And We’re Off….Vamanos!

The next stop on our quest for finding “our spot” is South America – specifically Colombia and Ecuador, where many expats have already found wonderful homes. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that last year we spent 4 months traversing the U.S. on the same quest.

We’ll be travelling for three months, trying to stay a minimum of a week in each of a number of different cities, including Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin, and Popayan (in Colombia), and Quito and Cuenca, at a minimum (in Ecuador). Along the way we’ll be visiting a number of organic and/or fairtrade agricultural communities; volunteering when we can.

So, logistics? Three months, altitudes ranging from sea level and a Caribbean climate to roughly 9000’ and rather chilly at night. We’ve got one rolling bag (High Sierra) and one small backpack (mine, Patagonia) apiece, which we hope will get lighter as we go along, giving up old paperbacks, some small gifts we brought along, and discarding clothing along the way. It’s said “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and though I’m not convinced, here are a couple of pics of the packing process:

All I'm taking, except the raincoat.

All I’m taking, except the raincoat.


It Fit, with lots of rolling!

It Fit, with lots of rolling!


Moments from Departure

Moments from Departure

I’ve worked hard at recalling Spanish from a long ago stint as an exchange student in Ecuador (yay, AFS!) courtesy of an app called “Duolingo.” And, we have 4 days of 2-3 hour Spanish lessons beginning the morning of our arrival. Don’t expect any blogging in Spanish though I may toss in the occasional “palabra” so you know I’m working on it!

The first two nights we’ll be at a small B&B called Churro de Queveda, and then we move to an airbnb in the same neighborhood of Candelaria, the historic center of Bogota. Nope, Bogota is not a candidate for our spot, but it is a great place to acclimate, learn a bit of Spanish, and enjoy some good food and culture before we move on. And with that, Buenos Noches de Colombia…

View from Churro de Queveda

View from Churro de Queveda

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What’s Brewing? So Very Much!

Old Bust Head Brewery

Old Bust Head Brewery

This 13,000 mile 100 day plus journey has prompted one question more than any other – how are CW and I managing to spend so much time together, and still be together?  After 32 years of marriage when we rarely spent more than two full weeks together, we’re still smiling (at each other!) after four months of travel, in a car (…talk about close quarters!) If you’re contemplating anything like what we’ve just accomplished, it’s worth considering how you really prefer to spend your time, and agreeing on some simple ways to make sure you get enough “me” time – however you define it.  (This blog eventually comes round to lots of fun info about beer, brewing and beverages, so bear with me!)

Cooking with Spent Grain - Pizza Crust!

Cooking with Spent Grain – Pizza Crust!

We’re not oblivious to the pitfalls of travelling.  In fact, we think one of the greatest indicators of a potentially successful partnership is surviving the challenges of travelling together.  Those challenges are many and I’ll address those in a dedicated blog – but for now, I want to explore one of the most important ones for me:

Constant togetherness…

 

The Roasterie - So Good!

The Roasterie – So Good!

Boulevard Brewing - Around the Corner

Boulevard Brewing – Around the Corner

On this journeywise adventure, we knew from experience that a key strategy would be to find ways to have some occasional hours (ok, frequent hours) apart, to be on our own or at our separate pursuits.  And since we’re both very comfortable in new places (and really, nowhere in the U.S. was going to feel as strange as some of the other places we’ve been) we knew it would just take a little planning to engineer a few hours on our own every other day or so.

Evans Bros. Coffee - Idaho

Evans Bros. Coffee – Idaho

What helps immensely is that we’ve both created portable businesses: CW as what one of his brewery friends so aptly calls “an itinerant malt peddler,” and me, as a consultant and advisor to food and beverage startups in the organic, fair trade and natural sphere.  Charley does best with in-person calls on breweries, while I can manage primarily with phone, Skype, and email, though personal meetings are great when they can happen.  Our work means engaging with fun and interesting people who are working to nourish the world!

We didn’t consciously start our four-month long journey with a plan for how to incorporate independent time – but we learned quickly that CW’s most successful brewery visits would often take an hour or more, and if I could find a local coffee shop, farm market, or natural grocery to explore for at the very least an hour (and two hours was not at all a bad thing, I came to learn) then we’d both have a better time, with no anxiety for me over “when is he going to get back?!” nor CW worrying that I was getting antsy just when he was about to present the malts and whiskies, and getting to taste stellar beers, all with the point of actually leaving a sample of Copper Fox malt behind!

