This morning we’d arranged to have Satheeth to pick us up after breakfast. Yeah, I know we were due to get enough food to keep us going for about three days, I only ate a fraction of my packed lunch yesterday, but guys. A chick cannot live off bread alone. She needs a mystery breakfast to reassure her guts that sugar and bread products weren’t their life now and they didn’t have to resort to any kind of gluten intolerance by way of rebellion. Today it was appam and kuda. I think I’ll miss Keralan breakfasts more than I’ll miss any other food once I leave India. If ever win lotto I shall employ a Keralan to follow me everywhere and ensure that I stay fed, then I shall probably have to employ a couple of people to roll me from place to place because my legs would no longer function under my idli stuffed carcass. But not only did Satheeth pick us up on time, he’d already got us our park entry tickets so we could just drive on through without having to stop at the gate, save for leaning out of the tuk tuk and waving our tickets at the guard. See? Legend! That’s service.
We’re pros at putting fuck-off-leeches guards on now. We put them on correctly first time and one guy watched me tie them at the top and nodded his approval rather than saying, “No good, madam” then proceeding to tourniquet my lower limbs. Boom. So today we’d be bamboo rafting after a two hour trek to the starting point which would feel like a quick trip around the corner to grab a six pack and a supply of Doritos after yesterday’s effort. But first, we had to get across the river which involved standing on a bamboo raft, pulled along by a rope.
Here’s the thing. When they were putting together the ingredients to make me they must have dropped Balance on the floor, scraped what they could off the carpet, picked the dog hairs out of it and chucked in whatever was left. I have the balance of a three legged giraffe on ketamine, especially on a narrow bamboo raft that appeared to be sinking in the middle and rocked if anyone so much as looked at it funny. I shuffled onto it, Théo behind me and a French chick, Annabelle in front of me, and tried to assume the most stable position I could muster, which according to Théo involved feet apart, half crouching, holding my arms out with my palms down. He managed to stifle his mocking until we’d gotten to the other side without capsizing and I was less likely to have a nervous breakdown, then the piss taking obviously commenced which to be fair was an acceptable compromise. I did manage to take a selfie. But I’ll always manage to take a selfie. I could be attacked by a fucking tiger and I’d still find a way to whip the camera out for a Mauling Selfie.
The walk was relatively uneventful. We saw a tree that looked kinda like a cobra, a two week old tiger pugmark that they’d put sticks around so it didn’t get damaged and they’d have at least one thing to show the tourists, some epic vine type things and a patch of nettles that the guides told us were dangerous. Closer inspection revealed that they probably were. Nettles back home are sort of furry looking and cause a bit of irritation and itchy welts which go down quite quickly provided you don’t claw at them. These nettles had tiny spikes on them and these fluffy looking things which would probably embed themselves in your flesh given half a chance and stay there until you had them surgically removed. I’m speculating. They’re probably not even the dangerous bit but I didn’t want to get close enough to find out. If you touched one I don’t think your limb would drop off or anything but from what the guides were saying, they’d certainly cause you some pain.
Anyway, these rafts. I have no idea what possessed me to sign up for something that involved climbing onto a narrow raft with all of my grace and balance, but I’d done it now. We were split into two groups and we all shuffled onto our respective rafts and sat down, where I realised that the middle of our raft was submerged and I didn’t have anywhere to put my feet which wouldn’t result in wet toes. But wait! I’d actually bothered to spend money on these trainers. They’re Vibram soled, Gore-Tex lined proper kick-arse trainers and Gore-Tex means waterproof, right? I mean, if I was out walking in these trainers and it pissed it down I could reasonably expect my feet to stay relatively dry, so they could cope with a bit of wash from the water on the raft, couldn’t they? Maybe, unless the water ran over the top of the shoe, which it promptly did with my right foot. Bugger. At least I’d have a dry left foot though, right? Wrong. I have decided that Gore-Tex is a fucking myth.
