Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Trip to Phu Pha Man Nation Park

Location: Phu Pha Man National Park, Khon Kaen Province
Date: Saturday, 01 June 2013
Areas visited: Palan Thong Waterfall, Tat Yai Waterfall, large pond/stream area
  
A carefully planned trip to Phu Pha Man NP really didn't turn out as planned! It was a trip I had researched and was hoping it was going to be amazing, yielding lots of new species to add to my personal list. Instead, it was a case of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly ... very ugly, actually. The Good: on the way to Tat Yai waterfall, I managed to spot a beautiful area of tiny stream which had opened out into a large pond/lake and had Phu Pha Man mountains in the background. It was breathtaking. There were dragonflies everywhere, but hard to access as the pond was seriously deep and the edges were covered in tall grasses. However, I managed to spot 3 new records for Khon Kaen province Aethriamanta gracilis, Hydrobasileus croceus and Rhyothemis triangularis. It's not too far from the headquarters and I will return later in the year. The Bad: My main target was Palan Thong waterfall near the main headquarters (though it was a distance away and badly signposted. If I couldn't speak Thai, I would never have found it). Anyway, being June, I thought that there would have been a nice little stream to look at, even though not maybe in full flow... er, no. Not even a trickle. Though I searched for a few hours and didn't see a single odonate, there is hope. There were a few pockets of water which will hold larvae and the place looks good. Lots of tree cover and a few open places for odonates to soak up the sun when (or if) they arrive. I left sad, but somehow happy, confident of better reults on my next return. Nearby, I saw a small farmer's pond and there was a solitary male Tramea transmarina euryale patrolling as the sun shone, so another provincial record.... and now certainly the Ugly: Tat Yai waterfall was almost impossible to find. Everything was in Thai (so took me ages to work out), I had to work my way through kilometre after kilometre of cultivated farmland and then ride my scooter up a ridiculously steep hill. I think I topped about 3 kms an hour. This went on for a good distance and with the onset of thick mud and grit it was getting harder and harder ... even now I know I cannot return with the rains. I simply would not make it. Only a 4x4 would have a chance. My fat carcass on a tiny 110 cc motorbike? Hahaha. Anyway, following an arduous and sometimes perilous journey, I reached a crossroads in the dirt track ... a sign to different places (in Thai of course), but no mention of a waterfall. Great. Super. Smashing. Surely the real sign was: "turn back, Dennis!" Amazingly, I could hear a motorbike coming towards me. Two kids were messing about on a bike and I stopped and asked if there was a waterfall here. There was and they directed me to carry on and then take a left (thanks, kids!). I carried on and arrived at a tiny village??? It was weird. Then the road split 3 ways. I took the left and followed another stretch of path on the way to nowhere. Then, I could hear it ... no see it ... a tiny brown trickle at the top of a would-be waterfall, if there was any water. I looked around and there wasn't even the slightest buzzing sound. But there was sound: the sound of thunder... I was off, sharpish. I set off down the stupid hill and with my brakes fully locked the bike simply would not stop. So, feet on the ground and brakes locked, I slid down to the bottom. Then my brakes failed ... I don't know why, but I had no brakes for about 10 kms until their power slowly returned. Probably burnt out on the hill. Anyway, I returned to the stream pond and snapped away before returning home ...

Some photos ...

High hopes ... my bike at the Palan Thong Waterfall sign ...

 
... though not doing exactly what is says on the tin ...



Still, with tree-lined surroundings and pockets of water, there is hope for when I return ...



At a large pond/stream area en route ...

Aethriamanta gracilis, tiny but a new provincial record for Khon Kaen


 
Aethriamanta brevipennis, red males were fairly common ...




 
checklist to be added ASAP