The Tree house experience at Thekkady is special, different and adventurous. If you like the forest you would love this experience.
There were 2 of us, set out for this raw wilderness experience. We were picked up from Kochi early in the morning. On the way, our first stop was at the old town of Pala. Pala has a traditional Christian community with many churches that have historical relevance. Kurishupalli, an ancient church located at the center of the Pala town, is a landmark of the town. St.ThomasSyro-Malabar Catholic Cathedral, Pala and St.Mary’s Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, are two of the main Syrian Catholic Churches in Pala.
A famous pilgrim center nearby is the Alphonsa Church at the town of Bharananganam, where the mortal remains of St.Alphonsa of India are kept. After these informative visits, we started towards Thekkady. We had lunch at a small town close to Mundakkayam.
We are now on theGhats road winding aroundhills. Valleys and distant mountains become spectacular, as the car moves on. Curved road and steeper climbs make the ride exciting. It takes experience and special skill to ensure safety on these roads. Our driver made us feel very comfortable and safe in our vehicle.
We reached Green Woods resort at 2.00 pm. We were greeted with warmth, a cool refreshing welcome drink and a garland made using whole Cardamom; the exotic Kerala spice. We rested for a few minutes. Then the steward of the resort offered to take us around the property. As we started walking around, something became quite obvious. I could see that the tall trees, grass, the flora and fauna were meticulously cared for. There are many rare indigenous trees and vegetation that were left undisturbed and respected while constructing the resort. This was enough to convince me about the management’s genuine commitment to preserving nature.
The tour brought us to the foot of the resort’s quite interesting tree-top Café, locally known as ‘Kappikada’. We climbed up a rather steep staircase made out of wood and coir. The strong hand grip is useful. The stairs lead us to a hanging bridge through which we can reach the café that is built high-up around a huge,strong tree. Chef greeted us with a smile. I thoroughly enjoyed a cup of special spiced tea and some fried banana. Now that we are on the same level with birds, squirrels and butterflies, they seem to be looking at us and wondering “what in the world are these guys doing way up here in our neck of the woods”?
As we landed on ground from the tree café, we were briefed on an intriguing event pertaining to wildlife that has captivated the attention of everyone at this resort. We were lead to a tree standing in the front yard of Green Woods Resort. A cavity in this tree has continuously been the nesting place of a Grey Hornbill family for the past 4 years. Hornbills choose tall trees with a fairly large cavity, so that the females are comfortable while totally confined to the nest through-out its long incubation period. After the female lays her eggs, the male ingeniously closes the entrance of the nest with natural materials, leaving only a very small hole just enough for the very tip of the mother’s beak. A clever way to protect the mother and chicks from possible intruders.The male Hornbill now has the work cut-out for him. He is responsible for feeding his family consistently till it is time for the mother and chicks to fly out. This is such a crucial period for the entire family.
Now our real story begins. It got sadly confirmed that the male Hornbill has stopped bringing food to the nest for a few days. Something awful must have happened. Hornbills are such dedicated, monogamous birds, whose absence at this most crucial time indicates only one thing. Only death could keep him away!
The forest department was alerted. They tried showing food to the opening of the nest. Food was stuck to a thin spindle and shown to the opening, mimicking the male Hornbill. For two days she refused flatly. Everyone involved got anxious, desperate and disappointed. Then the third day to everyone’s great relief she started accepting food timidly. She succumbed to the compelling predisposition of having to survive for the sake of her chicks. This is a profound example and lesson for people who fail to appreciate the significance and dynamics of the wildlife around us. There is very little difference between us and the wildlife, when it comes to the depth of sentiments and commitment that goes in to the caring of off-springs.
We were given to understand that the feeding has been successful so far, and hopefully she would be able to break open from the cage and fly away with her chicks when they are ready. I thought to myself- “that would be a rare and awesome sight”.
Now it is time to proceed to the Tree house, way up in the mountain. It takes about an hour to reach the foothill of this mountain by a 4 wheel drive vehicle. The terrain is rugged with tall trees and greenery on both sides. The kitchen crew also accompanied us. Once you reach the bottom, it is all footwork. We started climbing the rather steep hill. It takes about half hour to reach the Tree house. Physical fitness could be challenged, even though there are places to take brief rest on the way up. The kitchen is kind of tucked-in to a crevice; a few meters below the Tree House (VANYA). The kitchen crew stopped there with their load consisting of everything they require for the food preparation. They quickly made their specialty black coffee, with an exquisite taste. The cook explained the secret. This comes from a special mountain grown coffee bean dried and then cured in an air tight container for up to a year.
