A decent explanation at the Information Center
It almost goes without saying that I will visit the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary today, after all, that is s what it is about here in Kumily. After breakfast – sweet cakes with a glass of tea at a street stall – I start my search. I inquire at the Tourism Police Department Information Center. In fluent English, they explain about the nature reserve. The boat trip at 2 pm seems to be the best option. Further, the Information Center advises to make a plantation trip in the vicinity; they elaborate in detail with which bus, where to get off, and so on. But I have to watch out for alleged guides.
Getting approached by a guide
On foot, I head in the direction of the Periyar Nature Park. The entrance is four kilometers from the city center. After paying the entrance fee, I start to walk the next kilometers to the mooring place of the boat. After fifteen minutes, a woman in a car-rickshaw passes by; I can join the ride for a small amount. I already suspect what this is going to turn out to be, some offer to guide, but I hop in any way. The woman is indeed a guide, she shows me her reference booklet and proposes to buy a ticket for the 4 pm boat trip because the 2 pm one is already fully booked according to her.
Buying my ticket for the boat trip in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
In the meantime – before 4 pm – she can take me to some plantations. I do not agree immediately, because I first want to check which boat is still available. It turns out to be correct; there is only room left at 4 pm. I buy a ticket for the lower deck; after all, it looks like it will rain later in the day. Then I have to decide whether I accept the plantation trip. Mary Magdalena asks 350 rupees. I know the prices are around 300 rupees, so I agree. It seems an excellent option to fill the time before the boat trip.
My unofficial guide keeps a low profile
We drive out of Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and start climbing a hill in a put-put. The ride seems to last forever, so I ask how long it will be before we arrive at our destination. It turns out another three kilometers. When we take a small road, a police jeep approaches from the other direction and stops to look at our rickshaw occupants. The driver and the guide keep a low profile, Maria is of course not an official guide, that was clear from the start. When we drive on, she tells me they checked the rickshaw’s license plate. I reply that I know that there are official and unofficial guides.
Visiting a waterfall covered in fog
A little later, we are where we need to be. First, we visit a waterfall. However, there is such a thick fog that my experience is limited to hearing the flowing water. That is a pity as, according to the travel guide, the view must be breathtaking. We drive off to see some plantations; well, a plantation is a big word. You will find herbs just about everywhere on this hill; I smell, and sometimes I also taste coffee, pepper, cardamom, and cloves. Cocoa fruits are also shown to me.
Arriving soaking wet at the mooring place
On the way back, we stop in a hillside village to drink tea, at my expense, that goes without saying. I have an hour and a quarter before the boat leaves, more than enough to continue on foot, about five kilometers. Shortly afterward, however, a big bummer emerges; a tropical rain shower and not a single rickshaw in the vicinity, of course. I persevere because I already have a ticket for the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in my pocket. I arrived soaking wet at the boathouse. My visit to the Ghats is a little too early in the season, that is clear, and naturally being close to the mountains also means frequent rain showers.
Periyar Nature Park is also a tiger reserve
Fortunately, when we board the boats (five in total), it stops raining. The many Indians who are present jostle to get their seat, while the previous passengers have yet to get off. Clearly a lack of showing manner. I wait for my turn. I do not expect too much from the boat trip itself. The travel guide states that the mass of visitors, in combination with the roar of the boats, is not such that it lures animals to the lake. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is a tiger reserve, but those animals stay far away from any crowd.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is the only place in India with wild elephants
All in all, the visit is not too bad; first, we notice a kind of wild pig, then a couple of buffalo. And then the icing on the cake comes. On the shore, there are five wild elephants; three large, one medium, and one small species. Wonderful to see, this makes the trip worth all efforts. A few minutes later, we see four elephants on the other side, only adults this time. It is breathtaking to see one of the animals throwing mud over its back with his trunk; maybe this is a beauty treatment?
Spotting some birds but the wild elephants stay in my memory
Back on the way to the mooring place, we get sight of some birds of all kinds. But the wild elephants, that is what will stay engraved in my memory. Periyar Nature Park is said to be the only place in India where these giants still exist freely.
Another tropical rain shower on my way back
Once back on the mainland, I start my retreat at a steady pace. It is not possible to arrange transport from here; I should have arranged that in advance. When I leave Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, it starts to drip again, and by the time I get back to the hotel, the rain is pouring down. So I get soaked for the second time today.
A tasteless dinner after today’s hardships
After putting on dry clothes, I go to the dining room of the hotel where I order soup, chicken with bamboo shoots and rice. The food, which I was looking forward to after the hardships of today, is downright tasteless. The amount of chicken is also abysmal; with some effort, I find five pieces under the vegetables. In Kumily or Periyar, tourism has yet to blossom. There is definitely a charming side to it, but in my opinion, there is not enough on offer to stay here longer than one or two days. Tomorrow I will pack my bags and move towards Alleppey.