While we live as one, we have many minds that exist inside us. Few of these work together, whereas others are staunch opponents. My two particular minds, the waking mind and sleeping mind, are ruthless enemies of each other. When one is in control, it does not let other to linger by. That’s the reason I keep staying up at night reading stuff when my brain knows I should sleep, but the waking mind doesn’t allow that. The same reason, when I can’t get out of my bed early even in case of fire, because the sleeping mind is equally possessive as its opponent.
Today, the sleeping mind was angry, and for rightful reasons. It had to let go of its control much earlier for two consecutive days. Yesterday it was the bird sanctuary, and today it would be the Periyar lake sanctuary. It struggled hard, but couldn’t win in front of the opposition. With god’s given alarm clock called wife, what husband can sleep for long? (Do I hear ‘Amen’ from the husbands?)
So we were up and running at 7.00 A.M., hoping to catch the boat. We had spotted very few tourists and a large number of unlit hotel windows yesterday night, so we thought there wouldn’t be any crowd, not for the early morning boat. It was surprising to see such a large crowd for boat ride at the ticket counter.
There are few nitty-gritty’s that make the boat ride interesting. Firstly, there is no parking near the jetty, and you have to park about 0.5-1 kilometer away from the jetty. Ordinarily this would have not created any problem, but we were already short on time. Seeing that the guard had not yet come to stop me going near the jetty, I ventured all the way in to the door of the ticket counter. However, the guard shooed me away telling to park the vehicle and come by foot. The clock was ticking, and it was not agreeing to what the guard was asking. But no way, he did not care if we miss the boat, but the bike has to be parked in allotted area only.
Alright, so back I rode to the parking lot, and forth I ran to the Jetty. By the time I got back, my heart threatened to jump out of the chest because of the sudden exercise of running. Nandinee was having another heavenly experience herself. The ticket counter needs all your details, make it ALL details about you that could possibly be fathomed. Your name, where do you stay, age, this and that, and all this form has to be filled in order to get a ticket. Then the person would verify it after a slow read (he wouldn’t want you to lie about your age). If at all it is correct, he will prepare a ticket – manually. With a surprising number of places to fill by pen. This takes its own sweet time, and restlessness among the tourists increase exponentially with each passing minute. Everyone had risen up early, and if someone’s ride would be missed because the ticket couldn’t be written in time, their frustration would be understandable. Luckily I didn’t have to experience this first hand, and was soon shoved two tickets in hand; one for us and one for camera.
Total 3 boats left the shore, the number may increase significantly in peak season. The boat ride had not changed its character in 6 years. It was same as I remembered, strutting along the waterlines, with kids stretching out dangerously out of the boat to spot any animals, and myself wondering how much more time was left. The morning boat ride has an interesting aspect though. As a photographer would know, the water is lying still at early hours. As the day progresses, your chances of clicking a still water reflection go to zero very fast. The sleepy water was reflecting the jungle well, and the photography was an enjoyable experience.
This lasted for a while, before a boat with foreigners felt it should belong to the lead of the pack, and overtook our boat which was the leader previously.
As this boat went ahead, the water was all disturbed, and no reflection photograph was possible. My only consolation too was gone, and I started counting minutes for the ride to end. We spotted a few useless animals that I gave up attempt to spot, after few strenuous tries. I think the Kerala government should train some elephants and other big animals to just loiter around the shorelines. This will not only increase the tourist satisfaction and the word by mouth publicity, but also would provide fixed government jobs for the mahouts.
I was not the only one feeling dreadful on the ride. While returning back, many of the foreigners who had taken the prime seats in the boat that overtook us were seen to be drifting in sleep. We returned after about 2.5-3 hours, and were glad to put feet on land again.
Some photographs from the wild life sanctuary.
The tickets from the entrance to the boat ride are on the costlier side, and frankly, one shouldn’t fret if he misses the ride. The only thing you will be able to say after the visit is not you saw or did something interesting, but yes, you did this tourist attraction. The silver lining to this tick-mark to visited-tourist-spots list was that we did it in morning, and had whole day to roam around and relax.
After the breakfast, we started roaming around for ‘spice garden tour’. Periyar has a lot of spice plantation around the town. Some of them have dimensions going into many acres. Thus Periyar has this specialty tour called ‘spice garden tour’, where for a fee, you get a guide to take you through the plantation and show you the various spices and herbs. Afterwards, you are led into a shop of that garden which sells products made up of those same plants. This being technically a advertisement tour, it should have been free. But as the label ‘suckers’ a.k.a. ‘tourists’ is applied, naturally a price tag is attached to the tour. This tag ranges in hundreds, which is quite hard to accept. The road that goes to these plantations goes beautifully through a ghaat, and you keep on passing such gardens on route. The same road goes to Munnar.
We stopped at each and every garden, asking for their quotes. Finally stopped at ‘Spice paradise’, the same one described in the guide book. He had a bit lower rate than others, so went in. The tour is enjoyable. You see the regularly used kitchen-spices in their natural and purest form. The tour lasts for about half an hour, goes up and down the hilly plantation, and is a learning experience. We got to see turmeric, vanilla, coffee, cocoa and cardamom, along with many other plants.
Later we were led to the shop, and after a customary selling pitch, we were left to shop as per our liking. Being a fan of ‘comparison shopping’, we already had the rates of spices in Mumbai as on that day. It was surprising to see that the shops there were selling at higher rates! One would think that since they being the producer of the stuff, and cutting the middle men out, you would get a good price, but here you would pay higher! We did buy some stuff, but only the exquisite stuff which was more probably to be adulterated, like turmeric for facial packs and such. The common stuff like cloves, cumin and other spices were unacceptably costly.
In the afternoon, we took a lot of rest in the superb hotel, and then roamed around in town. There are a lot of shops selling wooden artifacts, and later in our tour we realized that Periyar had the best prices and largest variety. But don’t go for small stuff. If you are buying wooden items, go for a big kill, like a large statue or something. Else you will get the same small stuff at marginally high prices anywhere else.
We asked around for Kodaikanal route, and found that it was pretty straight forward. The evening was nothing but more strolling around, and an early bed awaited us.