10th Oct (Mon): Periyar – Kumarakom (135 Kms) (04 Hrs)
Morning we will enjoy the Spice Plantation Tour. The spice plantation in Thekkady is a prime attraction of this beautiful land. Though sprawling tea estates cover much of the landscape of Thekkady, plantations of cardamom, rubber, vanilla and coffee are also aplenty. There are various kinds of spices cultivated in Thekkady. The most abundantly found spice in Thekkady is pepper.
But there is a variety of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric and curry leaves on the slanting slopes of the spice plantation in Thekkady
Later drive to Kumarakom. Upon arrival check into Hotel. Rest of the day is at leisure to enjoy the backwater.
Kumarakom is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is a noted bird sanctuary where many species of migratory birds visit. The Vembanad Lake, the largest backwater in Kerala, is habitat for many marine and freshwater fish species and it teems with Karimeen (Pearl spot), shrimp and prawns.
Overnight at Hotel
Clare very kindly wrote this post for me, as I’m desperately trying to catch up after NaNoWriMo!
Tree tops hotel. On checking in we were asked to keep the windows closed at night because the monkeys have a tendency to come in and (we assume) pinch stuff!
Our lovely receptionist at TreeTops in traditional dress.
We didn’t do the spice plantation tour; we had taken it the previous afternoon, as we were ahead of schedule and Shafi (bless him) thought we might appreciate a slightly later start. Half way through a long, gruelling, twisting, winding road journey we stopped to buy recipe books and partake of a cup of Robusta coffee. And here is the obligatory photo taken by Shafi
and a photo shoot…
Finally, we arrived at the Green Fields hotel. The staff seemed surprised to see us but moved very quickly to prepare a room for us.
The facilities for more sporty customers. Needless to say, we didn’t avail ourselves.
The obligatory sunset photo taken from the hotel rooftop.
From Kumarakom, it’s quite a short drive to Alleppey, where a night in a houseboat awaits us. Read on.
09th Oct (Sun): Munnar / Periyar (160 Kms) (04 Hrs)
Morning drive to Periyar. Upon arrival check into Hotel.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary lies in the picturesque locales of the Western Ghats in the Idukki district of Kerala. The Periyar Lake, an artificial lake formed due to construction of a dam in 1895 AD adds to the beauty of the park. The lake is a permanent source of water for the wildlife.
Here the high ranges of the Western Ghats are clothed in dense evergreen, moist deciduous forests and savannah grass lands. Below this thick green canopy roam herds of elephants, sambars, tigers, gaurs, lion tailed macaques and Nilgiri langurs.
Evening boat ride at Lake Periyar. This is most enjoyable part of seeing the wildlife around the lake in a boat. From the safety of a boat you can witness herds of wild elephants coming down to water and swim
Overnight at Hotel
It was a long drive from Munnar to Periyar. We were up and about in time to see the sun rise over the gorgeous hills at the back of the hotel in Munnar. Being so close to the equator means that sunrise is within a lick and a spit of 6am (I took this image at 5.49am), and sunset close to 6pm. It was a beautiful sight, which my best photographs don’t really do justice to.
Although it was only a few minutes after stupid o’clock, many of the plantation workers ware already making their way to work. The time-stamp on this image is 6:51am. There were people on the road before then, but the light wasn’t strong enough earlier to produce a usable image at that extreme magnification (1320mm in 35mm terms)Before we left, we took the obligatory ‘there is our room‘ image – bottom left in this pictureand I thought you’d like to see how that managed to offer half-reasonable Wi-Fi in all the rooms, as well as in the garden.Shafi picked us up after breakfast. We made a couple of scheduled stops on the way to Periyar. The first, about three hours into the journey, was at a small spice plantation (no elephant ride this time). We were met by a specialist guide, who showed us around what appeared to us to be a haphazard collection of trees, bushes and shrubs, between them producing all the major spice groups. It didn’t look to our untrained eye to be large enough to support itself on sales of its produce, so we assumed that it was, like the ancient tea factory in Munnar, a kind of showroom for the benefit of tourists. I’m sure the guide was paid by Tree Trunk Travel, and we gave him what we thought was a reasonable tip, but there was also a shop on the premises selling all manner of spices, herbs and other trinkets.
In this photograph, our guide, who claimed to have the most photographed hands in all India, was showing a plant that not only can be used for biofuel, and was being developed for that, but whose sap was such that, if you blow on a broken stem just right (he did; I couldn’t), it would be like a child’s bubble-making toy. Can you imagine how the streets of the city would be, if all its vehicles ran on that biofuel, and blew a constant stream of bubbles from their exhaust?
The produce included coffee, cacao, pepper, tapioca, coconuts (well, it is in Kerala), nutmeg and pretty well all the culinary spices, but none in what looked to us like commercial quantities.A mix of trees, palms, bushes and shrubs that give good effect to the word ‘random’, or so it seemed to us.
We carried on and checked into our hotel, the Treetop Hotel in Thekkady, where we were immediately warned to keep all windows closed overnight, as the woods around the hotel contained a lot of monkeys and giant squirrels. The squirrels are no problem, but the monkeys have been known to enter rooms and do damage, as well as liberating some of the guests’ possessions.
Once settled, we moved out to the lake at Periyar, where we were booked for a boat ride. First, the obligatory
scramble queue for tickets. Happily, a representative from Tree Trunk Travel was on hand to queue for me (it’s amazing how they always seem to turn up just when you need them). I had to give him a stack of cash for the tickets. Entry to the sanctuary cost us 450 Rupees each (foreigners’ rate; Indians were charged 33 Rupees), plus 38 Rupees for each of our cameras. I think there was extra for the boat, too. I don’t recall the exact figure, but I’m sure I gave him a lot more than 976 Rupees.
But no! While I was seated, looking around and trying to point my camera between bodies, one of the helpers (there were about four on the upper deck) tapped me on the shoulder, and said “Give me your camera.” He didn’t seem to have a weapon trained on me, so I was minded to decline. “Why?” I asked. “I’ll take some photos for you,” he said. I gave it to him. He went away, and came back a few minutes later with photographs of animals I hadn’t even seen. I had that tap on my shoulder about five times during the approximately ninety-minute ride. A different helper did the same with Clare, until her camera’s battery ran out, then he took her iPhone.
Before we left, we thanked them profusely, and I said, “You know I’ll be claiming credit for these on my blog, don’t you?”
“Fine,” he replied. We gave them both a good tip.
Here, then, without comment, are just a few of the many images they took, using our cameras:
Finally, this little fellow, seen after we left the boat trip, seemed unhappy, or at least surprised to have its photograph taken. My late mother would have enjoined me not to trust this little monkey – its eyes are too close together! From Periyar, a long drive to Kumarakom. Jump to the next episode.