Our main reason for visiting Wayanad was to see Asian elephants in the wild. We chose Sultan Bathery as our base, in order to plan a quick safari to the local forests. After searching for tours on TripAdvisor, I discovered a guide, Sabu, who was highly recommended for his customization of treks, village tours and animal safaris, to your interests. With less than 24 hours notice, he was able to fit us in and take us on an all-day excursion to explore the local area. We had to hire both his guide services, as well as a jeep driver to take us to the various destinations. Our day started with a drive along the edges of some local game parks in the hopes we might spot some elephants along the periphery, without having to pay any entrance fees. We spotted plenty of deer, but no trunks, so a reserve visit seemed inevitable.
Before we gave up the hunt, Sabu took us on a village walk to see some of the local industry – from timber cutting and fishing, to rice farming, spice and rubber tree plantations. We ate our first true Kerala thali of over a dozen different dishes, all served on a banana leaf and eaten by hand with mountains of rice. By the afternoon, we had decided that we would cough up the extra expense to visit the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, which required the hiring of a separate driver, with a vehicle prepared for the rough roads ahead of us. It was an incredibly bumpy and rattling journey, that I am surprised we didn’t scare off all the animals with the noise. Finally, luck was with us, as we saw three wild Asian elephants within the first fifteen minutes of our trip. Two of them seemed to be in a standoff over who was the master of a particular territory. In addition to these giants, we also sighted a large bison, more deer and many monkeys.
Next up? – Mysore, which had not been on our radar as a worthwhile city to include in our itinerary. We had wrongly assumed it would just be a big Indian city lacking any “tourist” draw. However, we needed a rest stop between Wayanad in the North of Kerala and Hampi in the North of Karnataka (a stop I was looking forward to with great anticipation!). Perhaps, this is why our two days in Mysore ended up being such a pleasant surprise. Firstly, we ended up staying in a modern, mid-century-styled apartment, with two bedrooms for about $30 a night. This was in an upscale and clean neighborhood with a wide selection of restaurants, and an international supermarket that had us ohhing and ahhing at all the western and organic foods on offer.
It turns out that Mysore is a mecca for those seeking intensive yoga courses or deep meditation in an ashram. We met multiple foreigners who were doing just that, and had enrolled in several weeks of yoga instruction to improve their craft. This included an Australian family, who own their own yoga studio in Perth, and have been coming to Mysore for a month, every year, for almost a decade. They were renting an apartment in the same building as us, and had an older son who immediately became a playmate of Stella and Gabriel. Although I did not have the opportunity to take a drop-in yoga class during our brief stay, I got my share of healthy organic food and more importantly, the hint of what it could be like to stay put in a place of comfort and ease in India. Mysore felt like one of the most livable cities we had yet visited.
The most famous place to visit is the Mysore Palace, another stunning example of opulence, artistry, and embellishment, featuring two Durbar halls and a richly painted turquoise gallery. Here are some teaser photos of the outside grounds only, because this was the first palace we visited which did not allow any photos of the interior.