First Tale – Karnataka Rajasthan Travel Journal
At 4am on 19th September 2013 my fellow trustees of the Venkat Fund had sent me off, shaking all over, to catch the train from Chennai to my first stop, Mysore. 67 and my first adventure on my own. My passport might be stolen. I might lose my mobile (needed to book rooms via the Lonely Planet on my Kindle). What would I do if my bank cards went astray? My daughter answered the last worry: she would do for me what I had done for her when she had travelled from one end of India to the other when 19: transfer money to the nearest bank.
My first long Indian train journey, in style in 1st Class A/C with food served. Delightful.
I arrived in Mysore after an eight hour train journey, booked into a pleasant hotel (the Lonely Planet Guide’s prices are seriously out of date) and started the sightseeing with Samir, my tuk-tuk driver for a couple of days. (There are over 30,000 tuk-tuks in Mysore alone!). On the second day he looked rather sad and said his boy had to have a brain X-Ray. Was that for real or a bid for more money? Real I reckon and I did tip him well.
Whilst eating my first course of dinner at the Mysore hotel, Mary, a young lady of 28, asked if I was English and that being the case could she have dinner with me. That perked me up but totally irrelevant to any romantic interest because she already has a fiancée who is coming out soon .. and anyway I was much too old. She had just spent a dreadful week at an Ashram/Army Camp and hadn’t spoken to a Westerner for 36 hours. She had had to call her father in England to order a taxi in which she could escape. The truth is that it was much nicer seeing stuff with her which we did all yesterday (especially the Palace lit up!) than alone and the lesson therefrom is just to go up to anyone and say Hello! In all of India there is now a curfew at 11 pm – all clubs and restaurants must close. This is due to the extraordinary number of rapes after hours. Hence Mary, who is in India for four months had been wondering what to do each day after 6 pm.
She and I will be in Hampi at the same time and will probably meet up again. She is a bright cookie, 5’9″ and after initially being rather wary of me is now good fun. We pretend to the Indians that I am her father – much easier to explain!Highlights so far: two excellent massages down a side street with a guy who was Mr India (body building) decades ago and now supplies ointments to The Body Shop (but if true I would have expected rather more salubrious surrounding), the Maharajah’s Palace, a mixture of Hindu and Islam architecture built by a Mr Irvin a 100 years ago at a cost then of 42 million quid and quite stunning; an hours lesson in playing the tabla by Professor Jayashankar whose brothers were international tabla players of some renown (the problem is laying my hands on some tabla out here to practice on, but the breakfast tables are useful); the zoo which is large and good in some parts, especially the birds and four tiger cubs whose Mum is a White Tiger, but they have a totally bald chimp who looks like Gollum and really should not be on display and the bears pace back and forth horribly; Tipoo Sultan’s Palace, built of teak and beautifully painted on every available bit of wall and ceiling; the Palace lit up at night with over 10,000 bulbs and right out of Disney; a Railway Museum packed full of ones used in Mysore many years ago; just managing to find local buses and trains and get on the right ones at the right times; the flower and vegetable market; strolling around the streets seeing just how incredibly industrious they all are; falling into conversation with interesting people on the street who take you to places you didn’t know existed; tempted by horse racing and golf but will leave those to Rajasthan.
I am really enjoying the days but would be pleased if I could sleep a little longer! I know that the chances meeting a single fanciable 50+ western woman on my travels approach zero but I really don’t mind.
I am now in an Internet cafe in Hassan, three hours north of Mysore having travelled rail 2nd Class (the lowest, at a cost of 25p) and booked in at a hotel costing nine pounds which looks to be fine. I am here in order to catch buses tomorrow and the next day to three apparently stunning Hindu temples where I will seek guides who will, I hope, explain how the 33 million Hindu gods and goddesses fit together. The highlight of the train journey was an old crone sitting opposite who wouldn’t move because she had bad legs proceeding to hop up into the luggage compartment and go to sleep there! No one spoke to me but lots of smiles.
Sorted with another overnight coach journey – 10 hours and a fiver!The people in the Hindu temples are only too keen to get me involved with hands on head, wafting of candles, red spot on the forehead – I am really getting to like this crazy religion (which is just as well!).The Kindle is a godsend and I can read it without lights on (at all hours of the night!). The TV in the Mysore Hotel had Sky Sports and it being the last major US tournament that was heaven. Now that I am heading for the boon-docks, that is probably be it and TV will be Bollywood movies.
I went to what I thought was going to be a Bollywood movie in Karnataka language but it was a gangster movie with an impenetrable plot, screen presentation all red and out of focus, boys-only watching all whistling and cheering/jeering at the appropriate moments. It was SO bad that I left at half time.
Next stop is Hampi for four days with, hopefully, some bird and butterfly watching as well as temples and boulders. My cousin had recommended a superb guest house. Mozzies may be a problem (OK thus far).
I have a chain mail mesh with a lock which I can attach to something which makes me feel much safer on the trains but it does get some odd looks!.
That’s it for now. The curries are good. Will write again from Hampi in a few days. All in all, going well.
Love and kisses