Day 10: Kumily to Gavi Eco Tourism

Gavi Eco Tourism in Periyar Forest, Periyar Wildlife Reserve

The Journey: Chennai to Pondy, Kumbakonam, Tanjavur, Karaikudi, Madurai, Periyar, Gavi, Vagaman, Vembanad, Kochi, Wayanad, Coorg, Mysore, Yelagiri, and back to Chennai


We got up with no rush as Gavi was not too far off, 40 Km, finally departing at 9:45 AM. Made it quickly to the KFDC office in Vandi Periyar town, but it took 30 minutes getting entry permits, completing registration etc. At the gate we had to repeat registration, another 15 minutes. It was a beautiful drive into the dense protected forest, on 2nd gear, and at 20 Km/Hr.  The first 5-7 Km were Ok, but the next 15 Km or so were on a severely broken and battered road. We made very labored and slow progress, zigzagging between breaks and pot holes in the road, and finally reached about 1:00 PM. Had lunch on arrival after another lengthy registration. Got room after lunch around 2:30 PM. Then from 3:30 until 5:00 PM we went on a row boat ride, with our guide rowing.

 

It was a beautiful afternoon and another 2 hours by the lake chasing and photographing birds. Dinner was at 7:30 PM followed by bonfire. It started to rain heavily soon after the bonfire was lit, and this delayed our departure from the dining area. Finally we braved it using our umbrellas and torch (none were provided but luckily we were equipped), through driving rain, to get to our tent 100 meters away. We slept early about 10:30 PM, with really nothing to do marooned in our tent, raining and pitch dark outside.

 

Day11: Gavi Eco Tourism to Vagamon

Vagamon Tea Estates, Paragliding at Vagamon Meadows, Kurisumala Hill, Church and Ashram

 

Since our departure was to be delayed, the mini bus tour being in the morning, we decided that we couldn’t make it to Kumarakom. We decided to go to Vagamon among the tea estates not too far away but outside the forest reserve (which itself would take a couple of hours to exit).

 

First from 6-9 AM we were driven in a mini bus up and down the battered forest road leading from Gavi to KFDC secondary resort (no visitors were staying here) about 30 minutes away in the direction away from the gate, and a visit to a dam, where sometimes wildlife can be seen near the water. After breakfast we were taken for a walk up the ridge leading to a view point for Sabari Malai Temple. That took us till 10:30 AM. We checked out and departed at 11:00. We were out of the forest reserve and at Vandi Periyar for lunch at 1:00 PM. Just short of Vandi Periyar we bought honey at a honey keeper farm and shop, and then coffee at a 100 year old roaster. 3 x 100 gram packs, one with spices (cardamom ++). After lunch it took us from 1:30 till 4:30 PM to get to Vagamon, all thru tea estates and excellent vistas and views. Once there we could not get a place, all the decent properties were booked, so finally we stayed at a church guest house which we accidentally came across. Budget rooms for Rs.500/- for the night. Tomorrow we head off early to Kumarakom, to try and get in before 12 Noon and onto a houseboat for a 2 day house boat stay, directly. Again hoping for the best as we had no booking and no knowledge of where or how to go about getting a boat.

 

Vagamon

Vagamon

 

 

 

 

 

Madurai to Periyar Wildlife Reserve, boat ride on Periyar Lake

Periyar Wildlife Reserve, boat ride on Periyar Lake, Kumily, Thekkady

The Journey: Chennai to Pondy, Kumbakonam, Tanjavur, Karaikudi, Madurai, Periyar, Gavi, Vagaman, Vembanad, Kochi, Wayanad, Coorg, Mysore, Yelagiri, and back to Chennai


