Mysuru or Mysore derives its name from a word referring to the place where the demon buffalo was slain which is a pretty awesome idea for a name. The city also boasts the cleanest air of any Indian city so the guidebook told me. India's cleanliness has been in our face and up our noses since our arrival. When I say cleanliness I mean volume of litter, air pollution and the state of the water ways. Plastic is a problem. Take us for example. Four Brits in India for three weeks each drinking at least two bottles of water per day. 168 plastic bottles will need to find a final resting place when we leave. 1.3 billion Indians are using plastic consumables everyday from chewing tobacco in small plastic pouches to essential items such as water urns and sheeting. Based on our current experience there isn't a great deal of recycling available. As versatile as plastics are it's only when their graveyards are this obvious that it becomes clear that we either need to learn how to recycle them more easily or just ban their use all together.
One of the most striking things about India so far has been the pride in how people dress and to some degree it reminds me of a night out in Liverpool. The lads are in their best shirts and a smart pair of trousers, the analogy doesn't extend to open toed jesus boots, and the girls have given it one hundred percent in their brightly coloured sparkling outfits, their hair combed back perfectly into a long thick pony tail and a little bit of make-up and a fair amount of jewellery to complete the look. For all the dust here people appear exceptionally clean. Every morning we see ladies sweeping their front yards dressed as if they were off to dinner in a fancy restaurant. The gents are normally having a quick game of cricket at 6:30 when we pull out.
India has a nice tempo; a nice rhythm to life. Until the local mosque starts chanting the call to prayer at five bloody thirty. Laura and I haven't heard it for a long while but fortunately for us on this occasion the Imam was up against our alarm clock. We got up thinking just how unsociable it can be to have a Mosque for a neighbour. At least Christians repent their shame in silence.
On our way to dinner the previous night we'd seen the Palace of Mysore lit up in all it's one hundred thousand lightbulb glory. It wasn't quite as grand in the morning haze as we stopped by the entrance the to briefly admire it and take photos that we'll probably look at once or twice more in our lives. The palace used to be wooden until it burnt to the ground, then it was just ash. That was in 1897. They got to work on it straight away and started building a more fire resistant structure which they had finished by 1912. It was then the residence of the Maharajah until 1998 when the courts placed the palace in the hands of the Karnataka state government. The royal family have lodged an appeal; I'm not sure if they lodged it as squatters or from another stately home. One suspects they're doing alright.
Culture session completed Al and I briefly flirted with the idea of a McDonalds for breakfast but after a couple of weong turns we ended up just getting out of town and trying to chew up a few more kms instead.
Out if town, Emma and Al stopped and bought some flowers from a lady in a stunning blood orange sari at the roadside. Al came over and adorned laura with a sweet scented white and golden flower bouquet. All seemed to have gone well as Al and Em pulled away but Laura and I were having stalling issues and the lady was approaching us with a menace about her walk. I was bricking it and telling Laura to get us going ever more frantically but the more I got excited the harder neutral became to find. By the time amshe got upsides us I was pretending I hadnmt just been screaming 'Laura! Let's get the flip out of here!' in a mild tizz. Our lady seemed to think we had to pay for the flowers too and after a short discussion where neither party really knew what the other was saying, and in the secret knowledge that our getaway had failed, we handed the flowers back. That seemed to make her happy again. We should give our purchases back more often. Maybe next time.
We were all getting tired with our relentless hours of driving and despite functioning well a little tension was starting to creep into the group.
We were driving to Shimoga and the roads had opened up nicely since we left Mysore. We were going so well that we would be arriving at 2pm. That had Laura hunting for adventure. We pulled over and had a quick meeting. The temple at Hallebeedu was a bit of a detour but promised great things. We had a roadside vote and it was clear that we were all struggling a bit with the idea of changing schedules and what would ensure at least a small amount of night time driving. We'd also be taking a compete punt on what the road surfaces would be like. Democracy won and a vote in favour of side tracking was ruled legit; we changed course and set sail.
