Our second national park of the tour was Periyar. We have a lovely hotel here, with fantastic breakfasts and possibly the best fruit cake I’ve ever eaten, but they do have a problem with the dining area not being enclosed at all. We were eating breakfast just before leaving (yes, skipping ahead a bit), discussing whether it was a myth whether monkeys go mad for bananas or not and an enormous alpha male macaque crept around a pillar leapt into our table and snatched my banana right out of my hand, kicking my computer onto the floor in the process. Despite the shock we were happy that he hasn’t broken the computer or hurt my hand and we laughed at the fact that he had dropped the banana in the process and then he came back and made off with Mum’s croissant instead. Our driver mentioned that he’d heard a loud noise from inside. Uh yeah, sorry Prem, that was us screaming.
Dad and I went off in the first afternoon to play with the local elephants – Dad got his first elephant ride and I got my first elephant ride without a nice comfortable box to sit in. Sitting astride an elephant is a little more uncomfortable than sitting astride a horse so we were a bit wobbly walking afterwards.
We had a timber dragging demonstration from one of the lovely ladies – most of the heavy lifting is done by the girls as the temple elephants are mainly male. She can lift 400kg and drag up to 700kg. And she deserves lots and lots of bananas as a reward for that.
I’m not sure what Dad is thinking here. It might be ‘Oh God, my first born is about to be eaten by an elephant’
We then got another turn at the ‘try to wash an elephant before she washes you’ game. Not sure it’s possible to win this game.
The next morning we headed into the park for a long trek in high fashion leech protection. Dad had to lie about his age to get into the park as apparently over 60s are far too frail and delicate to go hiking. Pfft, clearly Indian old folk are way punier than my Munroe bagging Dad.
There wasn’t very much to see in the jungle, but our incredibly observant guide managed to spot an invisible wild elephant and take us far into the bush to watch it with binoculars. Other than that we spotted a bird of paradise, Nilgiri langurs and a fecking enormous spider (with my very brave mother providing a finger for scale)
We finished off the evening watching a very energetic tribal dance (and being embarrassed enough not to join in when they asked us to), before heading to a nearby spa for body massages and shirodhara. Shirodhara is a traditional ayurvedic technique which involves a continuous stream of warm oil being poured onto the forehead. It is very relaxing, but the downside is that ALL the oil ends up in your hair. I shampooed FIVE TIMES and I still look like an unwashed tramp. Good thing we were hidden away from society the next day.