1,000 steps to dysentery

Towards the south of India, a bit southwest of Bangalore, the town of Mysore is a great destination for any visit to the south of the country. The region was incorporated as a kingdom as long as 600 years ago and settled thousands of years ago, meaning that there is plenty of history there to view. Plus there is a great view of the main town area from the temple at the top of Chamundi hill, just on the outskirts of town. The temple can be reached either by driving up to the top, or by hiking up the 1,000 steps along the side of the hill.

On our tour of India we decided to visit Mysore as a day trip from Bangalore. The drive was about 2-3 hours each way, but should be shorter now as they were in the midst of re-paving the roads during our trip, and they should be done by now. We arranged the tour with the front desk of the hotel and they made sure that our driver was waiting for us bright and early that morning. He didn’t speak a lot of English, but that seemed OK since he had clearly done the “day trip to Mysore” tour previously and knew where we were supposed to go. The fact that we wanted to skip some of the temples and other things on the road in to Mysore didn’t really seem to phase him – we stopped at them anyway due to the language barrier. Eventually we made it to Mysore and drove up to the 12th century temple of Chamundeshwari at the top of the hill. The views were phenomenal as we expected and the temple itself was quite nice overall.

Outside the temple there were a number of merchants set up. Some were kids offering to guard our shoes for us during our visit in the temple (no shoes allowed inside) or various other things that they were selling. There were also a number of folks selling stuff to offer up to the gods in the temple and various other foodstuffs in the plaza outside the temple.

We decided that we would walk down the 1,000 steps, rather than up the steps, during the car ride to Mysore. Unfortunately, we had a bit of trouble explaining that to our driver. He was all set to drive us on to the next stop on his itinerary, but we weren’t ready for that yet. I tried sign language. I tried pointing to pictures in the guide book. Nothing was working. Fortunately one of the local merchants came to our rescue, speaking to our driver and explaining to him our plans. And, it turns out that he was selling fried dough of some sort. So in addition to working as a translator he also provided us with some great nourishment for the hike down. As a small aside, it seems that every culture has a fried dough meal of some sort, and they are universally delicious. When in doubt, fried dough should always be consumed.

Fully nourished, we began our descent of the hill. It was at about this point that I started to realize that perhaps the indigestion I was feeling was a bit more than just a bad breakfast. Still, with this being our only chance to tour the Maharaja’s Palace and the other sights in Mysore I pushed on. And I’m really glad I did.

A few hundred steps down from top of the hill is Nandi, Lord Shiva’s Bull. The bull stands ~15 feet tall and is quite an impressive sight. On the day we were there a number of folks were out offering prayers. In addition, apparently it was bath day for Nandi; an number of men were up on scaffolding surrounding the statue washing it down, one bucket at a time.

The rest of the climb down was relatively uneventful, except that my legs started to give out on me towards the end. We did encounter a few others headed up the steps, including this woman:

Our driver was waiting for us at the bottom of the hill and took us to a restaurant where we had lunch. Actually I merely tried to have lunch, as I couldn’t really stomach any food. At this point we had to cut the trip short and return to the hotel in Bangalore. The bad news was that the hotel was a few hours away, and we had a very hard time explaining to the driver that we wanted to skip the rest of the trip, much less why we needed to return. Fortunately we eventually made the point clear enough. I spent the next couple days lying on the couch, waiting desperately for the cipro to kick in and clear up my stomach bug. It did, and hopefully next time I will remember to not lick my fingers when eating street food in India.

We didn’t get to see the palaces, the gardens, the market or a number of other things we intended to do during the trip. Now we have a(nother) good reason to go back to India.

More on Mysore and the 1000 steps here and here.

PS – These notes are based on my trip from November 2005, so things may have changed a bit. But considering the thousands of years of history and the slow pace of change of things in India, I’m guessing that things are pretty much the same these days.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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