It was 6pm and already getting dark when, right at the entrance to the cave, was a large cat that looked like a furry cloud trailing a long curly tail. We were face-to-face. The leopard was as surprised to see me as I was. My happiness at seeing this apparition overcame my fear. Was it real? Was it an illusion? Did I really see it?
In slow motion, I stretched my hand to grab my camera. The leopard noticed my movement, and leapt away noiselessly, disappearing up into the cliffs above. I did manage a grainy photo as it bolted off – visual proof to myself that I had actually seen what I had just seen.
We sighted snow leopards four more times this winter. I will never forget its haunting yowl echoing from the cliffs overlooking Phoksundo Lake. Even when we did not hear it, the leopard’s ghostly presence was all around us. It would pass through our village, marking and depositing scat, but it would disappear before we noticed it was there.
“It looks like he is challenging us, teasing us, playing hide and seek,” Tshiring said.