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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Thekkady - A unique wildlife sanctuary

3-1-2018: After we completed our boat trip we generally lazed around relishing the good food in the restaurant, strolling around the sanctuary, basking in the bright sunshine & enjoying the salubrious cool temperatures. We had carried books and we spent some time relaxing on the park benches & reading to our hearts content. During one of our walking tours we visited the Aranya Nivas another of KTDC's swanky properties inside the sanctuary. There is also a KTDC transit lounge near Aranya Nivas where visitors can stay briefly to refresh before they are transported by boat to KTDC Lake Palace Hotel which is situated on a hill top in the middle of Periyar Lake.

Here is a collage of miscellaneous pictures representing the good times we had ! It was with a heavy heart and with a twinge of regret we drove out of the sanctuary on the morning of 3rd Jan2018. In Kumily we saw bamboo forests and stopped over to click some rare pictures. Then we were off down the ghats to Cumbum & Kumily and then onwards to Theni-Oddanchatram - Palladam & Coimbatore. Good roads right throughout and a comfortable drive. A dream start for New Year 2018.
Transit Lounge - Lake Palace
Eco friendly pay and use toilet

Pictures clicked at Kumily - Bamboo Groves below

Boating at Thekkady

2-1-2018: As soon as we checked into the jungle lodge yesterday we booked our first boat ride for 2nd morning scheduled to start at 7.30 am. Accordingly we set our mobile phone alarms and were up at 5.00 am. We bathed & dressed up and were ready by 6.30 am. and meandered into the restaurant for steaming cups of delectable Bru instant coffee which warmed up our cockles on a cold morning. Then we took off on foot towards the boat jetty - a one km walk on a jungle road past Aranya Nivas ( another property belonging to KTDC) to the sounds of barbets & cuckoos and tweets of many innumerable but invisible birds, chattering of bonnet macaques &accompaniment of a phalanx of amazingly tall trees on either side as if they have been positioned there to provided us protection. We reached the jetty in about 12 minutes and saw some crowds already thronging the boat house reception office.We joined the queue & slowly sauntered towards our boat The Jala Tharanga. A mesmerizing sight beckoned us at the lake - cloudy morning shrouded in mist with the sun playing hide'n'seek occasionally peeping out. We clambered up the steps into the boat and found our to the top tier where our reserved seats on the front row awaited us.The boat accommodated around 50 people - some Indians & many foreigners - armed with cellphone cameras, exclusive cameras, professional cameras & a few with binoculars.Wearing life jackets was mandatory and the boats attendants explained how the jacket should be worn & tied. It was an exciting and exhilarating 90 minutes boat ride with great expectations of wild animal sightings. The ride was indeed spectacular with spell binding scenery, still languid waters with reflections & ripples & a chill breeze pinging your face. A great thrill arose when some elephants were sighted grazing in the valley but at a far distance.Then we spotted a herd of wild boar. There were more sightings - red mongoose, a Brahminy kite soaring in the sky, dozens of egrets, a kingfisher, snake birds nests with chicks being fed, cormorants & a few others. We were back to the boat house at 9.00 am. On our return walk back to our jungle lodge we spotted a black furred lion tailed macaque high up on a tree. We also astonishingly saw two medium size hornbills & a pair of jungle fowls crossing the road.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Thekkady Wildlife Sanctuary

1-1-2018: Left Kalady around 10.30 a.m. and traveled to Thekkady via Perumbavoor-Muvattupuzha-Pala-Thodupuzha-Poonkunnam-Kanzhirapally-Mundakkayam-Peeramade-Kumily. The total distance was 165 Kms - the first 110 kms was covered comfortably as the roads were excellent and no gradients.The last 50 Kms were steep and we had to negotiate steep and swerving ghat roads and there were several sharp turns affecting visibility and overtaking was a challenge. As we continued our ascent we encountered more and more hills and lush green vegetation. We saw both coffee and tea plantations with silver oaks standing tall in the midst of plantations. The scenery was breathtaking and brought an incredible feeling of joy. We were running against time as we had to necessarily reach and enter Periyar sanctuary before 5.00 pm after which vehicles entry into the sanctuary is prohibited. We reached Kumily at 3.40 pm and shortly thereafter after a 3 km drive reached the sanctuary gates. There we had to produce a copy of our reservation slip & Identity. We paid Rs.185/- entry fee & entered the sanctuary and drove another Kms to reach KTDC Periyar where we had booked our room. We were looking forward to a thrilling stay and plenty of adventure in Thekkady.We checked into the jungle lodge - comfortable room, luxurious beds, no air conditioning,only fans,neat and clean bathrooms.Tariff American plan - breakfast & dinner included. Amazing ambiance,superb climate, enchanting environment, sylvan surroundings. Cool climate but cardigans not required. Bird calls, tweets & whistles all around beckon you. Fearless bonnet macaques (monkeys) everywhere ready to pounce and snatch away your satchel or snack.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Old Age Home @ Kalady

1 January 2018: We had stayed overnight at the Sharada Kripa Guest House, belonging to the Shringeri Mutt - a beautiful new guest house with all air-conditioned rooms. All rooms are named after holy rivers. Our room was named Narmada.This is adjacent to the old guest house - Shri Shankara Kripa (which was a bit dilapidated earlier but has since been renovated with new tiles & modern bathroom fittings).
We started the New Year by offering prayers & chanting Lalitha Saharsnamam to Adi Sankara & Sri Saradambal at Kalady Shringeri Kshetram.
Next we visited an old age home run by Sri Sankara Santhi Nilayam & Educational Trust. Located on Kalady Mutt Road, this home can accommodate around 50 persons.The old block was constructed many years ago.There is a small temple at the entrance for residents to pray. There is a fixed deposit of Rs.2.50 lacs and thereafter monthly payment of Rs.4200/- ( Boarding-Rs.2700+Maintenance-Rs.1500). They have a kitchen cum dining hall where food is freshly cooked and served. We found the place neat and clean. We also had pongal chutney & coffee and the taste was delicious. A new block is under construction and for this the fixed deposit is Rs.4.50 lacs.
As detailed in my earlier blog post the second floor of the building is dedicated to propagation of the Vedas. There are dedicated class rooms & a huge library having a large collection of books on Vedic Literature.
The Old Age Home at Kalady

Pandackal Bhagavathy - Our Family Deity

This is our family deity situated in Pandackal (in Thottuva in Kerala). This temple was lost to the family for many generations and rediscovered once again through "Prashnam"(consultation with an astrologer) initiated by a family member Malayatoor Ramakrishnan some years ago. Once identified he discovered to his horror that the temple had become dilapidated & decrepit and also the land around it had been over run by squatters. Being in a position of power in the Kerala Government he ensured eviction of these illegal occupants and the Dewaswom Board repossessed the property. Subsequently some repairs were carried out and the temple was re-consecrated. He strangely chose not to share this information with other family members who discovered this fact in later years.
Film actor Jayaram (and my cousin) has contributed funds for further development of the temple and improve its facilities.
We visited this temple on 31 December 2017 and offered prayers to Mahavishnu, Bhagavathy & Ganesha.
Now it is an annual feature for family members to visit this temple every year and offer prayers to ensure well being of the family and warding off any evil influences.