Going back to a place where I have already been and that I loved is a bit like stepping back home. This is the case with Karnataka, a state south of India. Karnataka had been an important stop on my trips in India.
Today is the day when we are going to leave the state of Kerala. Tea plantations, nature reserves, and backwaters are left behind. Karnataka awaits us with new experiences and places to meet. The exuberant landscape also disappears where the jungle and palm trees adorn the horizon. Now the plain and its rice fields are what our sight distinguishes up to the horizon.
Day 1 - Bangalore
At 8 o'clock in the morning, I arrive in Bangalore. The driver is waiting for me at the airport, who will accompany me to the hotel. I sleep for a while and after breakfast at the hotel a taxi driver picks me up who is not from the same agency and takes me to visit the state museum. We pass in front of the Vidhana Soudha but it is half fenced and we cannot see very well.
Then we go to the botanical garden, Lalbagh, where I visit it on my own. Then we go to the temple of the bull and the Dodda Ganesha temple, to the palace of Tipu Sultan, and to the Bengaluru palace. If it were not because I arrived at morning and I was exhausted and did not want to run away, I would not have given this city a whole day.
I have slept at the hotel, with a breakfast buffet included. I would not have chosen it but as I booked it on the internet it is what it is, maybe I would have asked for a better room if they have one. Mine was not "impeccable" as it puts it on the Lonely Planet. For dinner, I went to a nearby restaurant and have the masala dosa and the lassi.
Day 2 - Srirangapatna
At 9 o'clock in the morning, my driver picks me up for the whole trip. We stopped on the road in Channapatna, a place where they make wooden toys painted in bright colors. We headed to the temple of Somnathpur, one of the best examples of Hoysala architecture in the country. At one point along the way, we leave the main road to continue our journey through something like county roads. We crossed some small villages while fields with coconut trees or rice fields dyed the landscape green.
When arriving at the temple we found some cars with tourists taking advantage of the holiday to go out to know places of their patrimony. The exterior has somewhat neglected gardens where a mailbox hung on a tree draws attention. If you leave a letter or postcard there, it will arrive home with a special postmark with the image of the temple.
Once the wall surrounding the Chennakesava temple itself is crossed, a courtyard can be accessed. It is undoubtedly beautiful and also better preserved since it did not suffer the destruction of the other Hoysala temples due to the confrontations with the Chola. It is striking in this temple its perfect symmetry, to see so perfect height in half practically out of nothing because around as I said there are only villages and fields of cultivation.
The decoration of its walls is formed by delicate sculptures that describe scenes of the Ramayana and life in the era of the Hoysala kings. As in all the temples of India, although they no longer remain active for worship, we had to leave our shoes outside and walk the place noticing the stone and its temperature on the bottom of our feet. To me, that is something that I love especially if in this case, the ground is clean or just has some dust and sand.
We went around the perimeter of the temple, marveling at the decorative details of each level of the walls: animals, flowers, sculptures, and geometric motifs. The interior of this temple in Somnathpur seemed a bit claustrophobic. It was very dark. The bays of the doors were very low and we could barely make out the decoration of the walls. Still, we saw the columns that immediately reminded us of the other Hoysala temples.
Seen and admired the temple we had to leave the place to know a new place. Late in the afternoon, we arrived at Srirangapatna, a city built on an island on the banks of the Cauvery River. In it, Tipu Sultan reigned and from its fortress still remain part of the walls and the battlements. We could see from the car heading to the most important place of the place, the summer palace of Tipu.
This palace built largely of wood is in the center of beautiful and well-kept gardens, and due to the delicacy of the paintings that decorate it, it is forbidden to take photographs. So again the camera remained in the bag. It is not a very large place. A square structure with arches open onto the gardens and that is currently covered with fabrics to protect the precious paintings that tell the court life in Tipu's time.
After this place, we travel by car the couple of kilometers that we had until the imposing Gumbaz, the tomb where the remains of Tipu and their parents are. While we were crossing the gardens that led to the mausoleum, the sky began to turn black. Thick clouds began to cover the sun, but we trusted that they would pass by and it would not rain. We leave our shoes at the base of the tomb and enter the place made of white marble with polished black columns of the same material. There, of course, there were Muslims making their offerings, but also many Hindu tourists.
We were approaching the mosque that was a few meters from the grave when it suddenly started to rain, but with such force and so suddenly that we could not even think of going for the sandals. We had to protect ourselves and wait.
From there we went to Mysore, where we arrived at 4 in the afternoon. We crossed a city that seemed well developed and with wide avenues. I visited the St. Philomena's Cathedral and then I went to the hotel. It was one of the cheapest on the trip thanks to a great offer, and from the outside, we found it modern and stylish. Once in the room, everything was fine, from the spaciousness of the stay to the cleanliness or comfort of the bed.
