Coonoor to Mysore

Coonoor - Jan 28 & 29


We left the warm weather of the coast and started our climb into the cooler hills, or Ghats, which run down the spine of Southern India.  After a long drive, we arrived at the Kurumba Village Resort, which was actually a few miles outside Coonoor. The resort was built on the side of a a valley and consisted of individual bungalows, with the reception and restaurant at the top and the bungalows along a footpath leading to the valley floor.



Looking up from the valley floor - the resort fence is on the right


When we arrived, we were allocated a bungalow near the bottom of the valley, with a pretty view of the river and a small waterfall, but Kristine threw a small wobbly about the climb and after a few minutes we were given another, larger bungalow nearer the top. The poor luggage guy had to carry all our luggage back up the hill.


Kristine with her "I'm not staying here" look




Breakfast in the restaurant



And the view from the restaurant. That's our bungalow on the left, after we had moved


Although it was a very pretty spot, there wasn't much to do and we didn't have internet, but it did give us a chance to catch up on our reading. We would have gone for a walk, but the hotel told us that there were wild elephants nearby and we shouldn't leave the property !


Ooty Jan 30 to Feb 2


The journey to Ooty on the miniature train is spectacular, if a little cramped. There is only one train a day, so we left the hotel at 5:45am for a 7:10am departure. When we arrived at the train station it was pouring with rain and it turned out we didn't have reserved seats, but fortunately we managed to find seats in the unreserved section. This is one of a small number of trains in India which is still steam powered, which made it all the more exciting. 



 The engine steaming in the early morning light



 At every stop, everyone got out to stretch their legs as it was very cramped on the train




The engine PUSHED the carriages up the hill and as we were right at the back, the engine was immediately behind us




We also took on water at every stop - this was a thirsty little engine




Now I know what I want for Christmas - a Toy Train just like this one !


And of course, the views were wonderful as well, with tea plantations:

Hills and valleys:



and wild flowers along the side of the tracks:



and waterfalls on both sides of the train:



Ooty was once South India's most famous hill station and was the seat of the Madras government during the British Raj. It's lost most of it's colonial charm since then and now looks like any other busy and overdeveloped town.



Ooty with hills in the background and the racecourse (on the only flat land in the town) in the foreground.



While in Ooty, we stayed at a fairly modern hotel, the Fortune Sullivan Court, and although the days were warm and sunny, once the sun went down, it got quite cold and the hotel wasn't really designed for cold weather, so we were a little chilly.



The Fortune Sullivan Court



In addition, Paul had a touch of flu, or a cold or something, so he spent a day in bed and even had a doctor check him out, but she didn't seem to think he was seriously ill. And the housecall only cost $12.00 !


So the next day, we took a quick tour of Ooty. First the Botanical Gardens. Although they were very pretty, it was still very early in the season and most of the bedding plants were still missing.



Botanical Gardens, Ooty, established in 1848 by the British, of course



Map of India in flowering plants


Then on to St Stephens Church, built in 1829



We liked the name of the founder:



The Right Honorable Stephen Rumbold Lushington !


And the rather understated interior of the church:



St Stephens Church interior


Just down the street from the church was Mohan's Department Store, which has seen better days.




And finally, a quick look at the Boathouse, adjoining a small lake, but in the end we decided against taking out a boat.




Wayanad Feb 3 to Feb 6


Wayanad is a district within Kerala which includes some very pretty countryside and is obviously a popular resort area for locals from the major cities. We stayed at "My Garden of Eden" for three nights, a small retreat contained within a working plantation. There are only seven cottages and they are built on the steep sides of a deep valley with a river running along the bottom. 



 Our cottage from below. We were surrounded by coffee plants



Buried in the jungle



 The view from our balcony



Coffee beans (before they are dried and roasted) harvested from below our cottage



As there were no other shops or restaurants nearby, we ate all our meals in their little open air restaurant. This was breakfast.


On our second day, we took a tour of the "local" attractions, which turned out  to be a couple of manmade lakes, but they were a lot further away than we had anticipated and we spent most of the day in the car.



Pookote Lake



Banasura Sagar Dam (or at least, the lake behind it)


The next day, we had planned to stay around the resort all day, but we were persuaded that a nearby waterfall was worth visiting and indeed it was. It was actually a double waterfall and we walked down the side to get the best view.



Kanthan Para Waterfalls



The upper falls from above



Taking in the scenery


We spent the morning at the waterfall and then relaxed back at the hotel for the rest of the day.


Bandiphur Feb 6 to Feb 8


As we left the resort in Wayanad, we passed through a small village just down the road and celebrations were in full swing. Apparently, it was a Muslin Festival and the whole village was out in force. Many of the men and boys were parading through the village and from time to time would stop and a group of young boys would perform a dance.



The women watch as the parade arrives 



It was a long parade - you can more of it in the distance 



 One group would  stop and dance



With vocal accompaniment, karaoke style



And then another group of boys would take their place


There were several more dance groups behind this one, but we decided we couldn't see all of them and set off on our journey to Bandiphur.


Bandiphur is actually a Tiger Reserve, something like a National Park, I suppose, but they don't call it that. We stayed at WindflowerTusker Resorts, which was on the edge of the reserve. As in other places we had stayed, the accomodation consisted of individual cottages, in this case clustered around a central copse of trees.



The restaurant and our private cottage at Tusker Trails



It looks small, but it was actually quite large and luxurious, with a very comfortable bed !


