Cliff hangers

Light faded as we completed the climb to Naneghat. The monsoon clouds had gathered again. The pass was too narrow for a motorable road. We parked, and I took some of the slippery steps down. There were intriguing caves ahead, but with The Family’s back strain, I wasn’t going to risk them. The pass had narrowed to about two meters across, the high cliffs above me almost seeming to meet. In this bad light I looked at the wet cliff walls and noticed a tapestry of orchids!

Orchids could be the most numerous family of plants on earth, both in population, and the number of species. In fact, the number of species is twice that of birds. So I find it difficult to identify them. I just figured that with three petals, one elongated into a leaf, and with roots which only tap into the cliff lightly, this couldn’t be anything but a member of the family Orchidaceae. It’ll be great if you can help with the ID.

The next thing that I saw on the cliff walls were snails: many of them. There are even more species of snails than there are orchids, perhaps 50% more in numbers. Of course, when there are so many species, it is hard to count precisely. In any case, I’m worse at identifying snails than orchids (that is not to overstate my ability with orchids). There was so much variety of plants and mosses on this cliff that I was not at all surprised by the number of snails. They were all the same species, so if you can help me identify one, you’ve given a name to all of them.

After all this, I was happy to see a small flower which I was able to identify with some help and effort: the common Begonia (Begonia crenata). These are common in this kind of sheltered mossy rocks with plenty of water. Under such conditions it is hard to get good photos. Although it is dark, a flash would create terrible reflections. I didn’t have a good reflector at hand (even my clothes were dark). All in all, I’m happy with the photos I got. The close up shows a female flower; the five petals are not the same size. In the other bunch (the one in which the mosquito obligingly sat to gave a scale) you can see a few of the strange two-petalled male flowers.