So the geezer who took us to the house we are staying in also had a selection of trips to the Wildlife Sanctuary on offer. As it was Sunday the following day we had to decide quickly so he could organise them… So we opted for the Spice/Tea Plantation trip and a morning trek.
After (one of many) leisurely breakfasts next door, our autorickshaw turned up for the first of our “programmes” (as he put it).. We headed to Abraham’s Spice Garden a few miles out of town and we were shown all the spices grown in the area. Lots! Cardamon (the queen of spices), Nutmeg, Ginger, Cinnammon, Pepper, Turmeric, Vanilla, Clove, Allspice. Very impressive and we learnt lots about these spices (and saw a huge spider)….
Then we headed even further (everywhere seems far at 10mph) to a tea plantation. Unfortunately our guide forgot it was Sunday and was closed. Had a look thru the fields but would have to wait til Monday for the factory tour. So that was that.
We went back the next day. The factory is so old fashioned. The equipment must have come from colonial times. So did the owner. He shouted like a teacher to a naughty pupil at our guide because John was being a little trigger happy (no photos!)… Was fascinating seeing the leaves drying, heating, dividing up and finally divided into the grades of tea. We bought some freshly made stuff for a nice morning brew when back in Sheffield.
The next morning we were woken at 5am for our 6am trek into the forest. We picked two of his friends up and headed into the jungle. It was a bit strange cos we walked from the town and over a wall.. But we didn’t think much of it. We trekked a fair distance and saw the mist and sun rising across the valley. Spotted a few small animals – some black monkeys and a giant squirrel (only the male – the female is even bigger).. and a leopard print (from the last 24 hours as the ground is dry and it was fresh).. and lots and lots of elephant droppings… fresh. So we went on an elephant hunt. A couple of (exhausting) hours later we didn’t have any luck. Then suddenly we were told to get on the ground. We may have been spotted by a park ranger and it was apparantly illegal to be in the area we were in… Not that they told us. A 2000rupee fine if we were caught. The next couple of hours basically consisted of us running down mountain sides, slipping and sliding in the dry dirt and climbing pretty steep forest sides. We didn’t see any more animals!! When we left we realised they hadn’t even paid the entry fee to the legal park of the park – basically we shouldn’t have been there. A slight feeling of being had – we assumed we’d be doing the official trip..
We gave him one more chance, letting him organise the boat trip. This time we paid the entry fee. But then he said it was his friends boat and not the official one. However ths time luck was on our side – our boat (although listing to the left due to an excess of obese americans on one side of the boat) was not that busy. We’d hardly set off when we saw a group of elephants near to the water…. There were 7 of then including two babies. They were playing and chasing other animals off and rubbing themselves down with grass.
Saw an otter and some antelopes and lots of incredible birds. Then we saw another set of elephants. We got even closer to these (maybe within 100m).. The same again 7 and 2 babies. Then further on we saw a lone elephant. Was a very nice trip and it’s quite lucky to see one set of elephants (they normally only come out at dusk – when the park is closed) so it was a bonus to see 15!