© 2012 notworkrelated - David Rutter & Helen Roscoe. All rights reserved. notworkrelated_india_thattakad_10

India – Kerala – Thattakad Bird Sanctuary – 15th-16th April

After our Indian breakfast in Munnar we got a 9am bus heading towards Thattekkad Bird Sanctury, we had to get 2 buses in the end and a rickshaw. One bus went from Munnar to Adimaly and from there we had a swift transition to a bus going to Kothamangalam from where we paid 150rs for a rickshaw to take us to the bird sanctuary. We decided to add another destination into our travels en-route to Kochi airport.

The journey in total took around 4 hours and we arrived at the sanctuary at around 12noon. We had contacted Ms Sudah at The Jungle Bird Homestay the day before to say we would be travelling to them the next day. When we got to the park entrance we managed to communicate about the home-stay and after a while someone understood were we wanted to go. The driver took us straight to her door and her family were all sat on the steps of the bright and multi-coloured house to welcome us. We were instantly welcomed into their home and shown a large 3 bed room with a bathroom at the back of the property upstairs. We couldn’t have any of the other rooms as a film star from Tamil Nadu was occupying the rest of the place with his entourage of actors, dance instructors and female dancers, they were shooting a film in the area. Ms Sudah reassured us he was very famous in the area!

We had lunch not long after we arrived and knew we would be in for some good food whilst staying with them. We explained that we were only going to stay the one night but then she convinced us to stay a second when she said she could arrange a taxi to the airport at 4am the following night rather than us staying in an airport hotel we opted for the more homely option. The home-stay is inside the park entrance and is on the left just after the lake.

That afternoon we enjoyed our first spot of bird watching, something neither of us have claimed to do before now. We went with Ms Sudah as it is only permitted to explore the sanctuary with a guide and she is one of them, along with her son Ginesh who wasn’t at home. So off we went along the paths and into the forest. We saw plenty of Malabar Grey Hornbill’s amongst other exotic birds, she informed us well about the local area and the types of birds and species in the national park. She has been living there for 43 years and so most people passing her would say hello, we knew she was a highly regarded lady and she even owned the shop right on the outside of the entrance to the park. A woman with fingers in a lot of pies.

Ms Sudah couldn’t have been more accommodating, cooking us breakfast, lunch and dinner which was included in our 750rs/person per night fee. Her family were inquisitive and would sit around watching as she told us stories about other guests, long-term friends she has made from owning the home-stay and she even brought out her sons wedding album.

There’s not much else to do in the area if you’re on foot other than to explore the park and wildlife. Although boating is optional, we couldn’t go out on the second day due to a big storm but we did manage another excellent bird watching walk in another side of the forest once again with Sudah.

There she was in her camouflage green and black sari taking us on local buses and guiding us through the park. We climbed up to a high point on very smooth rock and all along the path were old elephant droppings, a constant reminder that you’re never alone in the wild in this part of the world. Another example of this was when at 5am in the morning we both got up to use the toilet and Helen nearly screamed when she saw a massive tarantula right on the tile behind the door, Dave had completely missed it and it was about the size of an A4 piece of paper. Never have either of us seen one so close and so big just there! Sudah said we needn’t worry about it, it was more scared of us than the other way round. So easy we thought! ha ha!

We saw loads of birds that morning and Dave has lovingly compiled a list below of what we had right in front of us:

Each time another bird came into view Sudah would point in amazement even though she has seen these birds day in day out for years she was still as enthusiastic and amazed as she probably was the firs time round. Her son does a lot of the tours and got her into bird watching about 6 years ago and she is really knowledgeable too. This is her home after all. The bus journey back to the home-stay was a typical Indian experience. The bus was full when we squeezed on, however at least another 30 people “squeezed” on and the bus was incredibly packed!

When we were back at her home later on we enjoyed more good home-cooked food and opted for a nice session of relaxation in our room. It was incredibly hot and humid and so we needed a break from the heat.

Later on we experienced a huge storm and sat on their front step taking it all in. Earlier on in the day Sudah had experienced a close encounter with death when a coconut fell from a tree landing on her arm, she thought someone had hit her and then realised it was a coconut, she was very luck and couldn’t help but keep everyone entertained as she retold the story. Later on as the storm hit a coconut fell from the tree in their front drive-way and very nearly hit their car, whilst the next door house got their roof tiles smashed in by a falling palm leaf! So it was all about the palm trees getting some kind of revenge that day! Throughout the afternoon and evening we had continued power failure and so we were in candle and torch light as it went dark

When we finished our last meal we were entertained by the grandchildren who were encouraged to perform, sing and dance in front of us. We could tell they really didn’t want to do it, but in the end we were all laughing along and as they performed their songs in front of us. When Ginesh came back in he was really egging his 3 and a half year old little girl to sing on her own and so we decided to film it. We want you to see how special a moment this was for us. We couldn’t help but love this family who open themselves towards complete strangers in their home.

To them everyone is their friend and family and we certainly felt like we were part of it when we said goodbye to them all as they hugged us and welcomed us back next time. The incredible spider was there in our bathroom again later that night, and again Dave had just missed it. It didn’t stick around for the rest of the night though which was a little more comforting for the two of us.

Ms Sudah charged us 1500rs/room/night including all meals as well as tea and biscuits along the way and 600rs for the bird watching. We then paid the driver 1000rs to take us to Kochin airport which is some 40km away from Thattakad.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0, 18mm f4, 90mm Tele-Elmarit f2.8, Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 processed in Lightroom 3)

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