Hampi – A short and sweet trip.

Prologue

So we were done with Meta Refresh, an awesome conference it was and I enjoyed myself being there. Usually, we take a day or two off and rest ourselves after such a conference. However, this time it was different. Benjamin Lupton had flew down from Australia along with his wife Helen, to speak at Meta Refresh, and they wanted to explore India.

“Hampi!”, Kiran had already decided.

On Saturday night, while we were packing up all the stuff from the conference venue, I was asked about my willingness to go on the trip. Even though I was reluctant at first, being extremely tired, when he said he would take care of organizing the trip, I’m only too glad right now that I said yes.

It was decided. Sunday morning was hectic with having to wash all my clothes early in the morning and waiting for all of them to dry so that I would have something to wear. Unfortunately, I missed the Bangalore Front End developers meetup on Sunday due to this very reason. What an excuse, huh?

Anyway, on 24th night, Kiran and Zainab were going to come to the Bus station directly, picking up Nimisha on their way. This left me, Krace the King, Praseetha, Ben and Helen at CIS (HasGeek office). The KSRTC bus, Rajahamsa was at 11pm. Although a bit overwhelmed by the endless list in the Hotel menu, Ben and Helen did a good job at ordering food from Nandhini. We had a quick dinner and left CIS by 10pm.

The absolutely useless user interface of the KSRTC bus station direction boards made us walk around a bit before we could figure out where our bus was. It was not the luxury type coach. An ordinary semi sleeper bus, but that was the only direct bus available to Hampi from Bangalore. We got in.

“We have half a pack of cigarettes, a full tank of gas, it is dark and we are wearing sunglasses”, said Jake. Elwood did not think twice, “Hit it.” And we were on our way!

Hampi

Day 1

We landed at Hampi at 7 in the morning. Most of us hadn’t slept well on the bus, but we were fine. All of us had done our fair share of having read the Wikipedia article on Hampi and guess what the first thing that we saw is?

Virupaksha temple

The first thing we saw in Wikipedia itself! Centuries looked down upon us – The Virupaksha temple entrance. Ben was such a kid, jumping and shouting, all excited to see the huge temple entrance. I think he was more excited to see monkeys all around the place. He was clicking pictures like anything, at the same time trying hard to keep up with all of us.

It was quite a walk to be doing the first thing in the morning, taking into account the disturbed sleep of previous night. Kiran had been to Hampi before and I believe that is why he did not have his GPS in his hands. When we reached the ferry, I honestly admit that I was actually scared about the spectral wolf.

Ferry across Tungabadra river

We hopped in, crossed the river, walked again and finally reached the “promised hotel” at about 8.15am. Even though we were tired, the walk was nice with one side full of tourist attraction shops having all sorts of stuff from dresses to souvenirs to theaters! And the other side a wide open paddy field.

On the way to the hotel

The accommodation place was awesome. It reminded me exactly of the Gaulish village in Asterix. They had several huts close to each other, made out of bricks, hay and stone. A footpath laid out in stone connected the reception area, the eating hut and the other huts. The place was full of trees, grass and faced a wide open paddy field, which had long paddy standing high up in its full vigor, pleasing the eye with its pleasant green. This was to the west, which would be lit gold by the setting sun, and I did see the fields of gold.

Shanti Hotel - Accommodation

Me and Krace were sharing a hut. Oh boy, did it feel good to lie down and stretch me legs! I sent a message to Kiran asking what was the plan and that it felt so good to simply lie down and rest. That is when I realized that the network coverage there sucks. BSNL was awesome as me and Praseetha had full reception, but I don’t think any of the others could use their phones. Man, am I in favor of BSNL or what? He he…

The accommodation was perfectly prepared to receive us. Bath towels, soap, blankets, mosquito nets and hot water! Simply awesome. At about 9, I was ready, having attended nature’s call and having finished my bath. While I waited, swinging gently on the hammock, for Krace, everyone else had already suited up and were at the eating hut ordering breakfast.

By 10:00, we had our breakfast. 6 slices of cheese toast, one huge cheese omelette, butter and a nice milk tea. Yummy! It tasted really good although it was a bit too much for me. So Zainab and Krace helped me with one of the toasts. On the table opposite to us, Helen or Ben had made a nice mistake ordering cappuccino. Through all the days I have been with them since Meta Refresh, I have never seen them waste food; they would eat whatever they ordered. Hence I am guessing how good the cappuccino was when both of them together couldn’t even finish half of it!

