And I have to elaborate first of all about the navigation - I really mean it in the Amazing Race style of sitting on the backseat and saying turn left, right and so on! I was completely awe-struck by the use of Google maps on the iPad with 3G. Except for some local gyaan on state of roads and traffic and so on, we never had to ask the way even to find our hotels in all the places we stayed in!
I realized that 4 days at a resort is a good time-frame especially when kids are around (we've usually done 3).. plus with all the driving around that we did, we pretty much didn't want to do any walking/looking around the first day though we reached in the afternoon.
Day 1 - Chilling in the room, checking out the local resort activities like Housie.. won back the price of our tickets between D and me so pretty happy with that :).
Day 2 - We came across a local guide by chance while reaching the resort, so decided to try out the sights. Did the "standard" elephant ride - this was mainly for S's sake as our last memory of our elephant ride in Munnar was not so pleasant (nothing drastic, just a dislike of the feel of the elephant's moving backbone along with feeling sorry for the poor fellow). So now that's done, and no more until the kids grow up and want to take one on their own maybe :).
Also visited a spice plantation near the elephant park - came across interesting facts like the number of lines on the petal of the flower of the cardamom plant is equal to the number of pods in the cardamom :). First time for me to see a cardamom plant too!
Yet another amazing experience was getting to see a grape farm - this was across the border (which is pretty close by) into Tamilnadu and downhill from Thekkady. Felt on this vacation for the first time that I was such a "city-dweller" but it was worth it as it only added more excitement and wonder :).
Most of the afternoon was spent in getting tickets for and going for a 2 hour boat ride on Periyar Lake. This is the same lake where there was a boating accident about 2 years back, but they seem to have put railings and safeguards in place since then and except for the fact that the lifejackets provided seem bedraggled and in fact none were provided for the children, it was a nice and picturesque experience.
If you are going with children I would advocate the 1 hour ride, as the absence of seeing animals during long stretches of time becomes a bit of a drag, especially when you have loud interrogations of "When are we getting back, this is so boring, there are no animals!" in the background ;). The animals are in fact clearer in my photos than to the naked eye thanks to the wonderful zoom of my Nikon S9100 (and of course my steady hand, but i'm not taking all the credit ;)).
As usual my vacation post gets longer and longer ;).. and I'm tired of uploading photos for the day, so rest in Part 2 coming soon!