Hopefully everyone had a "Happy New Year" celebration, since now the challenge of actually having a "Happy New Year" will be a key focus for the next 364 days. So far we're succeeding, we've made our way to Mysore, in Karnataka state, and have spent the 17 hours of 2007 watching late-night English Premiere League football, sleeping, followed by a hotel relocation and then some eating. Basically it's just another day for us in India, agenda-less but focused on fun!
We left Ooty, and therefore Tamil Nadu as well, on December 30th, and though we had planned on Bangalore we decided, after a little more research (re-reading our Lonely Planet & Rough Guide travel books) that heading to Mysore would be more fun since there is much more to do and though it is a large bustling city, it is not quite so large and difficult to navigate as Bangalore. However, our time estimate on transit was quite incorrect, so although we thought the trip from Ooty to Mysore was merely 2.5 hours, it ended up being over twice that, which wasn't exactly the most fun, since the bus we were riding on had the worst suspension yet, such that whenever we hit bumps (which was frequent) we were physically launched into the air, sometimes as much as a foot off of our seats! A definite highlight of the trip occured when we drove through a national park on the Karnataka/Tamil Nadu border: we lucked out and got to see a wide variety of animals, all within five minutes. First two types of monkeys, the common grey ones, and then a few black monkeys, followed by several herds of spotted deer... but all that was then surpassed when we drove by an entire herd of elephants! Apparently trekking is the difficult way to go about seeing them, one just needs to be onboard the correct bus, as we saw at least 10-15, of all sizes, standing right next to the road - quite spectacular.
Unfortunately we out-thought ourselves, and heading to a larger city for New Year's Eve was an incorrect move, as we quickly discovered upon arriving in Mysore that most hotels were not only full, but those that had rooms were literally tripling the price - not exactly what we had in mind by leaving the mountains, but we managed to roll with the punches and only got really price-hosed on New Year's Eve itself. To do so, we spent our first night in Mysore actually 9 km outside of the town, but since we had arrived so late on the bus anyway, we really just needed a place to sleep, so saving a few hundred rupees was well worth it, though we had to spend a bit for a driver to take us around to various hotels, but all in all it was definitely cheaper, and the place we ended up in was definitely still reasonable. The next morning, Dec. 31, we returned to Mysore itself, and once our previous night's driver's promises of a cheap hotel had fallen through, as we had suspected, we settled on a mid-ranged hotel, figuring we'd rather pay for a nice place that is ordinarily more expensive, than for a shoddy (as in our usual lodging) place that was inflating its pricing due to the holiday. So that meant for NYE we were in our cleanest hotel yet, with an equally clean bathroom, as well as a TV. We spent the early part of our evening wandering around town - partaking in some tasty street food, admiring the Maharajah's Palace that was completely lit up (as it is every Sunday night, it wasn't for NYE at all), getting compressed by crowds in the street - and the second half of the evening relaxing in our room watching some exciting TV - first a Discovery Channel special on if dragons really existed, then a top-notch football match between Manchester United and Reading. Obviously our NYE celebration was the coolest in the entire world, and was the real reason we came to India :-)
Today, then, we migrated to cheaper lodging as pricing returned to normal, so instead of 750 rupees for last night (virtually twice our previous most-expensive hotel), we are now staying in a 120 rupee/night lodge, which is actually the cheapest we have been able to find thus far. So that's a nice change of (financial) events, and for the next two days we're basically going to be killing time, waiting for Luke's arrival; since he lived in Mysore for 5 months in 2005, we don't want to spoil to many of the town's sites without our free, knowledgeable, and fluent-English-speaking guide! But we cannot spend all of our time eating, which is truly a shame, so we may check out the zoo or an art gallery tomorrow, and save the exciting stuff for when Luke is here (the Maharajah's Palace, Churmundi Hill - which overlooks the whole town, etc.).
So we'll be keeping it real here in Mysore for probably the next two weeks, so when boredom first strikes you in 2007, fight back by checking out our photo galleries - which are just about fully updated, and our Youtube site - which is slowly but surely expanding.