We had slept late and got up late but saved time by getting hot Idlis from a street vendor in front of the hotel. Finally we were on our way at 9:45 AM. We drove straight through, with one break at 12:30 for samosas and coffee at a wayside place. Thus we made it to ‘Periyar House’ by about 1:30 PM. First visitors must get a car entry permit (Rs.75/-) and adults entry (Rs.33 x 2) at the tourism office in Kumily (the permits are not available at the gate of the reserve) to enter the forest reserve. Periyar House, the boat house, and the other two KTDC places are about 2 Km inside the forest and visitors can drive in their own vehicles from 7 AM until 5 PM, after which no private vehicles can move from the gate till the Boat House, the only stretch of road available. Safaris are not available in the reserve. The first of two excursions available is the boat ride, trips every two hours from 7:30 AM until the last departure at 3:30 PM, 1.5 Hour boat ride costing Rs.225 per head. The second is trekking trips, on which a number of forest guards accompany the group. These are 3 hour day or night trips or full day trips, and overnight trips with stay at tented accommodation, to be booked well in advance.

 

We booked for 2 nights at Periyar House in their budget room @Rs.2,600/- per night on MAP (breakfast and dinner included for 2). You can walk the 500 yards from the hotel to the boat house (or drive) through the forest. We carried some ‘Murku’ (a South Indian snack) and walked to the boat house at 3:00 PM and enjoyed the views, watched the last boat ride depart and stayed till it returned. A lot of visitors come to the viewing platform to see the lake and just be inside the forest and stroll around.

 

Later the hotel had a Bharatanatyam performance 6:45 till 7:30 PM by two students from the local dance school. They put up a pro performance, 6th and 10th standard students. Many of the students had made it to state level dance champions and surely these two were at a very high level. Very confident, never missed a step, great skill, facial expression, footwork and rhythm.

 

Dinner had fish and chicken curry, both excellent preparations. We retired to our room early. Tomorrow we have booked the boat ride at 9:30 AM, so need to have an early breakfast and reach with time to spare as they assemble the visitors and sell off vacant seats (or no shows) 15 minutes prior to departure.

 

Day9: At Periyar House, Thekkady, on the Periyar Lake

Periyar Wildlife Reserve, boat ride on Periyar Lake, Kumily, Thekkady, Bharatnatyam Dance

 

Woke early, had breakfast and took the 9:30 till 11:00 AM boat ride on the lake. Saw plenty of Bison, deer and birds (and not much else), and had a lovely boat ride. It is really peaceful and lovely being in the open boat and with a cool breeze blowing. It was cloudy with the sun peeking out a bit at times. On our return to the guest house we booked another boat trip for 3:30 – 5:00 PM. We did some shopping, 3 t-shirts from the Boat House shop for Rs.205 x 2, and Rs.170 = Rs.580 and we got the wife’s favorite sandalwood soap Rs.29 x 4 = Rs.116/-.

 

Back in the room we decided to go to Gavi Eco Tourism KFDC (Kerala Forest Development as opposed to KTDC, Kerala Tourism) place for a one night stay. We booked online the Swiss Cottage Tents @Rs.6,300/- including taxes for the night, the accommodation still available. The price includes 3 meals and activities, being an evening boat ride and a morning tour of a spice plantation, a viewpoint of Sabari Malai Hill (Temple is on the hill but not visible) and a ride thru the forest road (in a rickety mini bus) for an unlikely wildlife viewing. It is a 2 hour 40 Km drive from Kumily to Gavi, 20 Km inside the forest reserve on a battered and broken road, let’s hope it works out!

 

Later we spoke to family (Skype) and then had fish curry and rice at the restaurant of the hotel, and a guava, mango and bananas, and then it was time for the boat ride. The afternoon ride was quite a repeat as it was still overcast and the weather was identical in many respects. We saw some sea otters, missed the abundant elephants once again, the Gaur and deer were there on both rides, as were the numerous birds.

 

In the evening the Bharatanatyam performance was even better than the previous day. The girls, two of them, performed together and were really in sync, a rousing rhythmic performance. A movie on Periyar, dinner and then a surprise Republic Day cake and laddus sponsored by a guest from Mumbai. We chatted with the couple afterwards, 76 and 77 years old, retired, they go for a tour for a month each year, stay in their own apartment in Mumbai, close to but independently from their son, and holidaying separately as well. Theirs is also a love match, she volunteers as a teacher and he as a civil engineer offering services to charitable causes wherever they get the opportunity.