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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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