Everyone had their fill and we took a stroll down the paddy fields. Zainab stayed behind to attend to a few work related calls and mails. We chit chatted and simply walked along the narrow paths in between the fields. I know! It is not much of a “wild exploration” or anything, but we did find a huge hawk’s nest, or so I think. We kept walking South west until we reached a small clearing just beside the river.

Through the paddy field...

We spend quite a while trying to make the stones bounce on the water and I think Praseetha was the one who did it the best. 6 bounces! The girls started losing interest and walked further away when me and Krace decided to test our arms’ strength. We threw the stones far and tried to hit the huge rock on the other side of the river. I could only cross half of the river. However he had a really good cricket arm and his throws went across.

We got back to our rooms by 11, as it was time to go for the “Kiran thing”, which basically meant going to visit the monuments. By this time, Helen felt the need to buy a pair of loose pants as the climate, unlike what I thought, was really hot. Yes, really really hot. She bought, and we will see her tastes shortly. Oh man, she is going to kill me for this!

By 12.30pm, we had crossed the ferry back again and reached the temple gate. I don’t think any of us had a clear notion of where to go or what to do. So we did the obvious thing of going inside the temple.

The Sun peeking

Contemplative

We were the last ones to enter the temple at that time because they were closing it down for lunch I guess. Camera charge was 50 bucks due to which I decided not to have any clicks. There was this cool elephant inside who would give “special blessings” to foreigners and “normal blessings” to others. I think this was the first time I touched an elephant as well. Just as we were about to get out, this guy in a yellow T-shirt ran upto us and started talking, which, I am glad he did.

The official tourist authority of Hampi was conduction cycling trips among the ancient monuments where you’ll be accompanied by a guide to fill you in on half a century of details all along. We signed up for it instantly. 350 bucks per head. The cycle tour would start the next day morning at 9.30 and we were asked to be there by at least 9.15. We had a few among us who were not too comfortable cycling, but we ready to take it up as a challenge.

We got out and slowly started climbing up the hill, wondering about the architectures, trying to be philosophical and thoughtful.

Jack and Jill, went up the hill

Ah, there you can see Helen’s pants. I bet even MC Hammer wouldn’t come close. He he… We walked around the place till 1pm, seeing the various structures. Here Kiran explained an interesting fact that all the temples were made facing eastwards. It seems the custom was that the idol should get lit up by the rising sun. By this time, all of us had a rumbling tummy and we decided to go and eat.

We walked all the way down the hill, went beside the ferry, under the hope of getting some tasty food at a restaurant called the “Mango Tree hotel”. Our efforts were proved to be in vain when we were greeted by a board that said “Mango Tree hotel is closed forever!”

Darn! Now what do we do? The only thing that we could do. Cross the ferry over to the other side and get food from there. So be it!

At about 2, we saw this place that had written outside it “Real coffee”. “Ha! This must be good after the cappuccino we had today morning”, said Ben and we all got in. It was a pretty comfy place. It was an open air hall with beds on the floor on either side. The hall had a huge screen in the middle of one end, where they play movies during the night I guess.

We lay down on the beds and stretched ourselves. It felt good to be under shade once again after walking for so long under the scorching sun. Kiran recommended “Shakshuka” for me, which is an Israeli food. It was pretty awesome. Take a look.

Shakshuka

Sort of egg masala, french fries, cucumber, some kind of a chutney and some kind of a roti. Tasted pretty good and filled my tummy well. We sat chatting about education in Australia, how his studies were, the cost of education and stuff like that.

We returned back to our place of stay. I flipped out my little notepad and made notes of what all we were doing so that I could build up this blog post without much of a trouble. Ben had noticed me doing this for quite a while and introduced me to an app called “Moves” on his iPhone that would track your travel and give you details of what all you were doing at what all times. Made a mental note to try it out.

All of us retired back to our huts and had a good sleep. I woke at about 5.30, finished my prayers and went out, wanting to see the sunset over the fields. This accommodation place had one open hut on a lower level facing the paddy field straight. The lowered part was slanted so that we could lean on it and they had beds on the floor. I went and sat over there for a while, enjoying the serene scenery, feeling peaceful and humane.

