Where to begin??!! I can’t stop smiling after an amazing week. I have had to summarise it in two posts because just the one wouldn’t do it justice!
Let’s take it from the top. We set off from Kumarakom on Monday morning, taking a 3 ½ hour (stomach-churning) car ride to Thekkady. I couldn’t do anything except stare out of the window, even looking at my phone turned my stomach. It was a lovely journey though, gradually climbing up the steep hills with tea plantations passing by. As we were 900–1800m above sea level the climate was perfect, like British summer temperatures, so we took a break from air conditioning units and mozzies biting us.
Thekkady is renowned for the Periyar National Park, aka Periyar Tiger Reserve, which is on the Kerala & Tamil Nadu border. Our hotel is about 7km away from Periyar and a stone’s throw away from Tamil Nadu. There is a lovely steep walk up near us that puts you right on the border – we had awe-inspiring views (there’s been quite a few of them this week!)… I’m afraid photos won’t do it justice but hope you get the idea 🙂
I think of all the places I was looking forward to, when we were planning our time in India, Periyar National Park stood out as ‘thee place’ that I wanted to visit the most. Sometimes putting so much pressure on ‘getting/seeing something’ from a place can be detrimental, and that unfortunately occurred on our first visit to the Park. As with most simple things in India, the odious bureaucracy makes you want to scream at someone. This is a daily occurrence. To go on the boating trip at the renowned Periyar Lake you have to buy an entry ticket into the park, but this does not guarantee you a seat on the boat! So, there is the chance that you could buy a ticket, make your way to the boating jetty, 5km from the ticket office, and miss the chance to get on the next available boat. You’d have to wait another 2 hours til the next one… a Nessa tantrum this makes! Luckily for us they had a quota on how many ‘foreigners’ they put on each boat, Steve was the final person in and final foreigner to bag tickets – happy Nessa 🙂
The boating journey was fantastic, amazing scenery and tranquil setting. We saw Sambar Deer and a variety of birds nesting on the trees in the lake, and even better Steve didn’t fall asleep (which he has done on every other boat journey so far).
Periyar Lake is man-made, a reaction to the opening of the Mullaperiyar Dam, built and funded by a British man called John Pennycuick. Before you nod off, I mention this engineering history because Steve’s Great Great Grandfather worked on building the Dam (supervising the minions no doubt!) Anyway, Joseph Johnson (Steve’s ancestor) and family all grew up in Thekkady, where exactly we don’t know, the area has no doubt changed beyond recognition too, but a nice little thing to know when we are driving around.
Thekkady is also renowned for its spice plantations. Black pepper, cardamom, cocoa, coffee bean, ginger, clove, turmeric… absolute heaven for a foodie like Steve. We visited a small plantation called Abraham’s, fantastic place with an enthusiastic and intelligent guide. He spoke English, French and Italian! As I have a very limited sense of smell, if any, the trip was a bit wasted on me, but I loved seeing the various spices and plants all growing together under the canopies of banana trees and bamboo shoots. Various pics attached to the blog. After visiting the plantation, we became aware of all the various spices growing within the hotel complex, one being a coffee plant just outside our bedroom window!
Coffee Garden – an ‘Italian’ styled café/restaurant. Had a week of curry so was nice to have something that didn’t have spice in it (even though we’re in spice heaven – ahem) Great cappuccino too. Just don’t trust the map on Trip Advisor, nowhere near where it suggests it is! Try and get there for dusk so you can see thousands of Fruit Bats filling the sky. A magnificent sight, if not slightly eerie!
Our Place – fun little restaurant run by a British couple from London, great food, just what the UK taste buds needed. They made their own fresh bread so no chance of it having sugar in it (India put sugar in everything, even their crisps!) The female of the partnership was a character, she decided to join us midway through our food talking about everything and anything. We loved her confidence and brashness, she didn’t give a dam what you thought, even though you were the paying customer!
Ventara Hotel – our home for the week. Basically, we’ve had the hotel to ourselves for most of the stay! They’ve been a nice friendly bunch, had our own personal Rickshaw driver, Rajesh, who took us wherever we wanted to go, and didn’t charge us an arm and leg to get there! Even showed us where he lived and introduced us to his kid, a genuine bloke. The hotel was a bit outside Thekkady but a lot cheaper than other places, really recommend you staying here if you come to Periyar, and after reading this why wouldn’t you!