Along the way we stopped into Mysore to go to the market to pick up supplies and food for our wonderful chef, Juno, to cook up while we were there. Getting back into the crazy freneticness Indian city driving was something of a shock to my system, but wandering round Mysore market was an experience to just open all the senses. The market is huge, filled with rows upon rows of stalls selling flowers, incense, and multicoloured holy powder, used in traditional Indian religious rituals, as well as fruits, vegetables and spices of all kinds. While the girls missioned it to get what we needed, I was free to wander round and get accosted by hawkers and sellers. One thing I keep wondering, and I have noticed this everywhere, is how in all Indian markets and towns they always have rows of stalls selling exactly the same thing, one after the other, and then you turn the corner and everyone is selling exactly the same something else. Seems like they like the competition, but I do wonder how the guys in the middle manage to make any business!
Having loaded ourselves up with bags and bags of fruit, veg, meat and fish, we got ourselves back in the car for the final run up to Srirangapatnam, just 15km or so up the road (thankfully, it had been a long long trip!). We arrived to catch sunset at this beautiful old colonial mansion, that I can only describe as a place of idyllic bliss. It was owned by Yvette, an incredible woman who lived there with her son, Rupert and his partner, Hee-Juang, who met us and showed us to the guest house where we were staying.
Sitting on the banks of the Cauvery river, the house is set in grounds surrounded by palm trees and sugarcane, and the guest house had been completely renovated from an old run down servants quarters by them. Yvette, who is in her 80s, has spent the last 60 years in India, and bought the house off the Maharaja of Mysore more than 50 years ago, when it was a lost, run down house that was thought to be haunted, and almost single-handedly rebuilt and restored it. She had many incredible tales to tell about her life and experience as a western woman in India, and her work with the women in the local community as an artist, community health practitioner and women's rights activist, which we listened to as we chatted and prepared dinner. Surprisingly (or maybe not?) we heard from the Spanish boys that they had decided to take us up on our offer, and they arrived just in time for a delicious dinner, which Juno had made with her usual enthusiasm and skill. It was amazing to have a consumate Indian chef, who just loves cooking with us, as we consistently ate so well the whole week.
The next couple of days were just simplicity and relaxation at its best, which was a welcome relief after all that charging around. Hanging out, swimming in the river, going for walks, cooking and eating managed to easily fill up our days, and Hee-Juang was such a lovely host, and spent the whole weekend sharing it with us. But before we even knew it, the time had flown by and Anna-Lou and Juno had to get back to Bangalore, and I had to get back on the road. Saying goodbye was so sad, the splitting of our merry little road-tripping gang, but it was filled with so many funny funny times. We sent Anna-Lou and Juno off and then Hee-Juang suggested that rather than going to Mysore, maybe we should stay just one more night. To say no would simply be foolish, so me, Poonam, Ivan and Feran hung out for one more evening, watching movies projected in the courtyard and headed off to Mysore in the morning.
Me and Poonam made it into Mysore with a few hours to kill before our respective buses took us in opposite directions, so had just enough time to go and check out and wander around Mysore Palace, one of the “must see” examples of Maharajan opulence in South India, and quite worthy of this title too. And then we too had to say our goodbyes, as she headed north back to Goa, and I set off once again, down to Ft Cochin, on the south Kerala coast. It suddenly felt so strange to be back to travelling on my own again after so much fun n games with Anna-Lou and her friends, but the realisation really hit me that my time in India was flying by and I still had so much that I wanted to see and do. But it was really great to spend time with Anna-Lou get a bit of a window into her mad life out here in crazy crazy India. Thanks girls, good times!!
Saying our goodbyes to the Spanish boys (well, the girls had sown the seed that maybe it was better for them to follow us and head north, rather than sticking with their original plan), we headed north from Wayanad, out of the hills and forests and into the open dry plains, up towards Mysore and Srirangapatnam (or “She rang the butler” as Anna-Lou called it, anglo-phonetically speaking), where a friend of Anna-Lou's has a big old colonial house where she had arranged for us to stay for a couple of nights.