30.12.2011 - 03.01.2012 19 °C
Day 92: Kumily, Kerala 30/12/11
We check out of our hotel, after another tip to Little Bites (the nearby bakery) for a few takeaway bits for our onward journey. After packing up and finding our way to the bus station, we are heading for the borders of Periyar National Park. Mist and rain greet our arrival as the fallout from Tamil Nadu’s (neighbouring state) cyclone hits our area.
As we alight from the bus, we run straight into Maz and Siggy, the couple we had dinner with last night. We agree to meet up on New Year’s Day for dinner at their place, which seems to be a little bit plusher than Rainbow Cottage.
Manage to somehow get our room at half the expected rate as the tout that met us at the bus station took no notice of us when we told him we already had a reservation there. Needless to say the owner was none to impressed. Also surprising, Rainbow Cottage is the most colourful place we have stayed yet.
Day 93: Kumily, Kerala 31/12/11
With New Year’s Eve at the forefront of our minds (not really) we have a quick breakfast on the balcony, then make our way into the town centre, togged up in fleeces and waterproofs, to buy some drinks and grab some lunch. Have an awesome lunch – fish curry meals, with the best fish yet – for an extortionate 110 rupees.
On the way back to the room we spy some kids playing cricket on a scrap of land, using a plank of wood and a rubber ball. Old habits dying hard, I find myself soon stood at first slip, sooner still at the crease and make some friends as I hit six after six (half of this is true).
After buying some quality Indian champagne I go for dinner alone as Gemma is not hungry and as I await my food, I spy a rat run under my table. Unperturbed, I clear my plate. To celebrate New Year, we have some drinks on the balcony with a British couple, a South African and his Japanese girlfriend and the owner of the hotel invites himself along. I have too much and end up sporting my new vest on the balcony.
Day 94: Kumily, Kerala 01/01/12
We wake up both unwell, but for different reasons, Gemma because of a stomach upset, me because of the Indian champers. Both feel sorry for ourselves and I head out for another fish curry meal, which makes me feel marginally better.
Have a sleep, a shower and a skype and feel a lot better for our dinner date tonight at the nice hotel with Maz and Siggy. This is truly how the other half live, with a proper bed, oak floors, nice restaurant, swimming pool and all the comforts. You would expect of a decent hotel. We have a great evening with them, a lovely couple and we eventually head home, walking half the way due to the lack of tuk-tuks. It is absolutely freezing.
Day 95: Kumily, Kerala 02/01/12
Up at 5 am (ridiculous time) for a 5.30 pick up for our jungle safari and trekking expedition. In the open sided jeep – which we are sharing with a Kiwi/Mexican couple – and the fleeces and hoodies are not enough to keep out the biting cold and the wind whipping through the sides of the jeep.
The sun comes up and our driver helps us keep an eye out for the local wildlife. At one point he is driving the jeep stood up with his body out of the vehicle, using just his left foot on the accelerator and left hand on the steering wheel. He does help us spot some decent wildlife and we soon see bison, black monkeys and giant squirrel.
We eventually reach the park centre, where we have breakfast and head off into the jungle – every bit as you see on Planet Earth and the like – trekking with a guide. They make it clear that we shouldn’t make any noise, be as quiet and as deliberate as we can with our movements. Before long we are on the trail of some wild elephants, who have just carved up the deep, dense jungle and left droppings the size of footballs. Despite the tough going and rugged terrain (I feel a bit like Ray Mears), the guides make the trek extremely tense as we close in on the elephants and before long we spot an elephant nearby who then bolts at some speed away from us, destroying everything in its way, a sure fire way to get the heart rate up.
Now for the really scary bit. We are again tracking some elephants, closing in on them up a hill. All of a sudden we hear the distinctive trump of an elephant, a huge crashing of trees and the guides turn on their heels and run for their lives. Not wanting to find out how angry this elephant is, I turn and give it legs, apparently neglecting my duty of care for Gemma, who it seems didn’t take the cue from everyone else and stood on the spot. Anyway, to say we were relieved was an understatement, and as our 3 hour trek turns into a 5 hour trek we see some more wild elephants and also some amazing natural sights, including a picturesque waterfall we reach by being rowed across the lake by our guide.
We get back after 13 hours out and about in the cold, the warm and the wild and hit the sack. Dream of elephants and despite the apparent danger, would recommend the jungle to anybody.