After a long and very beautiful drive from Kochi ( Cochin), Kerala, we arrived at our jungle retreat by mid- afternoon. Probably having seen some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable, the long journey passed quickly and interestingly, through just a small part of India’s State of Kerala. The drive took five and a half hours in total, with only one comfort stop, so we were pleased to arrive at our destination! Here we were staying for three nights at a delightful, small resort hotel, with individual cottages, and beautiful gardens – it was extremely relaxing, especially listening to the many birds singing evening song, just what we needed before our full day of border trekking in the Periyar National Park, the next day.
We hiked along the borders of Periyar Tiger Reserve. The route passed through undulating terrains and altitude ranges of 900 m to 1300 m, where we got glimpses of the lofty escarpments bordering the park, watersheds and the vast stretches of Cumbam Valley below. This is a conservation-oriented, full day, trek covering 15 km. We had done some research and spotted some excellent photos of the hike, which had set our expectations. Open this link to see the hundreds of photos.
Anyway, to provide some details, we arrived at 08.00 and started our hike at 08.30, leaving from the park meeting place. Here we met our guides and the four other people joining the walk. There were three very young things from France (very early twenties) and an English lady, probably in her late thirties, and us! There were three guides, one was a ranger, come naturalist with an ageing rifle – Alf referred to him as “the Corporal”. Secondly, there was a scout, who went searching for wild life. Finally, there was the third guy – no English but he came along for the walk anyway, and to be fair, made us some good hiking sticks out of bamboo!
After about two hours into the hike, after some hard climbing, and not seeing very much in the way of wildlife, suddenly a wonderful surprise, two beautiful elephants – they were a sight to behold and a memory to cherish. There were lots of unusual flora and fauna, but the actual four-legged animals were very thin on the ground. The hike was very tough, and at a difficulty level that we would not usually chose. It was also extremely hot, and not enough watering stops were made – of course, our three young French friends had springs in their boots! Anyway, we certainly held our own, and along with the English lady were delighted at the stop of one hour for lunch in the shade of the midday sun. We had by now reached the Periyar lake, a spectacular focal point but were still not seeing wildlife (apart from the two elephants), which was a disappointment to us as that was the object of the exercise. However, we did see some interesting birds, especially lots of beautiful kingfishers.
After our break, we all once again took to the road, refreshed and optimistic, when suddenly, there they were, three more elephants – a very pleasing sight indeed! We walked for a further two and a half hours and were back at our start point at 4.30 PM – seven very full hours of hiking. Our three young French friends were by now thoroughly exhausted and we just smiled to ourselves.
It had been a wonderful experience but very grueling. However, it was an experience that we would not have missed and with hindsight, we very much enjoyed it – the absolutely amazing scenery of forests, hill tops and lakeside – even if we had been clambering over rocks, treading on narrow ledges with sheer drops, walking across narrow log bridges with deep drops beneath. Admittedly, there were neither tigers nor leopards in sight, however, they had been there at some stage as their paw marks and poo remains were evident. Anyway, we did we really want to bump into a tiger or leopard, as we were on foot after all, and they run faster!
We are happy to be here to blog about our experience!
Tomorrow, we are back in the Periyar National Park but that’s another blog…