Sunset at Shanti hotel

Evening at Shanti hotel - 2

After sitting there for a while, I decided to take a stroll towards the river once again. Just when I was starting, I was accompanied by Kiran and Zainab. We went over to the same clearing we had been in the morning where Zainab practiced throwing a few skipping stones.

We headed back and at about 7.40, all of us decided that we should go and watch “Django unchained” from one of the nearby wanna be theaters. Since Kiran, Praseetha and Krace were working on something, the rest of us decided to go ahead and wait for the others.

Just as we got out of Shanti hotel, we witnessed a huge commotion outside. There were two excavators, lots and lots of policemen and dozens of local inhabitants. We did not stop for long in between that. We hurried ahead and reached close to the ferry, where Django unchained was supposed to be playing. It was pitch dark, all the lights were off and we could not even see if there was a building there or not. We slowly felt our way up and asked one of the inhabitants about the movie. That is when we found out what the whole ruckus was about. It seems that the Government had suddenly decided to wipe out all the illegal shops and vendors at the area. So in short, there was no movie being played.

By 8. 30, we got back to our place and sat for dinner. We hadn’t booked the return tickets then. So after we placed our orders for dinner, I made use of my Nexus 4 to book tickets on the KSRTC website. There were 10 seats left out of which we had to book 8. However, the maximum number one could book at a time was 6. So I had to book 6 first and then 2 after. As soon as we finished booking 6, dinner was served and we decided to do it after eating.

Zainab jokingly asked what we were going to do if we did not get the two  tickets. I told her to be optimistic and assuring everything was going to be fine, started digging into our dinner, which consisted of butter naan and aloo gopi for me and Krace and bunch of other stuff for the rest of them.

We had a good meal and I flipped out my Nexus 4 to do the rest of the 2 ticket booking. I went over to the KSRTC site, logged in, chose all the fields and guess what? That lady was right! Darn her pessimism. It said the service was not available any more. Oh great!

We tried a few more times, but with the same result. Cursing her, we went onto to check our other options. Thank God I at least had the common sense to book the tickets for 4 of the ladies and two of the men. Otherwise things might have gotten a bit nasty.

Anyway, me and Krace found tickets on an AC bus which started from the neighboring town. Booked and all of us retired for a good night’s sleep, having decided that we would at least have to leave that place by 8.30 in the morning if we were to go on that cycling trip.

Day 2

I woke up at around 6.30 in the morning, finished my bath and prayers. Went out to be greeted by the peaceful morning. To my surprise, the lights in all the huts where the rest of my team stayed at was off! This called for extreme measures. I knew how I would react if someone would come and disturb my sleep on a comfy morning of a vacation. I took a deep breath, mustered up a lot of courage and went over to Kiran’s hut first.

“Knock, knock”. Nothing. “Knock, knock, Kiran”, I knocked and called again. Heard him mumbling something from inside. That was my cue.

Went over to the hut where Praseetha and Nimisha was staying. “Knock, knock, Praseetha”. No response. Knocked a few times again, hoping that they would’ve got the message and hopped over to Ben’s hut. “Knock, knock, Ben”. Heard the tap running and Ben saying something (or was it Helen?) Anyway, I had done the damage.

At about 8:15, we were done with breakfast. We checked out of the hotel and were “homeless” to leave our bags  at someplace. Ben was a bit concerned when Kiran told us to drop our bags at the reception. “That’s how we always do it”, reassured Kiran. All of us left our bags there and went out light, all ready and enthusiastic about cycling.

However, Ben was not quite used to having a scorching sun as in Hampi back in Australia. You could see his skin turning red from last day’s burns and he absolutely was not looking forward to becoming a tomato at the end of the day. Helen, even though had a white skin, was not entirely of Australian origin and thus, did not get affected by the unforgiving sun.

So Ben wanted to buy a full sleeve shirt to protect himself. Alas, all the shops that had pretty clothes in them were cleared the day before itself by the Government! What a day to be at Hampi.

Ben (You only seem him and nothing on the fence behind him, okay?)

We caught the ferry and crossed the Tungabadra river.

