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The Silk Route - World Travel: Spices and Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala, India
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India: Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
March 2018

Kumily Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Terrapins, Periyar, India


Learning about spices and spotting birds and animals in Periyar - terrapins and otters the favourites!

Kumily

Aanavilasam
Arabica coffee plant.
Aanavilasam
Shady cardamom plantation.

 

 

We were staying outside Kumily up in the hills - quite steeply up in the hills with tight turns on poor roads so we were glad our driver Das was so good.

The Aanavilasam is a beautiful hotel in an idyllic setting, it has only six rooms set in seven acres of spice gardens, surrounded by cardamom and Arabica coffee plantation.

 

Aanavilasam
Aanavilasam
Jackfruit

Aanavilasam
Heliconia
Aanavilasam
Aanavilasam
The shower also had a door out to the pool area. The pebbles were a bit hard on the feet, but otherwise a good shower - as long as you remembered to put the water on to heat 20 minutes beforehand and don't mind tiny lizards darting into the cracks in the stone wall (fortunately I don't).

Aanavilasam
Walkway from our villa to hotel reception and restaurant.
Aanavilasam
The bathroom leading into the shower - yes, that's a tree trunk!

 

 

 

 

We had been given one of the best rooms in the hotel, a fabulous villa with plunge pool, and we seemed to be the only guests. We discovered that the hotel was actually having some work done, building a new kitchen and dining area, and the hotel had opened just for us because our travel company, Kalypso Adventures, is so highly regarded. A young family did turn up for one night and we think they had just asked on the off chance and got lucky too! The work didn't affect us at all and it was amazing to have the place to ourselves.

Aanavilasam
It was very pleasant sitting here, cool and didn't see any mosquitoes!

Video: The cicadas were deafening!
Aanavilasam
A drongo, I believe, that has lost one of its beautiful tail feathers. In the early morning and late afternoon it constantly flew back and forth between trees in front of our room.

Aanavilasam
Malabar Parakeet

The room was lovely, very comfortable, the only drawback being the gap around the glass door leading out to the pool area. Of course, you have to expect wildlife in this kind of location, but a little care in sealing this gap would have stopped any bother with insects, especially the large moths, which tried to get in as soon as it was dark, some succeeding. There were a lot of insects! We plugged the gap with the curtain and slept peacefully.

Aanavilasam
Bulbul

The pool was a good place for bird watching too, looking out over tropical jungle. Very hard to photograph though, especially without the proper lenses!

Aanavilasam
First lunch at Aanavilasam.


Aanavilasam
I'm afraid we really didn't enjoy this first dinner much at all.


Aanavilasam
Aanavilasam
This dinner was much better

The hotel is very proud of its food, and our first lunch was fine: a spicy vegetable, a gooseberry pickle which neither if us was keen on, a mild dahl - the ubiquitous lentil dish, and a very good chicken curry with lovely flavours, mostly cardamom and pepper but some clove and other spices too. Served with very light papadums, plain rice and chapati.

First dinner, however, was the least enjoyable of our trip so far: chunky vegetable soup followed by a number of dishes - cauliflower in a reddish batter but dry, no sauce, a dry lentil dish which was not nice, paneer which neither of us is fond of, though it did come in a nice sauce, chicken curry, plain rice and chapati. The best bit was the dessert - a beetroot halva which was excellent, a bit like Christmas pudding!

Aanavilasam
Excellent breakfast.
Aanavilasam
One of the hives in the grounds.

However, breakfast was very good with freshly squeezed pineapple and cucumber juices, the very good estate Arabica coffee, fresh fruit - pineapple, papaya and banana, eggs - fried and an omelette, toast, excellent lemon conserve - honey and banana conserve too, the honey comes from the estate hives, and a small muffin.

We couldn't resist one lunch of a very good chicken sandwich, chips (and ketchup!), and superb pineapple juice. And fortunately the second dinner we had was much more to our taste: an excellent fish curry, a chicken dish which tasted a bit sweet and sour, vegetable jalfrezi which is a North Indian dish, aubergine in a spicy sauce and fried potato chunks - most unusual! The rice served here is always plain, unlike the more interesting rice dishes we'd had elsewhere.

Kumily
Palm Sunday in Kumily.

Aanavilasam
Lobster Claw Heliconia in the hotel grounds.
Kumily
Kumily
Kerala really seems to have taken on board the message about plastic pollution; and we saw numerous examples of recycling boxes and bags in public places.
Kumily

Kumily itself is a busy little place, though we really only walked up and down the main street.