Tasting Brews Across the USA

Tasting Brews Across the USA

It’s far past time to give CW credit for a lot of the fun and exploring we’ve had on this journey.  Charley’s work with Copper Fox Distillery  http://www.copperfox.biz/index/ in Sperryville, Virginia has taken us (well, him) to over 60 craft breweries in 22 states and 4 Canadian provinces over the past 4 months, as he introduced brewers to the Distillery’s hand crafted, Virginia-grown barley malts.

We started the trip with about 100 pounds of the specialty smoked malts in the back of the car (along with our suitcases and camping gear), and picked up another 30 pounds (plus fresh bottles of the two whiskies) on the West Coast.  Although I’m now used to the slightly yeasty, warm-bread smell of sacks of the specialty malts wafting about in the car, I was happy that we left Boston for home having completely depleted the malt inventory!  CW’s pretty excited about that as well, as it means that across the U.S. and Canada, small and mid-sized craft breweries—now well over 30–are experimenting and creating new beers with Copper Fox’s apple and cherry wood smoked malt, and mesquite smoked malt.   Results of this summer’s visits already include brews on tap or soon on tap at Old Bust Head Brewing, in Warrenton, VA  http://www.oldbusthead.com/  Firehouse Brewing, in Rapid City, SD  http://www.firehousebrewing.com/  Sawtooth Brewing, in Ketchum, ID  http://sawtoothbrewery.com/         The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company, in Canmore, Alberta (near Banff)  http://www.thegrizzlypaw.com/      and The Raw Deal/Real Deal Brewing, in Menomanie, WI  http://www.rawdeal-wi.com/  .   If you happen to be nearby any of these, you can enjoy a brew with a Copper Fox smoked malt as a key ingredient, and vicariously join our  “journeywise!”

Mural in Detroit

Mural in Detroit

There’s a bit more of the trip to catch up on, but we’ve now arrived back in Philadelphia, and midst the unpacking, sorting, and oh yes, planning the next trip, I’m behind my optimistic blogging schedule.  Soon to come – what did we learn and what’s next?  Stay tuned!

Into the West…

Welcome, Wyoming!

Welcome, Wyoming!

Much of the drive across Wyoming was flat flat flat, with the glorious presence of vast cloud banks.  I’m reading “Open Road” by Phil Patton, and he says “At 65 miles an hour, experts say, the driver sees five times as much sky as at 45.  Roads are drunk with the principles of perspective.”  So far, so true!  We’re not home-hunting in Wyoming, but headed west for the Grand Tetons and more camping, so we we’re testing the 65 mph views (or better, as speed limits here hover around 75 mph and so the perspectives must be that much better!).

About the Clouds...

About the Clouds…

Though we’re on a local food/farm to table/craft-brewing oriented journey, we’re learning that “local” doesn’t necessarily equate to “good,” though it more than often does mean quirky or quaint, and usually “nice.”  The Broken Wheel Truckstop and Restaurant was a refueling station, with a basic truckers’ breakfast (we passed up on the steak and eggs) and kind waitresses who kept pouring the coffee.

Breakfast Spot

Breakfast Spot

On the other hand, sometimes local means both kind people with a mission and really really good coffee.  Being “West” also means they get to have some real fun with their branding.  I liked the cowboy-themed packaging of the Brown Sugar Coffee Roastery in Riverton, Wyoming (http://brownsugarcoffeeroastery.com/)  and their coffees are FairTrade USA certified too!  NOTE:  if you’re curious about why I care about Fair Trade, check out :  http://fairtradeusa.org/  for more about what Fair Trade means to the small growers and farmers around the world.  Also, my earlier blog about our visit to the Fair Trade/organic farmers in India might be of interest!

Howdy, Pardner!

Howdy, Pardner!

Primed by Brown Sugar’s coffee, and hours and hours of driving later, we gained our first view of our home (tent) for the next two nights in Grand Teton National Park.  And found there was a little more snow than we’d planned on!

The Grand Tetons

The Grand Tetons

A Little Snow...

A Little Snow…

Here’s where words, at least mine, can’t measure up.  Our hike around Jenny Lake…

And the Hikes!

And the Hikes!

And then, we were off to Boise, Idaho and a wonderful weekend of wedding celebration activities!  Was it the wedding and reuniting with friends, the farmers’ market and wonderful museum that gave us pause, and had us house-hunting?  More on this, next time…

Along the Lewis & Clark Trail…

The only place we’ve stayed more than one night so far is back in Lexington, Virginia, and that’s not ideal – two nights in one place is better than one!  But, we’re getting better at taking the minimum amount of “stuff” into each hotel room (no camping yet!) to make a quick start in the morning.  We’d be taking this early part of the journey much slower, but have a “Boise by May 29” goal, and so are really making tracks across country;  still finding time to meander and pause at unanticipated  roadside treasures…mostly natural food stores, coffee shops, singular restaurants, brew pubs!

