A Dry Periyar

Kerala is dry. The places I’m used to seeing so green and vibrant that they practically drip are now dry, brown and crackly. What are normally torrential waterfalls are reduced to sunbaked rock faces. Clouds occasionally float through the sky, mostly in early morning, but they haven’t shed tears throughout the season. The native plants are geared to survive this climate, as the year seesaws between dryness and enormous moisture. In the forest, untold thousands of dead leaves cover the ground, crackling with glee as trekkers pass under the trees. 

The Western Ghats, though always humid, have gotten very little rainfall so far this year. Forest fires are an unfortunate reality, and though not unusual, are not appreciated for their natural benefits as in some other parts of the world. Most water sources have dried up, including lakes and rivers, so combating such fires is complicated. As far as I know, none are regularly seen on the fringes of the reserve, near places such as Thekkady and Kumily. This is fortunate – a fire would truly devastate the beautiful landscape, and go through it like a hot knife through butter.

Early morning is the best time to go trekking in this weather – it’s still cool, there’s likely to be some cloud cover, and the landscape’s beauty is accented by multiple other factors. This field has a stream flowing through it the rest of the year, and the field is half bogged. This week, the stream was little more than a suggestion of remaining moisture.

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