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Published: February 23rd 2010
Kumily is a small town, existing mostly because of Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, home to about 1,000 wild elephants and about 40 tigers. The climate is very pleasant and it is surrounded by jungle and tea and spice plantations.
The following are notes from my diary when I was despairing of ever finding a fast computer and was reduced to scribbling in my notebook:
Have been out on the balconey from 6 -- can't see much -- lots of bird song. At 6.30 thick mist rolls in obscuring everything. 10 minutes later it rolls out. At about 7 the sun starts to light the tops of the trees and the clouds recede. Many birds. I like it here. I want to stay 3 or 4 days. More birds -- different shapes and sizes -- can't really see details. Going to take it easy today -- change money in the morning and maybe a boat ride in the park in the afternoon. Also check out jeep safaris -- expensive -- don't expect to see a tiger -- but would like to see some wild elephants. Beautiful ride to Kumily from Munnar. First half of the trip we were still in tea
plantation country and second half jungle and spice plantations. Not much traffic at all.
The church was all lit up with flashing neon lights. They were having Sunday mass together with a holiday in honor of the Virgin Mary. Her likeness was portrayed in colored lights on the entire side of the building and the church itself had an electric cross and flashing pinwheels of colored lights beneath it and more on the side. They were singing -- not Indian, not western -- different. This was all gone on Monday morning. There was a permanent, huge, white plaster statue of Jesus and Mary on the corner. While we were having dinner in the town the whole congregation formed themselves into a long line and walked single file down the main street with bands and singing, some holding candles, some silk umbrellas. At the end came the priest under a canopy held by his assistants. It went on for quite a while and the traffice never stopped -- all the busses, bikes and rickshaws crawled along with the people who were constantly changing -- singing a different song, bands playing different tunes. This church was Roman Catholic. Lots of Syrian
Orthodox churches. Churches here are very many, some more like Hindu temples than churches in style and decoration -- very colorful.
We have a room with a balcony that overlooks the park. I get up early in the morning and sit on the balcony and keep watch -- but I don't really see anything until much later in the day -- then we have bison, wild pigs and a few deer. One night somebody put a spot light on and there was a whole herd of deer standing by the fence. We went on a boat ride in the park and were lucky to see wild elephants -- they weren't close enough for photos but close enough to see them clearly -- they were standing huddled together, blowing sand. Half an hour later, on the return journey, they were still standing in the same place, still in a huddle, must have had some serious business to discuss. Last year one of the boats in the park capsized -- when some elephants were spotted and everybody got up and rushed over to one side of the boat. A lot of people drowned. Now they are very strict about everybody staying
in their seats and you have to wear an inflated life jacket the whole time -- not very comfortable and hot too, like wearing a plastic bag in the sun. Felt like tweedle dee and tweedle dum. Apart from the elephants didn't really see anything that we don't see from our balcony. So we decided not to go on the jeep safari -- from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. -- seems like a lot of time to be driving around the park looking for animals -- even so, you may not spot anything, not everybody does.
So we have been hanging around a lot, reading, sitting on the balcony, enjoying the perfect weather and view. We both had an ayurvedic massage -- it was a nice experience, very relaxing but everything that ached still ached afterwards. There are a lot of Kashmiri shops seling souvenirs here -- the trouble is they all sell exactly the same stuff. I bought some pretty amethyst earrings and a few shirts that were really nice -- so encouraged by my success, I went and bought more and they are pretty hideous -- I look like a clown -- should have left well enough
Now that we have adjusted to the food -- it took us about 2 weeks -- we are eating well. Not exactly what we thought we'd be eating -- in fact, we often don't really know what we are eating -- some sort of vegetable in an icky colored sauce. We are in an area where we see people fishing and selling all sorts of fish -- we don't actually get to eat any of it -- or when we do, it doesn't really resemble fish anymore.
There are not a lot of Western tourists in India -- mostly Indian tourists. Anyway, we eat a good breakfast and dinner and snack "a bit" in between - last week we were eating passionfruit and cashews, this week coconut and cardamon cookies and cassava chips. Have snack will travel. Have to say we have had good conditions all the way. We pay mostly between $30-40 and sometimes we get something really nice for that and sometimes with fantastic views, all with modern bathrooms and hot water. I wanted to stay in a few places that are more "up market" but it hasn't been necessary. The place we stayed in
in Jaipur was really special -- I ordered it on the internet -- it was already with a big discount but then they gave us a suite instead of a deluxe room and it was wonderful to stay there -- it was like a little palace, very atmospheric. We have stayed at some great places -- just outside of our window we have had palaces and forts, monkeys swinging through trees, mountains and lake palaces, tea and spice plantations and forest and jungle. And one of the best things in Kumily is that you can sit outside at night and the sky is carpeted with thousands of stars. Before I go to bed I go out and have one last look.
This is our last morning here. Have been out on the balcony enjoying the view and the crisp, morning air -- we are going to Allepey on the backwaters in another two hours -- phoned ahead and ordered a cottage right on the water -- sounds nice -- back to the humid coast -- if we don't manage we will move to AC.
Now have just about enough time for breakfast at the French Restaurant before we
go. We ate breakfast there every day -- the food is fresh and good and they have good brown bread and baguettes. There is an Israeli secton on the menu -- turned out that the young Indian couple that run the place spent 5 years learning baking and cooking in Hampi. Hampi has a lot of Israeli tourists, so many that they teach Israeli recipes as part of the cooking course. Kumily doesn't have many Israeli tourists or at least not many that eat at the French Restaurant -- but if you tell her ahead, you can get humus and felafel and also shakshuka and Israeli salad and pita.
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