March 11th, 2009
This travelling through the night really is setting my biological clock askew. It's like four in the morning and I'm wide awake. So I thought I'd start an entry for my journal. It's actually the 12th I guess.
I thought perhaps I should start by saying that bus drivers here look completely normal. For the most part, they don't swear at the other drivers, or seem to get frustrated by slow drivers. They simply pull out and start to pass even if there is oncoming traffic. I will have to say this for them. If they think there's no room for the oncoming vehicle to pull over or veer out of the way, they will drop back into line at the last minute. The scooter drivers (of which there are many) fit in wherever they can and when left alone, seem to wander into the middle of the road. Everyone drives like this. In an area where we might have, say a 50 km per hour sign or perhaps a School Zone, they have nothing. Street signs for the most part are hand painted and seem to blend into all the other signs quite handily. So, there's no real relaxing way of taking a bus here. They careen down the two way roads at about 90km an hour which doesn't seem all that much except that most of the time here in India you're in a city, town or village crammed with tuktuks, scooters, children, dogs and the occasional cow. And as the roads are not exactly up to Interstate standards, the bus bounces quite a bit. Oh, did I mention the speed bumps? Never mind, just when you're fast asleep, the bus bounces over them without slowing (OK, every thrid or fifth one, they slow down).
Also, from my pictures you get a more idyllic look at India (and through the India Tourism ads) It's a modern and sometimes really dirty place. I don't have pictures of that cause you can go to Chicago or London and see the same thing. With the travelling at night thing, it gets to the point that ALL YOU SEE is the cities. It costs money to go out into the country. That being said, there are occasional moments that make it all worth while, and I would have to say that today's visit to Chammundi Hill was one of them.
tore the Mysore map out of my Lonely Planet guide (It's humoungous, and so I just take out what I need for the day mapwise) and caught a city bus to the hill. The city bus stand is beside the amazing Maharaja's Palace. The fare is 7 1/2 Rs.unless you want the air conditioned bus which was 15 Rs. I decided to splurge and take the air conditioned bus. I shouldn't have. The airconitioned bus has screens in the windows which make it impossibnle to see out. SO anyway, I got out and was surrounded by souvenir guys, so I retreated to the Godly Museum. This is a sect of Raja Yoga who are about the Indian equivalent of the Jehovah's Witnesses if the pictures are anything to go by. The world as we know it is about to end (nobody can say for sure which day) and a rule of bliss will descend upon us all and we will live in Peace and Harmony (as long as you're a Raja Yogi or a Jehovah's Witness). So I stopped for a cup of chai, and as a cup of tea makes me feel better, I decided I'd walk around the back of the Sri CHamundeswari Temple (I'll call it the GMT for Great Mother Temple). It's one of the eight holy mountains in India. Behind it there's a smaller temple to Shiva (they pronounce it Sheewa) and I bought a string bracelet for good luck from the guy at the gate and went inside. You can't take pictures inside, but the Inner Sanctum was awesome, and the actual golden image of Shiva is like four rooms inside. I put 10 rs. in the collection plate and the priest kid there spoke English and bropught out some incense for me to be blessed by Shiva and a small piece of fruit (banana and something else. Kind of a communion thing). It was quite moving. I bought a second bracelet outside, but I think I may have lost it.
The bigger GMT was a different story. Some hustler shoved some stuff in my hand, told me to take off my shoes and ushered me inside. So the stuff was a small Chammundeswari figure (same as a Parvati one) and three marigolds and told me I had better be quick they were closing in ten minutes (which turned out to be true by the way). The marigolds were an offering to the Great Mother, so he showed me where to put them, dabbed some red powder on my forehead from the offering table, whisked me around the temple, and back outside just as they closed the gates, and then charged me 200 rupees (supposedly 100 for him and 100 for the table. I told him I had already given money to the temple and it was between me and the temple what I gave, so we haggled and I finally gave him 150 Rs. I knew I was being hustled and figured it was woth about 100 when he first started talking to me. So when I went back to the shoes, the guy who was holding the mrigolds and cheap GM figurine wanted 200 as well! I told him I'd already given the other guy the money and that he should talk to him. Didn't work so I offered to give him back the figurine and fifty rupees, and we settled on 100. It was too bad, because what could have been as an uplifing experrience as the previous temple had been, I just felt ripped off by it. I went and had a cup of tea, and that reminded me I was out $4 US. So I settled down, had a delicous pineapple juice (they make it fresh in a blender) and actually enjoyed the trip back. I took the cheap bus, so I could look out the window. All the cheap transportation here have no windows which makes sight seeing easier. I passed a girl from the boat ride in Kerala, but I'm not sure if she saw me. A German girl who was "Not a Morning Person."
So I went to visit the Maharaja's Palace. Quite Opulent. Spent some time listening to an Indian guy playing a clarinet in one of the courtways, saw some elephants. Two handlers stopped when they saw me so they could take pictures for extra cash. The entrance fee for the Palace was 200 Rs. Indians pay 20Rs. but the 200 includes 100 for an audio guide. Unfortunately they wanted a 2000 Rs. deposit which I didn't have. Then there's the 5Rs. charge for camera deposit and 1/2 Rs. for shoe deposit (you can't wear shoes inside the palace or take photos). It was quite awesome!
I walked back to the hotel more or less, and was inundated by souvenir sellers and beggars and a guy with a monkey. I was the last white guy out the door before closing. It took some effort to escape, but as soon as I was free, I hunted down a tea seller and had a nice quiet cup of tea with him. Further on I saw a guy selling Jack Fruit. The fruit is huge, and inside there are al these yellow flesshy pods (which you eat) with a couple of giant beans inside (which you don't)
I stopped at a place called Kairali Hotel, and even though I'm noew in Karnataka Province I had the best Keralan food since I got here. The meal was delicous and I had a couple of fresh orange juices with it and a cup of chai. The whole thing came to only 145 Rupees. The hotel is in a shopping complex right across from the bus station the outa town one, not the city one). Which reminds me. I had a really good plate of Tandoori chicken nuggets somewhere when the bus stopped the previous night as well. So I have a ticket to Hospet which is where I have to stop to go to Hampi. The bus leaves at 13:00 so I'm hoping I can upload this journal today. The Chamundi Vasathi Hotel, actually in the Lonely Planet guide, I'm staying at is quite dingy, but it has an internet room, and I can connect my laptop, and it's only costing me 300 Rs. for 24 hours.
This last entry is later. The guy woke me up at 6:30 and I had to get up or pay another 300 Rupees. So much for sleeping in...