Tuesday, March 08, 2005


Close to Kumily lies the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. I had arranged with a driver to give me a lift into the park at 6.30 so as to get the first boat which sails around the lake, however my alarm didn't go off and I woke up at 6.40 and jumped out of bed for an extremely quick shower and ran out the door. Unfortunately the driver had left, but as I trudged back resigned to getting the next boat another driver passed. I told him I needed to get to the boat landing in ten minutes. Thankfully he understood and hurtled along the road towards the jetty. I quickly grabbed a ticket and ran down to the boat leaping down the many stairs, breathlessly arriving at the boat at exactly seven o'clock. Success! Of course it was another ten minutes before it actually left.

The early morning boat ride along the lake was beautifuly serene. Rippling along through scenery the sun rose higher, we encountered a few playful otters at the edge of the lake and later a wild elephant with a young baby. A group of German birdwatchers kept excitedly pointing at the trees and peering through their giant binoculars. The lake was artifically created over a hundred years ago for a maharaja who wanted some hunting grounds, alright for some. Some hundred year old tree trunks still stand in the lake making ideal perching points for birds. Some of the landscapes didn't look too disimiliar to Scotland, but warmer! I continued snapping away with my camera, with some wild boar in the far distance.

After doing the boat ride, I returned to the hotel and met the driver who hadn't waited for me! He had other guests who wanted to get to the boat landing that morning, so fair enough. I wouldn't of waited either!

After some cornflakes (not a very Indian breakfast!) I went on to a spice garden via a viewpoint at which you could see into the next state, Tamil Nadu. Also there were some plants which curled up when touched. The driver proclaimed these were called 'Touch-me-nots' I'm pretty sure that's not the latin name.

At the spice garden we wandered around sniffing, smelling and tasting a large variety of spices. Including the bark of the cinnamon tree, green cloves (I had only seen dried black cloves before), curry leaves (smaller than I thought), white green black pepper (picked at different times), mango (not yet in season, so I didn't taste these), gooseberries (very sour!), ginger (well a patch of dirt where it had been harvested), aniseed, coffee (don't smell of much before roasting), banana flower (used in curries), papaya, coconuts, allspice (had assumed this was just a mix of spices, not a real plant), pineapple, cashew, betel nut, chilli, lemongrass,
vanilla (has to be manually pollinated), nutmeg and cocoa. A lot of plants! Also there was sap being drawn to make rubber which is then mixed with acid and put through a press to create sheets of rubber.
All in all, an informative visit!

After dark, I went night trekking through the forest, there was just me and two other tourists, along with a guide and an armed guard!

After quickly deciding that the best chance of spotting animals would be to be directly behind the guide, I maneouvered myself into first place. I spotted some barking deer, samba deer, wild boar(or pork as the guide referred to them) and a brief glimpse of a porcupine, with an even briefer glimpse of a leopard cat. To be honest, I just saw a black shape run away extremely quickly!
But by being behind the guide at least I caught a glimpse, the other two saw nothing. The guide thought he had seen it reappear and the guide and I chased after it stealithly as the sheet lightning briefly illuminated the plains in the ever present humidity. However as we got closer, it turned out to be just some more pork.
Also we passed through a field with hundreds of fireflies flashing their way through the night, producing an eerie green glow as the blipped on and off. The guide expertly grabbed one (just like Karate Kid without the chopsticks) and showed it to us up close.

Unfortunately for the next hour and half, we saw nothing else, as we trudged through the woods in the dark Still after hearing about the night trekking I wanted to do it, because it was unique and glad I did.
Apparently the group before had seen nothing at all, I remembered it had poured down with rain the previous night.

The next day I had a full day in the park doing bamboo rafting and trekking. Again this was excellent as six of us trekked to a different area of the park and then onto a bamboo raft lashed together with string. Another couple of guides had a small two man raft alongside which we would later be thankful of. A couple of extra paddles were handed to us and we took turns of rowing through the water. Not long after we left our raft was grounded un a tree stump submerged just below the water, not this one. After a while, I was wondering if it was time to learn how to swim. However, the second raft ferried people the short distance to shore to lighten the load. After a large Welshman named Garfield moved to the back the raft (You couldn't make this up!), the raft was freed and we returned back aboard. I had rolled up my trousers and taken my shoes off as the bottom of the raft was wet (the seats are raised)
Despite spending weeks in Goa in shorts and not getting so much as an inkling of a tan my legs got burnt. In fact they are kinda crispy now! Probably the water magnifying the heat on an already scorching day. Ouch! I must of used up a couple of gallons of aftersun by now. Of course it never even occured to me to put sunscream on my legs, besides the water would of washed it off anyway.

When we landed at the otherside of the lake, we trekked some more through the forest hunting for elephants which were not to be found. After a while we returned to the lake and had lunch upon which the elephants appeared at the other side of the lake to taunt us.

We returned back across the lake and hiked back passing a samba deer which had been killed by a tiger a few days before. According to the guide the tigers wont eat fresh meat, preferring instead to leave it for four or five days. As somebody says it would taste a bit more gamey. That is if much is left after the flies have been at it. Euurgh! Also got quite close to a buffalo, probably because we where directly behind it, hence the photo of it's bum. I sneaked after a bird to get this photo.

We returned back at the main park centre and decided to just walk the few more km's out the park rather than get a rickshaw. I was walking along with an Isralei, Aaron, who had also done the rafting when he spotted a giant squirrel. He pointed it out and soon caused a traffic jam as any passing car stopped and everybody jumps out with their camera.

Aaron told me he had hiked from Kodiakanal to Munnar. I had a vague idea that that might be good, but I was going in the other direction which meant over a 600m incline, hmmm. Maybe not!

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