From Kansas City, the Corps of Discovery made its arduous way upstream – by poling or pulling (known as cordelling) the 55’ keelboat.  It took them a month to reach a spot near Council Bluffs, Iowa.  We drove to and past Council Bluffs from St. Charles in a day.

Through Iowa

Through Iowa

Council Bluffs was named for the Expedition’s first encounter with Native Americans.  We stopped at a lovely overlook on a bluff above the Missouri, imagining the men struggling against the current, and camping just across the river from where we sat.

We made a quick stop in Sioux City, Iowa, seeking coffee and internet access –two important resources we try to consult every other day or so.  We don’t have advance reservations from here on, and so rely on Yelp, TripAdvisor and Priceline, which led us this day to charming Yankton, South Dakota. After dinner at “El Tapatio,” we headed to another important resource:  Walmart – to provision for camping…and where the magazine selection was most interesting.

Yankton Dinner

Yankton Dinner

Magazines

Before striking out westward to Rapid City, South Dakota, we walked across Yankton’s restored Meridian Bridge to Nebraska.

Meridian Bridge, Yankton, SD

Meridian Bridge, Yankton, SD

 

Hello South Dakota!

Hello South Dakota!

The scenery has been beautiful in ever changing ways, and though we won’t choose to live in the “flatlands,” there is something awesome about the Great Plains, the rolling hills and wide skies – how much of it Woodie Guthrie had seen when he composed This Land is Your Land, I’m not sure, but the landscape we’re passing through has kept me mindful of the power of the land and its meaning – especially as we celebrate, and remember, on Memorial Day.

 

2,000 Miles, & “Across the Wide Missouri!”

Travelling miles and miles in a car with a companion who enjoys trivia and musical tidbits just as much as I do is great fun – we’re struck every once in a while by something that starts us humming or singing a song that perfectly fits where we are…such as when we crossed the Missouri River, and “Shenandoah” came to mind.  Then there was discovering Daniel Boone’s last home (in a beautiful stretch of land between St. Louis and Jefferson City – he lived within miles of where Lewis & Clark travelled, and there is no record that they ever met), and remembering “he was a man, he was a biiiiig man, with an eye like an eagle and a…..(I’ll bet you can fill in the rest!)  “Kansas City, Kansas City, here I come,” and of course, even though we were in a car:

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

Here’s a link to a wonderful YouTube video of Pete Seeger (at 90!) and Bruce Springsteen at the Lincoln Memorial singing “This Land is Your Land” – if you’ve never heard or seen Pete Seeger, who died earlier this year, please watch!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HE4H0k8TDgw&feature=kp

Our Ribbon of Highway

Our Ribbon of Highway

This map is from the Museum of the Westward Expansion at the St. Louis Arch, and the red line depicting the Lewis & Clark Trail starts in the east in St. Louis, where we really start to parallel the Trail and follow it for a couple of days. We’ll pick it up again later in the trip, after a long detour to Idaho and British Columbia.  The “Voyage of Discovery,” commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson was ambitious and extraordinarily successful – they started out in May 1802.  Lewis & Clark returned after nearly three years of exploration having lost only one member of the Corps of Discovery, and with massive amounts of information about the vastly expanded country.  Having read Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose years ago was great preparation for exploring some of the areas in which the Corps of Discovery passed.

Driving through these regions and realizing just what those men and Sacajawea had to endure is my outdoor classroom – truly “learning it all, over again!” (So fitting! That’s the subtitle of my blog:  Read. Travel. Learn it all, over again!)  We followed the Missouri north and westward, to visit tiny St. Charles, where the journey began.  (Some would argue with reason, that the journey began far to the east, where Meriwether Lewis had the keelboat made in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but it wasn’t until St. Charles that the two leaders finally joined forces and the expedition began.

The Lewis & Clark Trail

The Lewis & Clark Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organized!

