Our journey following Natasha’s grandfather, Dr Bengt Berg, brings us to the Himalayas to search for flying dragons – Lammergeier birds or bearded vultures. Almost 100 years ago, Bengt made the journey to the Himalayas with his wife – a journey that took many months on foot – to be the first to make discoveries about the mythical Lammergeier that lived in glowing caves, and dragon-like with their nine foot wingspan could lift small children or lambs off to the netherworld.
Bengt was the first to photograph the Lammergeier at close range, hoisting a hot air balloon basket on wire cables down a Himalayan cliff face to dangle in front of the nesting Lammergeier. This imaginative technique, fraught with danger and difficulty, led to the first ever close up pictures of the birds in the wild (see below).
Almost a century later, Natasha traces her grandfather’s footsteps back through the Himalaya’s to the boarder of Tibet, to see how close she can get to the Lammergeier in the wild. With less time, but longer lenses, it proves to be a difficult challenge. Stopping in at monasteries we asked for help from the Lamas along the way. Tibetan culture reveres the bird, believing they are connected to angels.
Stationing ourselves in the last “forbidden kingdom” of Tibetan culture, the walled mid evil kingdom of Lo-Manthang – 13 kilometres from the Tibetan border – only opened to foreigners in 1992, we spotted a pair of Lammergeiers soaring overhead like airplanes.
Every day, they appeared out of the canyons to follow similar flight paths. Day after day, we chased and waited for them; on cliff sides, canyon floors, and in caves…but the only time one came close… well that is a story to be revealed in the film!
We travelled with a delightful support team who never gave up on our mission to find the Gourral (the local name of the vulture) and were as excited and willing as we were to go to great lengths to meet a dragon at close range.