The Periyar Nature Reserve entrance is packed with rows of tour coaches, cars and vans. Noisy crowds gather and the chance of seeing any wildlife on our planned nature walk seems unlikely. But, once past the opportunistic macaques, the animal sculptures and tortoise-shaped stores, most of the milling throng line up for the double-decker boat rides across the (British-planned) artificial lake. Our small party dons anti-leach socks and crosses the water on a rope-pulled raft. Our guide leads us up into the deciduous woodland, past rotting trunks, lianas and aerial roots in search of wildlife. Though the canopy is alive with birdsong, we glimpse only an orange ground thrush, a pipit and white-bearded treepie. There are scratch marks from a leopard on one trunk, but the biggest attraction was a pair of Nilgiri black langurs. Still, the jungle was tranquil and a lovely walk was had away from the bustle of town life.
We take lunch (cassava, cabbage and potato curry) at Abraham’s Spice Garden (as featured on BBC’s Around the World in 80 Gardens). Abraham’s tour of his huge plot was fascinating, rich as it was with 23 types of banana, egg fruit, cacao, Indian basil, coffee beans, tumeric and many cardomom plants.
In the evening we wander into the hectic heart of Kumily, where holiday visitors haggle over spices and banana chips. We pass a group of ‘carol singers’ on the way out. This ragtag bunch of boys had woken us up last night with their yelling and beating on empty jugs. Their repertoire seems more suitable for frightening away spirits rather than contemplation.