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Published: November 16th 2013
Glimpses of Kerala – 4: Thekkady - Periyar
There are so many things to see, so many things to do, but unpredictable travel time and so many queues to wait in (if it is busy tourist season) with hardly any communication possible with your taxi driver, planning a perfect trip to Thekkady and Munnar is not easy – unless you have extra time at your disposal.
Showing ‘spice gardens’ to tourists (for fee of course), has been developed in to a good business by locals. There are plenty of them on way to Thekkady and between Thekkady and Munnar. They grow specimen of many plants having medicinal value or which are used as spices. They also sell the spices, but we were reluctant in buying from them due to a bad experience (poor quality) several years back, of buying flavored tea from a tea garden in Ooty (a hill station in Tamilnadu). Almost all have a model of ‘tree house’. We also visited one such garden on way to Thekkady – it was interesting and informative.
We reached Thekkady (from Kumarakom) around noon (of Day-4) after seeing spice garden and we were to leave after breakfast on Day-6.
That means effectively only 1½ days for Thekkady. Not enough.
We stayed in Hotel Sandra Palace (booked through www.makemytrip.com), a good medium range hotel located in the heart of Kumily, near Thekkady.
In the afternoon of the first day in Thekkady we took elephant ride and saw Kathakali dance drama and Kalaripayattu Martial Art shows.
There are several places where elephant ride is arranged. They are all in a well defined enclosure resembling forest. With banana and spice plants everywhere, even in a small area you get the feel of Jungle. Rides range from 10 minutes (Rs. 300 per person) to 1½ hours (Rs 1500), 2-4 persons per elephant. For those not accustomed to elephant ride (and who is?!), half an hour is enough. Mahaouts are good at helping you take your photographs and elephants are well trained in giving a good pose (better than you)!
Kathakali – Keralian style of telling story through dance, music and gestures (of face, eyes and hands – in particular) – is worth watching. If you take the first show (usually around 5 pm), you get to see how the artists put on their makeup and dresses. That is perhaps
more interesting than the dance part. The song was in local language but the compeer had explained the story beforehand (otherwise it will not make any sense).
Kalaripayattu Martial Art show was ordinary exhibition of gymnastics (at Mudra Culture Centre). Can be omitted.
With proper information, we could have planned our next day much better.
Close to Thekkady is Periyar Lake and Periyar Tiger Reserve. Private Jeeps are available for Forest Safari (5 am to 7 pm) for Rs. ~2000 per person. It is possible only if you have full day spare for that. Seeing wildlife is always a matter of chance. Alternatively, one can go for boating and trekking.
We went to Periyar Lake first. It is a huge manmade lake – actually it is the reservoir of a dam. Government Tourism Department manages boat ride of 1½ hour duration. With festival season rush it takes total 3-4 hours including waiting in queue. The boat ride is fun. We could actually see some wild life in the surrounding hills including wild elephants from the boat. We were told that it was first such sighting in last four days.
Food is not available at the
lake and you have to come back to Kumily for lunch, and if interested buy fresh entrance ticket and re-enter the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
KTDC (Kerala Tourism Development Corporation) has good accommodation facility inside the Reserve but booking is not easy due to limited availability.
KTDC also has many interesting packages for exploring the Jungle and the Wildlife, ranging from 3 hour guided ‘Nature Walk’ to over-night camp-fire. The problem is that all these are managed in the typical Govt. style. Means, no information is available except at the Boating site ticket window on the Lake. We were interested in taking the ‘Nature Walk’, last batch of which was due to leave at 2.30 pm from the Lake. But the booking for the ‘Walk’ is not done at the Lake – it is done from some place in Kumily called ‘Ambadi Junction’ – as per a poster at the Lake. After returning from boating, we could not manage finishing lunch before 2.30 (at Max Pizza – recommended) and we also could not locate this ‘Ambadi Junction’. Our driver had lost interest because we had not taken Jeep Safari (full day trip) in his friend’s Jeep. Thus we had
to skip ‘Nature Walk’.
In all, although we did enjoy at the Periyar Lake, the day could not be utilized fully. My suggestion therefore to the readers is to go for trekking first thing in the morning and take boat ride in the afternoon, last boat leaving at 4.00/4.30. .
Finding suitable vegetarian food is a challenge in South India. Since Gujaratis throng tourists spots all over India during festive season, a couple of so-called Gujarati restaurants have come up in Thekkady (and Munnar) – although they are not really of Gujarati style, they serve food that somewhat resembles Gujarati and North Indian taste. Best option for Gujarati tourist therefore is to have huge breakfast of Idli – Dosa – Uttapam – Sambhar which is served in all hotels (only in the morning) – and survive till the next morning on rice and rasam.
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