Solo Travel to India Periyar

I was up before sunrise to catch the 6:20 am Kochi-Ernakulum ferry and onward to the 8:15 am Ernakulum-Kumily bus to Periyar National Park (Periyar Tiger Reserve). Oddly enough, the bus dashboard did not have any deities, Hindu, Christian, or otherwise. I admit this made me extremely nervous—I was on the road in India awhile now and I had come to appreciate the extra cosmic protection.

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An insanely windy road through tea plantations landed me in the cooler highlands and the small town of Thekkady. Spread over 925 square kilometers (almost 600 square miles), Periyar is one of the twenty seven tiger reserves in India. Lofty peaks on the north and east side of the park tower over 1700 meters (5580 feet) and the forested Sabarimala Hills.

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As with other national parks I visited in India, I could not hike on my own—not that I was sure I wanted to. I do have a thing about knowing what type of creature-crawlies to watch for in any woods!

So, off I went with a group of six trekkers and a local guide. There was the possibility of elephant, gaur (wild ox), sambar (type of deer native to the Indian subcontinent), bear, otter, or reptile sightings—or the best of all, another tiger. But alas, we were not lucky this time—no tiger, but one tiger print, one boar, and one sambar.

I was learning that the small, rural places were my favorite stops—it was there I managed to slow down and take in nature, and appreciate the quiet and calm that is so rare in the splendid chaos that is India. I also had the most sincere connections and moments, the most memorable connections with people.

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