My pilgrimage trip to Shabarimala went well and I decided that I will spend the rest of my vacation in an interesting way. While attending R’s wedding in Shoranur was on my agenda, I was googling on places to visit. This was the time, my friend K who is an avid trekker spoke about Trek options around central Kerala, and being the over enthusiastic fellow I am, I decided to go on a back pack trip and explore all by myself. I browsed through some trek programmes across Kerala and zeroed upon Periyar Eco Tourism Program and other places around Kumily.
Solo Back packing is common among tourist these days and there are ‘n’ number of blogs and forums that gives you the do’s and don’ts of back packing. Being the first timer with a backpack, I was least bothered to read all these since my objective were only to visit some off beat places and enjoy my time.
Reasons why I did a Solo Back-Packing
I love living and enjoying the moment where I am at. Be it a train journey, bus or even a motor cycle ride for that matter, I have always loved it.
- When you are in a group, there is so much planning to be done based on varied interest which you don’t have to when you are alone.
- Finding a hotel/lodge/homestay is quite easy when you are alone and especially if you are not much finicky about stay. If you don’t like, you can easily shift to a new place than convincing the group to move.
- You can try out the roadside thattukada/ local cuisine rather looking out for Zomato rated restaurants.
- You break your comfort zone to explore things on your own
Now coming back to my trip, I spent a day with my grandma in Trichur before leaving for this trek. Being the only grandchild outside God’s own country, my visits have always been special for her and a whole day is not sufficient for her to update me on all the family happenings.
As planned, I reached Trichur railway station early at 7 AM only to find that Kerala express to Kottayam was running late by 2 hours, and hence I decided to reach Ernakulum by train, take a bus to Kumily. Arriving at Ernakulum, I found that no direct buses were available to Kumily at that hour. Wasting no time, I boarded the Kottayam Super-Fast Bus and it halted at every other stop until it had sufficient passengers and in the next 2 hours I was at Kottayam. A plate of parotta with beef and Naranga Soda (Lime Soda) from a local Thattukada filled my tummy and I was ready for the next 2.5 hours journey to Kumily. Little did I know that the route had ‘X’ to the power of ‘x’ hair pin bends that will make me sick at the end of the journey? My attempts to get some sleep were always countered by the bus driver’s hard braking and I tried my best not to throw up during this journey.
I woke up for the nth time when the conductor announced, “Vandi periyar” and in the next 15 minutes I was at Kumily. The aroma of Nendhram chips and Halwa filled the air while the roads were flooded with Private buses and pilgrims returning from Shabarimala. (Pilgrims from Tamilnadu prefer the Madurai – Kumily route to Shabarimala).
My google maps couldn’t locate the EcoTourism office for some reason; an autowala came to my rescue (a 25 Rs ride from the kumily depot) I was at the Eco Tourism office.
Since it was holiday season, almost all the programs were booked. They have limited the number of tourists to each of the programmes. The only available ones were Nature Walk and Green Walk. It didn’t meet my objective of experiencing a trek. So I enquired about other programs
Co-Ordinator: Green Walk programe can accommodate one more person, are you ok with it?
Me: No sir. Can you put me in Tiger Trail ?
Co: Am sorry, those are full for the next two days.
Me: How about Jungle Scout?
Co: Sorry again, those are full. There is one slot available for day after tomorrow, but that’s the mid night one, you are OK with it ?
Me: Is there anything for tomorrow, how about the Border Hiking?
Co: It’s one of the most difficult trek as it covers 22 plus kilometers around the Periyar Tiger Reserve and most of them end up feeling sick at the end of the hike, but I don’t think we would be able to add one more person to the group now. It’s already booked
I had come all the way for this and no backing up so I literally begged him to accommodate me in the group.
The coordinator made few phone calls to the Eco Tourism head office and after 15 minutes confirmed my booking. I paid Rs 1500 (only cash accepted) and got the ticket which said “Border Hiking”
Stepping out of their office, my next objective was to find a descent place to rest for the night. 90% of the home stays were filled with foreigners while the rest people from different parts of God’s own country. I roamed for about 45 minutes to land up in a lodge which charged me 400 per night. A decent single room with a cot and mosquitoes to share my bed with.
The “over-enthusiastic me” reached the entry gate of Periyar Tiger Reserve early at 7 A.M only to see two forest officers in their half sleep mode. They must have had a long night at work. After getting the entrance ticket, I enquired about this hiking programe when one of them replied
“Just wait near the office, 2 Forest guards will be here in few minutes and they will guide you”
Around 7.45, one of the forest guards arrived with a back pack and introduced himself. In the next 20 minutes, rest of the group members arrived and I was the only Indian in the group of 6 (a couple from Germany, 2 friends from Ireland and 1 Canadian)
The hike started from the base point at Periyar reserve.
The gunman would stop us at some points where he and the guard would brief us about the rich flora and fauna. My experiments with my Canon Digi Cam 8MP will brief you the rest of the trek…
Some fauna and flaura…
The Elephant & Tiger pugmarks….
The lunch point
Water to the rescue when the energy level dropped…
The final collage
My Most favourite click….
It started and ended here..
One of the best trek so far.. Hoping to explore more places in this year…