For me, Spice Village and Periyar have always had this feeling of finally arriving. I just love the nature, the walks and the clean fresh air. And there is always sound, its never still and quite, there is a constant buzz of insects, birdcalls and the “whoo whoo” of the dark and beautiful Nilgiri Langur. Once on a bamboo raft we heard the tiger call, real close. Frantically we tried to get some speed ….and got stuck on one of those ghost like trees jutting out all over the lake. Took us half an hour of swearing and a bath to get going again. By that time of course, the most noble of all creatures had disappeared into the jungle. Another time we finally laid eyes on the most amazing “jurassic” experience – the Great Indian Hornbill. What a sound, the “whoosh, whoosh” of its giant wings vibrates the air and literally sends a shiver down your spine.
But in the national park there in not everything about wildlife. Roughly two generations ago the Indian Government decided to settle the indigenous communities outside the park. For them it was a big change. They had been living off the forest by collecting honey, herbs, firewood, fishing and occasional hunting. Kind of homeless they withered away, men took to alcohol, drugs and turned to poaching. Luckily some good initiatives offer new perspectives. Spice Village adopted the traditional grass thatch to offer jobs and the wildlife department educated young men into guides and guardians of the forest.
Last time in the Periyar forest, Prateesh, our naturalist and me were accompanied by Vishu from the Palia community. His granddad was still living completely off the forest and inside the park. We asked about the changes within such a short time. Honestly, I came out humbled of the park. So many times I had been there and was never aware of what knowledge these communities really had. Vishu told us about their indigenous system of medicine that could cure almost any disease just by using plants, bark and roots. He knew how to deal with snake bites and attacking elephants. Just a few month prior he had saved a lady that was surprised by an elephant rushing out of hiding. Brave Vishu with bare hands attacked the beast till it shied away. He told me with a chuckle that they actually play with the elephants on the meadows a show of strength. The winner gets the right of way. So next time you venture into the park, you know you are protected by the masters of the wild.
Travellers usually arrive at Periyar after a week or more of intense culture, temples and wonderful sights from the plains of Tamil Nadu. Periyar is just the oasis you need to digest all that you have learned from the world of wisdom, architecture, culture and art. Here you can dive into the sounds of nature, away from the blaring horns of day to day Indian traffic. Its the place to fill your lungs with fresh mountain air, often laden with the fragrance of flowers and the scent of spices grown here in such abundance.
Simply take a day or two off from travel and get spoiled by nature, after all you have reached “Gods own country”, Kerala.
Did you know that pepper originally comes from these hills and became one of the most valuable trading goods on the planet? Take time and visit one of the many spice plantations that dot the hills. Follow the accent of cardamom from its long leaved plant to its final use in our 50 Mile diet restaurant at Spice Village. Just spend a few hours aimlessly wandering trough our garden, watch the monkeys jump from tree to tree and the dog sized Giant Malabar Squirrel litter the pathways with petals of his favourite flowers.
Take time to do a tour of the resort and learn about all the eco measures that were taken to respect nature, the communities and to leave a minimum carbon footprint, while still offering you the best of international comfort. Spice Village in itself is worth a journey.