Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Thekkady: Of boats, boars and boors
The single biggest draw in Thekkady is probably the boat safari. Of course, one wonders what the scenario is like now, post the tragic boat capsize that killed 40-odd people. We were on that boat exactly a week before the mishap and almost ironically, I had commented on the utter lack of safety gear on all the nine boats docked there.
Anyhow, our experience was far more pleasant. Thanks to KTDC’s super-efficient Mr Ravi (no, I am not getting a commission to mention his name on my blog this often), we had our tickets to the upper deck of “Jala Raja”, one of the biggest boats there.
As the boats chugged along, expertly dodging the dead trees in the lake, I couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast in the kind of crowd in the upper and lower decks of each boat. The upper decks were full of tourists from all over the world, cameras clicking away at the gnarled trees, the lush green jungle set against the red muddy river bank and the benign elephants plodding about their business as usual. The lower decks, however, were bursting at the seams with local romeos, grinning from ear to ear, cameras clicking away at anything vaguely human female, oblivious to the glares from certain other disapproving males. (*Ahem*)
We spotted a herd of elephants with their clumsy babies, an absolute multitude of bison, sambar deer (a name which a lot of people pronounce like the South Indian lentils curry), grouchy wild boar, and half a dozen snake birds and kingfishers.
No tigers. Tsk.
As we spotted each lot of animals, the boat would slowly spin around in circles so that everybody got a good view regardless of where they were seated. The excitable types would rush to the edge each time, clamouring at the top of their voices – until the ever-efficient Mr Ravi shushed everybody saying noise would scare the animals away. (Seriously, no commission)
The boat ride lasts a good two hours and you are almost guaranteed to spot an elephant or five this way. However, as we slowly chugged back to the docks, a sense of ennui set in amongst the crowd; even the know-it-all Bengali man stopped broadcasting his vast store of trivia to an admiring group of foreigners who’d lapped it all up until they could lap no more.
That is the moment the old foreigner seated in front of us chose to raise himself slightly and let one rip (or passed a noisy wind, if the former sounds too crass), and then sat back down absolutely poker-faced. His wife, although startled for a split second, remained unconcerned -which is more than I can say for Ducky. He began choking with laughter and set me off too.
The elephants were nowhere to be seen. They probably ran for cover.
The old windbag’s wife then handed him a candy. “That’s to combat the weakness he must be feeling after that expulsion”, said Ducky before dissolving into more laughter.
And thus it was that "Jala Raja" chugged back to the docks, with two grownups, belonging to an organization known for being prim-n-propah, snorting with laughter like two juvenile school kids.