We paddled a short way to a place where the life jackets and extra paddles were kept where we got out and sat down for ten minutes. This is where I was introduced to banana chips. If you ever go to Kumily you can’t help but notice these bad boys. They’re everywhere, as ubiquitous as spices and homemade chocolate. Most stores sell them and make them fresh themselves in giant woks out the front of the store. They slice green bananas into the oil, fry them, drain them then they’re ready to go but I’ve thus far ignored them because, well, y’know, it’s deep fried banana init. It’s not the natural order of things. But a family on the tour had a packet of them and they were sharing them around. I took one and tried it.
No. It was still too weird.
But I should probably just grab a handful though and eat all of them aaaaand yeah. They’re like crack. I definitely needed more of these little, yellow discs of joy in my life.
Back on the raft, each duo was given a paddle to help row so me and Théo took it in turns because it’s not easy on the shoulders when you’re not used to it. Plus I wanted to take a fuck tonne of photos of the lake twigs. Periyar Lake was formed around 120 years ago, according to yesterday’s guides, to help with the water supply in Tamil Nadu. The “Britishers” did it by building a dam. If you look at Lake Periyar on Google Earth you can see what an odd shape it is. I’ve no idea why it’s so fucking weird, I just really like it.
We did stop somewhere else for a break, got back in the raft then paddled to our lunch spot. Or part way to our lunch spot before we just stopped moving. Seriously. It didn’t matter how much we paddled, we were static as a pigeon, assuming the pigeon had been nailed to the floor. Fuck. We were stuck on something. The guides tried to shift us by trying to use a tree to pull us back, before they got the two guys at the front to shift to the back because we were caught on something at the front. A bit of reverse paddling and you could see what we were snagged on. A slightly submerged tree stump. The lads moved back to the front and we were off for all of a couple of metres before we stopped moving again.
You. Are. Shitting me.
I guess once you’ve done it once you’re gonna be good at it now ay. The getting unstuck maneuver was repeated and we eventually joined the other raft at the lunch spot, but before we could tuck into our array of pastries, we were off for a walk. Quietly, we were told, and stick together. The man with the rifle led the group. At one point we saw a gaur, a bison. It studied us though the trees for a few moments as we stared at it in slack jawed wonder before it decided that we just weren’t that interesting and fucked off back into the forest. And and and! We saw two more wild elephants off in the distance! A baby and a big one, just going about their business which generally seems to involve the consumption of something or other. I could totes get on board with being an elephant. Eating all day, strolling around, generally being massive. No one fucks with elephants.
Lunch happened then we paddled back the way we came, disembarked and walked all the way back to the death raft to be pulled back to the starting point. Today was way more chilled out than yesterday but I think yesterday was more involved, more interesting and more enjoyable. But I’m glad I did the rafting and I can’t believe we saw elephants again! As for my diet over the last two days, I don’t think I’m ever gonna shit ever again. My entire digestive is stuffed full of bread related products and it’s not sure how to deal with it. It may have gone on strike. I think even if I tried to appease it with green vegetables and fibre it’d be too little too late, the damage is done, it’s pissed off with me now. So I might as well top it off with a metric shit tonne of banana chips then ay.
It’s really not hard to feed this new-found addiction and it looks like I’m not the only one that can’t get enough. Every store was packed with men clamouring to buy them by the kilo. Several kilos in fact. A guy was weighing them out into bags and people were snapping them up, as many as they could carry. It was insane. They must be naturally salty too because I watched them make them and at no point did they add salt, unless the salt was already in the oil. I should ask someone if I find someone who speaks good enough English to be able to tell me. Me and Théo went halves on 500g and later that evening I had to actually put myself to bed to stop myself from scoffing the fucking lot. This is something else I need to learn the secret of, I’ll be needing to bulk buy huge quantities of oil when I get home. Seriously, Kerala. I think my arteries hate you.
Kumily, Kerala, India
Stayed at: Vedanta Wake Up! Kumily Town Center