Monday, October 8, 2007

Mysore, the Palace City

Goodbye Kabini, Hello Mysore!

We had one last morning in the park so we chose a short jeep ride to the Kabini backwaters where we boarded a coracle- remember the bamboo woven round boat that spins and I get wet because I am the heaviest? Well this one had a technological improvement- a little stool that sat in the middle like the plastic doo-hickeys that keep pizza box tops from collapsing onto the pizza. George, Marion, Sally and I perched on this while the boatman paddled us out. In sharp contrast to the jeep rides and powerboat rides this was wonderfully silent.

So quietly did we ride that we got very close to a huge Samba deer and a Jacana. On the way back the boatman in a playful mood spun us around like a food processor- it did not go over well! Trying to squeeze in more bird time our guide took us down some forest roads and sure enough we got another wild boar- this one young and skittish, who took off in a frantic serpentine dash into the brush.

This guide was bent on getting me the best bird list possible. He found yellow-footed green pigeons and a sleeping shikra, a small accipiter, which we could not wake even stopping under his tree. He also spotted an forest owlet but it flew before I could see it. Still, a wonderful effort.

Done birding, we had a last breakfast at Kabini in the wonderful open air gazebo. Right on time our driver Uday was there in his crisp white uniform and a ready smile even though he had been ill. I offered to drive and with a look of pure horror, he said, "no, no sir, I am fine for driving!" I told him I was joking of course.

Off we went on the broken and rutted roads and he cheerfully stopped for a few photos. The village children were their usual sunny selves, lining up to smile, wave and say either "tata" or "bye".

We checked in to our hotel - "Sandeesh, the Prince". I immediately wanted to try internet but failed to get on. I went down to front desk and they looked at my Mac with confusion, fiddled with my browser (Firefox) and said "it does not work" (they meant my powerbook). Tired, I gave up but on returning I purchased a timed wi-fi access code, to which they said - "it is working now?" and I replied, "Not yet". So I did get on with a little thinking it through.

Marion, Sally and I went off to lunch leaving behind poor George who is under the weather. We had a very nice lunch at an interesting open air restaurant that must be totally cool during the monsoon. It had many pitched gables in which water runs through gutters above your head and then spills into wells in the floor and a moat around the floor. Our waiter said that it even runs across the floor, "just like at home". A Macaque monkey tried to enter briefly but was chided by the wait staff and he retreated quickly.

On the way back Uday was anxious for us to enjoy Mysore's sights and took us to the Cauvery Crafts Emporium where they had thousands of carved crafts in sandlewood, teak, ebony, brass, and camel bone. There were also silks, toys, and scents. All the lights were out and the staff, about two dozen women, stood around in the dark and as we approached cases they would flick the bulbs on. The other peculiar happening was that the place was empty when we walked in but it quickly filled up with about ten 30-40 year old Indian men. I didn't like it.

Outside a lonely little calf walked past our waiting car. As I climbed in, a street hawker tried to sell me postcards of Mysore sights, 1 rupee a piece (2.5 cents) or, get this, 10 for 10 rupees. What a deal, but I turned him down and he got surly. Nice. Uday had us lock the doors.

Back at the hotel I did my internet prayers and Sally and I spent time looking from our balcony at the construction site below us. Amazing to see a building being constructed using hand tools. They carried cement in bowls, cut re-bar by hammer and chisel, and held up walls using bamboo. Across the street we watched three pigeon dealers haggle, inspect birds and haggle some more. Wooden wheeled carts turned the corner, pulled by oxen while cars swerved around them.

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