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13 January 2013 @ 05:48 pm
Indian Adventures - Part I - Kerala  
Indian Adventures continue!

Phase I - Tigers, Tea, and Spices in Kerala

On October 29th, Flori and I woke up on the train in Kerala. Kochi was remarkably warmer than Bangalore and, being so close to the sea, also MUCH more humid. After a few crossed wires, we got from the train station to the bus station and were on our way up, up, up into the Western Ghats to Kumilly. The road was winding, but the view was stunning and the temperatures fell as we got higher. We found a great hotel and took the most expensive room in the place - for $30/night - and got the top floor of the tower, which afforded us exellent views of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary from our sky chairs on the wrap-around balcony. Stunning, just stunning!


However, early the next morning, I left Flori there in the lovely room and went out too be eaten by tigers. Periyar offers an amazing hike-all-day-and-sleep-in-the-jungle program. Reserving a spot on the tour was an endeavor of truly epic proportions - I had been in contact with the tour company for weeks while I was still back in the States and those frustrating, non-linear interactions were my first introduction to the Indian way of doing (or not doing) things. I was most grateful to Owen who helped facilitate the transaction, since they would not take credit card, PayPal, or any other electronic payment options I generally consider standard. However, after much frustration and angst, I had been duly registered and so headed off into the jungle with three other campers, five forest guides, and a heavily armed guard. The walk in the amazingly hot jungle made for a long day, but we got to see all sorts of great wild life, including bison, wild dogs, sambar deer, several kinds of monkey and the giant grizzled squirrel. I KID YOU NOT. Four foot long squirrel! :D


The camp consisted of a platform inside a 10 foot deep moat - they explained that tigers attacking humans was not such a problem, but that the wild elephants would occasionally go on a rampage. The "bridge" to the camp was three 3" diameter sticks lashed together, that you slowly walked across, trying not to look down into that ditch. This was especially tricky at night when, if you needed to use the facilities (read: bushes), you had to wake the guard and he would bring the rife and a spotlight to check the underbrush for elephants before letting you do your business

Trying to get eaten by tigers in Periyar!
The first day of hiking was great and the food the rangers provided was tasty, if not particularly spicy. Unfortunately, I got some bad water or something, so I had a rough night and then a very long walk back out. A nap and fluids provided by the excellent Miss Flori greatly improved my life. That evening, we took in a kathakali performance (traditional dance) and a kalarippayat demonstration (martial arts). The next day we went on a tour of the Connemara Tea Plantation and Factory, went for an elephant ride in the rain, and toured a spice plantation.


The next day, we headed back to Cochin - we thought via a more direct route, but the trip was longer than we'd expected, which was only salvaged by the first several hours being full of truly beautiful views. In Kochi, we stayed in a very basic, only a little scary hotel - very normal looking, so no pics. However, this was my first experience with the standard Indian hotel mattress, which is to say pretty much a comforter on a plank. :P The next day we spent out on a houseboat - we got to float around viewing village life before stopping off at an island for toddy tapping (making palm liquor), more spice garden touring, and a tour of an abandoned toothpaste factory, for some inexplicable reason. The afternoon was spent in some canoes drifting down more narrow canals. All day long we did not see too much wildlife, other than birds of every sort and the odd reptile. That evening, we went to a classical dance performance. I was somewhat surprised, but it was all kids and teens, but they were quite good and the evening was a great success.

The last day in Kochi was spent hitting some of the major sights - the old synagogue, the Dutch Palace, and the Folklore Museum. The Palace museum made me want to weep. They have some really beautiful and historic things, but they are largely unconserved and stored in cases without environmental controls. Old maps are framed with the glass right against the paper and there is evidence that moisture is seeping in through the cracks in the glass. :/ I really wished I had a ton of money just to fix the museum... The Folklore museum was somewhat better arranged, but still made my internal history geek cringe at the storage conditions. We
had a very interested and attentive guide, though, and it was neat to hear the background on so many exhibits. We rounded out the night at another kathakali performance which was substantially underwhelming after the excellent one in little bitty Kumilly. However, it was still "educational" and a good end to the night. Late in the evening, Flori caught a bus back to Bangalore and at o'god o'clock I caught a taxi to the airport for my flight to Amritsar.

LJ is being a bitch and refusing to upload photos, so see them for this phase at:
jtdiii: Biojtdiii on January 14th, 2013 03:02 am (UTC)
Love the colors.

Glad you are enjoying your interactions and trip.

Sniff, no death defying tiger stories though...