We happened to be there on Palm Sunday when the congregation was just exiting the church, all carrying palm fronds and crosses. These are symbolic of the palms cast by the crowds in front of Jesus as he rode on a donkey into Jerusalem. The ladies were wearing the most beautiful saris.

Kumily
Kumily
Being in a region renowned for its spices there are many on sale here, including vast quantities of precious nutmeg.
Kumily
Kumily
Cinnamon tree, the spice comes from the inner bark. We were told that authentic cinnamon is a flaky cylinder whereas Chinese fake cinnamon is hard.

Kumily
Robusta coffee in flower. It is more bitter than the Arabica.

 

We visited a spice garden and had a very informative tour. For instance, allspice is a mixture of flavours, predominantly clove cinnamon, cardamom and pepper.

 

Kumily
Lemon grass has many uses - diluted on the skin it deters mosquitoes, it is supposedly good for burns and is also used to wash floors - where the lemon smell again deters mosquitoes!
Kumily
Candle flowers also called Golden Shrimp - used for decoration.
Kumily
Cardamom

 

 

 

Pepper, green, black and white, come from the same plant, the differences being due to processing - black is the strongest. Ginger and turmeric plants look much the same (apart from the flowers) and so do the tubers, but the inside of the turmeric tuber is orange.

Kumily
Nutmeg
The reddish covering is mace, the nutmeg spice is inside. All parts of the nutmeg are used, including the flesh around the nut which is used for juice in the Kerala backwaters region.
Kumily
This is a pot of stevia - the leaves are very sweet and used as a natural alternative to sugar.
Kumily
The local fig fruits at ground level.
Kumily
Turmeric tuber.

Exiting through the shop, of course, but I wanted nutmeg and vanilla essence in any case.

We were also taken to what was described as an elephant orphanage which, we were told, takes elephants from all over India, for example from circuses - elephants, or any wild animals, are no longer allowed in circuses in India apparently.


Video: elephant bathing.

We were offered a ride on the elephants but I won't do this, I've heard such terrible things about how they are "trained". I wanted to see where the elephants lived but they wouldn't show us. Instead we watched an elephant being bathed and then collecting vegetation, maybe food or bedding. The elephants look well-cared for, and although they wear shackles, there did not seem to be any marks on their legs. There was a big shelter for shade and plenty offry palm fronds underfoot, but I couldn't see any water there for them.

I wasn't sure about this setup. The man bathing the elephant seemed very harsh, yelling commands at the elephant, and not very friendly.

Kumily
A cement water-filled tank - a far cry from a river bank.
Kumily

 

Kumily

When they had finished washing the elephant she stood up and at one point sucked up water into her trunk and tossed it onto her back. I'm pretty sure she did this on command, and I don't like animals of any description performing tricks.


Video: elephant collecting palm fronds.

The elephant was then shackled and led off to a pile of palm fronds. It picked up a load and walked away.

Kumily
Kumily
Shackled, but there were no obvious skin problems.

 

I saw no evidence that this really was a place that was rescuing elephants. I would have thought they would have been keen to prove that this is what their primary purpose is, not giving rides and "experiences" to tourists.

 

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Snowy egret (I think) and cormorant.

We had been due to go trekking in Periyar, but like many other parks in the region it was closed due to recent fires which had killed 16 people, and the only way to see anything was on a tourist boat. This is not something we would normally do, but we had no choice. As was predictable, it was crowded with tourists including one particularly obnoxious American woman who complained loudly about anything and everything.

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Nilgiri langur?
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Woolly-necked storks.

 

 

 

We ignored her, everyone else was fine, it was just rather too many people and if you weren't on the edge of the boat, which we weren't, you had very little chance to take good photographs.

 

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Terrapins - we saw quite a few of these.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Young cormorants and a distracted parent.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Cormorant
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

However, one of the crew seemed to take a liking to us and took the Nikon off our hands for practically the whole trip, coming back occasionally to show us the great photographs he had taken. He had an amazingly steady hand and knew the camera better than we did!

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Sambar deer.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

 

 

Periyar Lake was formed when a large dam was built by the British in 1895. It is an obvious congregation area for the animals, especially in the dry season. We were going out late afternoon so were hopeful of seeing lots of animals.

We actually saw quite a wide variety of creatures, though no elephants or tigers which are very rarely seen. I think my favourites were the terrapins basking in the sun, and the otters, just mucking about in the water.

 

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Red wattled lapwing.

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Warthog, deer and buffalo.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Buffalo and a few deer.


Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
A couple of young buffalo were among the herd - well-camouflaged against the earth
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary


Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

 

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Eurasian blackbird?
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Buffalo - the blue bird could be a kingfisher.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
A heron or stork among the cormorants.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

 


Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary