#7 India, The South of India, Feb. 3, 1998
Mudumalai Wildlife Park was our next destination. It turned out to be possible to make a reservation in Ooty with the game warden. When I was in India last summer I read about the exploits of Veerapan in the newspapers almost every day. He is a Robin Hood type bandit that was illegally cutting down the sandalwood trees in the wildlife parks and selling the wood. He would give freely to the poor people around the rural regions, and so was supported by them. He had a little band of people with him. He was captured at one time last summer, but he escaped and is still at large! He took some foreigners hostage, and killed some police that were trying to capture him. Last summer he was trying to make an amnesty deal with the authorities, but to no avail. Well, when we got to the park, there was a sign near the entrance that said “Beware of Veerapan,” as the police knew that he hid out in these woods. It has been very embarrassing to the officials as they can’t catch him because local people help him! Also the next day in the newspaper there was a picture showing the sign that we had seen and photographed saying to beware of him!
Well, we didn’t see any sign of Veerapan, but we did see some wildlife, which was fun. We had a great place to stay. It was a very rustic log cabin with four beds, and a flush toilet and hot water. There was no real shower, but a place to stand in the bathroom while you poured warm water on yourself. We went for a van ride from five to six o’clock and an elephant ride the next morning.
Best were the deer (maybe 20) that were easily seen by the river that ran right in front of our cabin, and two wild boar, many monkeys, and on the rides, sambar, a bigger kind of deer, and wild bison.
At one point he stopped (he was a big tusker) and knocked over a tree that was about 15 feet high and about four inches in diameter in the trunk, and ate the leaves.
They are big!! And high up!!
On to Mysore, a pretty, small city. Marlys and Jim toured the palace, then Prakash drove us to Chamundi Hill the next morning. There was lots of interesting activity on the top. Rural men wearing big colorful turbans were visiting along with women wearing big silver ankle bracelets.
As we walked down the 1000 steps we encountered the biggest stone Nandi in India. Nandi is a bull, which is Siva’s mount. When we got to the bottom, where was Prakash? We waited for an hour, gave up and took a rickshaw to the hotel. It turned out to be a communication problem. Prakash thought that we were going to walk up again so he waited on the top!
Back to Bangalore, where Prakash invited us to come to their house and meet his wife and one-month-old baby. They live with her parents, as is common in India. We had invited them to a restaurant for dinner. Nevertheless, being very cordial, they gave us huge snacks to eat on metal plates so by the time we reached the restaurant, we weren’t very hungry! They also gave us gifts—pictures for the wall. We had brought some pretty clothes for the baby, who, incidently was not wearing diapers. I don’t know what they do when she wets.
In India, Marlys and Jim got a kick out of taking the autorickshaws. At first they were pretty nervous, but later Marlys said that she enjoyed them. As I say, apparently one has to acclimate to India before it becomes fun. I’m so used to it that I don’t notice the way in which it is soooooo different.
In Bangalore we rested up and then we left on Saturday for Bombay. We had some time before our flights; especially Marlys and Jim as their flight didn’t go until two AM. We took a cab into Bombay past miles and miles of wretchedly poor people living in shanties, tents, or nothing at all, with beggars at every stoplight showing that they had no fingers from leprosy, or were missing arms. There were cripples and blind people, misery after misery. I thought they should see the infamous Bombay, as their son, Daniel (exPeaceCorp) said that they certainly wouldn’t see ‘the real India’.
We went directly from this scene to the opulent Taj Mahal Hotel, talk about contrasts!! We had a Kingfisher and a snack and then I had to leave for the airport. I left them to explore the hotel and leave later at their leisure. I was hoping that they would find their way to the airport, which they did, as they’re very good travelers. I went to Abu Dhabi, where I am now, and they went on to Minneapolis.
It was a rugged trip, especially for Jim when he had a cold, and one that I wouldn’t take most people on. But we really enjoyed it, and I’m glad it worked out well for them, and for me too.