Thursday, October 20, 2005
Masala Dosa Anyone?
Greetings from South India!! Well, we started with yet another night train..this time from Baroda to Mumbai and then we flew to Bangalore. We first headed to the famous city of Mysore, well known for silk and sandalwood. Here we visited the amazing Maharaja’s Palace (in picture above) which was absolutely beautiful and apparently built by some huge raja (king) for his wife (I definitely wouldn’t mind one of those). The interior was decorated with stained glass, mirrors and many paintings. There were also a ton of mosaics portraying life in Mysore during the kingdom period and well known Hindu stories. Afterwards, we visited Chamundi Hill, which overlooks Mysore and in which resides the famous Sri Chamundeswari Temple. We took the 1000 steps to the top (and then nearly passed out) and enjoyed some fresh coconut water outside the temple. Afterwards we headed south to the even more well known Udhagamandalam (yes one word), thankfully known as Ooty.
Ooty is apparently South India’s most famous hill station, which was established by the British in the early 19th century as the summer headquarters of the Chennai government. It is a wonderfully quaint place, it is was definitely quite cold. We had to the bust out the shawls, and even considered buying 10 rupee hats they were selling off the street. Interesting tidbit: Ooty is also well known for chocolates, so of course, Tarak and I went to town. Next, we visited the botanical gardens and lakes but what we really enjoyed was getting away from the crowded city and taking a steam engine train to a small town called Koonor. Although it was only an hour ride, the views from the train were absolutely incredible. The cool breeze and the sights of the tea plantations, forests and waterfalls were probably the highlight of the day.
Next, we headed to Kalpetta (some quick geography: we started in the state of Karnataka (Mysore) then we went to Tamil Nadu (Ooty) and now Kerala). We came here especially to see the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctionary and to see the incredible wildlife and hopefully catch a glimpse of some endangered tigers. However, as our luck would have it, all we saw, as my mom so very eloquently put it, “We paid all of these rupees just to see 2 deer and the asses of 2 elephants?”. (She didn’t actually say ass, but the closest Gujarati equivalent). After being disappointed from the sanctionary, we headed to Pookote Lake and took a hike around the outskirts. That also would have been fun, if I had not been attacked by 3 leeches. There we were, the Parghis (my parents), Tarak and myself walking..and we noticed these 4 young guys behind us, who seemed to be picking things off their feet. We kneeled in to see, small little leeches (nothing like Stand By Me style or size)..anyway, so we all checked our feet and didn’t see anything. Of course, 10 minutes later, my feet were BURNING..and I found 3 blood-sucking leeches stuck in between my toes..SICK!! Needless to say, my mom rushed to put some ayurvedic ointment on my feet.
Well, I should mention that it is quite an experience traveling with the 4 of us..no one understands us down here..it’s crazy, they definitely don’t speak Hindi and their English is dangerous (just enough to confuse the hell out of us) and then my God, we just stare at them when they start rambling off in either Tamil, Kannada or Malayalam…but, we did learn a few phrases, we’ve absolutely mastered the sideways head nod (used as the preferred method of absolute confusion to mean either yes, no, or I have no freakin’ idea) and to add the syllable “eh” onto to every word. For example, when we are looking for a particular road..we ask “Aray Hellooo cheta (which means brother), Road-Eh” and then they will do this pointing gesture with waving arms, do the sideways head nod, and hopefully say “straight-eh”..and at which point, we return the headnod and usually Tarak says “thank you-eh”. We next headed further south into Kerala to Cochin where our adventure continues.