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Published: March 18th 2017
On our way to our third and final Indian State of Karnataka we initially take our first Indian mainline train, from Cochin to Coimbatore, in the relative luxury of a “2nd Class air-conditioned Chair Carriage” as opposed to the overcrowded stereotype of Indian trains in the unreserved 3rd class carriage!! We then have a 4 hour drive up a fairly hair-raising narrow road, with so many hair-pin bends we lose count, into the Western Ghats where we spend another couple of nights in Tamil Nadu in the hill station town of Ootacamund or Ooty for short! Set within the high hills, surrounded by tea plantations, this former British Raj town is pleasantly cool compared to the high humidity and temperatures on the coast of Kerala!
Ooty is famous for the “Nilgiri Mountain Steam Train” - also known as the “Toy Train” and we enjoy a scenic ride through the hills. After one hour we stop at Highfields Tea Plantation and have an interesting guided tour around the factory. We also witness the tea pickers returning from the plantations carrying 35kg bags of freshly picked leaves on their heads! The afternoon 3 hour train journey becomes somewhat tedious!! We
are then faced with a 2 hour journey back to Ooty, up the same road but this time in the dark - at least we can’t see the sheer drops!!
Next morning we descend on to the hot plains of Karnataka and stop overnight at Bandipur National Park. Safaris in a canter, a viewing vehicle, let us see many species of birds and spotted deer (tiger food). Apparently we see a tiger asleep deep in dense bushes, which hide all but a faint splash of orange and white stripes! - we will have to go on another tiger safari to be able to say we have seen a tiger!!
On to Mysore where we visit the opulent Mysore Palace, still home to the Maharaja. We return in the evening to witness a magical transformation of the Palace, lit by thousands of lightbulbs! In contrast our late afternoon visit to Devyaraja Market is a riot of colour, noise, exotic fruit and vegetables and even long black human hair for sale at the hair stall - I didn’t suit a ponytail!!
On our way to Bangalore, our final city, we visit several hill
temples. Most notably the Jain Temple of Stravanbelagola set atop a giant rock monolith which we have to climb via 650 steps. Finally at the top the giant statue of the Jain deity Lord Gomateswara is unfortunately covered by bamboo scaffolding but the views of the surrounding countryside are wonderful.
Bangalore, a major IT and call-centre city, is more modern with skyscrapers and shopping malls. There is also an international airport with a direct flight to Heathrow to end our latest Indian adventure.
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