu & Kashmir which is located at about 3500 meters above the sea level – without snow. Shortly after my arrival at the “Kushok Bakula Rinpoche” airport, my body reported the normal “alarm signals” caused by the big difference in altitude, such as, for example, headache. From the previous trips to the region, this response of my body and how to cope with it was still good in my memory. So I pulled back and started to move very slowly. In the first days I took around three litres of water and tea daily and made only short walks in the city. So my body adapted quite quickly to the already enormous height. Of course, I could hardly wait to go into the wilderness and to the cats, but a good acclimatization was first and foremost because there were almost four months at even higher altitudes in front of me.

Provinzhauptstadt Leh im indischen Bundesstaat Jammu&Kaschmir
Dez’16 – A view of the market square in Leh, located at about 3500m altitude and provincial capital of the Indian state Jammu & Kashmir

On Christmas Eve 2016 the adventure started, a driver took me to the first area I had selected, almost one hundred kilometers away from the provincial capital. With forty kilos of equipment, spread over two backpacks, I faced the first big challenge. The complete equipment had to be brought up to the mountains at more than 4,000 meters in height, alone on my own without any helpers. It was a first day with incredible effort. Each path had to be crossed twice, because I could not carry the enormous weight of the two backpacks at once up into the valley. So I had to do it bit by bit, put one backpack as far as I could up into the mountains and then walk back to pick up the second one. After more than five hours, I had found a suitable location for the tent and set it up. One rarely finds sites which are flat for the tent and so I had to fight with gradients and stones. Due to the frozen ground, it was not possible to create a balance. So many sleepless nights followed, ISO mat and sleeping bag just did not stay in their place.

Dez’16 – A small view from the valley about one hundred meters below my tent

The routine I gained in my previous journeys came back quickly. At about five o’clock in the morning, watch the surroundings around the tent through the camera and then, when the sun did warm up the tent around ten o’clock in the morning, leave the tent briefly to dry the sleeping bag and get about two litres of water from the small trickle. I kept the times outside the tent deliberately very brief, the valley should look “safe” as always for the wild animals and so I did spent hardly more than thirty minutes daily outside the tent.

The field of view from the tent was very small due to the used large focal length of 500mm and the small opening in the tent and so I was always afraid that the cat could move around the tent and I wouldn’t see it. It was a very stressful and painful endeavor, because I had to sit constantly with twisted upper body in the tent to be able to look through the viewfinder of the camera.

Dez ’16 – During the very hard work

And then a first small highlight in the end of December ‘16. In the late afternoon, when it was almost too dark to be able to take pictures without a huge picture noise, I heard a well-known sound. Stones rolled down the rock wall and it was not a single animal but many who were there. They came out of the rock wall to the small plain on which I had set up my tent, to get still existing grasses and bushes. I could not see them at first, but after a few minutes, I had the first visual contact. Several Ibex stood directly in front of my tent and looked suspiciously in my direction. They had instantly recognized that something was wrong here, and after a little thought, they performed the typical alarm calls to tell the other members of the group that it’s dangerous to stay and instantly they started to run away down the valley – a terrific spectacle…

Dez’16 – Ibexe at dusk just in front of my tent made with 25600 ISO

A week later arrived in the new year, I had a further and very important success. During a short stay outside the tent, I could see the first traces of the snow leopard in the valley, a bit lower from my tent. An exciting and exciting moment! I did choose the right valley, the cat was here at night! Now it was necessary to find out if and when the cat would use this path once again and be ready at the decisive moment. In order to have a better overview on the surroundings of the tracks, I decided to change the position of my tent. This was a complex undertaking, because the entire tent must be removed and set up again. Fortunately for the first time it was snowing continually, a great advantage, because it allowed to see the traces of the cat much better.

