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South Kerala - Kochi, Munnar, Periyar, Kovalam and Mumbai - March/April 2016



Periyar

We arrived at Periyar and checked in at Spice Village Hotel for our stay of 2 nights.

This is a larger hotel and is located about 5 minutes walk from the centre of the little town. The landscaped gardens are well kept, neat as a municipal park, and the rooms are all detached or semi-detached thatched cottages. Our room was large and bright with beautiful furnishings. The hotel has a large swimming pool and a bar, with a billiard table, like an old colonial club house. Every night there is a cultural dance show in the garden in front of the restaurant. We watched the show that night before our buffet dinner at the hotel restaurant.

Next morning was an early start for our full day trek in the Kumily & Periyar wildlife nature park. Our driver drove us to the park and left us with the rest of the small group for today's adventure. The group is normally about 10-15 people with about 3-4 guides plus a park official who is armed for protection against any wild animals. This morning our group was only eight. Before we start we were given a rucksack each containing a simple packed breakfast and lunch plus water and soft drink. Both Rob and I were already carrying two litre-bottles of water plus two smaller bottles in our own rucksack. I would recommend taking as much water as possible as we finished all the water that we carried. Water is essential for the hot walking conditions for many hours that day.

The whole team began the walk at around eight. The sun was already shining brightly in the open blue sky. The view is of the green valley surrounded by hills. The guide already pointed out wild boars to us in the distance. There are ponds where birds come to bathe and drink. We spotted a kingfisher and thousands of little frogs hanging around the water. About thirty minutes into our walk we came to a sudden stop. The guides instructed us to stop and stay quiet. About 300 feet away there was a group of wild elephants in the bush. We were warned to stay still and quiet as elephants are particularly dangerous when accompanied by baby elephants. We quietly made off into the bushes and waited to see if the elephants would head our way. It was a bit scary. Luckily after a short while the elephants headed off in the opposite direction. For safety purpose we changed our route from open ground to paths through the bush.

In the bush we spotted an eagle and wood mushrooms before we came to a spot where we stopped for our breakfast. It was the right time for a rest and a relief too after the worrying encounter earlier.

We began our walk again after a twenty minute break. This time the walk was more straightforward in open ground. A hat is a must for this trek under the roasting heat of the sun. An hour or so later we came to a lake with some bamboo rafts waiting for us. We all got onto two separate rafts for the short trip across to an island where there was an encampment where guests can stay overnight. This would be completely dark at night with lots of wild animals. I do not think I fancy that although I noticed there was a deep trench dug all around the camp to prevent animals from getting in. We all picked up lifejackets and set off again on the rafts.

The main journey on the bamboo rafts was very peaceful and pleasant with lovely views of the lake and surrounding green environment. There are many birds for keen birdwatchers. After a gentle hour-long cruise along the lake we came to stop on one of the islands for a lunchtime break. They laid a few blankets under the trees for us to rest and lunch. They said we can also go for a dip in the lake. The guides went for a nap themselves.

An hour or so later we made our journey back the same way that we came this morning. First the same hour long rafting back to the island to drop off our life jackets then began the same walk again back to the starting point. On the way we spotted a large male bison. Soon after we came across another group of wild elephants with a baby in the group, and wondered if they were the same group as this morning. Again we were cautioned to keep quiet for safety, and one of the guides went ahead to make sure the path ahead was clear of any danger. One guide pointed to a recent footprint in the sand by a pond and just said 'tiger'. We made it back to the starting point at around five in the afternoon. A very adventure-filled day.

Tonight we decided to have our dinner at another hotel restaurant in town, the Ambadi restaurant. This is a local-style hotel and restaurant. We chose all the local Indian dishes but the Tandoori chicken was heavenly. It was the best tandoori I have ever had. It was freshly cooked, moist & tender with an open 'tandoor' taste and colour to it. Most importantly it was not red. If I returned to this restaurant again I would only order two dishes, tandoori chicken & tandoori fish.

Next day we drove to Alleppey.

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