For quite some time I was thinking whether to write about Thekkady or not as there are already several posts about Thekkady on Ghumakkar, but then thought lets share my experience as well about Thekkady. We were planning since long to visit Thekkady and finally we decided to visit Thekkady during the end of summer vacation 2013 of kids. I heard and read a lot about Thekkady and it’s wild life and always thought if I can get a chance to see a big cat there. Club Mahindra has there resort in Thekkady, so we booked there for 3 nights. My niece was also visiting us, she is very enthusiastic about travel, so it was good time for the trip.
Thekkady is about 520 KMS from Bangalore, we started early in the morning around 6:00 AM, took National Highway 7 towards Kanyakumari, drove until Dindigul via Salem for about 400 KMS, Dindigul is close to Madurai, then we took a right towards Theni-Chennai highway, this route takes you to Kodaikonal, Coachin and Munnar as well. Theni is the place where you take highway for Thekkady. No need to say that NH-7 is a pleasure to drive, will write more about it in some post NH-7 – Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Road towards Thekkady is not a 4 lane highway, but good road with little bumpy ride. Not much traffic on the highway so you can speed decently. There is a hilly stretch of about 20 KMS when you are about to reach Thekkady, this road is not very good though. While driving this part of India, you do not get much options or reasons to take a break, so, my wife usually pack food and we eat while driving. So, we took only one break after Salem and reached Thekkady around 3:00 PM.
After check-in, we took a walk in the resort, it is a not a very big resort and does not have a very nice view unless you go on the terrace of the reception. It has a nice swimming pool though and not to mention that we spent that evening in the swimming pool as kids does not wanted to do anything else. I inquired about the must see things from hotel staff and they mentioned about Jungle Safari with Jungle Trek, Periyar Tiger Reserve boat ride in a man made lake, Kerala Martial Art, Kathakkali dance show, Elephant ride and Elephant bathing. We decided to first go to the Jungle Safari, we booked the Jeep for 5:30 AM in the morning. In the evening, we went out for dinner as we wanted to try to local food, we found one restaurant, it was newly opened, they were serving Kerala and north Indian food. We tried both and it was ok kind of food. Interestingly, the waiter who was serving us, told me that he lived in Ghaziabad for few years and has recently moved back and his sister still works as a nurse in one of the hospital in Ghaziabad.
This Jungle tour is a Kerala government 8 hour package tour which includes Jeep, Jungle Safari, Jungle Trek with guide, 30 minutes boat ride in a small lake along with breakfast and Lunch. We started at 6:00 AM sharp in the morning, driver was not very happy as we got late. After about 45 minute drive, we reached the main entrance of Periyar Jungle and our safari started from there, it was about 15 KMS we drove watching couple of monkeys and few birds and reached the government rest house where the Jungle Trek starts. Lots of people were already there and waiting for the breakfast, after having breakfast we were introduced to our guide who was suppose to take us to the Jungle Trek. He gave us a cloth to wrap around the legs to avoid the leaches, he asked whether we wanted to do 1/2/3 hour trek, I silently chose the 2 hr trek, my wife wanted to have 3 hour trek, but I somehow managed her.
We started the trek, this was our very first trek in deep jungle, it was very dark inside, but fun though, it was only guide who knew the route. We saw few birds, monkeys, few leaches found there way inside the cloth, he was keep checking our legs for leaches and applied salt to remove them if there was any. After doing a 1.5 hour trek, we reached kind of top of the hill, the view of mountains was very nice from there. While coming back, track was simple without much jungle. There were lots of wild flowers we saw while coming back. After reaching back, we took a boat ride in a lake, while we were riding the boat, it started raining heavily. This was the very first rain of this season in Kerala, it was raining very very heavily and rained for about 3 hours. Lunch was served on time, it was a typical Kerala food. It was time to go back but it was raining so heavily that you can not even drive, we waited there for about 2 hours and then drove back to the resort and reached around 4:00 PM. No Tiger again this time :(
In the evening, we decided to go to Kerala Martial Art Show, the theater was close to hotel, we took an auto and reached. When we reached, there was another choice to watch Kathakkalli dance show, but we decided to stick with Martial Art Show. We purchased the ticket and went inside the hall, the setting was pretty good, it was a big hall, ground floor was for the martial art display and audience suppose to sit in the upper gallery. Martial Art area was dim lit, different type of weapons were on display like Swords, knives, Bhaala (I don’t know it’s English name), protective gears. After waiting for about 15-20 minutes, show started with Ganesha pooja. For next 45 minutes, it was an amazing display of the martial art with and without weapons which I cannot describe in words, couple of pictures are here though. After the show got over, we went down to greet the performers, they were kind enough to have pictures with us and with the weapons. Me and my wife tried our hands with sword, kids were watching us and was wondering if we are fighting in real. After the show, it was time for dinner, we found another restaurant serving different cuisines. I must say that, I never found great food and that too authentic Kerala food in Kerala. One of the reason could be is we always go for vegetarian food, where there is lots of varieties in non-vegetarian food specially sea food.
