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Published: April 27th 2012
Well the journey to Periyar, back up in the mountains, was a long and uncomfortable one, for a change :-s This place is nice, got a really nice place to stay for a good price and I've been having adventures in the jungle with Mogoli (well Babu but I think of him as Mogoli! Since Aijan had to travel to Ernakulam imminently she only had time for a half day safari. Unfortunately the govnt controlled prices does not include a half day, and she would have had to paid a full days price for only half, and then have to somehow get back to the town by her own means... not ideal. Enough searching however revealed a market for 'illegal trekking' through the jungle...We were a little worried, especially that it might be a cop scam (you know where the cops are in on it and 'catch you' with the guide and cops splitting the baksheesh (bribe). ) but we decided to go for it...
No regrets! It was brilliant. The jungle sounds were so exotic and we saw some amazing stuff. Dissapointingly no elephants (despite LOTS of elephant shit everywhere I tried to stand!) but we did see... a black bear!! They're actually quite dangerous... but it ran off when we stood our ground with the machete. Very exciting. There was all sorts of insects and interesting plants which Babu seemed to know the use for all of them! He has grown up walking in the jungle, first with his father, and then taking tourists to see wildlife from the age of 9! And of course there was porquipines, buffalo, sambar and other deer, giant squirrals (which were huge!) and monkeys (making a right racket) galore. I don't regret not doing the jeep tour atall, we saw some of their 'trails' and they were so cleared that no wildlife would go close i'm sure. We walked right into the heart of the jungle, and up close to lots of small watering places. I'm not quite sure 'walked' is the correct word though: this was the hardest thing I have done for many years!We travelled easily 8 miles from the town (we could see it from afar when having a break on a big rock) and the distance wasnt straight walking but hilly, on slippy ground (rained the night before) with foot-deep leaves. I slipped and fell several times, even with a machete-made walking pole, and am now covered with small cuts and bruises. We even had to climb (vertical) some bits, it was proper trekking. I was proper exhausted (dying I thought!), although the 4.30 wake up and 5.20 set-off cant have helped.
We had some hilarious moments; first thing, when walking past the very few houses at the edge of the reserve, me and Aijan we freaking out a little at the thought of encountering a tiger and at that moment we heard a loud growl beside us...I nearly jumped out of my skin and ontop of Aijan, who was probably more frightened by me than the sound! It was only a dog, and this set off a fit of giggles that went on for some time!
At another point our guide Babu realised he had lost his mobile phone (his pocket had a very large hole!) and he said 'wait here', walked 3 steps and then said 'take the knife' dropping it our feet...I'm sure its a crocodile dundee line! It felt surreal to be left alone, just the very noisy jungle around us! Still no harm came to us :-)
At many points it felt like being in The Jungle Book, I kept imagining that Sheer Khan would come around the corner...
Anyway it was a fantastic experience :-)
In the evening a festival was going on so I thought I'd go along for a look-see. I joined them in the 5km walk from one town to the next and it was pretty exciting, with lots of drumming and people carrying large plant things on their heads. Every now and again a woman would start screaming as if possessed and writhing about, as if in agony or fury- I was shocked at first and I have to say it wasn't pleasant to the ears but this is suppossedly when 'god is with them'. Which god, I couldn't get a straight answer on at the time! At the end of the procession the piercing began! Men got their faces pierced with metal pins and sharp rods that go through both cheeks. Crazy. I've tried to research which festival it is (also saw it a couple of days ago in Kottayam very briefly) but I couldn't find the answer on the internet! Plenty on festivals involving piercing, just not at this time of year? Let me know if you have better luck. The best part of the festival is definately the procession back, all the men are going mental (probably mostly from endorphins and the drumming inducing some kind of trance) with these huge fake tinsel trees (which are spring shaped and bounce) on their heads, its like dancing christmas trees! Wish I had got more on camera, got like one shot of piercing and then camera died, so no sharing of the dancing christmas trees :-(
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