It was about 5.30 pm. We finished the rest of the climb to reach the hanging bridge leading to the tree house. This small bridge has an interesting wooden floor with natural coir rope hand grip on both sides. The floor is always in the lifted position, using a simple off balance weighting mechanism.It lowers to meet the floor level as you raise your foot and step on it; and you walk into the house. After you get in, the floor lifts up automatically at the other end. This is to prevent any wildlife from wandering into the house at night. In other words you are totally safe, once you are inside.
There was still some daylight left. So we decided to take a stroll in the woods. This property that houses the Tree house shares it’s boundary with the reserve forest. A short walk took us to the pinnacle of the mountain. The view is breathtaking from this spot, and we took some stunning photographs. The slanting evening light also favored us. There was a gentle breeze. We sat on some huge rocks and rested for a while. As the light started dimming, we felt it was time to head back to the Tree house.
The house is built on a huge tree. We were told that this is a rare tropical rainforest tree that excels in its dexterity. It has a solid core, and as a rule they never totally wither away; demonstrating the will to withstand the test of time.
As for the inside of the Tree house, I never expected any luxury or spaciousness. I am totally surprised. It has a nice queen size bed, all made up with white clean linen, and a quilt. (It gets rather cool at night). The wooden floor is further embellished with thin yarn carpeting. The bathroom looks clean and is equipped with all necessary amenities. Hot water is also available. The water is heated using solar panels, and the panels are located at some distance. It is not visible from the house. Now for the best part! The Tree house has an excellent balcony overlooking the valley below and the mountain ranges both near and far. There are chairs and even a small table. Sitting on the balcony, breathing the fresh air and sipping from a cup of hot coffee is such a marvelous feeling. Really! It needs to be experienced, rather than described.
I took a hot shower, and the kitchen crew alerted us that the dinner is ready. Dinner was brought, and that was yet another surprise. There was fried chicken, fresh salad, dal and chapatti. Fruit salad for dessert. Everything tasted outstanding.
We spent more time at the balcony. It was half-moon; so it was not pitch dark. There was some light, and there was a pair of owls somewhere not too far to break the silence of the night.
Had a great sleep. Early morning wake-up call with hot coffee. We needed photographs lit-up by the crack of dawn soft lighting. There was freshness everywhere, and it was cool. We wandered in the woods for an hour and got back to the tree house. Breakfast was ready. Very refreshing! Time to pack-up and head back to Green woods. One word of caution- keep the back pack as light as possible. Makes climbing up easy.
Of course, going down the mountain feels much better. Our vehicle was waiting at the base. Nice sunny day. We said goodbye to the crew.
Reached Green woods. Had a refreshing tender coconut juice. Next on the agenda was a trekking expedition through the Periyar tiger reserve. This is strictly a guided tour through the reserve forest. Our guide is a knowledgeable person from the local tribal village. As he is born and brought up in this area, he is well versed with every aspect of this forest, including the wildlife. This trek is not very physically demanding, as the terrain is flat except for a few areas. The walking soon covers a good distance; but because of the anticipation and excitement to see wildlife anytime, anywhere, one doesn’t realize the distance covered.
Our guide just froze, and pointed to a spot down below, not even whispering;only gestures. Yes, it was a barking deer staring at us with gleaming eyes and pointed ears that twist and turn at random. We kept looking till she vanished into the greenery. A short distance ahead the guide asked us to slow down to see a black bird. It was shy, and kept moving from branch to branch. The guide explained that this bird is capable of making a variety of sound. Then we saw a family of Macau, way up on a huge tree. We walked for another 15 minutes. The guide was ahead of us, always listening and watching for wildlife. He then gestured us to stop. On the left of us we could hear the sound of twigs cracking and the shrub shaking. A large grey object was visible. We watched curiously, and an elephant came out. It was a marshy area, and she got busy spraying her body with mud and grass. It was a very hot and sultry day. It was obvious that she wanted to stay cool, while protecting her from pests. We stayed frozen, and let our cameras get busy. Soon there was more movement in the woods behind. There comes two babies and another female elephant. They were feeding on the grass and they also joined the mud bath. One of the babies parked itself under a shade and fell sleeping.
This was an amazing experience, because the elephants were quite close and were not in any hurry to move on. We got plenty of photographs. The guide wanted to see if we were ready to head back. On the way back we saw some more birds, and a huge Malabar squirrel.
We were tired, but it was a truly satisfying day. We had a nice relaxing late lunch at Spice Village, Thekkady.
That was the end of a marvelous Tree house and deep forest experience. I think it is a great mix of experiences; especially finishing off with wildlife sightings. We had a nice relaxing trip by car back to Kochi.
Photograph by kruainThis entry was posted in Blog