This trip started non-typically. As an extension of an office trip to Bandipur.There I took the safari and saw the Malabar squirrel, spotted deer in plenty strolling nonchalantly, and birds including the kingfisher. The other bus of people were luckier to see a snake(looked like an Indian python) and a couple of them the next day were even able to sight a leopard at close quarters.
On the way back I got off with a friend at her hometown, Mysore. Anand was to join me there, from Bangalore, for an extended holiday in Mysore. However, her family kept me busy and constantly fed after which she was sweet enough to take me for a view of the Lalit Mahal Palace. Since we didn’t want to have a meal there at the time, it didn’t justify the Re.100 per head redeemable entry fee and so we made do with a view of it from the helipad beside it. A stroll in the gardens there gave us a good view of the outside of the place too. An older gentleman walking 2 gorgeous dogs – a pug and a St.Bernard, also made our day by letting us pet them.
On our ride to the next stop, she was a fun guide and we saw a bunch of things a few of which I can recall now
- Dodda gadiyara (with numerals in Kannada) and chikka gadiyara that were the big and small clock towers of the city
- The lovely conifer bending in front of the university that locals liked to point out as a cheeky indicator that everything bows before knowledge!
- The horse-shoe shaped entrance to the Mysore (Horse)Race club
- The entrance to the University and several other beautiful governmental buildings on our way.
She next took me to have yummy Bangarpet pani puri – the spicy-paani that was inexplicably as clear as water, crispy puris and a south Indian filling of fresh onions, carrots, coriander leaves and cooked peas, and dry gobi – chutney served with deep fried cauliflower florets without the typical gobi manchurian masala. After thus being fed to the gills, she dropped me to the hotel where I was joined by Anand. After a quick dinner for him both of us quickly dozed off to rest for the next day.
We slept in a bit and then left the hotel after breakfast heading straight to Balmuri falls. This was a typical school outing location in our childhood that both of us had managed to never visit. We reached there to see a very tame water-spot that had rice fields on one side and a bridge across it on another.
Nevertheless, the water level near the weir is only up to waist level and so there were folks having a gala time playing in the water.
We walked over the weir though there are warnings around not to do it presumably when the water is forceful. We then reached the other side with vast rice fields in a stunning shade of yellow-green. While Anand was clicking away, a farmer even came over to us on his bike and struck a conversation chatting about the place and his own son in Bangalore. It’s quite a nice place to relax and watch the water go by with no agenda.
Tip : Maps may take you to a mud-road, avoid it and take the alternate one. There is also another waterfall called the Yedamuri waterfall that we weren’t aware of. It may be worth a peek too.
The birds just hanging around the place.
Next, we went on to the Venugopala Swamy Temple on the backwaters of the KRS dam passing by a village that couldn’t choose between Hindi and Kannada to pick its name – Basti Halli! The older temple had been submerged and was only visible during the summer and so this new one was reconstructed like the older one and is quite stunning.
It is still in the process of construction and even in its current state is one of the rare “new” structures that has been made retaining the essence of the old. One can see individual sculptures The idols yet to be installed were stored in iron boxes filled with paddy. We weren’t sure of why it was so. Do let us know if you’re aware of its religious/practical significance.
Caretakers everywhere meanwhile, seem to specifically view Anand with suspicion as they coolly allow others to click on with their DSLRs in the premises. One of them even wasted 1/2 hr of his own time following us as we admired the temple since he was sure we’d criminally click away the moment he had his back turned on us! Ah well, it felt like a guided tour with a silent guide.
We enjoyed taking pictures on our phones itself and it’s perhaps one of those spacious spaces without too many tourists (as yet) that feels like a calm, cool oasis on a sunny day. There is a pleasant, beautiful breeze all around the temple because of the water nearby despite it being quite hot otherwise. Pictures of the place when the water is at its peak are much more beautiful with the water levels coming up to the temple barriers. There are also stone seats around the temple that make it a tempting spot to come during the evenings and watch the sunset. We plan to visit this place again to enjoy both of them.
The next stop was Meenakshipura that was just on the other side of the Kaveri river but had a circuitous route passing by fields of rice, tomatoes and seafood stalls shaped like fish.
There was no one around but we did manage to spot a few of these birds nonchalantly pecking on the ground. There also seemed to be a moat-like formation between the water and land presumably to reduce the incidence of erosion(?) This was yet another place that would be perfect in during early morning or at sunset with a picnic basket and a mat. Calm, undisturbed and un-spoilt.
We were recommended Anima Bhavan for our lunch and went ahead to this place we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. We reach there through a narrow staircase and were pleasantly surprised to find meals served on banana leaves while we sat cross-legged on the ground. The food was simple vegetarian fare cooked without onions or garlic. It was a satisfying meal and their payasam made with poppy seeds, Anand warned, was very sleep-inducing too! Despite it being November, we Bangalore-spoilt tourists were already feeling the heat of the Mysore and after a quick stop for ice-creams decided to take a nap before tackling the rest of the day.
There are few places we re-visit, mostly because there’s always so much more new to see. But we had to drop into the aviary at Karanji lake that we fell in love with. Ignoring the lake, we headed straight for the lovely aviary and returned as before with a little more love for the birds and a little less for humans who annoyed them.
Since we had come just post Dasara, my friend recommended trying out the Dasara exhibition near the Mysore palace.
At first, it looked like just another exhibition since we decided to go around the edge of the space- cotton candy, stores selling every kind of bauble, carousels and Ferris wheels, small shows of stunts and funny mirrors, food stalls with every imaginable food and crowds, lots of crowds.
We even against my better judgement, paid Rs.50 to see a show called Amarnath yatra. It was hands down the weirdest experience I’ve had after paying! Just as we thought it was over, we got to the area we should have started with. Every district in Karnataka had a display area there. It was interesting to see what they chose to focus on. Some on the how developed the district was, some of the produce and handicrafts, some on the clothing, and some others on the lesser known tourist places there. Since it was the fag end of our walk of the whole area we were tired but egged on by curiosity and managed to see all of them.
We quickly shared some Mallige idli also recommended by my friend and resisting the urge to have dinner there, headed off to Metropole for a meal.
Anand had been wanting us to visit it since long since he was certain I’d love the ambience and I did. It’s a charming heritage hotel that was once the King’s guest house. A meal under the open sky with tinkling old lanterns hanging from a tree like oversized fire-flies made up an ending to a busy day with just the right amount of magic in the air.
Up next: Srirangapatna, the island town