Piled up comfortably in the car, we glided into the misty morning fog on the road leading out of Mysore. The Maharajas were pretty awesome city planners, I have to say.
Mysore is a striking south Indian city – small, and so beautifully planned. Sprawling historic bungalows line wide roads, a canopy of arching rain trees shooting into the sky overhead. They call Bangalore the garden city, but I think Mysore has a better claim to that title.
The first order of the day after our 5:45 am start was to order some piping-hot steamed idlies – a delicious and popular south Indian breakfast dish, served with coconut chutney and sambar.
We had some delicious vadas too – savory spicy fried doughnuts, green chilies hiding inside.
Half the fun of this trip was hanging out the car windows, trying to capture the rural village life that flickered passed us along the roadside. Pastoral snapshots of the grain and sugarcane harvest, cattle-pulled carts on the road, brightly colored simple village homes.
One of our first stops once we had left Mysore was to stop to take pictures of some women washing clothes in the lake, inside an old abandoned roadside stone hut. Usually I would have been shy to approach such a scene, but G and the children had already ventured inside to watch, while A and I had been busy snapping photos from afar (I’m omitting names, out of respect for the privacy of my friends).
A beautiful landscape of tall swaying sugarcane fronds, fiery marigolds, and coconut palms in the distance next captured our attention. We pulled up by a rustic roadside stand, and walked towards the fields.
A man stood off in the distance. Catching us watching him, he stood observing for a moment. Then he waved. We were a novelty to the people living here, people just the same, yet so different too.
It was still pretty early in the morning when we arrived at our first (planned) sightseeing stop: Kesava temple. This was a beautiful and ancient Hindu temple, intricately carved out of stone.
Walking through the main entrance gates, we beheld the majestic temple. We walked clockwise around the structure before entering it, taking in the temple’s beauty. The exterior carvings were made in tiers around the temple. On the bottom layer, stone elephants held the weight of everyone above, which included peacocks, dancers, warriors, and deities.
The winding road next took us to see Bharachukki falls. A told us that during the monsoon season, the waters gushed forth with unbelievable strength. Now, in the peak of winter and dry season, the falls were not quite so full, but we still had a spectacular view to the pools of water below our viewing platform.
There were a few more visitors to the falls apart from the regular tourists. We cautiously approached one friend who had been treated to some watermelon by a fellow visitor. Later, when the children were climbing up a tree, said friend also decided to join, scooting right past J on his way up (freaking out both children).
After a refreshing tender coconut drink, we climbed back into our trusty car. Talk of biriyani began to make frequent debuts in the car conversation, so by popular demand we found a nice hotel to make a stop at for some food (hotels are synonymous for restaurants).
We had awesome chicken biriyani and the most delicious kebobs I’ve ever tasted, all in a very simple roadside eatery, just feet away from the dusty road.
As the sun began to head for the West, we finished our adventure on the sandy banks of the Cauvery River. I’ve not yet visited the banks of the Ganges, but our visit gave me a little glimpse into what the crowds might be like.
People crowded the shores, swimming, splashing, screaming, laughing, and watching. Coracle boats bobbed near the shoreline, and we eagerly piled into this basket boat. The boatman guided us away from the crowd using a tall wooden pole.
On a sliver of an island in the middle of the river, we saw beautiful white egrets and black ibises resting amid tall grasses. The coracle had taken us away from the human crowd and brought us closer to nature. Some brave souls had also swum to this opposite bank on their own, climbing out of the water with glistening bodies.
As a last treat, much to little A’s delight, the boatman used the pole to spin the coracle around in the water, leaving us dizzy and ecstatically happy as we clambered back onto shore.
We saw lots of food stands on our way back to the car, selling chat (snacks!). We tried a chickpea flour-battered, deep fried green chili and the kids ordered a newspaper cone filled with sort of crunchy puffed rice with masala seasoning.
I’m amazed by how much we were able to see on our journey, and I will cherish the feeling of blissful peace I think we all experienced on this adventure.
Most of all, I enjoyed meeting people from villages we passed. G often made a point to drive slowly, giving us a chance to take pictures and even chat with the locals. One brave girl sat on the back of a bicycle, chatting away happily with us as her friend peddled alongside our car. Some village boys came to sit on a little bridge, smiling shyly when they noticed me taking their picture.
Every day, life brings me reminders of how lucky I am to be in Mysore, in the company of such awesome friends. Their humor, kindness, beautiful and lively spirits make each day simply a pleasure. And then there are little gems like this trip, nestled amongst my Mysore days, such wealth words can’t describe. In India, I’ve found my home.