Valley life

The Kali Gandaki river valley, having cut its way through the Himalayas, is the deepest valley in the world. On one side is Annapurna at 26,000 feet high, and on the other is Dhaulagiri which is even higher. Their two summits are 22 miles apart and the river runs four vertical miles below them. At 7,000 feet it is quite warm and the animal and plant life in the valley is both rich and abundant. Here rhododendrons grow wild and are food for grey langur monkeys. The flowers also attract birds and insects which will sip their nectar, gather their pollen and so bring about their fertilisation. One of these birds, the ring-necked parakeet, comes from the tropics and is at the top of its range here. Any higher and it would be too cold for it. Beneath the rhododendrons, live several species of pheasant. The blood pheasant has a delicate beauty but is one of the plainer members of the pheasant family. The male tragopan, on the other hand, is undoubtedly one of the most magnificent, along with the male impeyan pheasant that has a coronet of a peacock and the burnished metallic iridescence of a tropical butterfly. Like most female birds, the female impeyan is comparatively dull. The valley enables one to walk in just a few days from the tropics in its lower reaches to the equivalent of the poles on the snow slopes high above. As one walks higher, the rhododendron forest gets thinner and becomes covered with moss. In summer there are orchids here and on the ground beneath flowers appear in close-packed bunches, protecting one another from the night frosts.

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