- Water Colored Landscape of Munnar – God’s own art
- Tea and Other Exotics of Munnar
- Nilgiri Tahr on the wild ramp of Rajamalai National Park, Munnar
- Boat Safari in Periyar Lake @ Thekkady
- Nature-walk in Thekaddy
- A visit to the kingdom of spices in Kumily
- Backwater cruise from Kottayam to Alleppey
- Enticing Munroe Island
- Flavour of local ferry in Kollam
“Would you like to join us for the Jungle-trail”
“We would love to, but kids below twelve years are not allowed”, I replied, looking at my three year old kid, Rachit.
“No, No, my daughter is only three years old and the jungle officials have no problem in her joining us.”
We were standing at Thekaddy Forest reception center, where just a few minutes ago jungle Officials had refused allowing Rachit because of his age. We were wondering what to do next, when this conversation with a French Gentleman generated hope against hopes. The boat cruise a day before didn’t give us the feel of the Jungle and left us quite disappointed.
This French family was waiting at the reception area as the tour required minimum four people. They probably noticed us inquiring about it and felt that we would form a compatible group as their daughter was also of Rachit’s age.
I asked the officials again that how were they allowing the little girl and not our kid? They changed their stand and allowed us as well. It remained a mystery why they did not allow in the beginning itself and what made them change their mind later. Was it the case of relaxed rule for foreign nationals or they were not convinced about an Indian kid walking for so long?
Well, before proceeding further, a few words about Rachit, my elder kid. From a very young age we noticed a peculiar trait in him. He hates walking on tar roads and after walking for a while he always comes up with thousand reasons why it is not possible for him to continue further. In his young age he invariably forced me to lift him up on tar roads, but as soon as the tar disappeared to give way to natural treks, he would force me to put him down. I wonder did Gulzaar Saab echo the same sentiment when he wrote,
“इन उम्र से लंबी सड़कों को मंज़िल पे पहुँचते देखा नहीं,
बस दौड़ती फिरती रहती हैं, हमने तो ठहरते देखा नहीं
Replace these tar-roads with arduous mountain trails or beautiful jungle trails and he would happily move up and down, back and forth untiringly.
The spirit of exploration was set by the simple act of wearing socks, provided by the officials, to defend ourselves against the blood-thirsty leeches. Rachit’s excitement was palpable. We moved from tourist zone to the buffer zone of the jungle sailing on a bamboo boat, pulled from other side of the Periyar river. The only barrier between us and the pristine water of the river was a thin base of bamboos tied together. Along with the un-spoilt clean water of the river, the cool gentle breeze also sailed with us.
Thekkady is covered with dense evergreen, Semi-evergreen, Moist deciduous Forests and Savannah grasslands. As we crossed the river we found ourselves in the midst of this beauty, though not literally as we were still on the periphery of this beautiful Jungle. Giant trees awed us, we walked under them with adulation and admiration, listening carefully and discerningly to any murmuring of dry leaves. Though I was fairly confident that we would not encounter the wild cats or mad elephants on our trail, still any unaccounted sound and screeches of Langurs were good enough to raise concerns and increase vigilance.
The kids quickly struck a chord among themselves. The way they were going along again proved that language is never a barrier for two people interested in each other and kids are specially quick.
We were moving at a pace that allowed the kids to notice and appreciate the wild flowers, to follow butterflies and also to stop and pick their treasure of the trek- the broken twigs. In between we crossed many rivulets by balancing ourselves on rickety bridges made of tree-trunks.
As it happens, the beautiful things end soon. We realized the trek was over when we reached the spot where bamboo raft was waiting to take us back to the tourist zone. Rachit in that age was a shy boy and most of the time remained glued to us, but the sight of the boat broke his inhibitions and he ran to occupy his favourite position.
I paused for few minutes, looked back at the Jungle the last time and wondered will I be back again when my kid is grown-up to enjoy the longer safaris. I closed my eyes to etch the image of this raw-uncaged earth, supporting wild and uninhibitedly tall trees, in my mind and then with closed eyes took a deep breath and inhaled its sweet smell.
Tourists have several option to indulge themselves in Thekaddy Jungles, which we could not because of the young kid. These activities include:
Bamboo Rafting – Dawn to Dusk range hiking and rafting programme.
Jungle Inn – The programme is a one-night stay in a watchtower situated in Thekkady forests.
Bullock Cart Ride – This programme is a visit in a bullock cart to the farming areas of diverse agriculture crops of mangoes, Tamarind, onion, Jasmine, sunflower and other vegetables.
Periyar Tiger Trail – It is an adventurous trekking and camping programme inside the forest for one night and two nights.