I swirled the lemon ice tea around in my mug, seated under the merciless mid-afternoon sun. The clinks of ice reminded me of hailstorms. The view of the dry, sunny landscape made me sigh in the hope for some showers, to bring respite from the sultriness. I was looking forward to the weekend; we had travel plans, and I beseeched the rain gods to show us some mercy. We were headed to Kakkabe – a quaint, small town in the heart of Coorg (Kodagu) – surrounded by the Western Ghats, in the Bhagamandala forest range. Having heard much about Kakkabe’s bird-life and macro world, I had been extremely eager to explore this region for a while now.
Our journey had overcast skies, and as we closed in on our destination, we were welcomed by thunderstorms. Our excitement was echoed in croaks and squeals from the dense wilderness, which grew louder by the minute.
We planned to stay at a local home-stay near Kakkabe village, in close proximity to Coorg’s tallest peak, Thadiyandamol. The landscape soon became rather rugged, and the uphill terrain could only be conquered by a 4-wheel drive. We were welcomed by the captivating fragrance of wildflowers in full bloom! Not wanting to waste any time, we quickly freshened up and set out for a walk around this beautiful, forested private land. In most regions of Coorg, there is a common practice of adopting lands or maintaining a large forested area, creating miniature forests called ‘devarakaadu’ (Kannada for ‘forest of gods’). These are considered sacred groves, and used as a place of worship by the locals.
A majority of these areas come under the Karnataka Forest Department, while some are privately owned, with an underlying agenda to safeguard them from encroachment and commercialisation. The stretch we walked along had a variety of flora and bird-life that kept my vision hooked on the trees; the leeches on the ground were equally demanding of my attention, though. We walked nearly 4 kms in the drizzle, during which time we came across the Malabar Whistling Thrush, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Green Vine Snake, crabs and beetles.
As dusk began to set in, some freshly brewed coffee helped us get through the evening drizzle. Although it was still midsummer, the thunderstorm had brought the macro world alive! We set out on a different trail this time, with torches and cameras handy, and first spotted the Wayanad Bush Frog perched perfectly on a leaf. We took a few images, and as we continued walking, we managed to spot more frogs including some noteworthy species like the Dancing Frog, Bicoloured Frog, and the endangered Malabar Torrent Toad. I almost shrieked as we spotted nearly seven Malabar Gliding Frogs, and were also lucky enough to witness their mating ritual beside a small water-body.
Immersed in documenting these, we lost track of time, until the home-stay guard reminded us that it was time for dinner. As we headed along the dark path flashing our torches, something slithered to our left; I gasped excitedly on spotting a Beddome’s Cat Snake! The little fellow got himself on a branch, and stayed put despite all the attention he was getting from the paparazzi.
We retired after a sumptuous dinner, and couldn’t wait for what the next day had in store for us. We set out fairly early the next morning after a cup of piping hot Coorg coffee, towards the nearby Iruppu Falls. We saw many of the macro world’s specials throughout this walk, like the Indian Red Snail moving near puddles, cicadas that hummed persistently, and a Malabar Pit Viper that was basking on a branch, splendidly camouflaged in the green canopy.
Fresh rain had made the pathway slushy, and the morning mist didn’t give anything away until we reached the base of Iruppu Falls. The hot summer seemed to have taken a toll on the water level as well, but she was still flowing in all her elegance. I visualised the waterfall in the peak monsoon, when she would likely be in all her glory.
As I sat under the flowing water, it seemed to evoke a hymn in me. I marvelled at how nature never fails to surprise us, even in the most unexpected of places!