Sunday, January 21, 2007

Kodachaadri trek day 2

We pitched our tents, and crashed. Well, thats damp squib is what Sunand would say. And, lo...he didn't let me sleep. He pulled me out for the new year celebrations, that began a day earlier. A cake with 7 candles surfaced!!! Some game.... soon pettered away, and it was the time for anthakshari around a bonfire with competition from other trekking groups, camped just a stone throw away. I sneaked out, and crashed.


Soon, I was pulled out in the name of a 'night trek'.....Deepak, Sandeep, Sunand & me went up to one of the Kodachaadri peaks. I was dragging my feet. Lot of moonlight, outlines of distant hills, a valley, grasslands and forests. We reached the top, and lied down on a carry mat, and starred at the sky. A clear sky, the brightness of the moon, kept some stars away, but still it was breathtaking, it was midnight, and Orion - the hunter - was right above. We watched amazed, and asked questions over-awed, "What if a star falls on us ?"
(pic, flicked from the web)


Nest day morning, the last day of the year, I was slow to be off the blocks. The gang had started for the sunrise. I went up to the peak we had gone the previous night, only to realise the rest of the gang was at a much taller peak. That gave me some time for myself.

As I moved around, on a crater like peak with wild grasses. I stopped, the pounding began, will the snake stay ? I slowly moved, and aimed, it seemed to laze in the morning sun. No movements, as I inched closer, with increased beating, it turned out to be a snake molt! I was excited beyond measure. Therz absolutely no pattern on the skin, and I am finding it difficult to identify it. Yes, I got it home in a lunch box. Note that the head & tail are very close. It has eyelids!

Encyclopedia Britanica article on snakes




The trek began around 10ish. Look at these snow clad leaves. I was amazed. After closer scrutiny realised it some fungus deposit on dying leaves.
Western Hill Catmont. Flowers pollinated by bees, wasps & ants [Isaac].
Thats amazing, for a lot of flowers evolve to have a specific species pollinate their flowers.



As the gang caught their breaths, after the steep & labourious climb down from Kodachaadri. We reached a eatery, and were awaiting 'Puttu'. Meanwhile, I went out to explore a small path that beckoned. And as I stepped into thick vegetation, I could see a skink rush away, and I lost sight of it. The next half an hour, I waited.......at some point it came out......the rustling of the leaves was a dead give away. Importantly, you need to maintain the silence, as you move, spot it, peer thru light tunnels in the dark forests. Little Skink: Mabuya macularia. Skinks the largest of all lizard families, with over 1,300 species feed on plant material & insects.

The puttu finally arrived ;-)

By now, we were in real thick vegetation, quite dark, rapid decent, and my bruised knee. Wonderful trees all over. I just wasn't able to capture them due to pressure to keep up with the group! Notice the leaves. There were four or five leaves at the tip, and just one of them was real long. I couldn't believe my eyes! Was this the characteristic of the plant......or was it the light source that just elongated a leaf ?

These bright colored fruits(?) were sticking out of the ground. I find them quite fascinating, have no clue what they are. The small plants closeby seemed to be associated with it. They were found close to a stream (which had leaches), alongside a unused jeep track.

Dense forest. Trees. Climbers. It was bewildering. And some of them pretty tall. Herz one. Sunand & Deepak (left to right).


Seed dispersal is another interesting aspect in plants. The plants devise various mechanisms to ensure that their seeds reach, far & wide. Fruits are once such mechanism. Many a time, the pod bursts and the seeds are flown, hopefully far away. Here, you see the pod(the conical structure), the brown seeds, and the white radiating threads in a parachute fashion from each seed. A little breeze shud suffice to take the seed away. Wonder, what aerodynamic fundas apply here.



We finally reached this tall waterfall. ArishinaGundi falls. Barely had time to getinto water. Away from the falls, just above the flowing water, besides the rocks where a colony of spiders. Lots of webs, and spides galore. As I watched them, I was zapped to find spiders inside water!!!! Wondering - what the hell - and kept starring at them, took a few pictures, that didn't come out so well. Thought, I shud check this out with experts. As I kept watching the water-borne spiders, blood gushed in, and I realised I was looking at spider reflections!!! Ha....what a let down!!!Well, herz a unsolved mystery. Found a spider inside this nest. Itz real white. With almost straight edges. It looked like a tissue paper folded on a branch and stitched. Mmm...adaptation of a tissue paper thrown or nature's yet another creation ?
The trek was to get over in another half-a-kilometer according to the local guide Vijay, and we walked for atleast 30 minutes!!!
The Gang.

As we walked towards kollur, the new year celebrations started hitting us. Here the road was turned into a greeting card!

A lovely trek. Perfect way to end the year. Would like to go back, with a smaller group, and examine the flora-fauna closely. Thanks KMA.

Sources:

The Book of Indian Reptiles & Amphibians: J. C. Daniel
Common Indian wild flowers: Isaac Kehimkar
The Private Life of Plants: David Attenborough

And, Karthikeyan, Ullas, & Joby.

3 comments:

Ravi Masalthi said...

Hey Akash, great post!
Nice research and love your narration!

Anonymous said...

I slither and I glide,
Into the dark thickness,
I appear and I hide,
And leave myself behind!!!


-C

Casy said...

You got it in a TIFFIN BOX??? Eeeeeeeeks! Do you still have it with you? I liked the tissue home ;). It looks so cozy :D