Sunday, August 17, 2008

Paradise, Happy to Stay lost

I am not sure if it was the exhaustion of the ten kilometer hike in the rain-shadowed wilderness of Chinnar, or the love for the rainforests that made us take off that night on a drive a few hundred kilometers long into The Periyar tiger reserve.

The guard at the check-post was a burly middle aged man, who wouldn’t let us in. It took us three hours and nearly one hundred phone calls to get him to open the park gates for us.

(Tourist information: Kerala Forest Development Corporation charges Eight hundred rupees per person for entry into the jungle, which is allowed only in their all terrain vehicles. It is OK to not love nature, but at the minimum what you can be is respectful of life out there.
The chances of spotting a tiger here as a tourist is next to non-existent, so please don’t go in on a casual Safari - It is not worth the money that you pay, and the jungle will not like you. And for goodness’s sake, please don’t smoke!)


The mist was a both a surprise and a disappointment. We had a few hours of light still remaining in the day, and the musky odor of elephants hung in the air, only that the visibility was reduced to a few feet.
Not too far from a tribal settlement, a man herding his cattle back home took us deeper into the jungle where he said there would be elephants.
A few meters into the slush, my shoes were wet and swarming with leeches. The socks were soaked in blood, and rest of the walk had to be done barefoot. All through out the trail, there were fresh hoof-prints in the sludge - even an occasional pug mark or two, just no animal in sight. And so when we turned off the slushy grass on to a little patch of rocky land, the beauty that struck me was just too sudden to be let in.
What lay ahead, was a little piece of tropical paradise. We were suddenly left standing on a rock-face engulfed by green overhangs on three sides, and the deepest of jungles on the other. The valley below was at least a kilometer deep, and there were springs gushing out of cracks in the rocks. We were standing above the clouds, where even the wind did not stir. If the place were any more beautiful, it would have been a sin.
Do not go by the picture, I just couldn’t do any justice to the scene.