Thommankuthu is a natural river side garden. It is an exciting landscape of endemic flora
and fauna rendered ethereal by water, wet pebbles, rocks and riperian vegetation. It is a mystic and dream like zen garden designed and sustained by mother nature. There are plenty of plants and trees with winged fairies on them too, that add to the charm and drama, as I found out today!
Today 15 March 2010, I visited the banks of Kaliyar at Thommankuthu (literally means the cataract of Thomman), some 22 km north east of Thodupuzha. I was returning from a public exam duty at Vannapuram. I entered the unique riparian forest at 2.30 pm after taking the entrance ticket from the gate counter run by Kerala Forest Dept. This rare low-lying riverside forest patch (at an elevation of just 50 to 300 m) comes under the Kaliyar range in Thodupuzha division. We could trek up to 10 km along the zigzag riverside path and watch the more than 10 falls, rock caves and enjoy the view points high above beyond 400 m. Up above the rocky cliffs there are tribal settlements by the Mannans, Uralis and Malayarayas. Even in this harsh winter there is water to maintain flow in the river and it is drinkable.
The first chorus sound I heard was from the rare endemic crickets that voice their eagerness for rain whenever a heavy cloud hides the sun. Temperature was soaring above 36 degree Celsius and it was quite exhaustive to walk among the bare trees that had shed leaves in the hot summer sun. I could see a pair of flying lizards landing on a nearby tree. The Forest Dept. has given labels to the rare plants and trees here. I heard the mimicking calls of a few Hill Mynas from above. Then came the whistling of some green pigeons. I sat down near the running water for a while and watched a lone Grey wagtail feeding around the pebbles and a few Chestnut-tailed Starlings coming to drink and bath in the water. There are also little frogs and fish in the running water.
As I climbed up I saw a flock of Yellow-browed Bulbuls on a shady grove. Normally they are found in high ranges, but here the altitude is just below 100m. In the same cozy grove I also noticed the movement of a Paradise Flycatcher. Further upstream I heard the ingenious call of a bird and identified it as an Orange-headed Thrush. I also managed to get some snaps.
I reached the first fall after walking up for about one mile. As I was cooling myself in the clean flowing water I heard the long metallic whistles of Malabar Whistling Thrush from some shady abode near the stream. A Malabar Grey Hornbill crossed the river above my head. It was a really refreshing and soothing bath in the natural spring and plenty of fish came to me and tickled my body. Tiger Barbs, Giant Danios, Cat fishes and other unknown species are common in this waters.
After an hour or so in water I retreated slowly and heard the noise of Hill Mynas and Rose-ringed Parakeets overhead. It was nearing six as I reached the entrance.