Leeches, macaques and mouse-hearts

A long long time ago I was travelling to Delhi by train. In the coupe was a small child and his mother. The grandparents had come to the station to see the their grandson off. Just before the train left the station they gave him a huge slab of chocolate. When the train was on the move, and the boy was about to start on the chocolate, the mother asked him to share it with us. You could see the shock on the kid’s face. The mother was adamant: is your heart so small, like a mouse’s? That’s exactly what I feel like when I hear about leeches: mouse-hearted.

Scouring the web about Valparai I discover good news and bad news. The bad news is that other travel bloggers complain about leeches. My heart shrinks to mouse size. The good news is that you can get quite a lot of birding done just walking around the grounds of your hotel.

There’s nothing I can do about the bad news except hope that in April Valparai is still covered in forgetful snow (metaphorically) and that the land remains dead and lilac-free. Also I can carry leech socks. The Family refuses to do anything until we have to pack, so I am left to confront my base fears alone in the dead of the night.

Birding is another matter. Radha has a long and detailed post from her visit half a decade ago. So does Anushsh Shetty. A look at the photos Anushsh has posted is heartening; it may not be too hard to spot the Malabar squirrel, the tahr and the lion-tailed Macaque. Sankara rates this as the number seven birding spot in India, ahead of Mishmi hills, Pangot, and a lot of other places. You who look to windward, tell me if you agree. [Note added later: it is a great place for birding, read about our experiences here]

This is not going to be the relaxed holiday I was dreaming about. It will be hectic: rising in the morning before the birds, chasing macaques in the afternoons, silent evenings waiting for glimpses of tahrs. No lazing in the sun with a Long Island Iced Tea and a splash in the pool afterwards. Our Grimett and Inskip will be more battered, both my cameras will be image-laden, and, as always, I will need another holiday afterwards to recover from this.

The Family says she knew this. I gnash my teeth silently. Wasn’t it Teddy Roosevelt who said “Gnash your teeth and charge your batteries”? I resolve to do that.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


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