It is early June. After the two months that are the hottest of the year, now it is time for the annual Southwest Monsoon. During these hot months there is usually no rain and days have temperatures that reach 106 F / 41 C. In Tiruvannamalai the monsoon does not start with the kind of downpour and dancing joyful people like you might see in an Indian movie. We just get periods, usually pretty short, of rain. Maybe it stays for a few hours. There is a reasonable amount of rain each year. The average is 85 CM. This is more than we got in our previous home in California in the USA. The most rain usually falls during the Northeast Monsoon, October – December. There is less rain during the summer Southwest Monsoon, since Tiruvannamalai (and coastal Tamil Nadu) is in the ‘rain shadow of the Western Ghats.
The plants on and around the mountain have all had to adapt to these conditions, and somehow survive the hot dry months until the monsoon brings rain and relief. Some seem to withdraw their life within the roots, dropping all their leaves and looking for all the world like they are dead. Some seem to keep some minimal life going. Some have their leaves seem to dry out, bending in on themselves as they dry. (These leaves will later, when the rains come, plump out and resume a more lush state.) Other plants, though, are flowering now, so that the new seeds will be produced in the coming time of plenty.
As we walked around Arunachala in the early morning recently I took a few pictures to show you what the plant life looks like, waiting from the monsoon.
It is maybe 5:45 in the morning. The rising sun is behind the clouds this morning. Is this the day the monsoon will come? The ground around us is dry and all the grasses are brown, the same color as the dirt.
These are some form of sage, salvia, extremely rugged and drought tolerant. Now they seem just barely alive, mostly pulled within, waiting for rain.
Behind the dried brush, Arunachala rises (here, Parvati Hill), with some greenery still alive.
Here is one of the plants that makes up the brush. If you cut into a branch you will see that it is still alive, even though there are no leaves and it looks dead. This plant is a common one here.
Here this brush is in the foreground, with The Elephant in the background.
Continuing to walk under the morning clouds, mostly dry brush around us.
Here is a nice photo of the head and trunk of The Elephant.
Dry bush lines the path.
The Frog Pond is dry as a bone. It was worked on and dug out during the summer to expand its water handling capacity. Now if there only were some water.
Small flowers are on a branch that extends over the Frog Pond. The flowers seem like tufts of cotton.
Past the Frog Pond is the Northside Basin. This is the major water catchment basin for this part of the mountain.
Occasionally in the last few weeks, after an evening thunderstorm, we have seen the ground here moist, but it has been several months since we have seen standing water.
Even some of the trees drop all their leaves during this period.
Here is a close up of another plant with small white starred flowers, about one inch wide. These are the most common flowers this season. Can you see the thorns on the plant, spikes coming from the branch? Want to pick a flower? Be careful!
More white tufts. Not very extravagant flowers, but it gets the job done.
Here is a plant where the leaves just shrivel up. When there is rain, they will plump out, turn a nice color of green, and the plants will seem much happier.
Now it is hard to image that this plant will ever live again.
Here is one lonely yellow flower. This was the only one of these on the walk today.
Dry branches of another bush. More spikes show. Spikes and thorns seem common with these desert plants. They seem to say, “Don’t mess with me!”
There are several creek beds bringing water down from Arunachala when it rains. These get a little water during thunderstorms – if there is enough to run off – so the plants are greener here.
This plant is starting to put out the first hesitant green leaves. If the season continues as promised, they will grow. Otherwise they will wither and dry, while the plant waits for a better time.
If you look closely in the center of this bush, you will see more of the emerging green leaves.
As we look up the hill, we do see some green.
Here is a close up of the prettiest flower at this time of year, pink and yellow, more tufts of blooms.
Here is the plant, not as a close up. You see the flowers are pretty small.
Even the cacti seem pretty dried out.
One more glance through the dry bush of Arunachala, waiting for the monsoon.
As we continued to walk this day, there was a light rainfall. It is not what is needed, but it seems to be trying to rain. Maybe tonight or tomorrow the monsoon will finally arrive.