Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Gone fishing - Kerala :)

It had been quite a while since we had been anywhere outside collecting Indian native fish. Vyas, Ajay and I had planned for an outing in the last week of August since that would be past the monsoons enough, and would be the last weekend before Ramzan starts for me(which essentially rules out overnight collection trips).

So we did finalize on the dates and also informed Tarun so that he could make arrangements to take part.
We had initial plans for Chikmaglur and we three had met n chalked out plans ranging from routemaps to fish that we would like to collect. Unfortunately (or fortunately) Vyas' colleague told him that the rivers were in spate and the roads were in pathetic condition, and off went that plan.

We had discussed Kerala as an alternative earlier, so we fell back on that plan. And all this change of plans happened the night before our trip!

A few calls and then Vyas and Tarun dropped in at home for some final discussions, decided we would leave Bangalore @ 4:30AM the next day.

I had a horrible case of food poisoning and kept throwing up most of the time and made me apprehensive about making the trip. The whole night went without sleep
I had waited to be getting out for real long and there was noway I was going to miss out on this.

Day 1 - 30/08/2008

3:40AM alarm goes off and I was wide awake much before that. Made a few calls to Ajay n Vyas. Around 4:30AM Ajay in his Honda city, along with Vyas and Tarun picked me up.
Started the journey with a good beaming smily photo

That is L-R
Yours truly, Vyas, Tarun and Ajay.

With an early start, the roads were pretty much empty and we made good time and reached Mysore.
Plus the real yummy cake (I can't testify as I could not eat, but the sounds n expressions on the others' face said it all) that Ajay's wife had made for us helped keep the energy levels lively.
Navigating around Mysore to reach the Gundulpet route was fun. We stopped over at a small bridge, saw lots of land snails about 4" long and collected a couple of Aplochelius Lineatus from the waters.

Moved on and crossed Bandipur and into Kerala. There was a minor traffic jam that greeted us. The sudden increase in intensity of "greens" was a godsent for our sore eyes. Nicely laid roads and greenery around, we enjoyed the drive through.

We stopped for a quick check at a streamlet in spate, though we knew we may not find much here.

Certainly did not stop Ajay from dipping the net

Was beginning to feel quite queasy with the twists n turns, but did settle down pretty quick.

Reached the Wayanad region with some breathtaking sights.

The next rivulet we tried was pretty slippery on the banks, here we did "feel" a lot of fish gnawing at our feet, but remained elusive to our nets.

Moving on we explored quite a few places, but most of them were hard-to-reach and also had fast flowing muddy waters due to the monsoons.

We decided we would head straight to Calicut where Vyas' friend Ajay (jeeyejee on IAH) had planned something for us.

Reached Calicut and synced up with Ajay. He had arranged for a local guide to help us. We picked him up too and went to this place called "Mavur". It's a lovely place with lots of marshlands.

This looked like perfect Channa habitat and that really got all of us excited

In no time we had generated a lot of interest in the locals and a media person even helped us out by talking to a few local fishermen.
We took our nets and started the long hunt.

Found a lot of Horadandia atukorali, looked very beautiful in their dainty self with the golden tinge. Spotted a few barbs . Then suddenly the guide helping us called out that he had caught a snakehead, rushed to him and found a nice 6" Channa Marulius. Unfortunately it seemed like it had been in a fight of some kind and had a horrible infection on half of it's body due to which it could swim right. We asked him to release it back into the waters.

Some nice solid sized Aplochelius Lineatus were netted with a few A.Panchax too

We spent the rest of the evening in the same area where we collected M.Cupanus, Etroplus maculatus, xenentodon cancila and few more barbs.

We did have some casualties, a few specimens I photographed

The quite amazing teeth

Towards the later part of the day, exhaustion had taken hold of me and I preferred to sleep in the car.

Having collected the E.maculatus I was very happy. The little nap did help quite a bit.

It began to rain on the way back to Calicut, turned out to be quite a harrowing experience with the heavy condensation due to the humidity and rains. Reached Calicut in "one-piece"
Got accomodation in one of the hotels with some help from Vyas and Ajay. We all needed a hot shower real bad. Once done with the showers, we headed down to the bar for some talks. Came back to a delicious dinner cooked from home (I had some Appam as I was supposed to be on bland foods )

Everyone hit the sack soon after.

Day 2 - 31/08/2008

Started early with showers and checked out by 7:30. Ajay and Vyas kindly took up the task of cleaning the car from the previous day's mess

We headed towards Thalassery and stopped over at a place where Vyas' uncle would help us with the fish. We picked him up and headed to a known spot.
Was nice to see some lush plant growth and the surroundings were beautiful!

Some crypts

Tarun eyeing them

In no time we had lots of curious onlookers , Kerala folks sure do have high levels of of curiosity (as we had seen the previous day in Mavur). Was heartening to have Vyas' Uncle and his friend giving us company, and they also took care of the crowd.

Imagine answering so many people

Here we collected some E.Maculatus, xenentodon cancila, Rabora Daniconius(which we let go), a nice tire track eel, Puntius Mahecola.

Was a nice drive and passed by Pondicherry, a quick stop @ the Mahe fish market.

I stayed on the bridge while Vyas, Ajay and Tarun went in and reported seeing hammerheads being sold!

From there we reached Thalassery. Vyas' cousin helped us finding a good LFS who did the re-packing with some O2.
With the fish bagged securely, we moved to Vyas' estate which has a slightly brackish water system.

The environs

Here we employed a few fisherboys to do the catching for us.

The technique they used was very interesting - they would make sounds and splash around. Then observe bubbles, place their foot, bend down and come up with a fish in hand !!!

Had heard from Vyas that the E.Suratensis employ this method of hiding by digging into the substrate. Was quite a sight seeing it in person.

Here they caught a lot of different type of fish using the same technique though, including Scats, Snappers, E.Maculatus, Mullets and crayfish

Also spotted Channa Micropeltes fry in the midst of the floating coconut leaves

We scooped up a few

This got satiated Ajay's thirst for snakeheads a bit :)
Satisfied that we were enjoying each other's company and had a good amount of collecting we decided to head back.

We had a good amount of bags in our hand, so took a different route. We had to cross over a coconut tree acting as a bridge, was fun doing this bit

A quick group photo with Vyas' cousin and a few others there

A quick dip into the beach of Thalassery and we headed back to Bangalore. The route through Bandipur was closed due to nightfall and we came back through the Virajpet->Hunsur->Mysore route.

Unpacked the fish, had quite a few casualties with the large E.Suratensis.
Bid goodbyes to each other and shook hands for a wonderful trip that was

All in all, in a summary -

Loved -
1. The great company and mood of camaraderie
2. The variety of fish and waterways
3. The drive and Ajay's car It's quite a lovely machine

Hated -
1. My food poisoning
2. The humidity at times

Adios till the next ride