What Tiger?

Trip Start Aug 22, 2005
Trip End Feb 06, 2006

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Flag of India  ,
Friday, September 23, 2005

We headed from Munnar to Periyar on another local bus (read painful). I think the sick thing is that I'm actually starting to enjoy them! The scenery on the buses is one reason why I wouldn't ever take domestic flights overland. Seeing all the types of trees, rocks, mountains and waterfalls whizzing by is one of the pleasures of backpacking around a country. I would hire a car with a driver if I could afford one though, but I definitely would not drive myself unless I was feeling particularly suicidal!! I've driven in more or less every country I've traveled to but India is another planet. One of my favourite pastimes has earnt me the title 'window hogger', as I like to get my camera out to take photos from the moving bus. They're never really any good, but it kills time like you wouldn't believe! I might put a few in a separate entry to show the countryside of India.

The buses are not ideal in that they stop approximately once every four hours by which time your bladder is ready to pop. The fun starts there as you have NO idea how long it will stop for (20 seconds - 15 minutes who knows...!) and so you run around the bus station shouting 'toilet!' or the Hindi/Tamil equivalent, whilst everyone makes a funny arm motion which I take to mean 'over there', when it actually means 'not over there'. Oh joy.

If you're REALLY lucky they'll make the shaky head motion. A cross between 'no' and 'so so' in English body language but means everything from 'yes' to 'no' to 'ok' to 'I have absolutely no idea but I'll try and give you an answer anyway that will invariably be wrong'. It was frustrating trying to get a simple 'yes' or 'no' out of people when we first arrived. Now we have realised it is not in their culture to give such a definitive answer. This is fine if it's not important, but when you've just got on a train for a 15hr journey and you're checking if it's the right train as it pulls away from the station, it takes the patience of a saint not to start screaming!!! I guess people don't have the same sense of urgency/don't seem to notice that we are anxious! Now we get around it by asking about 20 people until we feel reasonably sure. Oops am I ranting again?! I have also earnt myself the nickname 'Ranty'!! I prefer to call this merely commenting on my surroundings :)

Anyway, we to Periyar to see some wildlife... Except there wasn't much. The tiger and elephant numbers have depleted so seriously in the last 20 years that the odds of seeing either are VERY slim. I knew we would not see a tiger but was hoping to have a walk around some of the trails. Unfortunately, we couldn't do that either, as a guide is needed and it was too expensive to do so many treks in a day. We got to the park at 5.45am for a morning hike, which was lovely. We had to cover ourselves in tobacco powder to discourage leeches... This was obviously one of my main priorities and I tucked my trousers into my socks, wore long sleeves and practically ripped the bag of powder off the guide. He could see the look of craziness in my eyes and steered well clear as I stood there muttering the word 'leech' whilst obsessively dousing myself.

We didn't see very much but the exercise was nice, we climbed to the top of a mini mountain to see the view over the park. I was content to know that there were at least a few tigers in there somewhere, probably sleeping after the night's hunt. We did see a bison in the mist. I saw it's horns in the darkness and the glint of it's eyes, the outline looked almost demonic. We also got a glimpse of the Malabar giant squirrels we saw in the zoo... I'm considering changing my mascot... If only I could get a decent photo!

The boat ride later was nice. We took LOTS of pictures of deer, as they seemed to become more and more fascinaing the longer into the 1 1/2 hr boat we went... It just didn't seem likely that anyone ever sees anything from the boats. They're either filled with noisy Indians who shriek everytime anything remotely resembling wildlife pops it's head up, or the animals have written down the cruise times and take their drinks another time!
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