In and around Mysore
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In spite of being peak May summer, the weather was pleasant enough and infinitely more bearable than in Mumbai. Magical Mysore v/s Muggy Mumbai?? Can there be any comparison?
A minor hitch was that most of the lower priced hotels were full, being tourist and wedding season. We ended up courtesy Google search, at the Mulberry Bay (www.mulberrybay.in), a service apartment that turned out to be most comfortable, and reasonably priced. Gayathri, the charming young lady who runs it, ensured that we had a memorable stay with superlative home cooked typical Mysore style breakfast and dinners.
What we enjoyed in Mysore city:
The fairy tale vista of the illuminated palace from the Chamundi Hills. Illuminations from 7pm-10pm weekends, holidays and in 'season'.
We went again in the morning to see the large Nandi Bull monolith and the imposing Mahishasura statue at the Chamundeswari temple.
A bonus was to see a pair of small mongooses scurrying through the hillside.
The Mysore Palace itself was well worth the visit. The Kalyana Mandapam (Marriage Hall) is particularly impressive. It is a pity that photography is not permitted inside the palace, perhaps to encourage sales of their own picture postcards!
Karanji Kere: Behind the Mysore zoo, this is a beautiful lake that is also a natural nesting site for avifauna.
Pelicans sailed gracefully on the lake giving us much delight. We don't see wild pelicans in Bombay! There is also a small walk through aviary. I could not find the hornbills, but there were plenty of peacocks around, proudly displaying their glorious feathers.
A small islet has been turned into a butterfly habitat, with profuse growth of larval host and nectar shrubs. It was full of Blue Tigers and Eggflies, and must surely attract several more species in their season.
Mysore Coffee which was consistently superb.
We stocked up on premium coffee from Gayathri Coffee Works. It was surrounded by several other Coffee Works, all milling with customers. With so much competition, they must all be equally good but we stuck to Gayathri based on the excellent coffee we had bought on a previous visit.
Sweetmeats from Mahalakshmi Sweets. I am still gorging on the last remnants of their melt in the mouth, ghee laden, moong dal variant of Mysorepak!
What was disappointing:
Dasaprakash: Food was tasty but not up to much hyped expectations. Very good service.
Vishnu Bhavan: Terrible. Appalling service and nondescript food. We went there on the recommendation of our taxi driver but the hotel was more interested in catering to tour groups. Never again.
We could not find Mylari which must wait for the next visit.
Anyway, the best food we had was the delicious home cooked, authentic Mysore cuisine served up at our hotel by Gayathri's experienced cook .
Day trips around Mysore:
Another plus point of Mysore is its close proximity to several places of natural beauty.
One day was spent in a series of gentle walks through the Maldare forest of Coorg where a cute Giant Squirrel greeted us from his lofty bamboo perch.
More walks followed along lush coffee plantation roads around Siddapur, Polibetta and Ponnampet. We enjoyed this area of Coorg immensely on our previous trip and just had to return. It is a perfect place for walking.
From Ponnampet, we attempted to go to the Iruppu falls but turned back due to the deteriorating condition of the road. Returning to Mysore via the Nagarhole forest road, we saw a majestic tusker quietly minding his own business by the side of the road. What a splendid sight!
To Bandipur the next day. A fascinating little pond barely out of Mysore city limits, alongside the busy Mysore-Ooty highway, was chock full of pelicans, assorted ducks, cormorants, darters, ibis, purple moorhens and many more. We could have spent the entire morning here. Delightful!
The Ranganathittoo bird sanctuary near the Brindavan gardens, which is about 30 minutes drive away, also has a fantastic display of migratory birds but it is so much more thrilling to see them in an ordinary pond in the city, instead of in a protected habitat. The locals here are not so excited but for us folk from the concrete jungle of Mumbai, it was quite a memorable sight.
The Bandipur forest starts from just beyond Gundlupet. No need to do any 'safari' here for elephants, spotted deer and monkeys are easily seen near the road, despite the traffic.
Prominent signboards with "No Parking, No Stopping, No Feeding Monkeys" and so forth, put paid to our walking plans. Nonetheless, we managed to sneak in a short walk through a little trail just beyond the TN border. Our driver helpfully suggested that we drive back and take the Gundlupet-Sulthan Bathery road where we could walk in the forest without restriction. This is also part of the Bandipur NP which becomes the Muthanga Sanctuary at the Kerala border. There was a lot less traffic on this road and the "No Parking etc" signboards were replaced with "Drive Slowly, Wildlife Crossing". This side of the forest was full of spotted deer, literally herds of them at every turn, and we also saw pugmarks on a side trail, perhaps of a leopard. Near the Kerala border, a riverine stream with gushing rapids added to the sylvan setting. The appearance of fresh dung was a gentle reminder that we ought not to be walking too much in elephant country. Back in the car to Gundlupet, where Udupi Upahar revived us with piping hot coffee and mouth watering tiffin.
On the way back, we went through to the Brindavan Gardens. The bridge just before the gardens afforded great views of the beautiful Cauvery. A painted stork and a pelican were perched on a rock in the middle of the river! So idyllic.
The Brindavan Gardens car park was ominously full with tour buses. Crowd management was however excellent, with no waiting for tickets, and plenty of place inside the gardens for all. The illuminated fountains were a pretty sight. What a lovely place for a family picnic where children can safely run around in gay abandon … and so close to the city.
The gardens seem well maintained; at least it appeared so in the twilight. I just wish people would not litter.
Enamoured with the Cauvery, we decided to visit Mahadevapura the next morning. After asking around and a few wrong turns, we eventually got there.
My favourite Mysore Pelicans were congregated on rocks in the middle of the river along with other feathered friends. Our attention was caught by one particular pelican who flew in multiple loops high above the bridge, as though 'shooting the breeze' on a warm summer morning.
Fertile riverine fields in shades of green and gold, completed the canvas.
We proceeded a short distance ahead, to walk along a canal parallel to the river. The densely forested small islets along the river bank here, have been designated as the Gende Hosalli bird sanctuary. We heard a lot of peacock sounds coming from the islet, but could not spot any. The sound of gently gushing rapids by the river bank was so tranquil.
Onward to Arakere which boasts a large serene lake fringed by colourful lantana shrubs, with low slung hills on the opposite bank. Picture postcard perfect, with cute little ducks and a coracle or two thrown in for added measure!
By and by, the sun became uncomfortably strong and it was time to move on. We found some interesting ancient looking carved ruins along the roads here. A village lady was cleaning a collection of broken old stone statues of assorted deities. A small stone 'mantap' was being used as a motorcycle parking lot!
The drive back to Mysore via Bannur was through scenic countryside, crossing the Cauvery once more. Spent the rest of the day at the Palace and shopping.
On our way back to Bangalore, we had planned to visit Talacad and the Shivanasamudram falls, but changed our mind as we learnt that the falls were dry. Instead, we stopped at the Ganjam Gosai Ghat – beautiful river but so much litter. The Cauvery Sangam was no better, there seemed to be more garbage strewn around than we remembered from our previous visit. Why do we have this penchant for littering???
The last halt was at the Big Banyan Tree near Kumbalgodu, just outside Bangalore. Even here there was some litter! This place is worth a visit. It is quite an experience to walk through those extensive banyan 'arches', 'bridges' and 'passage ways'. A teeny baby monkey regaled us with his efforts at climbing a banyan root. An early morning visit would surely be rewarding for bird watchers.
And so …… our trip came to an end. Short but sweet with so much more left over for the next visit.