We started the morning hot, at sea-level and on a houseboat. One ferry, some walking, two rickshaws and an extreme bus trip later and we were monsoonally wet, refreshingly cold and in a treehouse in the mountainous Kumily. Kumily is a lovely little town which is the gateway to Periyar Tiger Reserve - you heard me - tigers! It's also a town where many Indian families come as tourists as well, and our visit cooincided with school holidays and everyone heading into the hills to avoid the heat, so there were quite a few people about.
We wanted to do a 2 day trek through the park, but our timing was off. the day we tried to plan our adventures there was a strike - something to do with the maoists we think - and the entire town was closed down making organisation somewhat difficult. anyway, we ended up opting for an all day jeep tour and walking in the park. our day began at 5 am and we made our way into the park, stopping only to share an early morning chai with some old indian dudes at a roadside stall amongst the tea plantations. lovely way to start
as we made our way into the park, our jeep driver sajit was craning his neck every which way (and very rarely to the road in front..), looking up into seemingly empty hills. but this man had eagle eyes, and soon stopped the jeep to point out some deer grazing on the slopes. these were sambar deer, which stand about 2 metres tall - pretty amazing.
The next stop was to point out elephants! it caused sajit great consternation when jen couldn't see them..."but madam - they are elephants". ha! but i saw them eventually, and it was great! we held out hope for the whole day that we'd see tigers, and although you know they're rare and chances are you won't see one, you still turn at every sound thinking just maybe it's your lucky day. but alas, no tiger spotting for us. We also saw all sorts of beautiful birds, including the kerala state bird - the great hornbill - and many monkeys, langurs, deer, bison, frogs, a snake and many, many leeches. all in all an amazing place.
it was also in kumily that we decided to go for a traditional indian
ayurvedic massage. so we walked in, i got a lady masseuse, jeff got a man, and i can only tell my side of the story, but i walked in and the lady asked me to please remove everything...everything? yes madam, everything. hmmmm. interesting. and the massage therapy involved a steam bath, which was some machine that looked like it was some torture device from the 1950s which they close around you and only your head pokes out while you just get hotter and hotter. and then the lady sat in front of me and chatted to me about my family, marital status etc while i was in this steam box, naked, covered in strange oils and oozing sweat... a very weird experience.. i'm glad i did it, but not sure i'd bother doing it again. also, the guy who massaged jeff had apparently given the same treatment to matthew hayden and steve waugh at which point jeff went from extreme sceptic to true believer in the benefits of ayurvedic massage.
- living in a tree house! brilliant!
- being in said treehouse in the middle of a thunderstorm and being nearly hit by lightening. it
was so close that all the power in the place went out and the dudes who worked there came to shine their torches at us to make sure we weren't hit
- meeting our walk guide Seravaj - a local villager and chatting to him all about his life and telling him all about ours
on our next great adventure, we head to more hills, more buses, a bout of gastro and election fever...
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