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March 28th 2011
Published: June 25th 2011
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After checking out the night before we started our hardcore journey from Amritapuri to Kumily in the Western Ghats, the southern mountain range between Kerala and Tamil Nadu states. It included 8hrs of government buses with 2 changes. Now you have to have visited India or the Americas to know what I mean by these, they are giant tin cans of fury with supercharged horns and drivers hell-bent on becoming the next Formula 1 discovery. A distinct lack of shock absorbers and open air windows also add to the pleasant journey.
On arrival at Kottayam for our second change it was midday, stinking hot and we were starving. Like an oasis in the heat, a hotel rose from the turmoil of the surroundings and we were guided to it by a higher power – air conditioning. In the comfort of the hotel restaurant we experienced our first paneer butter masala, and it was a revelation forever to linger on the tips of our tongues. With renewed fervour, we boarded our bus to Kumily and wound our way through the mountains for another 4 hours.
Much like arriving into any new town we brushed off the guys trying to guide us to overpriced guesthouses and eventually, with a little help, found our way to Elephant Hills Homestay. By now it was the evening, we ate some fruit and chocolate then retired for the evening.

In the morning we jumped in a tuk tuk to Periyar Tiger Reserve in search of a nice walk to do. South India’s most popular wildlife sanctuary, it encompasses 777 sq-km with a 26 sq-km artificial lake created by the British in 1895. What we found was a little annoying. There were no marked walks available, any walk had to be taken by a guide and these guys were only available from the main town. We walked to the boarding point for the boat tours which was the extent of the non-guided park, saw a troop of monkeys looking to rob dull tourists. With this we decided walk the 4km back to town and then return in the afternoon to do the evening boat tour. It was a nice walk and we managed to see 3 of the 4 types of monkeys on offer in the reserve. After a rest the next tourist option was the Spice Garden Tour, which was really interesting, we saw all the Indian spices, tasting and smelling the leaves, pods and seeds.
Dissappointingly we returned to the reserve to find the boat rides were sold out. I wonder if the tuk-tuk driver knew this fact before taking us on the journey. Dinner was at one of the local Indian joints we had seen packed out at lunch time, yet it was empty when we arrived at 6pm? When Storm voiced her concerns that the paneer butter masala was not bringing her to the same state of ecstasy as a few days ago we had two waiters and the cook all hovering over us asking if there was a problem! More home-made chocolates were consumed on the way home.

Today was a relatively quiet day spent in and around the guesthouse. I snuck off during the day to pick up Storm a birthday present, and in the evening we got takeaway from the amazing Italian restaurant next door.

Storms birthday today! We graced the Italian restaurant for breakfast then were off to the elephant park. Storm had put on the silver Ganesha earings I had got her and soon we were atop a lovely old girl called ???. Riding bareback, we meandered up through a forest where there were low lying plantations of cardamom and pepper. Men waved and greeted us as they clung to tree trunks havesting the pepper from the vines that shared the trunks. After dismounting our behemoth we treated her to some tasty fruits for her labours then we fashioned some towels into clothes so we could bath her. There was a pool which was about a foot deep in which the elephant was standing, just as I hoped in she took an almightly piss in the pool, fantastic (well Storm seems to think urine is really good for the skin so I just decided to forget that it happened). The owner got her to lie down and we scrubbed her with coconut husks and had a photo shoot, where we got elephant piss water sprayed all over us... Later in the day we returned to the restaurant next door for a lovely dinner next door and after some technical glitches we managed a birthday skype chat to Capetown.

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