Monsoon Expedition: Mahuli Fort
My feet are happy. Scaling the tallest peak of Thane was no easy feat, but it was the most adventurous trek I’ve been on this month, and surprisingly my feet did not ache. Armed with only water that we weren’t sure will last till the end, but well equipped to document anything that we may stumble upon, we began our journey on one fine bright sunny morning, with the peaks hiding in the clouds.
A fine, bright sunny morning lasts for a very few minutes in the northern Western Ghats, however. Very soon it began to grow hotter and humid on the ground below the tall peaks – where lay a temple – the first and the last stopover for anyone who trudges Mahuli.
|The Rocky cliffs of Mahuli|
|The Kinslaying in Damselflies!|
Although Odonata larvae are known to feed on their own kind if their population is more than prey, there is a need for study regarding adults. I think it happens because they are most diverse in species as well as in numbers during this season – and hence are an easy catch, but they may also kill and feed on other Odonates to perhaps reduce competition amongst species (as is studied in Odonata larva). If this indeed happens, then Odonates are as smart as people that go to war. Another pretty damselfly present at the scene was Pseudagrion rubriceps.
|Soldierfly, Ptectitus sp.?|
|The fallen Sting|
|Way through the Karvy|
|The path runs through this ridge|
And yet when I looked down upon the path I saw plastic litter – and may I crib a bit again, as in every post – that I simply fail to understand what goes through the mind of the Littering Folk. If there weren’t very many problems we’re facing already, it will be worth drawing some funds towards researching their minds. They’re different I tell you.
|The Sahyadri ranges|
|The split tree of Mahuli|
|Beefly, family Bombyliidae|
|Clinteria, the Flower Chafer|
After a moment with the flies and the beetles, the cloud cover took over and it began to pour. It was a welcoming change though, unlike on many other expeditions. Climbing in the bombardment of rain was refreshing. The steep path was mainly large rocks with ledges to grab onto. These turned into little waterfalls. Although it seemed a little dangerous to climb through the escarpments, our pace was picked up due to the cooling of the weather, and with the thought of reaching shelter as soon as possible.
|The Main Gate of Mahuli Fort|
|Mud-dauber Wasp nest|
|Rhene sp. loves blowing bubbles as well!|
|The Queen, probably the Lady of the Weaver Ants|
A little way from here was the ridge I talked about earlier. With it in our sight, we were keen on walking on flat ground again and just then a friend of mine sighted something different. He called me in a hushed voice – there’s a snake!
This snake was something that I had never photographed before. I’d only seen one in captivity. It was rather small, but extremely venomous. In fact, it ranks first in causing most deaths in India. And no, it was not a Cobra – although another group behind us did see one – this snake was a Saw-scaled Viper:
From here on, however, we made sure we did not blindly hold onto any plant, for sighting this deadly snake reminded us that this is the wild, and there’s no rescue coming if we’re in trouble.
|The Myrmarachne family|
|Midges in a Spider's web|
|Treading the road already taken|
Since we’re at the end of Monsoon, the weather has been fluctuating a lot. This is a grim reminder that the following few months are going to be very hot and humid – an aftermath of the havoc monsoon created in the Western Ghats. But this weather is also the most productive when a number of plants flower and sow seeds for the next season, as well as insects and birds and mammals that make the best of this short-lived bounty.