We had arrived early in Thekkady – a town that straddles Periyar National Park. Today it encompasses over 925 square kilometres of forests, plains and wetlands and is the product of years of organic growth and conservation starting in the 1930s as a simple effort to stop the encroachment of tea plantations near Periyar Lake.
It would be our first chance to experience some real wildlife in India.
After a bumpy TukTuk ride we arrived at our destination for the day. The plan was simple: ride an elephant and then clean it. Unfortunately we hadn’t figured out that we needed spare clothes.. Uh oh.
With our driver unyielding in our request to go back and get some clothes and with the prospect of a sale wavering the lady at the office managed to scrounge up some spare clothes… Game on!
Our ride for the day was a 38 year old Elephant whose name escaped us but we decided to call him Yobo as it sounded close enough – and John is an Everton fan. We went up some steps and got on the primitive howdah…and away we went like the Phantom from the comic books!
It was hilarious that Karen pointed out all these coconuts on the road but when Yobo had to take a dump she realised what those coconuts really were!
After our elephant ride came the really fun part.. Washing the elephant. Karen changed into her white linen spare clothes that barely buttoned and John was given a small towel so that he looked like Mowgli from the Jungle Book.
Washing an elephant is like washing a car except that it’s living and breathing and it washes back…
Next up was the elephant shower. Karen was up first so she sat smiling ready for what she thought was a sprinkle of water…oh no it was a full on power shower but freezing cold! She was giggling and squealing at the same time. After 4 showers she thought she was free, but as John jumped on the guy insisted Karen stay on in front and she took the brunt of even more water.
A truly remarkable experience.
We went back to the room for a real shower and then some lunch before tackling a cruise around Lake Peryiyar.
Across from the accommodation was a run down looking canteen with rusty steps up and a doorman in an old fashioned dusty uniform, covered in dust. He waved over to us to invite us in but we politely nodded and pointed down the street and he flashed us back with a smile of understanding.
We walked down the street and had some lunch that led to another activity (read later on below).
The cruise itself was packed but luckily we saw just enough wildlife to keep us interested for 1.5 hours including some more Asian elephants, but sadly no tigers and definately none of the extremely rare White Tigers. With over half the park’s footprint covered in Evergreen forest that was always going to be a tough one – especially from a boat.
We were treated to more wildlife as a troop of monkeys 🐒 invaded our balcony – like Ubud in Bali, monkeys control the town.
Our last event was the cooking class. It was held In the home of a local restauranteur and although there wasn’t much participation ( more like a demonstration really), the food was great and our host was entertaining.
The sneaky plum wine offered to us and the nail biting moped ride back to the hotel from her husband will stay with us forever. Nail biting as not only was it as hectic as you can imagine but as there was only room for one of us on the back so they had to make two trips and for half an hour we were separated in a small Indian town with no idea how to find one another.
And so another place ends and we begin to pack up for our penultimate stop in India.. Allepey and it’s houseboats on the Kerala backwaters.
Before we go, remember the dusty doorman?
Well on our last day we relented and went across the road and up a pair of rickety stairs and went to his canteen… for the best Masala Dosai we have ever eaten, and that still holds that distinction 6 years and many dosai afterwards.