My itinerary for the long may day weekend had Coimbatore in it. Thought I would catch up with the CBE (Coimbatore) folks while I was there.
The CBE aquarists met up at Suraj's place. Had not met most of them from CBE, was nice getting to know them and talk what we do best - talk fish :) !! Shreyas had come in from Bangalore to the meet and the next day visit to the Chalakudy river.
Suraj had a nice "tank with plants" with some P. fasciatus from the Annamalais at the entrance. We met at his terrace with some neatly arranged fish tanks on racks giving us company. Had some nice looking Koi angels. Especially loved the Bolivian rams and the fry.
Also an archer fish completely acclimatised to freshwater.
Sipping on some juice in the sweltering heat, we were joined by Kiran - the Tetra man of CBE. Was nice talking to him about Tetras and making aquariums with neat finishes. Much later in the day (read almost afternoon), after several calls/SMSes from Suraj, Nitin joined us.
Kiran and Nitin
Vignesh (bmvbab), Niranjan and Deepak(raindeepak4u)
It was lunch time and we feasted on some lip smacking delicious food served in traditional style on a banana leaf.
We chalked out a plan for the next day to a visit to the Chalakudy river (around Athirapally falls) and headed out for some LFS hopping. Found nothing of real interest though. One LFS has some awesome looking RTCs, TSNs and a couple of Florida gars. there's something about large fish that's captivating.
Had to get back to my friend's place quick, so sadly had to skip visiting Kiran's house.
Vignesh said he would pick me up from the hotel room for the trip next day.
Had not slept for the whole of last night, so tried catching up on some lost sleep. 12:45AM and I get a call from Vignesh that we were leaving at 3 AM and he would come pick me up in another 45 mins.
Droopy eyed, we - Vignesh (bmvbab), Ravi (sgravi2k) and I reached Suraj's place. Gokul (mcgokul) had come over during the evening.
Suraj and his family had made elaborate preparations for the trip with water, food, fish packets and nets. At 3AM, two cars headed out to Chalakudy.
Car 1 -
Suraj (Driving), Mrs. Suraj, Varun (Jr. Suraj), Pandian, Niranjan and Deepak (raindeepak4u)
Car 2 -
Vignesh (Driving), Ravi, Shreyas, Gokul and I.
First stop was for a quick morning tea. We bought some Banana chips and a few cakes to help us snacking thru the day.
Shreyas took over the wheel from Vignesh here and was closely following Suraj's car.
Then something happened that had more than just our hearts in our mouths for a moment! Suraj had to brake hard to avoid a swerving lorry ahead. Shreyas was too close and to avoid Suraj's car swerved to the left....and on the left was a stationary lorry with not enough gap for us to pass through. Thankfully and luckily we made it past with another swerve to the right, talk about thanking our lucky stars!
The ride after this was uneventful (phew...) and we drove through the lush forests was quite refreshing (even though it was summer).
We stopped over at a bridge for a group shoot and some nice sights of the rising sun (which we could not see enough of with the clouds hampering our view).
Drove further to a view-point enjoying the Athirapally falls (some call it the Indian Niagara). It is located in the most beautiful location! A treat to the eyes :)
Spotted a pair of Grey hornbills on the treetop and a racket-tailed drongo which flew past.
We drove down the slope to the water's edge and started looking for fish.
We saw plenty of P. fasciatus and P. filamentosus complex swimming around. The rocky terrain proved to be tough with these ducking for cover under the rocks when we dipped our nets into water.
But the first fish is the toughest to catch, and once we had that we did start catching quite a few.
We netted a good number of A. lineatus, juvenile P. filamentosus, a couple of X. cancila and some Etroplus maculatus juveniles.
We also caught a good number of the Macrobachium sp. shrimps with their "red claws". Among a fallen coconut frond, we caught some shrimps with some truly giant claws and these were quite larger than the others.
A few eels (mostly the M. armatus) were also among the catch. Suraj had brought a good photography tank where a few of them were clicked.
For me, the most exciting was the single Channa that someone had netted from a clump of weeds. It looked definitely like the Channa gachua, but also had the "spots" very characteristic of the Channa from the Himalayan plains. Would love to get a positive ID on this. The rounded face of a Channa gachua, spots of maybe a Channa stewartii, patterns of a Channa punctata...all in one fish!!
Almost wrapping up on location, Vignesh netted a nice 4" Channa (maybe the same species), but it jumped out when transferring it to the fish cover :(
We moved on to the next location where we had the yummy breakfast prepared by Mrs. Suraj.
With the bellies full, most of the aquarists decided to swim across the river to the bank on the other side and look for fish.
They caught the first of the dwarf puffers (C. travancoricus), a few P. fasciatus and a lone H. fossilis. They also managed to net a Pristolepis marginata AKA Indian sunfish
Dried up and raring to go for more, we reached the bridge which we had visited earlier during the day. We spotted many E. maculatus with fry, but here again the rocky bottom provided plenty of cover. We were able to net a few here only within the reeds. Shreyas, Pandian and Niranjan caught quite a good number of the dwarf puffers.
The rocky bottom proved quite slippery with most of us struggling to get by :D :P
Onto to the next location under a small road bridge, we saw loads of plants. Will let the plant experts ID these.
I had been a while since we started catching fish and they needed a water change quick. We stopped over a small stream and changed water, re-packing them too.
It was lunch time now, and yet again Suraj had brought over lunch. Man! can't thank Mr. and Mrs.Suraj enough for the trouble of having stayed up the night before preparing and packing food for us, paper plates, drinking water, etc.
We decided we'd start heading back to CBE and stop at waterbodies on the way back. The traffic was beginning to get heavy and driving on Kerala roads with lane discpline thrown out the window was quite frustrating (with us having two close shaves). Stopping over for a quick tea/juice break, we entered CBE with horrible amounts of traffic.
Reached Suraj's place and we split the booty amongst us. Ravi helped me out to a Call taxi for me to head back to my friend's place :)
This was a lovely trip that I'm glad we made, sharing and learning as we went.
Thanks to all the CBE guys who made this happen (both the trip and the meet). Thanks to Vignesh too for picking me up from the hotel and driving us around :) Hoping for a lot more in the future :)
The rest of the pictures from the trip can be seen here - http://picasaweb.google.com/hayath.m/ChalakudyCoimbatoreAquaristMeet
Adios till the next ride.