Organized!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides generally following the Lewis & Clark Trail, how else are we managing on this trip?  By perusing our well-worn edition of “RoadFood,” which has traversed the country now at least three times!  It shows just how enduring those classic old-timey restaurants and diners are when our 2005 edition still points us to great spots for a bite to eat.  We’ve written something by the listing for each of the many places we’ve stopped, and I love reading notes from other years…I write in my books – you might want to try it!  Yep, whether a food guide, a cook book, travel guide, poetry, fiction or history, my books are lined with marginalia – books which someone, sometime, will pick up at a used book sale, and puzzle over, perhaps wondering who wrote the sentences, exclamation marks, and sometimes ever-so slightly critical words scribbled in the margins.

The Road Food Book

The Road Food Book

From St. Charles we roughly followed the Missouri and the Corps of Discovery’s route to Jefferson City, where The RoadFood Book directed us to Central Dairy for delicious, and cheap ($2 for an overflowing pint of scoops)ice cream break – the best deal of the trip so far.  Then, as CW so delicately puts it, we “beat cheeks” to Kansas City MO. (This phrase apparently refers to a horse’s flanks – contrary to what you may be thinking…)

Kansa City was a great stop, where I was delighted to find “The Roasterie,” (http://www.theroasterie.com/) an amazing coffee roaster/wholesaler/retailer with an airplane and flight theme (check it out!) whilst CW enjoyed a private tour with the Lead Brewer at “Boulevard,” (www.boulevard.com) a major craft brewer – they were within blocks of each other, and we cheerfully split up for a couple of hours to each enjoy our own “brews.”  That’s another good tip for long term, close quarters travel – make sure to build in time to pursue independent activities!

The Roasterie

The Roasterie

Boulevard Brewery

Boulevard Brewery

So far, no one place has called out to us as a potential landing spot, though some are full of history and a vibrant culture; in fact, crossing Missouri, I had glimpsed a sign for Rosebud, MO, and I longed for a moment, to live in a place called “Rosebud.”

 

 

Let’s Sell the House!

In the aftermath of the wonderful trip to India, CW and I decided to follow through with an idea we’d been toying with for a year or so…selling the house, downsizing, packing the tent and heading west and back, with a goal of exploring possible locations for our next home.  Two days after getting back, and still a bit jet-lagged, we found an agent and began rapid work to prep the house for sale.  We were more exhausted by this than we could have imagined – up and down the stairs hundreds of times, making decisions about belongings – keep, store, donate, trash? Packing a household of thirty years of furniture, artwork, dishes, glasses and goblets, family heirlooms, and books, many many books, on our own, instead of enjoying the luxury of a company move – now that I’ve done it, don’t plan on a repeat.  Fatigue was also psychological, even though this was a much discussed and well-planned move.

Within 8 weeks of getting back from India, we turned the keys to our house over to new owners and experienced an unexpected sense of weightlessness (well, almost) – no more lawn to mow, house repairs to undertake, empty rooms to dust.  Instead, we have a small, urban apartment in Philadelphia which we can leave by simply locking the door, and to which we can return when wanderlust is sated. 

The next journey will be North America – exploring a number of cities that beckon as locations for our next home, even though that may not be for a few years.  What’s important?  Nature, cultural diversity, a sustainable economy, appreciation for local food, a supportive community, education, health care…among other things!  And, I’ll be sharing how we “journeywise” – join us for the drive!  We’re on our way…

Sweet House

Sweet House

Favorite Spot...

Favorite Spot…

4 Months, 1 Car, & Adventure!

4 Months, 1 Car, & Adventure!

Kerala Idyll

The drive to the backwaters of Kerala in Kumarakom was, yes, long! But in part fascinating, as we drove through a small village celebrating a temple festival, and traffic came to a stop as two parades converged from opposite directions on the little more than one-lane road. There were a few police officers standing around waving what we’ve been calling “swagger sticks.” But the traffic didn’t seem to pay much attention at all, and it was to the peril of the parade participants and the bystanders as buses, log trucks, tuktuks and cars tried to wend their way along the route. It took us at least an hour to go about 2 miles – and that after we got out of the car and walked along the parade route. Why sit (even in the cool car) when we could experience the excitement of a village parade? We probably added an element of novelty to the festivities as well!

Young men were carrying enormous pyramid-shaped wooden frames covered with multi-colored foil flowers – in a sort of wooden yoke across their shoulders. As the band of flutes and drums played, the men started twirling, until they got dizzy and passed the contraption to someone else.

