Chris' 1994  R100GS/PD ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650

Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

Jan 15, 2000

SOUTHERN INDIA -- After the Millenium Celebration

-- Story by Erin --

Jan 2nd: After spending a relatively quiet but very interesting New Year's in Hampi we drove due south to Bangalore, India's hi-tech capital.  An interesting fellow named Srinidhi wrote to us via email requesting that we stop by for a visit.  He and a few of his friends are planning their own RTW trip this spring.  They plan to do the trip on their 3 Enfield motorcycles, manufactured in India.  He wanted to meet us and ask us a few questions about such an adventure.  When we pulled into town Srinidhi met us as the bus station and escorted us back to his parents house.  There we were greeted by his grandmother, father, mother and little cousin.  Their hospitality was wonderful, offering us sweets, telling us about the city and helping us to make hotel reservations at the local "Y".  The next day, Srinidhi showed us around town a bit, including a walk down famous MG (Mahatma Gandhi) Road and lunch at the famous Indian Coffee Company, where all the waiters wear white suits, red sashes around their waist, and red turbans on their heads.

That night, Srinidhi took us to a new and very large Krishna (Hindu) temple.  It was a special event for us being escorted through the various stations and having each and every thing explained to us in colorful detail.  After the temple we were invited back to Srinidhi's house for dinner.   His parents cooked a wonderful, traditional meal which we eagerly accepted second and third helpings!Erin, Srinidhi, Mom, Chris, Dad, and friend

Tuesday the 3rd we were on the road again.   We originally planned to head towards the east coast away from Bangalore, but minor stomach problems (very common) and bumpy roads motivated us to head west, and visit the palaces and temples near Mysore.  Mysore was the seat of the maharajas of Mysore and home to their spectacular palace.  The remaining descendents of the last maharaja still live in the back of the palace.

We spent one day in Mysore walking around the colorful markets and exploring Chamundi Hill, on top of which sits a large temple and home to one of the largest statues of Nandi, the god Siva's bull.

Nandi  Christian on his rented Enfield Bullet

The next day we decided to take a side trip for a few days to a "hill station"  known as Ooty, about 160kms south of Mysore.   Hill Stations are all over India, they are vacation retreats built by the British to escape the heat.  The mountains, forests, and clear crisp air around Ooty are magnificent, but the town itself is rather disappointing.  We found it fairly dirty and the architecture uninspiring.  Daytime temperatures were pretty normal, but in the evenings we actually had to pull out the fleece jackets from the bottom of the saddlebags -- Oh yeah, its winter!  We only saw a few western tourists here, but this is a very popular place for Indian tourists and honeymooners.  The drive up to Ooty is very stunning with its eucalyptus forest and tea plantations.

In between Mysore and Ooty is Bandipur National Park -- a wildlife sanctuary with Elephants and Tigers.  We looked into spending some time there, but were told the animals were migrating and that we may not see very much.  So we just drove through.  We did see a few deer and monkeys, but the only tigers and elephants were on the billboards.

A week later we were back in Mysore again.   Srinidhi rode out to meet us and introduce us to his cousin who lives in Mysore.  We were in Mysore for two nights, and on our last day we went to see the spectacular palace of the maharaja.  Known for its stained glass, mirrors and glitt which give it much of its grandness, the best of the palace is the light show (97,000 light bulbs) that illuminate its buildings every Sunday night.  On these special nights there is also a brass band that plays on the steps, and the gardens around the palace are filled with locals and tourists alike to enjoy this free show.

Palace in Mysore

Palace at night

Our time in the south with Christian was drawing to a close, so we decided to head north again and make one last stop at a special area, the towns of Halebid and Belur.  On the way there we stopped at small but very notable town called Sravanabelagola (say that five times fast!).  This town is famous for it's huge 17 meter high naked Jain statue.  Carved out of a single piece of granite, it is said to be the world's tallest monolithic statue.  It is on top of a rocky hill and one must climb the 614 rock-cut steps to get to it.   According to my Lonely Planet guidebook "Once every 12 years the statue is anointed with thousands of pots of coconut milk, yogurt, ghee, bananas, jaggery, dates, almonds, poppy seeds, milk, saffron and sandalwood during the Mahamastakabhisheka ceremony."   What a mess this must look like but I'm sure it is a real feast for the local monkeys!!!  The next ceremony will take place in 2005.

Jain statue

The towns of Halebid and Belur are known for their Hoysala temples, which are considered the cream of Hindu architecture and sculpture.   We stayed in the more peaceful town of Halebid at the only hotel in town (for about $5/day).  We had a perfect view of the temples from our veranda, and there was a lovely little garden for meals.  We spent one day visiting the temples in both Halebid and Belur (only a few kilometers away).  Both temples are covered completely with carvings of elephants, monkeys, warriors and big sculptures of Hindu gods near the top.  Many of these carvings show daily life, hunting scenes, dancing and fighting, as well as some erotic poses (a common sight in these temples). 

Actual carvings in Temple

Mid-January:  After nearly 3 weeks and 1,900 kilometers it was time to return to Goa.  Our trip through the south was rich with scenery, food and memorable people.

Chris' bike had been repaired while we were away, plus we needed to run a few errands before heading to the north.  Turns out the rotor (part of the alternator) was the culprit.  The rotor was rewound, and our total cost to the shop was $25.  A new part would cost about $2-300.  That's the thing about India, they're very adept at fixing problems with what they have because replacement parts are either not available or too expensive. 

Next stop . . . the Taj Mahal

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