When we arrived in Mysore the city was preparing for the royal wedding of the Prince which would be held at the Mysore Royal Palace. It was a very exciting time in the city as on the evening of the wedding the palace was lit up and a live feed was displayed on large projector screens of the after party inside.
The zoo was a great place to wonder around and see lots of different species of animals. It was a nice surprise to see the animals kept in large enclosures and in good conditions. Normally from experience zoos aren’t too great to visit in Asia but this one was kept to a particularly high standard. The craziest thing we saw was Guru the chimpanzee that suffers from alopecia. He was completely bald and looked so much like a human wondering around and parading himself towards spectators. Apparently his condition stems from previous stress or trauma in his life which similarly in humans can induce alopecia. It was extremely unique to see Guru and at passing glance he could be mistaken as a person!
The Jaganmohan Palace has now been restored and converted into an Art Gallery. The gallery has one of the largest collections of artefacts in South India and is a great place to see many different styles of Indian paintings. A large proportion of the gallery has been kept to its original state and has many authentic murals painted on the walls, although many appear to be damaged by damp and the humidity.
Roughly 25km from Mysore there are some rocky hills to explore known locally as Kunti Betta. We caught a cheap local bus from Mysore to the town of Pandavapura and got a tuktuk to drop us by the hills. The area is surrounded by cane fields and in terms of trails you make it up yourself. We began our walk up the largest rocky hill and was instantly approached by a local guy who popped out of the bushes and started gesturing for money and drink. We ignored the guy but he persisted to follow us as we climbed up into the rocks. We managed to create some distance between us and him yet we could still see him walking and searching for us. It was a little bit like hide and seek as we didn’t understand what this guy was after and wasn’t sure how long he was willing to track us down for. In the end we decided not to go back the way we came incase running into him again so we took an adventurous route through some trees down the side of the hill. Everything was fine in the end but it was just a bit of a nuisance when we were expecting a peaceful walk. On the walk back to the bus station we met a local primary school teacher who was on his break and said he wanted to walk back to town with us. All he wanted to do was speak with us in English and ask us about our lives back home. It was really sincere speaking with him as he gave us and insight into the backwards caste system that still exists in India. He told us how he is an educated engineer and has a high level degree, yet he can only get a position of a supply primary school teacher because of the lower caste he was born into.
Mangalore to Delhi
Throwing ourselves in head first to escape the torrential monsoon rain we took a 48hr standard sleeper class train north to Delhi. This was one hell of a journey which to say the least was tedious. I’ll start off by saying standard sleeper class is perfectly comfortable, with a good airflow (no windows just metal bars) and fans. Its particularly good if you get assigned the ‘top shelf’. This is the best way to describe the beds as they are stacked and suspended from the wall with a middle shelf that folds down for other passengers to sit on the bottom comfortably during the daytime.
We were fortunate to be surrounded by a friendly Indian family but awkwardly there were 12 of us confined in a tiny space that was only meant to accommodate 8 people. This resulted in us playing a bizarre game of musical ‘beds’ with bags and children perched on any available space and adults sprawled on the hard floor. We soon felt like we needed to take back a bit of control as we had been kindly pushed around. I managed to reclaim my bed which was originally the top shelf (someone must have already known this is prime real estate). Championing this bed means you basically don’t have to move for anyone and you feel like you have a small amount of privacy. Overall the two days felt like a bit of a haze with minimal food (more down to our preference) and lots of reading, it’s an experience that will stick with us, costing a measly ₹850 each!