Ben and Helen

Just as we got down and were going up the stairs, a sudden idea struck me. Why not exchange shirts? That way I can wear a cool JavaScript T and Ben could have a full sleeve shirt. Message communicated, understood and executed. Let’s proceed soldier.

So we went inside the temple, looking for our guide, Chandra. He was waiting for us and we reached there sharp at 9.15 AM. There were a few more people who had signed up for the trip and we had to wait a while for them.

Our team!

All of us arrived at the spot and the guide took us to our Bicycle depot. We chose the ones we wanted, me picking green as that was my favorite color. They adjusted the height of our seats for us as per our convenience. At about 9.45, all of us had a bike and we were ready to roll!

“Autobots, transform and roll out”, said Hotrod.

Krace and Zainab with their cycles

IMG_20130226_095049

We started our journey and just a little distance ahead, Praseetha had a bit of trouble with the bicycle. A few of us hung back trying to fix it. The guide noticed us missing out and rushed back on his moped. He told her to ditch the cycle and get on his bike. Lucky girl! She got a free ride for the entire tour!

We cycled up a hill at the beginning, tiring myself out as soon as we reached the top. First on the agenda was the Ganesha temple, having a huge monolithic stone carving of Ganesha, the Elephant god, who was the God of eternal knowledge. This was a huge idol for the Royalties to worship. For the common people, there was a small one further down.

An interesting fact was mentioned here. Half of the trunk had been cut off from the front of the idol. The story goes that the Islamic rulers cut it off in hope of finding hidden treasure inside it. Alas, there was nothing. The more interesting part was that almost all the idols that had a living image associated with it were damaged. However, the Shiva Lingam, which did not have an image of a living being associated with it, was not touched upon by the Islamic rulers. It seems that they were not against God or religion, but just against the idea of worshiping images. An interesting fact.

We left there and had our next stop was at the Krishna temple and the huge market place opposite to it. It was 10.30 then.Market place opposite to the Krishna temple

The Krishna temple

On the entrance, it was engraved the 8 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. It seems there are actually 9, the last one which is a White horse, that is yet to come.

We entered the temple within. It had an outer room where the beautiful dancers would dance, entertaining the people. There were a lot of Kamasutra carvings as well on the gate. The inner room was where the idol was kept. Just when me and Ben were getting out of the inner room, we found a door, pitch black inside, just to the side. Curiosity struck us!

He turned the flashlight of his iPhone on and we went in. We figured that it was just a passage/corridor around the inner sanctum. It went around the inner room and ended at the other end. We went in and after reaching exactly behind the inner room, we heard some buzzing sound. Uh oh… Not a good place for that sort of a noise. Was there a hooting sound a well? Or was it chirping. Involuntarily, his flashlight shone all around. We could not find anything around us. Slowly, he lifted his light up.

Aughghghg!! Bats! Truck load of them. Ewwwwwwwwwwww…. Now I know how the criminals in Batman feel on seeing him. Man, were me and Ben freaked out! We screamed and ran out of the corridor with our dear lives! Ho ho… That was plenty fun.

We had enough of the place and we started from there. The next stop, at about 11:00, was at the Yoga Lakshmi Narasimha temple, the God of destroying Evil!

Krace and Yoga Lakshmi Narasimha.

Zainab proposed that we use the above photo as Krace’s matrimonial photo. See the resemblance? With the awesome mane and what not!

This temple was at a nice and peaceful spot. Sort of reminded me of the creeks Bill Watterson used to draw in the Calvin & Hobbes comics.

Creek

There was another Shiva Lingam temple that was still active today. It had not been tampered following the philosophy that we stated earlier in terms of destroying only images.

Shiva Lingam temple

Here Ben and I had an interesting exchange of ideas regarding people’s faith. One of the things that he mentioned was the reason why he turned agnostic from being an atheist. During earlier days, people used to believe that the Earth was at the center of the universe and everything else revolved around it. However, it was discovered that things were not so. When Nicolaus Copernicus found out that the sun was the center, those who believed in the former thought had a really hard time.

So according to Ben, you should always be ready to accept something new if it is proven, which, won’t be possible if you are adamant about sticking with an extremist point of view. There might be a God, there might not be, neither is proven and hence, he is ready to believe either if he is convinced. Thus, an agnostic.

