Supreme court seems bent on throwing obstacles on our Bandipur visits for the time being but it gave us to explore some very unique parts of wild Kerala. We drove 535 kilometers over four days and walked through some beautiful ecosystems which, if Bandipur were accessible, would have never popped up on our scanners! I will go into those experiences shortly but today I'm just a proud father of a son who loves nature as much as I do.
I wasn't sure if a boy, just a couple of months away from his 10th birthday was ready for Woodcrawling but this trip seemed to have been designed by someone up there to test a 10 year old's resilience.
Day-1: 26th August 2012. Anaimudi Shola National Park
Our stay at Marayoor on that day was with the intention of checking out the famous fruit and vegetable farms of Kanthaloor and a trip to the mid-sized bit of the Shola National Parks here, the Anaimudi Shola. It's not for the faint-hearted especially if you are very "leecho-phobic". My son loves these slimy creatures. He says they have to feed too so there is no harm in contributing a little for the leeches' cause!
Day-2: 27th August, 2012. Eravikulam National Park
The home of the endangered Niligiri Tahr. It is a long climb to where the tahrs graze but it is well worth it. Unlike other national parks there is no restriction on the time you can spend here. We had come up to the reception center many times and gone back because of the crowds. This time the halt in Marayoor ensured that we reached in time for the ticket counter to open. Not surprisingly. this is the bit the little Woodcrawler loved most!
Day-3: 28th August,2012. Pampadum Shola National Park
As usual the timeshare holiday activity department portrays every task so difficult that you tend to think they are so concerned about you. Actually, if you do things on your own, you'll find that you spend ten times less!
We drove off to explore Mattupetty, Kundala and Pampadum Shola. The man at the forest station was skeptical. He said we were here during the wrong season but if we were willing to tolerate the leeches we could go. Someone should tell these guys that leeches are not going to put off a 10 year old waiting to do his third jungle walk in as many days!
Day-4: 29th, August 2012. Chinnar WLS
Last day of our trip saw us spend little time on Lakkom waterfalls between Eravkulam and Marayoor. As we reached Chinnar WLS I remembered I had promised the lady at the Eco-development committee counter that we'd be back to take a trek. It was 2PM but cloudy. I asked my son if he was ready for another walk in the jungle. I shouldn't have asked, because the answer in the affirmative came even before I could complete the question!
As we moved out, Selvam, the guide started off about "an elephant chasing a foreign tourist yesterday". I shut him up before he could narrate the entire episode. I hadn't planned for this walk and my son was in his "Ona-kodi", the new dress for Onam, a bright orange t-shirt, and he was sticking out like a beacon!!
A few minutes into the walk the guide paused in mid-stride, his stick held up horizontally to tell us to stop. I could smell the elephant (or it's dung). We moved forward cautiously without any uncomfortable encounters with the elusive pachyderm.
The going is stiff in a few places but the little woodcrawler seemed to take it in his stride. With the invisible elephant behind us, he was more comfortable.
There were signs of the gaur and elephant but quite old and it was no deterrent for him. He just kept pace with the guide like a veteran trekker!
He was the first in top of a rock face that had some caves, (more about that later).......
...and while we waited to catch our breath on the very top. The guide went to take some pictures of the caves, and us.
After going to "Point - B", we began our descent. A lone gaur on the way provided the only interesting diversion. The guide was over cautious but then he did not know about our experiences with this large herbivore in Bandipur and other places.
Back at the car, my son showed me his foot. The shoe had scraped the skin off his heel and the blood had soaked into the material. All through the walk he had never complained or protested.
I have every right to be boastfully proud! After all this is what a dad looks forward to. No TV or Playstation for my son, ...
The Woodcrawler Version.2