The next hour and a half was some lovely if inefficient countryside tukking. We did get lost at one point and were debating which rutted dirt track to begin off roading on (a shockingly bad idea) when we were suddenly surrounded by a group of school kids and a teacher clutching his 'Learn to Speak English' text book. Brilliant.
The kids were awesome; all smiles and hello's. The teacher gave us great directions and told us to turn right after the Master Control Facility and that road would take us to Halle Beedu. We left with our horns blaring shouting our good byes wondering what the hell happens at a Master Control Facility.
The 50km detour turned out to be 80km. Time was ticking and we were now questioning if we'd actually make to Shimoga by nightfall. All these uncertainties weren't helping the tension.
As we pulled into Halle Beedu and found somewhere to park the anxiety was reaching a crescendo. It was hot, we were tired though none of us would admit it, and as we slowed to a stop we were mobbed. Guides, books sellers, curios merchants, coconut stalls all trying to sell to us at once. For the first time we were exposed to the reality of being tourists and the conundrum of just what to do with our luggage whilst away from the Tuks. Too heavy to carry around we'd have to leave the big bags behind but we were naturally worried that they could disappear easily if unsecured. Sweat was beading on our furrowed brows and all the while we were trying to explain that we needed neither a copy of the Karma Sutra nor a refreshing pair of coconuts. Valuables went into back packs and I asked the lady at a nearby stall to keep an eye on our bags on the promise of buying her wares on return. As security I bought a coconut and said the same thing to the coconut guy.
Thin lipped smiles abounded as we rounded the corner all of is hoping this was worth the hassle. We passed through the entrance gate into the grounds of the Hoysaleswara Temple and as we approached the weight on our collective shoulders diminished with every step. As we stood directly in front if the temple the last vestiges of tension evaporated completely. Before us was something very special indeed.
Halebeedu was the ancient capital of the Hoysala empire. Founded in the 11th century (the British Isles were coming out of the dark ages) Halebeedu had a fortress and palace to boot. The temple before us was started in 1121 and took 86 years to build and looking at it we could understand why. No square inch had been neglected, friezes intimately and patiently carved and polished from solid granite surrounded the temple no two ceilings were the same. Two giant bulls sat elegantly each weighing several tonnes. A scholar on Indian architecture is quoted as saying that the temple "is without exaggeration, one of the most remarkable monuments ever produced by the hand of man," and even now it's hard to find sufficient superlatives to get across the majesty of this place.
Thousands of carvings adorned the walls . Elephants, lions, horse men, mythical beasts and pert breasted goddesses. Huge columns of granite immaculately turned as if their metre diameter was a mere wooden chair spindle. The ceilings were similarly detailed. This was the life's work of many master craftsmen and the way in which it has been preserved makes it all the more joyous to behold today. Mankind truly is brilliant sometimes.
We walked out cloaked in content. Our belongings were just where we'd left them. Promises fulfilled with our security team we departed; coconuts, Karma Sutra and curios in hand.
Destination Shimogo, a pair of 2 stroke engines, six wheels and four passengers. Life was good and we were tukking just nicely. Our lights were on a mission too. All four indicators were going hell for leather sometimes fast blinking and sometimes slow. Sometimes left and sometimes right. Fellow road users had started to point it out to us. We didn't have the fortitude to suggest what a ridiculous concept it was to be told off by a man on a bike whilst he was overtaking us overtaking a cow.
Our lodge for the night was a special one. The best yet. I spent ten minutes flushing the bird shit off the bathroom floor before Laura would see it. We had aircon but it was aimed directly at our faces; however, the resultant brain freeze and wind in your ears was more than offset by promising to solve the old 'morning breath' situation.
Down at the hotel restaurant we had Paneer Masala for dinner washed down with some Foster's water(!) and fizzy orange pop.
We needed to shower before bed. Laura came out of the bathroom laughing uncontrollably. It was a self pitying laugh at the state of our abode. Seeing bird poo on the wall, Laura had investigated. On top of the airing cupboard sat two little pigeons as quiet as mice. Our review will say "Air-con in rooms, average bird watching."