The main reason for being in Bandiphur is to go out into the reserve on "safaris" in four wheel vehicles, much as we had done in Africa some years ago and the animal eveyone comes to see is the tiger - it is a tiger reserve after all. However, we didn't get to see tigers or leopards, the animals we most wanted to see. We actually went out three times (two evenings and one chilly, damp morning) but no luck. We did see elephants on one trip but that turned out to the highlight of the stay. There were other animals to be seen, however.



Elephants on the move



At one point, the mother elephant actually charged the vehicle, which made for a few tense moments


 We saw:


Spotted deer



Wild pigs



A hawk of some kind, but I can't identify the species



A lemur



Mother and baby lemur




Finch looking for seeds in the flowers of a tree


But no tigers !


So after three very pleasant days, we packed up - again - and moved on to our next stop - Mysore.


Mysore - Feb 8 to Feb 11


It's only a short drive from Bandiphur to Mysore but our driver, Sreeni, who we hadn't seen for the three days when we were in Bandiphur, surprised us by announcing that he had a badly infected leg and needed to return home to Kochi. So after we arrived in Mysore, we said our goodbyes and Sreeni took off - leaving us in Mysore with the promise that another driver would meet us the next morning.



Sreeni, not looking too happy (perhaps with good reason) just before he left us to go home to Kochi



Our new driver, Praveen, who took us to Goa


In Mysore, we stayed at the Windflower Resort, which was very close to the racecourse and the zoo.



The Windflower Resort, Mysore


We even played a game of outdoor chess at the hotel, which was unusual for us - we don't usually play chess.



Do the pawns move one square or two at a time and just HOW does a knight move again ?



Next day, with a new driver, Parveen (I think that's how it's spelt !) and a new car, we set off to see Mysore. Our first stop was the colorful Devaraja Fruit and Vegetable  Market, which has a lot going on.



Colorful dyes, used to create protective patterns for good luck at the  threshold of  many homes.



Lots of veggies for sales (most Hindus are vegetarian)



And lots of fruit for sale as well, in this case on the street



Not sure quite what this guy and his decorated cow were selling, but he was happy to pose for a small fee.


Next stop was the top of Chamundi Hill. It was rather misty so we didn't get the views we were hoping for. At the top of the hill are two temples, one of which, the Sri Chamundeswari Temple is the most popular and impressive.



We actually visited a much older, much smaller temple, which was built over a 1000 years ago, but was in need of repair due to recent rain damage.


On the way down the hill, we stopped to admire a very large bull. The bull, called Nandi, is the transport for the God Shiva.



The bull, Nandi, carved from the native rock in 1664


Our next stop was the Maharaja's Palace, designed by an Irish architect, Henry Irwin and built in 1912 at enormous expense. The Maharaja (literally "great king")  ruled the area and retained his power until 1971 when Indira Ghandi stripped all the Maharajas of their power and most of their wealth. 



Maharaja's Palace Mysore



No photographs were allowed inside the palace, but it was as opulent as the exterior might suggest.


The next stop on our busy day was outside Mysore at the Summer Palace of Tipu Sultan. Tipu Sultan was another local ruler, a Muslin (hence "Sultan") who allied himself with the  French against the British, with some initial success. However, in due course the British  returned and killed Tipu Sultan a few miles away in 1799. His main palace was totally destroyed but his summer palace survives. Interestingly, the British were led by  Arthur Wellesley who later became The Duke of Welington who beat Napoleon at Waterloo.




The Darla Daulat Bagh (The Summer Palace) from the gate




The view from The Palace back towards the gate


Tipu is buried (along with his parents) in the mausoleum that he built for them. He never expected to share it with them.  



Tipu Sultan's Mausoleum, the Gumaz, which looks a little like the Taj Mahal, but on a much smaller scale



The central mausoleum



Our last stop on the way back to the hotel was originally the British Resident's house (rather like a local embassy in it's day) which is now a guest house for visiting government officials and guests. Looks a little like The White House to me but the books say it's built in "Tuscan Doric" style !



The former British Resident's House (until 1947) 


Next day, we headed out without a tour guide to see a few things on our own. We stopped briefly at St Philomena's Church, but couldn't take pictures inside. It was built between 1933 and 1941 in neo-Gothic style and is one of the largest in India.



St Philomena's Cathedral 



Kris wanted to buy some silk scarves so we headed back to the main shopping area. We saw a lot of scarves !



And eventually we actually bought five !


Then off to the Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel for lunch. It used to be a Maharaja's Palace, but is now a rather grand hotel.



The Lalitha Palace Hotel



The very striking baby-blue Wedgewood-style decor in the dining room


And then our final stop for the day, the Mysore Zoo. The tigers were having an afternoon siesta and we didn't get to see them, but some of the other animals put on quite a show for us - especially the lions.




 Who are you looking at ? Go away !




Those lions look as though they are up to something.



I don't care. I'm bored and it's so hot !




What are those lions planning when I'm trying to eat ?




Hey baby, how about you and me ............ ?




Are they doing what I think they're doing ?



Oh baby, that feels SO good !




How shameful ! I can't bear to look




(A few seconds later)  Well I'm done. How was it for you ?




Pffft ! Looked pretty quick to me !



But the birds weren't paying any attention. They were too busy preening themselves.



Black Swan



Mandarin Duck (not just an item in a Chinese Menu)


And after all that excitement, we headed back to the hotel. Next stop  (and a new page in the blog ) - Hassan.