Posted: Fri Sep 02, 2011 2:36 pm Post subject: Vellimalai
A bit of a late post this one. Did a trip tom this place in July.
Vellimalai is the core area of the Meghamalai mountain range in the Southern Western Ghats. Vellimalai translated into Tamil means 'Silver Hill' (Velli=silver;malai=hill,mountain) probably in reference to the low hanging clouds making the mountain look silver from a distance. I had made a trip to Meghamalai earlier this year and found the place blissfully isolated.
A contact from this region kept going on and on 'bout this mountain. Doesnt take long to convince me once you mention a hill stream. So a trip was planed. This time, with childhood friends (non hobbyists) as they were looking for a break and I had'nt done a big trip in a few months. They could relax and I could collect. Sounded perfect to me.
We reached the town of Bodi on Friday morning. Entering Vellimalai requires permission from the District Forest Officer. He turned out to be a very helpful guy. Spent almost the entire day there while he was lamenting on the aversion of the staff towards field trips.
It was 5pm by the time we reached the first spot, Suruli Falls. We had to walk around 2 kms to reach the falls.
The view en route.
The falls. Quite a wimpy one considering the distance we had to walk.
I tried to collect downstream and landed a small Puntius Sp. P.bimaculatus maybe. It started pouring at the moment. Had to abandon collecting here and headed back to the room.
I love the way the clouds roll over the hills sorta reminding you of a Roland Emmerich film.
The night was spent in the usual manner. Meat and alcohol. Green Label was the choice of the night. To hell with the Green Hornet.
Gives you no time to realise you are gonna stumble and fall. It usually is morning by the time realistion and the sun, both dawn upon you.
We left at around 7 the next morning towards Vellimalai.Its a three and a half hour drive to cover the 80 kms. The roads towards the end resembled tracks from the X Games. Luckily, we had hired a jeep. Managed to get through quite comfortably.
We managed to sight a good number of lion tailed macaque, peacocks and a Malabar giant squirrel.
The First Spot
The first spot yielded Schistura denisoni, Schistura semiarmatus, Barilius gatensis (???), Rasbora Sp. We sighted a beautiful orange Channa gachua but had formalities to complete with the check post. By the time we came back, twas gone.
Water was around 23-24 C. Rocks and pebbles made up most of the river bed.Vegetation was conifned to the banks but there was leaf litter found in the stream.
This entire region had been experiencing deficit rainfall recently and hence, the water levels were very low. Very slow flowing at points too.
The Second Spot.
The route to the spot.
Wild mangoes and guavas were everywhere.
Caught this on the way. Clinotarsus curtipes.
The fauna here was the same. It was too difficult to go further upstream and the locals had warned us of the elephant and bear menace here. So we decided to stick to this spot.
The Garra' s had a lovely red caudal. The colour has gone because of stress. Was as red as the caudal of the Epalzeorhynchos bicolor.
After a few hours of collecting and free pedicures for my friends courtesy of the Garra's, we decided to head back as we were starving.
There are around 40 people living around the peak of this mountain. No villages, no settlements nothing. No power,no water, NO ALCOHOL but plenty of meat courtesy the jungle.
Lunch was simple. Hot and steaming rasam, rice and fried potatoes. It was heavenly given the weather and the conditions.
Come night and we realised there was no water around to drink or for other uses. So we decied to drive out in search of the same at around 8:00 Pm.
A short video of the drive. We ran into a herd of Wild Buffaloes on the way. Gigantic, gargantuan, call 'em what you want but they ran like lily livered bandicoots when they saw the jeep.
Loaded with water, we decided to sit outside and chat for a while. A few minutes later, there was a low growl from somewhere nearby. This kept repeating and we couldn see anything but the growls kept getting closer. I swear, our jumps would ve put Carl Lewis to shame.
The distance to the rooms ('bout 8 feet) was covered by leaping. Once inside, the locals told us that was likely a 'Sennai' (meaning Red Dog), probably referring to the South Indian Jackal (Canis aureus naria). A few minutes later, we heard an entire pack with pups and all outside. We were unable to sight 'em though.
No jackal could ve taken this way from us. I have been warned the finest connoisseurs of the world are after my head for keeping both Chivas and Green Label side by side.
The room where we stayed in had a damaged window. Part of it was carved out. A recent bear attack we were informed.
The fact that most of my friends snored HEAVILY didnt help the situation.
Went collecting again before breakfast to build up an appetite. The same catch. But a few more fruits thrown in this time.
The mangoes were awesome. I like 'em sour though. A few bites and your facial expressions start to resemble that of Gobioids.
Has been tentatively ID'ed as Garra hughi.
Schistura denisoni. A huge complex by itself.I have collected this species in almost all my trips. Yet to collect a loach with a nastier disposition.
The alleged road.
A few arachnids from the spot. Anyone good with spiders???
All of 'em were found around the stream and were quite comfortable in water too.
We badly missed out on sighting the Nilgiri Tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius). They are apparently sighted quite commonly around where we stayed but we were not that lucky.
First time I covered an entire trip with my bourgeois photo taking skills and I realised I am quite a biased photographer.I did not take any pics of the Barilius or the Rasbora's.
We left the place around lunch time. I guess this place is worth a visit after the rains just to check if there are any Glyptothorax out here. Planning to do a trip alone end of this year. Wanna make sure it rains heavily before though as I have been told that the stream rages through the forests after the monsoons.
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