It’s raining in the rainforest!

After a long, wet, leech-infested weekend in the rainforest, you return like Noah after the flood, intolerant of anyone complaining about rain

It doesn’t rain in the rainforest, it pours!
Alighting at Agumbe bus stand on the first day of our planned three-day expedition, what met our eyes was a thick layer of mist that shrouded the sleepy town. Wherever you looked, all you saw was mist. The reaction from the photographer within me, seeing the bleakness around, was not dissimilar to that of the penguins in Madagascar alighting at Antarctica and regarding the emptiness around them: “Well, this sucks!” It looked pretty certain that the entire trip was going to be what we shutterbugs call a “High-ISO” trip – cranking up the sensitivity of our camera sensors to get sharp shots in low light (and invariably ending up with noisy images).
 Arecanut trees stand guard in the mist like ghostly soldiers

 

But then, a little introspection made me open up (as well as brighten up) a little. I have never been in a rainforest in such pristine condition. It was bound to be dripping wet, slushy and depressing but I would never get to see such rain anywhere – Agumbe is the rainiest place in south India and just trails Cherrapunji and Mawsynram with respect to the volume of rain that it receives. So I let the apprehensions drop and walked into the mist and set my first foot on the leech-infested road bordering the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station. The vertical embankments on either side of the cut-out mud road sprouted moss and ferns. Even trees had moss all over their trunks.
The whole place just throngs with life

 

The sky was almost permanently cloudy. Not a single ray of sun shone through. Rain and mist took turns to mate with the landscape. And it was green all around – olive-green, dark green, bright-green, bottle green, emerald green and dung green. The ground looked like it was saturated from beneath and was sweating at the surface, even when it did not rain. Sunlight probably never got to kiss the floor in these parts. There was leaf litter from the trees in various stages of decomposition all around, and we took care not to step on it — as curled up in there might be foul-tempered Hump-nosed Pit Vipers (Hypnale hypnale), or (worse?) leeches.
The amount of moisture around is incredible…

 

Siddharth Rao, the director of ARRS, warned us on the dos and don’ts before we started our stroll. “And yes,” he added, “Watch out for falling trees.”
Andy was curious. “What kind?” 
Siddharth replied, “Every kind…”
And we saw quite a few of them had fallen. It looked like the excess of water and moisture everywhere had infiltrated through the bark and into the kernel of the wood, softening it from within, making it rot and snap at the touch of the gentlest of winds.

Despite falling, life still manages to cling on…

 

After the first day, when we waited for breaks in the rain, we just accepted them as a part of the package. We strolled around, drizzle notwithstanding, just ensuring that our cameras weren’t soaked. When it rained, there was running water everywhere. Tiny streams flowed along the paths and would get isolated into puddles when the rains paused. Large drops of water would bomb down still, from the thick canopy above, many minutes past the showers. Drops of water clung to everything – spiderwebs, leaves, fruits, branches and insects.  
Wild berries dripping with fresh raindrops

 

Incredibly, despite all the rain, it was not cold, just moist. You could reach out and grab moisture from the air. Winds were gentle, just the kind that would rustle leaves and ruffle your hair.
Every strand of  this spiderweb was threaded with pearly water-drops
The nights were even more amazing. All kinds of croaks — loud, shrill, ringing, hollow — resounded as frogs called out to each other, the sounds echoing off the membrane walls of the bubbles under their chins.
A white nosed bush frog suddenly finds itself in the spotlight…

 

A silly jingle that I made up for myself “It’s raining in the rainforest” looped in my head all through the trip. And once outside the forest and back in Mysore, I was irked at people making the slightest crib about a drizzle. I was Noah after the flood… 

One hundred percent attendance at the first Green Ogre Monsoon Conclave. L-R: Beej, Sahastra, Sandy, Andy and Arun

Watch out for more Agumbe Diaries!
Text and photos by Sandeep Somasekharan. All rights reserved.

 

Sandy

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