Our journey from Cochin to Mysore was always going to be tricky but we never guessed it would eventually involve almost 24 hours of travel. We started off around 4 in the afternoon and piled into private cars to travel to a restaurant about an hour away where we would stop for a leisurely dinner before catching the train. The night train was air conditioned and more pleasant that the one we had been in previously. However, we arrived at a station about 8 kms out of Bangalore which made the rest of the journey a little more tricky. Our attempt to arrange a private bus to Mysore from this station failed and so we resorted to a couple of public busses to get us to Bangalore. Getting on a public bus, weighed down with luggage was an interesting experience. We were fortunate to get some seats but we had inadvertently sat in the ladies section, not realising that the front of the bus was reserved for women. A group of noisy young women get on and start yelling at Steve – “Ladies, Ladies” they scream. He looked around him and noticing that none of the other young men were making an effort to get up, firmly stayed in his seat. A seat frees up next to him and 2 kids and a woman squeeze in, virtually forcing him off his seat. I am reminded of my bus journeys as a child in Sri Lanka and am glad when we get off with everything intact. It was an interesting experience but not one I will miss!
We finally have breakfast at noon in Bangalore, before boarding our final bus to Mysore. It is air conditioned and comfortable and we arrive at our destination about 24 hours after setting out! Our time is limited in Mysore, so after a bit of a rest we hit the local markets. They are a busy, noisy places and a jumble of colours and smells. They are places where you can buy almost anything for a bargain and are similar to local markets in most Asian cities.
Young men follow us around making conversation and tempting us with colourful jewellery. The markets are a photographers delight…so I’m happy. This city is famous for its silk, and so we eventually find ourselves in an upmarket shop where the girls have fun trying on Indian outfits and finding souvenirs.
The next day we wake up early to visit a Hindu Temple and the Dutch Palace. Steve and I skip the hike up the hill and take the lazy option of driving up there in the van. We take a circuitous route and enjoy the surrounding countryside.
We are greeted by monkeys feasting on coconuts and vendors selling offerings to the devotees already lining up to get in to the temple. As soon as we get in the temple, we are quickly guided through by one of the temple priests. A few flowers in my hair and a pottu on my forehead is followed with a request for a donation. We part with a few rupees before making our way out. It is a cool morning and an interesting place to people watch.
India is certainly a country where religion plays a major part in people’s lives. No matter where we went, people in their hundreds, dressed in colourful garb, can be found worshipping in what appears to me unquestioning devotion.
After breakfast we make our way to the Dutch Palace. It is a lovely walk through tree lined streets in this interesting city and we finally find ourselves in the palace grounds. The palace is impressive and I think would have rivalled Versailles in its time. The grounds are well kept and we wander around outside, taking photographs and enjoying the day.
We have enjoyed our time in Mysore and tonight we will catch another night train from Bangalore. The journey back is more organised as we have decided to take a train to Bangalore, grab dinner there before catching the night train. The sheer numbers of homeless people at the train station in Bangalore is incredible. Despite the time I have spent in India I am still taken aback by the homeless men and women sprawled outside the station. The incredible disparity of the haves and have nots in India is disturbing and I wonder if there will ever be an answer to this problem. There is no doubt this is a country of extremes and I am not sure I could be confronted with this reality everyday.
“Truth is God” Gandhi