Jan’17 – A snow leopard did run below my tent at night

The temperatures at night were as low as -15 °, which is obviously above those I had experienced years ago in this season. This is probably a result of the climate change. To spend weeks camping in solitude without contact with humans and with less than 1000KCal of food daily is not easy, one loses very fast body weight and the run out of energy is also very quickly noticeable. Thus, one’s own body is almost always in the emergency mode and confined itself only to keep the important parts of the body warm.

A daily ration of food , mixing different soups ensures variety
A daily ritual to filter and disinfect the mountain water
A small trickle used as water supply by human and animal

Now it was just waiting, an incredibly grueling wait for the “King of the Himalayas”. Would the cat show up again? Or was it just a short meeting in the valley? The planned time in this valley was coming to an end, soon I would return to the provincial capital for a short stay, and after two or three days move to another valley. I could not see the cat, no traces or hints that it was still here. But then, when I had almost given up and let my mind dream of standing under a warm shower in the accommodation in Leh, the king appeared in front of my tent. In the late afternoon and twenty metres in front of my tent, he paused and looked suspiciously into my camera lens. I stared – motionless, I stared through the viewfinder and almost forgot to press the trigger in the excitement. For several minutes, the cat was standing in front of my tent, trying to figure out what it was about, and whether danger threatened, then to take a leisurely step to the little trickle that I also used as water supply to quench it’s thirst.

It was an incredible experience, an incredible sense of happiness and a great compensation for all the efforts.

Face to face with the King.
The King quenches his thirst, at the same supply I also used.

Only one more time I would get a close view on a wild snow leopard in this tour before this exciting journey ended. And after almost four months and with almost fifteen kilos less bodyweight I returned to Germany.

Last check of the technical equipment

Even a small defective plug or adapter can make the tour very difficult, so before the tour I have played all possible scenarios again and again. What if the charger for one among different camera batteries has a defect, if an adapter is broken or the solar panel is no longer working? Sure, you will not find a solution to every problem, but it is a good idea to think about it before the tour.

Often simply improvisation is required. As for example in my last tour in the Himalayas, when the only available adapter for the connection between external high-performance battery (also called Powerbank) and solar panel broken, it was almost a disaster. It was no longer possible to charge the Powerbank and because it provided different output voltages for the various technical devices, an elementary component of my equipment was no longer functional.

Solarpanel und Powerbank
Solarpanel and Powerbank had to be repaired temporarily

In such cases, it is of great advantage to have a technical background or at least a technical talent. I could solve the problem in a few minutes, by connecting the cable ends loosely with the adapter.

Improvisation
Sometimes improvisation is required

Also, for other emergency situations, such as accidents, one should be prepared and appropriately equipped. I always have a satellite emergency call system in my backpack, so I can call anytime and at any point on earth for help if necessary. In recent days, I have also tested this equipment extensively. Are the configured phone number and e-mail addresses still up-to-date? Is the device’s battery ok? I sent some messages to see if everything works properly.

InReach Satelittenpager
The satellite-based emergency call system is important part in emergency situations

A good preparation enormously increases the probability of a successful tour; so it must be an integral part of any adventure!

Return to the King of the Himalayas

Exciting time is coming! After several months of planning, I will be back to the Himalayas and try again to find the shy and rare snow leopards. I have planned different routes at altitudes between 4300m and 5500m; and I will explore a wilderness area of 1000km².

During last months, I have replaced a large part of the equipment which I did use on the last tour. Some got damaged, others simply turned out to be insufficient or just because there are better choices available in the meantime. I got a lighter tent and a much more efficient sleeping bag with hydrophobic down, because wet and therefore hardly insulating downs in the sleeping bag were a very big problem during my last tour. I will find out in a few weeks whether waterproofing the down with wax is really useful or not. I will also change my clothes. Instead of using synthetic fibers as I did last time, I will now focus on natural products made out of merino wool for base- and mid-layer.

Kleidung und Campingausrüstung
Clothes, tent and further camping equipment

Two large and waterproof backpacks complete the equipment. The smaller backpack will carry all camera equipment and then be used as a hand luggage on flight. That bag will also be used for my exploration of the locations, because the larger one will always be left in the tent.