Village Parade

Village Parade

We eventually made it to the houseboat dock, (after an amusing elephant in a truck scene and an extraordinary sighting of over 20 eagles soaring over prawn fishing boats) where many traditional boats, known as Kettuvallam, were tied up. The hand-off to our crew of two was rather lackadaisical, and they didn’t speak much English – in a way this was fine as CW and I could just chat and ponder the view instead of asking the unending questions we’ve had throughout the trip. Our 60’ long boat had an open, but covered sitting/dining area with a built in bench running along the side of the boat where I enjoyed reclining and watching the scenery pass by. We had a small bedroom with tiny combined toilet/shower area (this is typical), and there was a kitchen and crew area in the back of the boat. We were really surprised by how many houseboats there were; it felt a bit like “houseboats on parade,” as you can see in the photo.

Houseboats on Parade

Houseboats on Parade


Afternoon Banana Fritters and Coffee

Afternoon Banana Fritters and Coffee


Backwaters Houseboat

Backwaters Houseboat

A backwaters overnight trip is probably not for anyone who needs a lot of movement or exercise! We spent a couple of hours the first day, including the late lunch, cruising the smaller canals and out into Lake Vembanad. There’s not much to do but watch what’s happening on shore and on the water – and it is beautiful and fascinating – village life on the water; women doing laundry by stepping down into the water on old stone stairs, slapping the laundry rhythmically against the side of the steps; children were swimming, old men were fishing, and long dragon-prowed boats were delivering huge sacks of the rice harvested from the paddies all along the back waters. And it was hot. 35 c or 95 F, and humid – so when the boat wasn’t cruising, the air was still, warm and moist, recalling my least favorite part of living in Singapore.

Backwaters of Kerala

Backwaters of Kerala

It was disappointing, after having seen all the quiet backwaters and the still lake, to find that we were going to dock and spend the night back at the busy, noisy boat mooring area. (Nothing I’d read indicated that we wouldn’t be somewhere away from civilization for the overnight part…) There was air-conditioning in the bedroom, the sound of which helped to mute music and conversation from neighboring boats – only a foot or two away. After breakfast, we cruised again for an hour and then returned to the dock to continue our journey by car to another part of the backwaters on Lake Vembanad, near the town of Kumarakom.

At the Abad Whispering Sands, we had our first true “resort” experience in India. Our cool, large and simple room overlooked the lake, hammocks suspended under the coconut trees, and sweetly, a number of Indian honeymoon couples. But it was only the international guests who enjoyed the “yoga in the pool.”

Pool Yoga

Pool Yoga

The big adventure for this brief resort stay was a long walk along one of the tiny lanes trying to find a coffee shop, and hopping into a convenient tuktuk to ride into the town of Kumarakom, where we had our first seafood in India at the “Hotel Dubai.” Then into a local sweet shop/bakery where we found cardamom chai and a pastry to celebrate this “non-birthday” for Leap Year baby CW.

Kumarakom Canal

Kumarakom Canal

From the backwaters we drove to Cochin (Kochi), a wonderful old Kerala city that between the 16th to 19th centuries was occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch and British. We stayed at the Koder House in Fort Kochi (the old city), a 200-year old home built by an early Jewish family; various early maharajahs had been both tolerant of and welcoming to other religions, and many Jews settled in Cochin from the 1500’s on – though now, only 7 Jewish residents live in the old city. We visited the lovely and poignant Jewish Synagogue, and strolled the lanes of what is commonly known as “Jew Town.” After the creation of the state of Israel, most Cochin Jews emigrated, leaving behind lovely old homes, and a way of life that had existed in Cochin for hundreds of years.

Koder House

Koder House


Koder House Guest Room

Koder House Guest Room

Cochin is one of my favorite stops on the trip – the history, the culture, the variety of people and ways of life were dazzling. Cochin is famous for its “Chinese Fishing Nets,” of which only a dozen or so remain in the old city. By getting up early in the morning, my stroll on the seaside promenade was quiet, except for the men working the fishing nets, lowering them via lines of suspended small boulders, letting the nets rest in the water for about five minutes, and then levering the huge nets back up with their catch. Stall owners hovered nearby waiting to purchase the fresh catch – and I’m sure we ate some of it later in the day.

Cochin Fishing Nets

Cochin Fishing Nets

We reluctantly left Cochin and flew across southern India to Chennai, driving south to the old French colony (until the 1960’s) of Pondicherry (Puducherry, these days.) This was a real treat, and more about that soon. As I write, we are sitting in a small rooftop restaurant in Mamallapuram, south of Chennai, preparing for our midnight drive to the airport for a 4am flight to London and home, so this blog will be posted after return and a day or two of jet lag. Namaste, and wishing you safe travels and to journeywise.

