How vultures attacked me in the Himalayas
“Archie, let's go now, my head is about to burst!” I called out to my new companion, having encountered mountain sickness for the first time, but he could not stop taking pictures, changing his cameras and lenses one by one. Archie is a photo artist, and for this trip he took with him two film and two digital cameras with many lenses, for all occasions, and here on the Tang Lang La pass, more than 5000 meters high, he took photos as if all these cases simultaneously happened.
Over the unusual forms of Buddhist stupas the sun was shining with the halo effect, the wind was playing with ribbons with multi-colored flags, and somewhere below, the same stream of wind was keeping eagles of huge size frozen in the air. Yes, that’s right - after all, we were going down a motorcycle along a wide mountain serpentine to the Indus valley, and Eared Vultures were flowing below with a wingspan of up to three meters.
This was my first trip along the highest road in the world, until that moment I had never climbed on a motorcycle up to a bird's eye height before, and then I suddenly found myself hovering on a bike even higher than these proud birds. There is no misprint - I was just soaring, because only two small spots of tire contact connected us to the asphalt of the mountain serpentine. The rest of Enfield’s construction, together with me, my passenger and all rather heavy luggage, taking into account Archie’s photo equipment, was soaring in the air, going down from the five-thousand pass towards Leh, the capital of the so-called “small Indian Tibet,” Ladakh.
Three years later, during one of our motorcycle expeditions, I even managed to get closer to these birds, on the Rohtang La pass, when they were eating a cow that had died there. There were more than ten of them and they were very passionate about their prey, which allowed me to come close enough and see them, but not enough for the Go Pro wide-angle camera to capture these attractive vultures. I admit, then I missed Archie with his endless cameras and lenses, and even the mountain sickness had already ceased to bother.
When I tried to get even closer, I was noticed and these graceful birds in the sky suddenly turned out to be quite awkward on the ground - they hid, apparently warning each other about the danger. Those that were sitting on the carcass of a cow managed to soar upward with one jump, while the others, with the walk of fat hens, rushed in my direction. For a second, I thought that they were attacking, protecting the prey, because I could not know how these birds behave, I'm not an ornithologist, I'm an engineer.
But I managed to calm down when I saw that the attacking clumsy vultures, hobbling to the first sharp cliff on the way to me, began to jump, or rather even fall down, and at the last moment, barely touching the slope, flew up like a heavy boeing, joining to their own people, those who had already been circling over the carcass of the cow, but not at all above me, as it seemed to me at first. I just stood lower on the slope, and well-fed huge birds needed an acceleration and elevation to take off.