At five in the afternoon, I go with the driver to see the Brindavan gardens. It was pretty, especially at dusk. At that time they turn on the lights and there are fountains with colorful lights. The people get excited as if they were watching a Bollywood movie.
We went for a walk then to the palace of the city. It was about a 20-minute walk and the road was simple thanks to the always parallel streets. As I said before, we were in full celebration of Dasara, one of the most important festivals of the calendar. It is precisely in Mysore where it is celebrated with more splendor. There are adorned elephants, processions, and offerings in the temple.
Halfway through our walk, we met the maharajah of the city in elephants who had gone out into the street in a kind of procession. So there, in the middle of a street cut off by traffic and full of onlookers, we saw for the first time elephants that the next day would be part of one of the biggest parties in the city.
We walked to the palace where was another great joy. It was fully lit and we could access the gardens without problems to see it, taking a small detour. Inside, a ceremony was taking place in which the Maharaja (who still lives in this palace) and members participated. Everything that happened inside a room was taken out of the thousand and one nights. It could be seen live in some large screens installed in various points of the gardens.
We walked for a while. We decided it was time to go to dinner. We had read about a restaurant that was highly recommended and that happened to be in a hotel very close to ours, which was perfect. The truth is that we dined quite well at a buffet with well-prepared and presented Indian and Western food. Yes, it was so full that we had to wait a few minutes for a table to be empty. I especially like the malai kofta. But it was definitely worth that delicious dinner before going to rest after an intense day.
Day 3 - Mysore
I return to breakfast at the one of yesterday. Before leaving the beautiful city of Mysore, we went to visit some places, the first the railway museum where we saw several wagons, among which the one that belonged to the Maharani of the city stood out. Completely covered in wood, it has a bathroom, living room, bedroom and rooms for the service. A true jewel that cannot be photographed.
As in the morning, I have not had time to see anything else in Mysore. I thought I would spend the afternoon and go back to stay overnight in this city. So I booked the same room again. I went to the restaurant on the same street as the hotel and order rice, paneer masala and pakora. The paneer was exquisite.
In the afternoon, taking a walk, I approached the railway museum, recommended by the Lonely Planet. Then I entered Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, which for me was dispensable. I followed to the governor's house to see its gardens and finally, I went to the palace Jaganmohan Palace, which was closed. So to rest I ended up taking a juice at a roadside shop.
The last thing we had to see in Mysore was the palace. For the third time, we came here. We went to the entrance to access the interior of the building and there were so many people that I thought it would be impossible. I took a breath and did what other men did and put my arm between all the bodies asking for two tickets. True, I got involved, but that was it or we were desperate in front of so many people.
With the tickets in our possession we accessed the gardens and after taking a couple of photos we had to leave the camera since it is totally forbidden to take pictures inside the palace. Along with a bunch of locals and a handful of tourists we approached the second gate in which we had to leave our shoes. Barefoot and with the entrance in hand we approached the third stop before entering.
We were ready to enter the Mysore Palace, one of the most splendid in India. We went from room to room, some with art collections, other reception rooms, some patio. But all the time there were so many people that it was complicated to stop to enjoy the place with tranquility.
Then we went to Lake Karanji, about 2 kilometers from Mysore. I have a nice walk. Then we go to Chamundi hill where there is a temple and a good view of Mysore. I got off from the car and walk down the stairs. It was about 1000, but halfway I stop where there is a large sculpture of Nandi.
I continue to the Lalitha Mahal palace and also to have a drink here. After another stop at a cafe to have a coffee we continue on to Kutta, near Nagarhole, where I stay in the middle of nowhere. I mean, in the middle of the coffee plantations, in a homestay. The room is very good. The bathroom is new and although during the day it has been hot, the temperature drops at night.
So the fan is enough. There is free wifi. The staff is friendly and the dinner has been exquisite, almost a la carte. For dinner, I repeated the same restaurant of yesterday with lassi and masala dosa. It was a full vegetarian, as I like it. Then they offered us an exquisite juice.
Day 4 - Nagarhole National Park
At 6 o'clock in the morning, I go with the driver to the safari, in Nagarhole National Park and Tiger Reserve. In the end, it started at 7.15 that lasts about an hour. We have seen elephants, birds, monkeys, gaur, chitals, and some other animal that I do not know. Anyway, for my pleasure, it has not been a wonder either. It is always like that, but I expected to see more.
When I returned to the homestay I had lunch. I do not usually eat too much, but I could have asked for more things. They surprised me with rice, chapati, and an assortment of vegetable dishes. At 12 we left for Iruppu Waterfall, which is about 20 kilometers from the homestay. When I arrived, I took a one-hour walk through the coffee plantations, with a guide explaining things. Then we stopped at a tea plantation where I took a little walk. On the way back we stopped at Kutta but I left almost running because it has nothing. Not even the market is worth it. So at 3, I was back at the homestay to rest the rest of the afternoon because it was not an intense day but a long one.
Day 5 - Shravanabelagola