Continued from Part – 1.
As I said earlier, we were on road with S behind the wheel again. I don’t know how he managed to do it, he is never tired of driving 🙂 I have heard a lot about Thekkady and when it was first proposed by S, I instantly accepted. With S crossing his first test of driving 9+ continuous hours, we were on to our second one – driving through the ghat road for the first time. S was visibly so excited and kept asking me every five minutes – “How long to the hilly terrain?” 😛
I was the navigator as usual and I had my phone GPS on which was giving us the directions, which in turn were passed on to S. The ghat road appeared after 50kms and it was a smooth drive, except for three sharp hair pin bends. At the first sharp one, S was a little over 40Kmph and I could feel my heart in my throat. Thankfully it was smooth after that. With GPS screaming that our destination is only 350mts, I was so excited to get down and explore the area. As expected, the GPS had tagged the Thekkady bus stand as our destination. Sigh. Here starts our adventurous journey with the super awesome GPS in my hand.
First, we had not booked any accommodation or program at the jungle resorts. Thekkady has a Tiger reserve and as much as I would have loved to stay there, we couldn’t. We were not sure if we would be able to spend more than a day there. Wedding was on the next day morning which means we should reach the hotel the same day.
As we were in the town, I typed for “Periyar Lake” on the GPS knowing that is the major attraction. To our shock, GPS showed that we should travel another 33kms. It was already around 1Pm and from the info we had from local people said its only around 56kms totally. Not knowing what to do, we stopped at few places and enquired. Everyone seemed to give instructions on booking an accommodation with the Jungle Resorts. Just then, GPS showed a different route and it was only 11kms. We started going by the roads we were asked to. Within five minutes, we reached a dead end. There were two ladies in Kerala costumes cleaning fish and they looked at us in disbelief. There was nowhere a car could go and still the GPS was asking us to take a left turn. S went ahead a few mts and he could see a mud road uphill. (The rains didn’t help much) When I say uphill, I really mean it. It was atleat 80deg inclined. In an enthu to show his driving skills, he zoomed through that road. Again, GPS asked us to take a right turn. We couldn’t do so, as a large auto was blocking the way on one side and two ladies with heavy wooden logs on their heads were trying to cross that auto and our car from other side. S moved the car a little behind to give way for those ladies and there was a fair chance of our car being taken down that road any instant. My heart was beating in my throat again. In a few minutes, we were back towards that right turn. Now, that road was no different to the one we took a while ago – That is not a road at all. Its like we are driving amidst the forest. But S was ready for the adventure and tried to move infront. Suddenly the auto driver appeared from nowhere and started questioning us as though he is from forest department. He asked – where are you people going? Where are you coming from? Why do you want to go to the prohibited area? The last question raised an alarm in us. We said we were simply following the GPS route. Just then he showed us a board (which was covered conveniently) on a huge tree which read – “Forest Area. Entry strictly prohibted. Trespassers will be punished.” Our GPS showed a route through the forest – awesome! S quickly managed to turn the car and we were back to where we started.
We got the directions from a few local people again and everyone said “Drive Straight” and this time the GPS info was coinciding. We followed it again, travelled for another 30Kms. We were welcomed by a board that said “Welcome to Periyar Tiger Reserve”. S asked me to get down to get the entrance tickets as per a board there. But guess what? There were forest officers and they were sizing me up and down. They said no private vehicles inside. Refused to listen to us and again asked us to take the accommodation with Jungle Resorts. Sigh. Thankfully a tamil speaking person emerged from somewhere and said we should go another 33KMs to reach Periyar Lake and that route happens to the one we have come all the way here. I was immensely bugged.
I should agree that those 33Kms were splendid – what with rain, cold breeze, unpolluted environment and picturesque locations. We even got down at a spot and enjoyed the beauty. But I didn’t expect another turn away. I was so frustrated with the stupid GPS that I would have thrown my phone away, only if its not so important to me otherwise. With growling stomachs, we started our journey back. S tried pacifying me saying how good the ride was, how romantic it felt to feel the rain drops fall on our cheeks with cool breeze touching us and green tea fields surrounding us. I was beyond all that, I wanted to go to lake and was so angry with the GPS. When we reached the town again, ee decided to first have some lunch and then go find that lake. We entered a decent looking restaurant at 3Pm. Just before ordering, we happened to ask the waiter about the lake and he said its just 4kms down the road. Guess what, we crossed this point almost four times now – taking all the roads the GPS mentioned except for the right road. Super!
The restaurant manager said, the last boat trip in the lake is at 3.30 and if we miss it, we would have to come back next day. We ditched lunch plan and rushed to the lake (as per the hotel manager’s instructions) We had to walk a few hundred metres to the lake after parking the car and I must say, it was just magical. We kept clicking pictures. The fact that we were the only two on that road made it much attractive. We managed to get the tickets and got into the boat. I was so impressed with the way they had arranged everything inside the boat that could seat 60people. There was a dustbin, people shouldn’t throw plastic into the lake. A boy helped us put the life jackets which have been made mandatory after the 2009 boat tragedy. The lake itself was so fascinating – with that being situated amidst thick forest (reserve area) and is totally man made. But the waters go as deep as 128ft (on the day of our boating). One should be able to spot a lot of wildlife around the banks -Elephants, Sambar deers, Tigers, Snakes and a variety of birds being a few. Unlucky for us, as it was raining that day no animal had come for water and we could spot only grazing deer.
Apart from that the lake is really beautiful with fascinating locations around the bank. The boat goes very slowly (in an attempt to protect the wildlife) and one can bask in the beauty of the nature. We clicked a few pics and then our hunger overtook us. For 150rupees, the boat cruise was for 1.5hrs – not a minute less. Really impressive. At one point, S was so hungry that his eyes were closing automatically 😀 It was again on me to keep him awake. We rushed back to the hotel immediately after the boating, ordered the same menu, ate to the full and started back. We were back in our room by 7.
I initially thought of ending the series with this post, but my GPS stories and the adventure around it made it much longer than I would have liked and thus, the wedding and the return part would be covered in the next post.
Now for the pictures –