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Published: September 16th 2015
On Friday morning we decided to clear the garden area around Del Si. We don't have many tools so we found 2 manky suitcases which had been washed in by the sea and used these to carry rubbish into one big pile. Marc raked the sand and soil which had been cleared whilst I helped Dave clear the back of the house. My Mum won't believe me, but I actually used my hands to pick up mounds of rubbish where spiders, centipedes, caterpillars, ants and geckos had made their homes. The neighbours were watching us and waving every time we looked up. I think they could tell how scared I was so they came over and gave me some chocolate which made the whole ordeal a bit better. The amount of rubbish washed in by the sea is a big problem in Kochi and the garden at Del Si is no exception. A cup of ginger and lychee tea was well deserved when we finished and we stayed for a chat and some lunch with Nasjroo (because its impossible to say no to his cooking!).
We decided to spend our weekend off with four other volunteers in the town of
Kumily, which is located 180km to the east of Kochi in the Western Ghats mountain range. The area was recommended to us by other volunteers. We travelled to Ernakulam by ferry, then caught 2 buses to Kumily which cost a total £1.50 each. The Indian people squish in beside you on the seats and stand along the walk ways for the whole 6 hour journey and the bus sets off at a terrifying speed. As we were the only white people on the bus, people were very friendly and talkative. Half way there, we reached the mountains but the pitch black and fog made it impossible to see a thing. It was an uphill struggle and there were moments we thought we were definitely going to crash into oncoming traffic on the narrow and bendy roads. Panic set in when the air pressure of the brakes stopped working and we broke down on the edge of the cliff. Susie asked a local what would happen and he explained when another bus goes past, all the passengers in our bus would have to try and squeeze on to theirs too. It was a tight squeeze and a horrible last 2 hours
of travel but we eventually made it to Kumily.
The next day we went on a tour of the local spice garden and 2 of the girls enjoyed an elephant ride. We decided against this as the elephants were chained. Then we went on a 3 hour trek in Periyar National Park, which is 357 square miles, and specifically an elephant and tiger reserve. We were given special socks to prevent leeches getting in our shoes and up our trousers. Of course the first of our group to be targeted was Susie, who was by far the most scared. She had one hanging off her finger and one on her arm. This started a constant paranoia and pleading for others to kick them off her shoes. But luckily all was forgotten when we managed to spot wild bison, mongoose, 3 different kinds of monkeys and various birds including woodpecker and kingfisher. Along the way we found elephant bones and bison horns too! Unfortunately we were unlucky and didn't see any wild elephants or tigers though.
That evening we found a hotel which had happy hour on beers.. buy one get one free! It is much cooler in Kumily
than Kochi so we sat out for most of the night getting to know one another better. The evening was enjoyed by all.
In the morning we got up very early and went on another trek in Periyar National Park. We managed to spot an Indian giant squirrel, along with more monkeys. One of the rangers that was on our trek was carrying tobacco to put on our legs which makes the leeches unconscious (to Susie's delight). Marc took a special liking to him (we can't remember his name) and followed him around asking questions about the park. He was half the size of Marc so it was an unlikely friendship.
We stopped for lunch and then went on a bamboo raft. After getting stuck on a rock for 10 minutes, we spotted something in the distance. We thought our chance at seeing any elephants had gone, but to our amazement there was one right at the edge of the water. As we got closer we saw that the elephant had her calf with her. We slowly and silently got off the bamboo rafts and climbed up the hill to get a closer look. It was brilliant to
see elephants in the wild after seeing them chained up the day before. The rangers told us we were extremely lucky to see a mother and a calf in the open as they are usually very protective. A fantastic way to end our trip!
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