Rice paddies, banana plantations, boulders and rocks and more boulders and rocks! local kids selling chai and oranges at sunset rock, temples everywhere! ancient ruins, monkey wake-up calls, rivers, lounging on cushions and blankets, movie nights, sleeping under the stars, getting our ears cleaned Indian style and the biggest dogs ever! You have my heart, Hampi!
I fall in love with new places so easily, but Hampi got me goooood. It’s like nowhere I’ve ever been before. The ancient town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in northern Karnataka, and rightly so. 40km of land is scattered with what seems like an infinite number of ancient temples – 3600 in fact! Some structures date back to as early as the 7th century. In its prime, Hampi was one of the richest and biggest cities on Earth.
There are two sides of Hampi which are divided by a river – Hampi town and Hampi island. Hampi town is more ‘Indian’ and religious but it’s still buzzing with cafes and shops, and Hampi Island is a bit more laid back. There’s a boat which takes you to and from the island for 10 rupees between 8.30am and 5.30pm (give or take). If you miss it there are sometimes basket boats that can take you but it costs more.
We stayed at the very popular spot, Goan Corner, on Hampi Island. Libby and Christie stayed there last time they were here and loved it. They have little huts but we slept on the roof instead. You have a mozzie net, a blanket and the best view in town under the stars. Most mornings we had a wake up call from a squad of rowdy monkeys running across the roof. They also have THE biggest dogs I’ve ever seen in my life. In fact, they’re more like small horses – no kidding.
After eighteen bum-numbing hours on semi-sleeper bus, I slept like an absolute log the first night and woke up feeling fresh. Today’s itinerary was river, swim and chills, but as per our track record we had a few obstacles along the way! We hired three scooters and set off, but with two on a bike it could barely make it up the hill! Libby and Christie had to keep jumping off to walk while Chantal and I revved the shit out of the engines… they still struggled. Oh, and we also got stuck behind a goat traffic jam. After only ten minutes driving Chantal and Christie broke down in a village so myself, Ellie and Libby drove back to Goan Corner to seek help. After fiddling with the engine for half an hour we were back on the road, and we finally made it to the river! Every two minutes I just wanted to stop and take photos. You’d look one way and see huge brown boulders and in the opposite direction would be vast stretches of rice paddies under hundreds of palm trees. The river was like a lazy river and the whole landscape made us feel like we were driving through a scene in The Flinstones movie.
We found a spot, dumped our stuff and jumped straight in. The current was quite strong and we began to drift but it was easy to swim back to the rock. We did have a little scare when we saw a mysterious brown object floating on the surface near our heads, but luckily it was only moss and not what you first thought when I said mysterious and brown!
Unfortunately we had a few irritating onlookers who persisted for fifteen minutes asking “Madam, one selfie please? Just one selfie please, madam?”, so we decided to find another spot. We drove for only two minutes and my bike decided to pack in, didn’t it! It broke down right next to a gypsy settlement and all the kids came running up to us. They weren’t shy at all and tried to look in my bag for money, asked for chocolate biscuits and poked and prodded at the jewellery I was wearing. They were very sweet though and when I asked to take a photo of them they all had dead serious faces. I counted “1, 2, 3” thinking they would then smile but I stupidly forgot they didn’t speak English, so in the photo you can see some of them copying me holding up their fingers . They couldn’t get enough of looking at their photo on my camera.
We waved goodbye and began to wheel the bike up the road in what seemed like eighty degree heat while Ellie and Chantal went back to Goan Corner to fetch the guy, AGAIN. It felt like we were stranded in a desert and when we saw him driving down the road it was like a mirage. It was slightly embarrassing when he indicated that the bike had simply run out of fuel and needed a few extra minutes for the new fuel to feed through. To be fair to ourselves, he apparently provided us with a sufficient amount of fuel so we assumed this would take us a short distance with no qualms! Rickety old bangers.
