17th October 2009:
After a short drive of about 3hrs from Madurai, we entered Kerala along winding, steep roads, and death defying driving by our very skilled driver, Krishna, we arrived about 12pm at our Hotel Ambadi in Periyar. The scenery is amazing in kerala, as it becomes lush forests and hilly and mountainous, rather than flat, rice paddies as we had been used to.
As we entered Periyar we saw signs for the Tiger Wildlife Reserve and lots of shops advertising Ayruvedic massages.... which we would definately make time for later on!
The hotel was set back from the road, with beautiful rooms, basic but very lovely with intricate wood carvings, sun chairs that we used for lounging on.
We had a few hours to rest then we left to go to the Spice Plantation down the road. Found out alot about how different spices grow, from the leaves, bark and even roots that are used. Saw lots of peppercorns growing up all the trees, also cardomon, all spice leaf, turmeric root, coffee bean, the bark that is used for cinnamon, and cocoa beans! The Spice Plantation also did Elephant rides, which ill come back to later.
Headed back to the Hotel, but we quickly went in search of the many spices that we'd seen at the Plantation. End up buying Cinnamon, Vanilla pods and ground cocoa! All at a fraction of the price that you get in the UK. Will definately be using all of those in some very yummy cakes!
In the evening headed out for dinner with the Tour Group to another hotel restaurant. Lovely food yet again, but different to the areas we'd been. Seems to be alot hotter food, specialising in Tandoors. Im also getting a liking for banana Lassi's!
That will definately be my new tipple (add abit of vodka or rum!) and will taste even better.
18th October 2009:
A Very Early start, up at 6am for the Periyar Forest Walk. Hoping to see the elusive Tiger, bison, antelope and many other BIG animals!
First we had to don some very attractive leach socks! Yes we put them on up to our knees, and good thing we did too! Then we had to sit on a raft made of bamboo, that the guides pull us along via a rope to the other side. Wet feet!
The guide took us along the lake (man made) looking out for any animals that may be lurking in the forest. We saw some funnel web spiders in the grasses, a few Egrets, the blood sucking leaches! Thank god for the long socks!
The morning mist covered the lake like a blanket, making it look magical. Definately worth going in the early morning if anyone gets a chance. The place is tranquil and full of the sounds of crickets, bees, birds and the howl of lungur monkeys in the tree tops.
Our guide pointed out lots of animal tracks of Elephants, deer and bison, but unfortunately no Tigers. We then headed deeper into the forest where we saw lots of lungur monkeys in the trees, also so a giant squirrel and the remains of an elephant that had died after a fight with another elephant. Slightly eery but fascinating to see the size of the bones.
After an hour and half we headed back to the raft. Abit disappointing as we never got to see any big animals. But as the reserve is over 770 sq miles, and we where only in 50, there really was a slim chance of seeing any animals at all!
Mid afternoon we headed back to the Spice Plantation as i had booked to go on an elephant ride. Absolutely amazing animals, such power and presence, yet so gentle! A shame that i had to see them as captive animals rather than in the wild. But got to ride on an elephant for a good 30mins, and see the plantation from up above.
Also got to wash and scrub our very lovely Elephant, Lucky, who then squirted water from her trunk all over me! A great experience!
The evening was rounded off by an Ayruvedic Massage for 650 rupees! Bargain.
Full body massage, head and shoulder and steam bath for 80mins. Very rigorous and oily but very much worth it. And credit to the ladies who do the massages, as it must be hard work! My muscles were hurting and i was just lying there! Felt very relaxed and silky smooth afterwards, that we headed back to the Hotel for a hard earned cup of Chai!