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2 januari 2014
First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Bhavvik & myself would like to wish you all the best in 2014, may it be a healthy, happy and great year for all of you!
While writing this we are in the train from Mysore back to Tiruchirappalli, after an amazing week. We decided we could use a holiday after five weeks of working and since we are spending Christmas and New Years’ Eve without our family and friends we wanted to do something special. We booked a thirteen hour train ride from Tiruchirappalli to Mysore for December 27th (8:30pm until 9:30am) until Jan 3rd.
The train ride itself is an adventure. First of all, while booking we were placed on the waiting list. Since there is only one train from Trichy to Mysore there are a select number of seats available. Indian Railways are organized in such a way that people are able to book tickets two months on forehand and can still cancel their tickets on the day they are supposed to leave.
Because of this system, everyone just books a ticket, whether or not they actually plan to use it. As a consequence there are waiting lists. Long waiting lists. When paying for our ticket we were put on the list as #27 and #28. The ladies at the counter told us that it was no problem and we just had to come back on the 27th. When checking our tickets on that day we were still on the waiting list. However, since we are tourists we can apply for something like a ‘tourist quota’, which means as much that there is always a seat available, no matter your place on the waiting list. Makes sense, right?!
Anyways, we got our tickets confirmed and left Friday evening. In the train there are eight or nine classes available so we had to search a while before finding our seats, slash beds. Luckily for us the train stops at every station for about 15 minutes (which also explains the long travel time). The train turned out to be more comfortable than it looked and we succeeded to get some sleep before arriving in Mysore.
When leaving the Railway Station, there were a thousand or so TukTuk’s, which we used to get to our hotel. We selected our hotel on the fact that they have a rooftop swimming pool so of course the first thing we did was take a swim. Nobody else seemed to know about the existence of the pool so every day it turned out to be our own private pool – add the sun and 30 degrees and you have a perfect day.
In the afternoon we went to see some basic tourist attractions. We went to the St. Philomena’s Church first and then to the world famous Mysore Palace. The palace is the 2nd most visited tourist attraction in India (first is Taj Mahal) and we noticed that immediately. It was extremely crowded and since the Indian mentality is based on selfishness and own interests it was pushing, pulling and shuffling through the palace. It is also forbidden to wear shoes or flip flops once you enter a temple or a palace so we were all walking bare footed, stepping on each other’s toes.
We also saw our first elephant up close when walking near the palace which only made us more excited about our trip to the Dubare Elephant Camp.
Afterwards we went to Brindavan Gardens, which was not a success. The Gardens are a long walk in between fountains and parks and during the evening in the weekend it is illuminated by colored underwater lights and that causes a beautiful sight. Unfortunately a lot of people thought like we did so there was a ridiculous crowd. The traffic jam was almost an hour from the last kilometer to the Gardens. All in all it took us about one hour and a half to get back to our hotel even though it is just a 40-minute trip.
On Sunday we went to the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, also known as the Mysore Zoo. This is one of the oldest and most popular zoos in India. It has lots of different animals and we were able to see most of them. We saw a lot of birds that only exist in India and that we had never heard off. It is nice to see the differences between a zoo in the Netherlands and one in India. For example, we did not see ice bears nor penguins and I think you can guess why. What we did see though was a really rare, white tiger, which was pretty awesome.
After going to our hotel and taking yet another swim we went to the Chamundi Hills. This is a hill on the border of the city and it has a great aerial view. We also went to see the temple on top of the hill which had some monkeys walking around. Bhavvik made some friends and we then decided to go back to the city since it was a bit misty and the view was not clear. We had planned to see the illuminated palace from the hills but thought it would be better see it from up close. And that turned out to be a really good decision.
Arriving at the palace there were tons of people already there. Before you see the palace you have to walk through an arc which is also decorated with lights. I am trying to describe the view we had while walking there but it really is impossible. More than 1,000,000 light bulbs are used to illuminate the palace. Every few steps all I could say was ‘Wow’ and ‘That’s f*cking beautiful’. Pictures are worth more than a thousand words but they will never come close to experiencing it with your own eyes.
On Monday we decided to take a two hour taxi ride to the Shivanasamudra Falls. The falls are the 2nd biggest in India and are on the world’s list as #16, we had some big expectations! However arriving there it turned out that right now is not the ‘waterfall season’ so there was only a piss stream of water. When asking if there was anything else close by where we could swim, the driver took us to the Bharachukki falls. This is a place where three small waterfalls come together but it is used as a swimming pool by many. The view was amazing. Even though it was cold we immediately ran into the water. There were only boys there and the local girls were just sitting near a stream with shirts and pants on, so when I took off my clothes and went swimming in my bikini a lot of eyes were on me. We did some cliff diving and we felt it was one of the best experiences we have had so far.
On Tuesday, New Year’s Eve, we went to the Dubare Elephant Camp. Before going to our river view cottages we had to wait for a boat which would bring us there. This turned out to be the perfect start of two days in the camp.
