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Published: November 19th 2012
Up before the crack of dawn with no breakfast! We drove twenty minutes to Periyar National Park
for a boat ride on Mullaperiyar Lake to see wildlife. A heavy mist or fog delayed departure, and a mix-up placed us nicely on a small boat that was much less peopled than expected. All twenty people had assigned seats and were expected to keep them (standing up momentarily was allowed to get a good shot). Crewmembers tied us into our very serious lifejackets. I sat in a great single seat on one side.
The views were magical – the kind we see in professional photographs: mountains, water, rising mist, thin sun. The view cleared during our cruise until we returned in warm sun and golden–green vegetation. At first we saw birds pointed out by the guides: many egrets; plain, white and blue kingfishers; osprey; and, snake birds in and out of water. Then came wild boar (lots of sightings), a lone elephant standing on the marshy shore, and a wild buffalo the guides call “goar”. Many, many photos to sort through – glad to have a 200mm lens.
At the hotel we all ate a large, late breakfast at about 10:00. I meant to
As the fog cleared we boarded the boats
go back to my chalet but tried the gift shop first for a map. None there, but they suggested the bookshop down the road, opposite the cathedral.
On my own on the street! Be careful of vehicles from both directions, watch the roadside for broken pavement and potholes in the dirt paths, be cheerful with the eager shopkeepers, have fun! The bookshop seemed well stocked – they had a map of South India that covered the whole trip. And I bought a pretty and informative thin book on South Indian spices. The astonishing thing was a Tamil-English dictionary that comprised four volumes, each about two inches thick, sold in a cardboard sleeve.
On the street again, I remembered my desire to buy a less expensive scarf that could be part of the daily rough and tumble. The first shop failed to inspire me, although it was of fair size. Along the street a bit I fingered a blue shawl printed with large elephants, which brought the shopkeeper leaping to his feet from the street (where he was chatting with colleagues) to turn on the lights in the shop (nice environmental saving). The first shawls/scarves he showed me were
Habitat for birds
too expensive and fine. Tried to explain and had to settle on “less expensive”, which was probably a bargaining error. Anyway he was a charming, very tall young man who claimed and really seemed to be making his first sale of the day. This, he said, was why was giving me a special discount. We started at 1850 and ended at 1000 rupees. Happy enough, later I gradually realized the cutwork was not well done (many uncut threads), the item seems handmade (good or bad?), and it cost more than double than the one in Chennai, which may be machine made and is probably sturdier. Nevertheless, it’s unusual, I like it, and he has to eat too. I took his card and promised to tell my friends in recompense for the last 100-rupee discount. Later, indeed, T__ went to his shop, showed him the card and mentioned my name. He gave her my price without bargaining. She also found him charming.
Our afternoon was spent on a jungle walk in the National Park. We arrived at a small building staffed with 5 or 6 men in dark green uniforms – so the animals don’t notice them, our guide said.
We were given a pair of “socks” about the shape of a very large Christmas stocking, made of tightly woven khaki. These we put on over our own socks, and then put our on shoes over them. We had to pull them up, then roll the top down a bit to make a resistant cuff. The string at the top had to be tied tightly as insect precaution. With minor apprehension we sat on a bamboo raft and were pulled and polled across the calm Periyar River
by the foresters.
We walked up a substantial hill, the expanse of which receded into the distance. Our only major sighting was a giant squirrel about the size and shape of a red panda. I had a lot of trouble sighting it while we tromped as quietly as possible on the dry leaves below the canopy. Finally its shape became focused in my head, as others and I snapped photo after photo, hoping for one or two to be good enough. At one point he was on the trunk of a big tree, and we could really see his face, paws and long bushy tail.
The beginning and end of the tour
were pleasant walks, with the guide pointing out various plants and giving tiny talks about the park. Tigers and elephants do live here in the protected zone, but they avoid the tourist area in the daytime. Just as we were leaving on the raft, we saw two deer for a long blink of time.
Our return made me late for my scheduled head massage, but that didn’t seem to make a difference. The man in charge took a few details, and a young woman led me to a room. One at a time, she asked me to remove my shirt, camisole and bra, and to sit on a hard stool. She came back with a thin cotton covering for my torso. Then she poured a handful of sesame oil on my head and rubbed it in. Then with her fingers, and in a vigorous but not hectic pace, she went round and round my head from crown to nape; then she used the flat of her hand similarly; then she “scrubbed” my head as at a beauty parlor. This finished, she asked me by touching my back if I wanted neck and shoulders massaged. I said yes, and she
removed the cotton covering from my torso. This part was essentially a back massage with me sitting up. Strange but pleasant. When asked she said she had been doing massage for two years, and proudly confirmed she had done a course – a two
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