JourneyWise Note:

Other than the real “cold,” we haven’t been sick or had digestive problems…Here are some of the precautions we’ve taken: (some may seem silly, but hey, it’s worked!)

Teeth: NEVER used anything but bottled water, to wet the brush, rinse the mouth, clean the toothbrush…

Eyes: I wear contact lenses so, after cleaning lenses with solution, ALWAYS rinsed with bottled water, and after removing from case, I rinsed the case with bottled, NOT tap, water.

Drinking: ALWAYS drank bottled water, not even the purified and filtered water offered at some hotels and restaurants. We did often have masala chai and coffee from stalls, and were pretty sure the water was safely boiled…and we carried personal water bottles everywhere and refilled them from the large bottles of water we bought to keep in the car.

Cleanliness: Even though I’m not a fan of using antiseptic lotions and wipes at home, they were always by my side in India. I had a small generic bottle of antiseptic spray that I used on my hands frequently, and antiseptic wipes that I’d use to clean my face, neck and arms after any hot, sweaty activity – which was pretty much everything we did except in the highlands. Otherwise, we either did small bits of laundry in the hotel sink or had pieces sent out – laundry prices were incredibly cheap (10 rupees for undergarments, 20 for a shirt. 100 rupees approx. $1.60) And, we were a little dirty and a little smelly some of the time!

Periyar and Beyond

Periyar Entrance

Periyar Entrance

We had a long, meandering and beautiful drive through the hills heading south to reach Periyar Tiger Reserve, located in the Cardamom Hills and Western Ghat mountains on the Kerala/Tamil Nadu border. We’d eagerly anticipated this couple of days in the wilderness and had booked one of the Gavi Eco-tents (www.periyartigerreserve.net/cottage-tent.html) to sleep in. Almost nothing about our two days at Periyar disappointed!

The first view of the tent was just as expected – a large one room tent on a platform and suspended beneath a palm-leaf covered roof. There was a separate, private bath/shower room behind the tent, accessed through the screen door at the rear of the tent. The tent and bath area were basic, and just what we’d anticipated, although the view down to the lake was even nicer than we’d hoped for. There was electricity in the tent, though the 5 minute, unlit walk to the outdoor restaurant was quite dark in the evening (glad we brought small flashlights on the trip), and perfect for star-gazing. The deep, amazingly dark evening sky and brilliant, countless stars were spectacular.

Gavi Tent Periyar

Gavi Tent Periyar

Inside the Tent

Inside the Tent

Periyar is what I’d describe as a “forest-jungle” and many areas are quite densely forested, making it a challenge for wildlife viewing from the back of a jeep. There aren’t the “big five” to see as we’d looked for in South Africa, but we did see the fabulous Malabar Giant Squirrel, Nilgiri Langurs, Gaur (a large, endangered Indian bison), Sambar (an Indian deer, of which we saw many) and many birds. Elephants were evidently close by as the fresh dung and HUGE elephant tracks we saw in the river bank proved, and the elusive tiger was not to be seen. Our guide, who has worked in the park for 14 years, said he’d only glimpsed the tiger twice in that entire time. There are currently 46 tigers roaming the 357 sq. mile park.

We had a great 3+ hour hike with Narayan, our guide, who was in flipflops, and I don’t know how he negotiated the steep hillsides; I was very happy to have my hiking poles with me, and sturdy boots. He took us a bit off the beaten track once he realized how enthusiastic we were about the park – we hiked along the nearly dry Pamba River to one of the waterfalls, and along a tiny track where a couple of tribal families lived in makeshift tents with no running water or other facilities. They survive by harvesting wild crops and making the incense used in Hindu temples – by harvesting the bark from a particular tree and processing it into a sticky, aromatic resin.

Tribal Smile

Tribal Smile

Vista with Red Trees

Vista with Red Trees

Two jeep safaris allowed us to go much deeper into the park – and again, not much wildlife, but the scenery was spectacular, including the bright red, new leaves of one which our guide referred to as “Mora” or “Moro” – but my online research hasn’t confirmed the name or type of tree – any ideas?

Many visitors come only for a day visit, but we’d stay overnight again – the quiet night, glorious stars overhead, and thrill of knowing that we were inside a tent protected by electric fencing to keep the elephants outside the perimeter were all a real treat.

Periyar Sunset Shades

Periyar Sunset Shades

After two nights at Periyar, we loaded up the car again and headed for the Kerala backwaters for a night on a houseboat… our Kerala adventures next!