Well, this place is not called the ‘spice belt’ without reason. There are spice shops around every corner. And dozens of different fragrances entice you as you walk by. And of course, the shop vendors try their best to attract your attention and get you inside.
It was fitting therefore to begin the morning with a visit to a spice plantation, during which we were given all the inside details on how various spices like cardamon, black and white pepper, cinamon etc. are grown and prepared.
We spent about an hour, wandering around the plantation looking at various spice plants. Our guide Benni (who’s even written a small tourist booklet) seemed to know his stuff, so I know my spices much better now!
In the afternoon, we took a pleasant ride around Periyar lake (all other times being booked). It was pretty hot on the upper deck of the boat, but there was a wind blowing which made the noon sun a little bearable. Unfortunately, no tiger or wild elephant sightings for us. If you’re lucky, sometimes you can see them come down to the water for their daily water intake or their bath. The last time I saw an exotic animal (and I mean outside the zoo!) was the one horned rhino in Kaziranga. I must have been about ten. So, I am definitely keen to see tiger in the wild, but this is obviously not that time!
There was quite a lot of excitement in the boat when we finally sighted some sambar (wild deer). If not the tiger, at least we’d had a glimpse of it’s prey! Though they were pretty far away, but we got a good view of them. Then we saw some wild bison, boars and (what I hope were) exotic birds. The lake is huge and bounded on all sides by the forest. The trip took us about two hours of leisurely cruising. The forest trek is probably a better way to see animals and birds but with the state of my foot, I had to give up that hope.
I’d recommend travellers to Kerala to spend a few days in Thekkady and do the different treks (day, night) that are conducted by the Forest department. Everything, is pretty well organised round here, as we’ve found, but you definitely need about 3-4 days to really experience this place.