We had an Indian lunch and since it was almost two hours until the first activity we decided to do a little walk through the camp. The camp is next to a forest and the gate was already open and because there was no ‘No Access’ sign we continued our walk there. We took some twists and turns and after a few minutes we heard some branches breaking. Since there are a lot of dogs in the camp we thought it was only a dog but moving closer we saw a HUGE elephant! We looked at each other for a second, wondering what to do, since there was no supervisor or something like that. Bhavvik saw that the elephant – let’s call him Klaas – had some chains on its feet so we got a little closer. I thought he meant that Klaas was chained to a pole or something so I got a little closer – up to five meters or so – and decided to take a selfie (Got to beat Kobe Bryant & Lionel Messi, right?!) However just when I turned my back on Klaas, he blew his trunk. I almost shitted my pants and quickly turned around only to see that he was not chained to a pole but only with his front feet. Klaas moved towards us and we walked back. Then he stopped moving and for a minute we just stayed still, contemplating what to do. We tried to walk past him but Klaas turned around and stood there, looking us straight in the eye, with two beautiful tusks. We walked away slowly, never taking our eyes off him and eventually we went back to the camp. (The next day we would find out that we are not supposed to enter the woods without a supervisor).
So yeah, our first experience at the camp, was one we will never forget.
Next on the program was a Jeep Safari. We were shortly briefed about animals inside the camp and what to expect. There are 120 different species in the forest, among them are the elephant – duh – the tiger, leopard, sambar, different deer’s, wild dogs and bizons. The river is a home to crocodiles and snakes. In the air you can see lots of different birds, with the most beautiful colors you will ever see.
We were told not to have high expectations since the last tiger sighting was Dec 7th, over three weeks ago. The ride lasted around two hours and we saw multiple beautiful animals, unfortunately not the tiger nor the leopard.
Following some wild life movies we sat down around the campfire for diner. In the middle of nature, around campfire, between elephants, tigers and enjoying Indian food we started to look back on our 2013’s – the good, the bad & the ugly. Conclusion for me was that my year was not bad at all. I finally got my propedeuse, played a whole season of basketball without major injuries, got my skydiving license, went snowboarding, went to Paris, saw Eminem, Mumford & Sons, got a permanent contract at my workplace, went away for multiple weekends, spent time with my family and I am really happy I can say that I am able to be a part of my lovely three little nieces their lives, seeing them grow up is one of the best things. And now I am ending my year in an elephant camp in India.
Pretty tough to top that, though I will try my best to make it even better next year.
I will not get emotional right now, since we are still in the train and people are already looking at me like I am an alien (skin color – I am still not tanned enough).
While time passed on New Year’s Eve more and more people left the campfire until there were only a couple of groups left. No one was really excited to do something since Bhavvik & myself tried multiple times to break the ice by asking for scary campfire stories, but we never got a response. Finally we started counting down and when we started screaming and kissing and hugging there was some life with the Indians. We wished everyone the best but before we knew it nobody was left except for the two of us.
We decided to make our own party and started dancing on some music from our own phones and laptops. Trendsetters we are, some guys joined us and with them we sang, danced and drank and had the time of our lives. Around 3’ish everyone left and since the campfire was almost off we called it a night.
The next morning at 5:30 we were rudely woken by music from a temple close by. It lasted about 25 minutes and when it finally stopped we heard a knock on the door telling us to be ready within half an hour, so we could do a walk through nature.
Imagine, New Year’s morning, 6:30, having had about two hours of sleep, a tiny hangover, being freezing cold, walking through the nature, listening to a guy telling us about plants, bushes and birds. I mean, thinking about it, it was a nice two hour walk and we saw a lot of things, but right at that moment we did not feel all too well. We did however saw another elephant but our supervisor told us that we were not supposed to get closer than 30 meters. (Should have told us that earlier).
Walking back to our camp we immediately went to the water to do a ‘river cruise’. We stepped into our coracle (a round boat made of bamboo) and a few meters of shore the guy started to spin the boat as fast as he could. Since we had a pretty rough night we politely thanked him but asked for a ‘normal’ ride over the river. This is by the way the same river that has crocodiles in it but unfortunately we did not spot any.
After our New Year’s breakfast – toasted sandwiches with an omelet – we then got a chance to watch and bath the elephants. There were two of them, an adult male and a baby elephant. Both were really complying and seemed to love the attention they get from the people. Since they are not able to sweat, the only way for them to cool off is through water or mud. Every day they go in the water at least one time. Seeing those huge animals and being able to touch them is one of the awesomest, yes awesomest, feelings ever. Every time it moves just a little bit you freak out for a second but actually they are sweet, friendly giants.
The elephants went back to their resting place and we went to another spot to have our elephant ride. While walking there we were surrounded by elephants. Left, right, in front of us, we wanted to leave some space between us and the animals but it seemed impossible. It was really magic seeing all these huge animals walking in one place with us standing in the middle.
Someone from the camp told us some general information about the elephants and then we took off for our ride. It was really relaxing and peaceful and an amazing experience.
Looking back it just all seems so unreal that we were able to do this and I am grateful for the opportunity.
The last day in Mysore we mostly hung out by the swimming pool. In the evening we went to the Shopping Mall and did some bowling – I totally suck – and Bhavvik had some strikes and spares so he won. Boo. We ordered some room service – lazy asses we are – and ended our last night of vacation watching a movie.
That brings us back to now, in the train for almost five hours, but still over seven to go.
Ps. The other countdown we have been doing right now is only 23. See you then.
Stephanie & Bhavvik
Foto's bij verslag (31)
2 januari 2014 16:56 | Door: Corrie
Amazing what een journy lady..
Dat is een ervaring die jullie levenslang zullen herinneren.
Ik wens jullie allebei een prachtig, voorspoedig, gezond 2014.