By the time we got back it was nearly sunset, so we clambered up the rocks (Christie was in fact assisted by a ten year old local boy much to our amusement) to the popular spot where people gather to greet the evening in. There’s always a group of people jamming with guitars, drums, maybe a didgeridoo and a veryyyy soothing-sounding instrument which I think is an agonda. There’s also a group of local children who sell chai, lemon tea and fruit every evening after school. Their English is very good and if you don’t buy anything they’ll just sit and have a chat with you anyway. The chai is pretty tasty though and they’re pretty good at persuading you to buy a cup – I’m also just incredibly soft.
Our second day in Hampi was spent exploring (a small handful) of the ancient temples. We crossed the river on the boat and met Raj our tuk tuk driver at 8.30am. We started the day with a blessing from Laksmi the local elephant and then had a 30 rupee breakfast at Raj’s local. He drove us around for the whole day for 1200 rupees and the ticket to enter the two main temples is 500 rupees, but all the others are free. It’s definitely worth buying the ticket. Many temples have been restored but even the really old and crumbling ones are incredible. There’s also loads of huge baths where people would clean their feet. Looking at the ceilings, pillars and other tiny crevices you can see meticulous carvings of the Gods and dancing figures. It feels like you’re walking through an abandoned ancient land or the set for the Prince of Persia or Gladiator. Embracing our inner-tourists, we had far too much fun taking photos…
Our third day consisted of yoga, drinking chai, eating and sitting down doing nothing. It’s too easy to do this in Hampi as there’s so many cafes and lounges where the cushions just swallow you up for hours. There was a movie night on at Goan Corner so we watched a very funny Bollywood film called PK.
To sum it up, it’s about an man/alien who travels to Earth on a spaceship to do a research project. To get back to his planet he has a remote control which he can use to call the spaceship, so when it’s stolen by the first human he meets he panics, naturally! Humans from this planet transfer all information via holding hands, so with the help of a man who notices PK is distressed, he goes to a brothel and transfers the entire Hindi language to his brain by holding a prostitues hands all night. When he understands the language, he hears, sees and gets told that ‘God will give you the answers’ or ‘God will help you’ from Hindus, Christians and Muslims (the dominant religions in India). With this information, he begins his search for God who will supposedly help him get home. He becomes a man of multi faiths donning dress of all three religions at the same time. He also hands out posters to strangers on the street saying ‘Missing: God’ and ‘Have you seen God?’, which elucidates why he’s given the name ‘PK’ – PK means ‘drunk’ in Hindi.
Basically, PK lightheartedly explores religion and the contradictions they pose not only in modern day India but throughout the world. It perfectly depicts how humans are actually very weird and how we make things so much more complicated than they need to be. Sorry for rambling but it’s a brilliant film and I highly recommend it! I challenge you to not enjoy the songs. 😉
The next day we went to a nearby waterfall and lagoon for a swim. We paid a local guide to take us there as there’s no way we could’ve found it! You start by walking through banana plantations, then cross small streams until you find a vast stretch of grey rocks. Some of them look like ripples and are so smooth on your feet. We brought a few Kingfisher beers and had the whole place to ourselves for most of the afternoon. It was laaaavly. The evening consisted of more chai, Trainspotting and another early night. Honestly, Hampi turned us into grannies!
We did actually contemplate just sacking off Goa to spend the last two weeks in Hampi, but we fought the temptation and booked our bus tickets. The bus wasn’t until the evening so we spent the day mooching around in shops and getting hairbraids. Ellie, Chantal and I also experienced Indian ear cleaning. I don’t know how they do it but they have a very thin metal rod and they manage to remove a disgusting amount of wax which you never knew existed. Chantal even had ‘rocks’ in her ears – rocks being mounds of wax, dust, dirt, etc. The weird part was when he swirled ayurvedic drops around my ears. It didn’t hurt at all but as you can see by my face I couldn’t quite distinguish how it felt!
Leaving Hampi made me a little sad. It’s special because it’s so unique. It’so quiet and old and peaceful and just feels like a very sacred place. It looks and feels like it forgot to keep up with time and it’s so easy to be absorbed by this feeling and just wander and wonder the days away.