Next day we planned for elephant camp and Periyar Wildlife boat tour. I called the auto which we hired last night to take us to elephant camp and Periyar Century, he came early morning around 7:30 AM. Elephant camp was not too far, we reached in 15 minutes. While purchasing the tickets, I found that it was quite expensive, elephant ride was for Rs. 300/- and Elephant bathing was for Rs. 1000 per person. I asked why bathing is so expensive and they explained with not very convincing answers that Elephant food is expensive, need to give lot of money to Mahout etc. etc. Anyway, after 15-20 minutes of elephant ride, they took us for Elephant bathing, kids and my niece were very excited. It was a well built bathing area, they made Elephant lie down and asked kids to start pouring the water and brushing her body, yes, elephant was actually female, named Laxmi. After some time, they made elephant sat on her knees and asked kids to go one by one on Elephant. This is the real fun started, elephant took water from a bucked and showered on kids sitting on his. Mahout told us that, elephant will shower the water as many as numbers of time kids poured water on her. I must say that this was the best fun we ever had, elephant showering us, watched only in the movies.
After this we paid some tip to Mahout and moved back to hotel to change the clothes and then headed towards Periyar Lake Safari tour. We reached there before lunch, auto driver dropped us on the gate and we walked about half a kilometer to the ticket booth. It took us around 30 minutes to board the boat, it was a big boat which could take about 100 people, there were 3-4 boats and all travel together with in an interval of 5 minutes. Everybody was given a life jacket and asked to sit throughout the safari. Actually, there was a tragedy happened in 2009, when one boat carrying about 80 people over turned in water, 32 people died in that tragedy. One of the reason was that seeing few animals, people rush towards one side of the boat on upper deck which made boat over turned. Since then, they give life jackets to everyone and do not allow people to stand in the boat.
This is a man made lake and very big lake, you can see animals like bison, wild pigs, beautiful birds and may be wild elephants. It takes around 2 hours by boat to take the complete tour. We saw few animals and birds, mainly bison and pigs, not very exciting though. After completing the tour, we were hungry and wanted to have some food. Unfortunately, we were not able to find much, so headed back to the hotel after taking few snaps.
Trip was coming to end, we decided to stay in the hotel for the evening, there was a DJ night in the evening, we 5 were the only people on the dance floor, for almost one hour dancing on all Bollywood songs and later joined by a big group. This is one of the most lousiest Club Mahindra resort I found, no bar, food was OK, but not sure why they ask people to get naan/roti from a separate live counter, it takes lot of time. While waiting in the queue, I found one gentlemen was very upset due to this, I heard him and guessed that he is somewhere from Delhi/Ghziabad. I asked him, sir, are you from Delhi/Ghaziabad, he was surprised as how I know, I said because of your dialect, and co-incidentally, he was from Ghaziabad and lives very close to our house in Ghaziabad and knows my brother, it was really nice guess and meeting someone from your own city.
Next day we started back around 9:00 AM, taking the same route, took a break in Salem for lunch and reached home around 7:00 PM. It was too much traffic near Bangalore specially at Krishnagiri toll gate, may be due to Sunday and everyone was heading back to home. Thekkady was a fun trip, small town, Kerala Martial Art and Elephant bathing was the highlight of the trip. Next post will be on Sharavanabelagola with my sisters.