August 3, 2011

Modern India - Shivanasamudra Falls

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On our road trip to Mysore, the driver recommended a side jaunt to Shivanasamudra Falls.  Almost an hour’s drive on bumpy roads through small agricultural villages brought us to the site.  The initial view was encouraging, and we proceeded down a set of steps to two viewing platforms.
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The Kaveri river splits around a large island into a series of falls, then joins up again at the base. 
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It’s magnificent.
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The falls run year round, and the river powers a nearby hydroelectric plant.  It was the first one built in Asia, in 1902, and the power initially went to the Kolar Gold Fields.
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I’ve seen my share of waterfalls, but nothing to compare with this.  The way the falls broke up over the rocks was mesmerizing.
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A quick video:
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Another quick video:
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Plus, there were monkeys.
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Back at the parking area, we paused for some tender coconut water.  Anyone who has visited the tropics will know this drill--for a small price, the vendor will lop the top off an immature coconut with a machete, and hand it to you so you can enjoy the coconut water inside.  It’s generally safe from contamination, although the savvy traveller carries their own straws, and very refreshing and hydrating.
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On the way back to the road to Mysore, through more small villages, we shared the road with the occasional tractor, but more often teams of oxen pulling carts.  My favorite vignette was a very old man, dressed in a dhoti, riding a bicycle, and herding a large flock of black goats along the road.  He was also talking on his mobile phone.  It seemed symbolic of the ways things have changed, and not changed, since I was last here. 

August 2, 2011

Modern India - Nandi Hills

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From Bangalore I made a day trip to the nearby Nandi Hills, an ancient hill fortress / hill station.  The hills rise dramatically from the flat plains, and afford wonderful views of the surrounding countryside.
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There are several paths to explore, and a large swath of the unique peninsular gneiss rock also found at Lalbagh gardens.
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You can see how happy I am to be outdoors and hiking around!
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At the edge of the gneiss outcropping, there is a fence in progress, to prevent the kind of potentially perilous behavior these teens are indulging in.  The rock is slippery, so I exercised due caution.  At the right of this picture, you can see very old fortifications:
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The walls have small spy holes / rifle ports.
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Yet another spectacular view:
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As I hiked around in the lush environment, I kept encountering plants I’m familiar with as houseplants, like this Hypoestes:
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This temple was built into and extended out from the rock:
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Appropriately, there’s a large Nandi statue on the Hill; here’s  the signage:
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And the tree, covered with offerings:
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And the Nandi:
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The statue is regularly anointed with butter, into which are pressed flowers:
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Also nearby is a small Muneswara temple under a spreading banyan tree:
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There are some small guesthouses and restaurants available:
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As well as a large Horticultural Guest House and formal gardens to stroll in.
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The weather was ideal, with pleasant temperatures and cool breezes.  It was another very good day in India.

August 1, 2011

Modern India - Bannerghatta National Park

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Gets your attention, doesn’t it?  If this is what you saw in real life, it could be the last thing you saw…..Fortunately, I saw it while riding a bus through the Bannerghatta National Park Wildlife Safari, near to Bangalore, India.  (All of the pictures enlarge if you click on them.)
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After arriving at the Park, procuring a ticket, waiting in a queue to have my ticket inspected, waiting in another queue, and boarding the bus, I took one of the remaining available seats, towards the back.  I was the only non-Indian on the bus.  There was a certain amount of gesticulation and discussion, then I was waved forward with cries of “single seat, Madam, single seat!” to the front of the bus and a prime spot looking out of the windshield.  This type of preferential treatment used to bother me, years ago when I was new to India, but I have since learned to selectively accept it.  When immersed in a foreign culture it is my responsibility to be polite, friendly, respectful, and not act like an idiot.  It is not my job to challenge the status quo at every instance, despite my egalitarian leanings.
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One of the advantages of the “single seat” was that when the wildlife was located on the opposite side of the bus, the driver would gesture for my camera, lean out of the window, and take pictures for me.  He was quite good at it.  He captured the crocodile sunning on a rock, above, the water lilies, below, and many of the other pictures that follow.  Again, I just handed over my camera and went with the flow.  Everyone was happy.
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It was a good photo safari.  The infrastructure of the park was a rather faded in spots, but the animals without exception seemed healthy, happy, and very well cared for.  They tended to gather at what appeared to be feeding stations, conveniently located for photo ops, which makes perfect sense.  That’s what drew these spotted deer to this clearing:
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Here are some bison:
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More deer--obviously not spotted, but I’m not certain of their classification:
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The elephants were not wild, as they were being bathed by attendants, but charming and picturesque nonetheless:
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Next up were the sloth bears, who sport impressive claws for digging up termite mounds, and protruding lips for vacuuming up the termites.  They are an endangered species, due to habitat loss, and the Park has a breeding program for them.  They were living up to the “sloth” part of their name by napping in the road, and were loath to get up and amble off:
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We left the herbivore section and passed through security gates to various carnivore habitats.  We were lucky to spot quite a few lions:
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Including this pair who were stalking each other:
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They were obviously just playing--anyone with housecats will find these postures very familiar:
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I wish I could convey to you just how LARGE a tiger is.  It is very startling to see one materialize out of the underbrush:
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My gardening friends will observe that there is a lot of orange flowered lantana growing wild here, if you can take your eyes off of the tiger:
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This is how close he came to the bus, although he was not the least bit aggressive:
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The park also has a colony of rare white tigers:
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After the safari, I took a quick tour of the zoo.  In general I find zoos a bit depressing, and this one was no exception, but again, the animals appeared to my inexpert eyes to be fed and cared for.  Here was a truck delivering freshly cut fodder to the hippos:
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There were some free-range monkeys:
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Another good day and culturally interesting experience.  I am having an excellent Indian adventure. 
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