Two days ago, we found ourselves bouncing down a mountain in a jeep an hour before sunrise. We were on our way to the Periyar Wildlife Preserve in Kerala. We drove through the forests as the sun rose, stopping every now and them to try and catch a glimpse of a Malabar Giant Squirrel or a family of monkeys. We fondly referred to the Giant Squirrel as the Dog Squirrel because it was easily the size of a small dog and a patchwork of colors. The guides were amazing at spotting things from far away while driving their jeeps. Katie thinks they should all work for the Air Force. Their eye was phenomenal. Once we got to the preserve, we went on a hike through the beautiful forest. One of the two groups of students had an elephant sighting! Only moving in groups of two, we went up to catch a glimpse. It was like a very intense game of hide and seek. (Credit goes to Sarah Wells for that simile.) The hike was very rigorous and many people felt it the next day. The guides moved at a very fast pace. They took us through heavy tree cover, over streams and through beautiful fields of coffee plants. I love to hike, and there is something really special about hearing an elephant trumpet while walking up a mountain. How the elephants get through all the trees, I’m not really sure. They are incredibly graceful for such big animals and I have a new found respect (and fear) for them. I have also discovered that I appreciate monkeys from a distance.
After the hike some of us went on a small boat ride around the tiny lake near the welcome center. Our ride back down the mountain in the jeeps was one of my favorite parts of the day, particularly because it was much warmer than the morning. We stopped a few times again for animal sightings (including a bison which most of us could barely see standing still by the side of the road. These guides are the best). This was by far one of the best days in India. It is definitely something you could never see out your bedroom window at home. I think everyone appreciated the beauty of the Indian wilderness.
(If anyone is keeping track, Sarah Wells and I are up to around 90ish peacock representations. India’s keeping our counting skills up to par.)