|Yesterday I climbed the 1,000 steps of Chamundi Hill to reach the Sri Chamundeswari Temple. Since pilgrms are supposed to climb the 1000 steps to the top, rather than take the local bus, I pictured hundreds of people clamoring to the top, elbow to elbow. Instead, I was completely alone.
When I got to the top I was again surprised...there were about 1,000 Indians waiting to get into the Sri Chamundeswari Temple. All of them, presumably, had arrived on the tour buses which were strategically parked at the other end of a long row of small shops selling pocketbooks, jewelry, candy, water, and t-shirts. I laughed, paid my 10 rupees (25 cents) and stood in the queue for 15 minutes to see inside the magnificent temple.
On the walk back down the mountain, I encountered a handful of tourists, and one pushy indian who pointed to his cheek and muttered the only english he knew "kiss...kiss". Luckily, among the very few Hindi words I now know are "cello..cello" and "shanti...shanti". "Shanti" meaning I wanted to decend the mountain really really slowly (so he should go on ahead of me) and "cello" meaning "move on" "move on". When the "shanti...shanti" didn't work I resorted to sitting on the steps and yelled out "cello" "cello" "cello" until he finally got the picture and...moved on.
A little farther down the hill I stopped for a photo at a famous 5-meter high Nandi (Shiva's bull vehicle), carved out of solid rock in 1659. Nearby was a tiny Shiva temple carved into a cave no bigger than an office cubicle. Inside were 5 westerners enjoying tea with the local priest or sadu.
...Only in India....! :)
This afternoon I'm taking the bus to Udhagamandalam (Ooty for short). It's a hill station so I'll probably need to dig out some warm clothes from my backpack. I'm not really sure what to expect there but my travel guide (The Lonely Planet) promises: an unlikely combo of southern england and australia complete with stone cottages, bijou-fenced flower gardens, leafy winding lanes and tall eucalyptus stands. My only concern is that it also mentions 36 hairpin bends on the road between here and there. Still, it seems better than heading to another city. I'm a little 'citied out' after Mysore.