Southern India 2019 – 6

It is six thirty in the morning and I find myself drinking a cup of coffee with a Frenchman, he is going to look at elephants and I am going for a walk in the jungle – well more like a forest really.

The Periyar Tiger Reserve covers an area of just over nine hundred square kilometres and has, among other things, twenty seven resident tigers. It also has elephants, lots of elephants, leopards, sloth bears, wild boar etc., etc.. I am going for a walk just to see what pops up, I have absolutely no expectation of seeing a tiger but I saw two when we were in India in 2017. But first the beaurocracy, oh how India loves beaurocracy. Obviously I can’t just wander off and have apoke about on my own, which I’d love to do, so at the car I meet my Guide a young man called John who is given to much curling of his moustaches; we then drive to the reserve office and I apparently sign my life away and we meet our Tracker, a small but self-important man whose name I cannot pronounce. John informs me that if anything carnivorous attacks us he will throw the Tracker at it while I run away, I tell John that if anything carnivorous attacks us he should take the Tracker’s head while I take his feet and we can throw him from further away and both escape; we all find this absolutely hilarious. We then set out into the jungle and it soon became obvious that it was going to be a quiet day.

We did see a few Sambar deeer which are apparently a tiger’s favouite snack

and a herd of Gaur which are an Indian wild buffalo.

We also saw this tree which has scratches a tiger has made on it cleaning his claws and marking his territory but tourists kept touching the tree and he didn’t like the smell so he has moved to a different territory now.

There was much bird song and other animal noises, we herd monkeys quite a lot and eventually I saw this one which I seem to remember as a Black Macaque but I may have that wrong.

By now we had been up hill and down dale and not seen much. I am now however something of an expert in poo identification and can tell the difference between porcupine poo and elephant poo at a glance.

We were now heading back to the park office and the Guide disappeared and I was slightly worried that he had been siezed by something but eventually I saw him some way behind having a smoke! I couldn’t say for sure but there was something about his demeanour when he rejoined us to suggest that he may in fact have sparked up a spliff.

One thing about wildlife walks is that you never know what will show up apart from us and on this particualr day it was not very much however it was a most pleasent early morning walk and now I know a lot more about poo. I headed back to the hotel and joined Mrs Sixwheeler for a hearty brekfast.

After breakfast we were both collected to make a short tour of a spice farm, this part of the Western Ghats is called The Cardamom Hills from the long history of growing this spice and many others. Once again we had the ever so slightly bored John as our guide although in fact he really knew his stuff and continually gave us leaves or berries to sniff and taste to try and identify; as well as cardamom we tried ginger, pepper, cinnamom, turmeric…..the list goes on and we were not very good at most of them. Anyway here’s a picture of a man up a bamboo pole picking pepper.

Back to the hotel for lunch and a beer before we decided to walk into Thekkady to see if we could find an ATM and top up our funds. Well, what a saga that became; the first one accepted my card but then announced that it couldn’t give me any money as it was out of cash, we asked directions and found another but this time when we enquired the bank told us that it was broken anyway but that there was another ATM up the street and we were third time lucky. By then the afternoon was so hot that we went back to the hotel and got everything ready for our departure in the morning.

Tomorrow we head off the hills and return to Cochin (Kochi) which we first visited in 2015.

6 February 2019

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