Neue Rucksäcke
The backpacks

Like on the last tour, the main difficulty will be the correct composition of the food. I’ve tried to find out a mix of carbohydrates, fat, protein, minerals and vitamins which is better than those I used on my last tour. But anyway, it will not be able to fill the needs of my body fully. As I will be alone again, without any helpers, I can only take what I can carry on my own. This means that about 8 kg of food have to be enough for several months.

img_0425
The complete food for the tour

The camera equipment is of course a central point. This time I will travel with three different cameras. A powerful professional DSLR serves as the main camera for pictures and for filming in 4K DCI. I will use a mirrorless camera and an action camera for all the making of’s and the documentation of the tour. I skipped the tripod last time, but I will carry one this time, because it is unbelievably exhausting to hold by hands a heavy camera with an almost 4kg lens for hours at high altitudes.

Die Kameraausrüstung
A part of the camera equipment

 

During the tour, I will unfortunately not be able to post updates here, because I will be far from civilization and thus have no communication opportunity. But it’s worth to get back here in April 2017 ! So stay tuned !

An audience with the King of the Himalayas

After six months of preparation, I traveled the Himalayas for several months to take pictures of snow leopards. I intentionally did it on my own without any helpers, because every noise or smell might be sensed by the cats and reduce the chances of a meeting with them.

In contrast to the summer the landscape was very barren in winter, but not less beautiful. It was cold, of course, but that is ultimately only a question of the right equipment. It is always amazing that under such tough conditions animals can survive.

Der Himalaja
[@4300m -15°] Breathtaking – The Himalayas
I always set up the tent in a way so that at least one side of it was protected by a large rock or something similar and the view from another side of it to the valleys was possible. So I could take pictures from the tent if necessary. This is especially useful late in the evening and early in the morning, because at those times the cats often roam around their territory. For weight reasons, I left the tripod at home and used other equipment to stabilize the heavy lenses.

DSC00367
I took the equipment as tripod

Everyday extreme efforts and only small meals have brought my body to its limits. It was clear from the start that I would not be able to cover my calorie requirements, because I would have to take with me twice as much as I did, which was not possible due to the reasons of weight. So, it was only about keeping my body working for several months. As an energy supplier, sometimes I also used chocolate, a companion which should not be underestimated…

IMG_20140302_130646
Daily ration of food…

Even simple things like cooking became a challenge. Because of lack of snow, water was only present in a tiny trickle. Then you would appreciate simple plastic bags, because without them you could hardly get the water. In the contrast of snow, however, there was an advantage that I needed much less fuel. Also lighting the cooker was quite difficult at high altitude and low temperature. The fuel requirement, just like everything else, had been randomly estimated.

Als Wasserversorgung diente ein winziger Rinnsal
As watersupply I used a very tiny stream

One might think that it would be boring to sit alone in a valley or rather in the “Nothing” for months. But this was not the case. I did have incredibly exciting months. Every day I searched around my “camp” for the traces of the cats; and I made a lot of strenuous kilometers with heavy equipment, all in the hope of getting the “King of the Himalayas” in front of my camera.

IMG_20140130_140830
Scanning the rocks for hours was the daily business

In principle, one must say that it is a great success to find one of the rare cats at all. Not only because they are extremely rare and shy, but also, for an inexperienced eye it is almost impossible to spot them among the rocks. It was such an incredible feeling of happiness when it comes to a meeting after all the efforts! And I had that unbelievable luck! I was privileged to see a whole family of snow leopards with 4 (FOUR!) members. An unforgettable and breathtaking sight that was more than compensated for the incredible efforts!

F65G9460
I got a short audience with the “Queen of the Himalayas”
Schneeleopard
Who did spot first ?
Schneeleopard
It’s impossible not to be recognized by the cat…

Soon, I will start again a very long tour to the Himalayas; and this time, I will try to produce a little movie about the “King of the Himalayas”