Saturday, 23 January 2010

Night Walk in the Tiger Reserve

India; October 21st; Day 30; Periyar

We have breakfast at our hostel. It’s not very good. We idle away the day trying to figure out something to do around here. Not much is the answer. We can’t find anyone offering any trekking or hiking and the mountain bike place has stopped offering the 3 day bike ride we saw in a brochure. It was hoped that we could ride bikes to Munnar but we can’t so we decide that we’ll take a taxi instead. Ir’s only about 10 times the price of the bus but it’s quicker and we’ll be able to stop along the way where we want. In any case it means we are getting out of this place.

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The only thing we can find to do is a night walk through the Periyar Tiger Reserve it starts at 7pm tonight.

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Just down the road from where we are staying we find a good place for lunch. The Coconut Garden. The young boys that are running it seem to be keen and enthusiastic. They don’t even mind serving us beer. We idle away the afternoon reading on the terrace.

At the park gates at shortly before 7pm we watch a couple of boys kicking a football around. We hang around for half-an-hour before our Guide turns up and walks us into the park where we wait some more. Finally at 7.45 an armed guard turns up and we can go. Apparently we need the guard in case we come across tigers. We are given sackcloth bootees to put on underneath our boots. This is our protection against what? We don’t really know. As an added protection the guide puts tobacco dust on our boots too.

Eventually we stumble off into the darkness. We are out walking until about 10pm and see quite a few things; Sambar Deer, Barking Deer (Muntjac), some large Flying Fox Fruit Bats (Dog-faced), which are roosting, and a huge Indian Crested Porcupine. It’s a bit creepy shining our torches through the darkness and glimpsing the creatures of the night but it’s fun. We don’t see any tigers.

When we leave the park we make a half-hearted attempt to find somewhere to eat. But hardly a soul stirs in the sleepy town. So we just go to bed.