India: The land that split opinion (Part 2)

The love-hate relationship with this weird and fascinating country has not only continued but intensified as we hit the main cities.

After the tranquility and adventure of the amazing Hampi, it was time to head south towards Karnataka but, to get there, first up was a daunting overnight train ride. We’d soaked up the experience on rails during the day but our first overnight trip was sure to be an eye opener – so we thought anyway. We went for the luxury of the 2A (two-tiered beds with air-con) instead of the cattle-like sleeper and it was well worth it. The sleeper carriages went past with faces pressed against the bars, kids piled five high and the glares of vicious intent – okay, they weren’t that but still very busy – but our coach had a pillow and bed sheets waiting on our bunks which were hid behind the relative privacy a curtain can bring. I don’t have too much to say as I fell asleep pretty easily on the top bunk although Lotts had a much different experience on the bottom. In her words “I spent the night constantly panicking our bags had been taken from beneath our seats being at the exit point of the carriage, whilst continuously being sat on by passers-by and shining torches of the ticket men asking if I was sleeping here!” Advice do not go for lower side berth on the end seats if you want to sleep!”

Mysore, those three nights was the epitome of the trip as a whole. Two days of being unsure of India and seriously thinking about moving our exiting flight forward and a final day that made everything seem worth it.

We stayed at Mannars Residency which was a decent place near the train station and somewhere I could finally reconnect with sport – we had cable tv which showed live NBA games and repeats of football games. It was a good job that luxury was there. The first two days were spent exploring Mysore’s seemingly limited appeal (Mysore Palace was decent but that was as far as it went) and discussing whether we’d given this country all our patience.

Meanwhile, in true Indian style, our third day was spent with a rickshaw driver which changed our opinions in dramatic fashion. On one of our best days so far we looked out over the city from atop Chamundi Hill, viewed the famous Bull statue, visited an incense making ‘factory’ which was actually a women’s front room where she churns out 6,000 sticks each day before having the use of different oils explained to us by a friendly local who welcomed us with freshly brewed chai tea. We bought a bottle of expensive waterlily oil that supposedly keeps the mosquitoes away – much-needed here. We then moved on to local Devaraja market which was a boom to our senses; colourful flowers, fruits and jewellery. The Hindi callings of products being sold created a buzzing atmosphere.

We either leave early and start with South East Asia or stick it out for the rest of the month and see what Kerala had to offer. In the end it came to two distinct feelings; regret and defiance. Why did we come all this way and make the decision to leave early if there was a chance you’d look back in months and years to come wondering “what if?” and it would feel a bit like we’d been defeated if we chucked the towel in now. Onwards we went.

Bad mosquitoes will not be missed in Mysore!
Bad mosquitoes will not be missed in Mysore!

A quick stop-over in Bangalore before moving on to Munnar. Bad reviews and high city tax wasn’t great preparation but we stayed for only one night and found a nice restaurant (Pasta Street). We had reached our first point where we had nothing booked, we had a direction but no transport or accommodation sorted. Bad idea! We picked an overnight bus to Munnar, which left the evening of our check out, but no booking sites were accepting international cards, the hotel’s debit card didn’t work and after three hours of faffing we finally got in touch with a travel agent to sort it with commission on top of course.

So here we are, sat in Cafe Coffee Day on Cunningham Street trying to fill the four hours until our bus leaves from across town. It has been a whirlwind few weeks with ups and plenty of downs, just as we are ready to lose hope with India this place draws us right back in again. Next milestone is tonight’s overnight bus to Munnar and from there, no idea.

Our last meal in Bangalore was completely unknown to us and ridiculously spicy!
Our last meal in Bangalore was completely unknown to us and ridiculously spicy!
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