From Fort Kochi we headed to the mountains and place called Indiravanam near Kumily. Indiravanam , which means “a feeling or sense of forest,” is the love child of Morton, who is Danish and Sara, who is English. After a long process of deduction they finally decided to make Kerala their home. They rent out one cottage which is in a little wooded area near their house. I was thrilled to find out that they were vegan and jazz aficionados so we had quite a bit in common right way. Morton turned me on to a Swedish jazz pianist named Esbjorn Stevensson, With a world class sound, he’s up there with all the best contemporary jazzers like Brad Meldau etc. Unfortunately, he died tragically in a scuba diving accident in 2008. We also met their sweet and very lucky dog Ashna. We were told that most dogs in Kerala are kept in a cage and after I heard that I began to notice it everywhere. Sara made great vegan meals! I ate an ungodly amount of cashew cream cheese and the cashew raita was so good that even Rahul thought it was REAL raita (a yogurt condiment)! At meals Morton would endlessly entertain us with stories about his neighbors (the “bad man” and the “mad man”) and about their adventure of living in India.
One day we all took a bus to the state of Tamil Nadu which borders with Kerala. It is so close that we could see it from a viewpoint near the cottage.
We went to a temple where they worship a giant white bull.
Tamil Nadu had a completely different vibe than Kerala with it’s loud and colorful intensity. They were getting ready for a holiday the following day and at the top of almost every door was hung a bouquet of flowers. They also had sand in vivid colors for making chalk patterns on the ground.
Another day we went to a nursery owned by a man named Abraham to get a tour of his extensive garden. Abraham will be the first to tell you that he was featured on the BBC and has also been written up in magazines. We had a wonderful time being shown nutmeg, cinnamon, curry leaf, cardamom, banana, turmeric, ginger, pepper vine and something very unusual called egg fruit. He pointed to a jackfruit tree and said it was the first tree his grandfather planted on the property.
The end of our trip there was punctuated by an overnight excursion to Periyar National Park. We were part of a group of six who had signed up for the “Tiger Trail.” After a relatively easy but somewhat long hike to our campsite we had a rest and then ventured out to find some wild animals.
It wasn’t leech season but we were still given protective kneehigh socks just in case. All six of us plus three guides (one of them was carrying a rifle) went into tiger territory. While we didn’t actually see any tigers we did see many others animals including bison, wild boar, sambar deer, colorful birds and many elephants. Looking for elephants is tricky business because startling one can create a very dangerous situation and, in fact, there were a few times when we were told to run! There are 1,300 wild elephants and 48 tigers in Periyar.
We were served good food at the camp and on the first night we had mashed tapioca, collected straight from the ground nearby. Our camp was surrounded by a trench so that elephants don’t accidentally trample you in the night.
We watched a group of three female elephants and two babies as they bathed in the lake next to the camp until it was too dark to see them anymore but we could still hear the swishing of the water for quite some time.