Periyar National Park and a Quick Exit

Alarm set for 6.20am, but did I need the alarm this morning? No…..as Mr L woke me around 6am telling me the alarm was going off when in fact it was an extremely loud bird noise from outside (which admittedly does sound like a ring tone or alarm).  Anyway we were up promptly after a better night sleep with our extra blankets, and on our way at 6.45am in our tuk-tuk and off to Periyar National Park for a half day bamboo rafting and trekking.

Periyar National Park is also known as Periyar Tiger Reserve and is in the mountainous Western Ghats of Kerala. This wildlife sanctuary is home to Bengal tigers, elephants,  macaques, sambar deer, leopards and Indian bison. We had already booked our rafting and trekking tickets but also needed to get day passes to the park before meeting at the designated area at 7.15am.  As always a great deal of form filling was required by the rangers in the office before anything could happen.  There were 8 of us together with 3 rangers and 1 armed guard.  We were given water and breakfast packs which were warm at 7.30am but by 9.20am when we stopped to eat breakfast the curry was cold.  Strangely Mr L and I didn’t fancy cold curry so passed on this. We had walked for 90 minutes before our breakfast break and then it was time to get on our bamboo rafts.

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We were rowed up the lake and spotted lots of different types of birds – egrets, white necked storks, white storks, kingfishers, herons, to name but a few. We then did a short circular walk before getting back on the rafts and back to the other side of the lake.

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Indiana Jones eat your heart out!!  Time then for the trek back to the start. We saw macaque monkeys, black monkeys and 2 Indian giant squirrels but no tigers or elephants. We did see scat from elephants, wild dogs, sambar deer, and porcupine. Our armed guard didn’t need to use his rifle to keep us all safe. We walked just under 8 miles and were really lucky with the weather. After the storms of the previous night the morning was hot with blue skies and fluffy clouds.  So lucky.

Once back Mr L was in need of lunch and we found a great place with an amazing view of a wildlife area with bison roaming.

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Then at about 2pm the clouds came in from over the mountains, the rain started, gently at first, but was soon torrential with a thunderstorm directly overhead and off went the power.

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We sat it out for a while but then took a dash for shelter across the flooded road and waited for a tuk-tuk home.

Once back we went to find Mama to tell her we would need dinner and to ask if she could book a driver to take us to Munnar on Monday morning.  Sometime later Mama and we think Subish’s brother who speaks good English came to find us (Subish was absent all weekend and had said contact him on WhatsApp if we needed anything but had failed to respond to my message on Saturday, so not particularly helpful). Anyway the long and short of it is that there is a general strike on Monday from 6.00-18.00 so getting a taxi during the day is not possible.  Pity Subish hadn’t let us know on Friday when he checked us in and confirmed our 3 night booking! The options were we could leave at 5am Monday or would have to leave after 18.00 which would leave us stranded at Monsoon Retreats with no access to any form of transport.  We decided the late departure would be a waste of a days holiday.  The other option would be to travel Sunday night if our next accommodation in Munnar could take us a day early.  Subish’s brother advised this as the preferred option as even with the early start we might still have problems travelling.  Mr L called Green Spaces to confirm availability for Sunday night, Mama booked the car, we packed, said goodbye to Mama, had a frustrating telephone conversation with Subish who insisted we pay full rate for Sunday night as it was ‘our choice’ we were leaving early, and we were on our way at 18.00.

Munnar is 105km from Thekkady but took 3 hours on the most horrendous of roads. We zig-zagged up and down through the Western Ghats mountain range, some unbelievable hairpin bends.  Thank the Lord it was dark and I couldn’t see the sheer drop outside the car window! At one point we had to leave the main road because there was an elephant blocking the main route further up and causing lots of problems – only in India! The alternative road was like a badly maintained Norfolk skinny road……our driver did well and we can’t complain.

Green Spaces is yet another amazing accommodation booked by Mr L.  Our room is huge, too dark to see the view but I expect will be stunning, and we have hot water for the first time in a week – bliss to be able to shower and wash my hair in hot water. The staff were amazing, enquiring as to whether we had eaten then willingly cooked us a meal which was served on our outside balcony area.  Access to our room is via a very spirally spiral staircase, almost as precarious as the ladder steps at Monsoon Retreats.

Today has been quite an adventure and not altogether what we had planned or anticipated!

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Monsoon Retreats, Kumily

It was goodbye to Chennamkary and hello to Kumily, Thekkady in eastern Kerala.  Our luggage and ourselves safely crossed the Pamba river in the canoe ferry from outside Green Palm Homes to the opposite bank where we met with our driver who would take us all the way to Monsoon Retreats in Kumily.  A drive of 152km which took 4 hours through towns and villages and up and over hills and mountains, round hair pin bends, along roads that fell away to steep falls, and all undertaken with typical Indian driving technique. There was much use of the car horn and clearly no problems overtaking on blind corners or hills……  The alternative would have been to take a bus, a much cheaper option, but would have taken even longer to get here.

Monsoon Retreats is an incredible place.  There are 5 treehouse type cottages raised 10 feet off the ground on stilts with the most precarious of ladder type steps for access. The cottages are all located in a cardamom plantation where the owner, Subish, is trying to blend agriculture with ecotourism.  It looks and feels like we are in the middle of the jungle with sounds of crickets and many varieties of noisy birds.

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We are very close to the Kerala – Tamil Nadu border and just up the road from Elephant Junction, the Green Park Spices plantation, and the Periyar National Park.  Apart from the scenery, the other big difference is the drop in temperature.  It was 32c in Chennamkary this morning and only 24c and drizzly here this afternoon.  The forecast for the rest of the weekend is rain and thunderstorms – more like an English summer!

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We took a tuk-tuk into Kumily mid afternoon as Mr L was in need of lunch and we needed to go and book our tickets for bamboo rafting and trekking in the Periyar National Park.  We couldn’t get a full day booked so have had to book the early start half day on Sunday as that is all that is still available.

We had a wander around Kumily, saw God’s very own spice shop……..

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……..and found a local coffee shop for coffee and food for Mr L, and then eventually got a tuk-tuk home.

Dinner can be booked here at Monsoon Retreats for a small extra charge and all food is vegetarian and cooked by Mama, Subish’s mother. We joined another couple who are also staying here for dinner.  The food was good but not as good as Palm Green Homes. Good to compare notes of India travels with the Canadian-English couple who are in the ‘tree house cottage’ next to us.