This is the second part of the 5 Highlights of Karnataka:
- Part 1:
- Beautiful Mysore
- Part 2:
- Nature and animals
- Origin of Kaveri river
- Tibetan settlement
Nature and animals
In Karnataka there are several National Parks where it is possible to spot wild animals. We did not go due to lack of time, but we went to some smaller places where we could get in contact with nature.
One of them was the Bird Sanctuary near Mysore. Actually I do not recommend going there if you are a foreigner travelling on a low budget (it is worth the visit for the Indian entry cost, but not worth the foreigners’ price, six times higher). The most interesting thing in the park is the boat tour, where you can see a lot of different birds flying and standing on the trees… and crocodiles in the river, just five meters from the boat! Actually the birds like the crocodiles since they keep the monkeys away, because the monkeys steal the birds’ eggs. The birds are clever, they leave the nest near the crocodiles but go fishing further in the river.
We did see a lot of monkeys during our stay. One day we had picnic next to a river, and one monkey stole our bottle of water. I was too shocked to take a picture, he got the bottle and looked at us in the same way Gollum from Lord of the Rings… ‘it’s mine!!’.
And my favorite moment, the elephants! I did not want to ride an elephant since I heard that in some places they are mistreated for training (and most of the elephants I saw carrying tourists did not look healthy). We went to Dubare, an elephant camp were they seemed healthy. It was possible to ride them but only a couple of hours a day, so we guessed the rest of the day they could rest. We only watched them go to the river to drink water. The best of it… there was a BABY! It was 4 months old… soooo CUTE!!
Origin of Kaveri river
My friends told me that a lot of the touristic destinations popular among Indians are pilgrimage places. Some of them are the origin of certain rivers or places were several rivers or seas meet (as in Kanyakumari). One of them is the origin of the Kaveri river, an important large river flowing through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The origin is on the mountainous region of Madikeri.
At the origin of the river, up in the mountains, there is a temple. In the temple there is a pool which contains the flowing water of the river. People visit the place in order to take a bath there for cleansing, so I did the same, in the Indian women way: fully dressed. The bath consists in entering the pool from one side and walk along to the other side. The water was very cold and the ground was irregular, river-like. It was cold but it was a rewarding experience. I did feel more fresh and relaxed after the bath.
One of the most interesting experiences of the week was visiting a tibetan settlement in Bylukuppe, one of the biggest in India.
When the first refugees arrived in 1959 they were given land by the Indian government, 1ha per person and up to 5ha per family. The first refugees lived in tents and they constructed their houses and worked the land. Tibetans are still not Indian citizens, they have a refugee status and wait for the day when they will be able to go back home.
Nowadays there are about 15 camps in the settlement, and they have their own schools, hospitals, calendar and festivities. They have also a temple, the Golden Temple in the fourth camp, which is just impressive.
The first camp is composed by 100 houses, organized in 10 rows of 10 houses. The area is very clean and the houses are very nice, have several rooms including a prayer room.They live from their land and there are also restaurants and souvenir shops in the area. It is surprising to see the tibetan prayer flags between palm trees…
Have you been in Karnataka? What did you like the most?
** USEFUL INFORMATION **
- Bird sanctuary entry: Indians 50 rupees, foreigners 300 rupees
- Bird sanctuary boat tour (1 hour): Indians 50 rupees, foreigners 300 rupees (sometimes in English, sometimes not)
- Dubare elephant camp: possible to ride an elephant, watch how they are bathed or fed, or just going around
- Golden temple: free entry
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