Anyway, at about 11.10, there were refreshments available at the road side and everyone was on full swing fueling up. I must say that that must’ve been the only day in our lives that we spent so much money on just drinking water. We did not care if the same bottle was charged 10, 20, 30 or 40! We needed water and we were going to get it at any cost. We must’ve bought at least 15+ bottles of water. If it were not for that, I would have dehydrated and fried on the trek for sure. It was darn hot.

Refreshments

We were told to freshen up well as the next stop was almost 2 kilometers away. All of us got enough rest and we were again on our way. The uphill rides were extremely tiring and most of them ended up in me getting down and pushing my bike up. Anyway, by 11.30, we reached the Underground Shiva temple.

It wasn’t actually underground, but at a lower level than the natural terrain level. There was an amazing garden there, where we rested when the guide told us about the place. We sat there for a while and went down to see the temple.Underground Shiva temple

It opened up into a room and from there we could see more doors that lead us further in. However, the second door revealed a room filled with water. Filled as in it must be 1 1/2 foot deep. No one wanted to wet their shoe/slippers. As for those who did not have an issue with that, they were scared of skin diseases that this water might impart and some others were afraid of all the nasty creatures that might be lurking in the water.

Curiosity, adrenaline and what not pumped in. Took my sandals off and I stepped in. Just as the room was flooded with water, I was flooded with questions. “Is it cold?”, “How deep is it?”, “Any water snakes?”, etc. The list went on. I “braved” my way through a lit, 10 x 10 feet room (Yeah, not a big deal at all!) and reached the next door. Questions kept pouring in. The next room was an enclosure and it had no light except from the little that came in  through the one that I was standing at. Yep, it was spooky and I decided to not “brave” it any further.

I think Ben has a picture of me standing in that room. Have to get a couple of pics from him including this one. We came out and went around the temple, where we found that the walls had crumbled on one of the sides, making way into this spooky room directly through the side. Me and Ben looked at each other. We jumped over, placed our feet carefully on the stones lying in the water and making our way to the inner most sanctum. To reach the last door, even from the side, you had to hold the walls, place your feet on a 1/4 foot thick beam (a part of the foundation) and move like Spiderman climbing a wall. Ben was not too enthusiastic about the idea.

I got over, used Ben’s iPhone to shine light into the inner sanctum. Yes, you would expect the Wise One to show up and dub you with the ancient power of elementals and all. But none of that happened. There was a Shiva Lingam there and that was it. I came back out. Just as we were about to jump over the wall back outside, we saw a corridor that lead behind the inner sanctum, just as the one that we had seen at the Krishna temple earlier.

“Bats?”, both of us looked at each other. “Let’s see”.

We got in and obviously looked above to see if they were hanging on the ceiling. Nope. All clear. We went around and just like last time, reached the other side of the inner sanctum.

“Hey”, said Ben. “Wasn’t that a bat?”

“What? Where?”

“I think one just flew into the room right there. Didn’t you see it?”

“Shine the light, let me see”, and I leaned over to take a look into the dark room to the right.

Just as I was pulling my head back, this huge thing flew right at us from within!

“Whooooo! Augh! Ha ha ha ha”, we freaked out, again. This time it was much more fun because we were standing at a point where no one in the building could see us. There were these three guys who were “braving” their way through the watered floor. Our screams happened just as these people were in the middle of the room! Of course, they carried over from us with their set of screeches and laughter.

Well, causing a little havoc, me and Ben ran and jumped out of the building. As if nothing had happened, we looked here and there and went forward around the building.

Here I saw something. The next picture is dedicated to all among you who have played Oblivion, the Elder scrolls.

Ayleid ruins

We went around and saw this standalone structure which was supposed to be a dance platform. Me and Ben had the same idea at the same time. However, we were in queue when a certain lady went forward and started doing Taichi/Yoga/dance of some sort, which was actually pretty cool to watch. You should see how she bent and balanced all over. One guy was videoing this.

She had her time there and it was time for us. Behold, Ben the pundit and Haris the saadhu!

Ben, the pundit

Haris, the saadhu

Crap, my slippers and water bottle are there. Ah never mind!

We were done there and continued with our journey further into the Vijayanagara kingdom. By 12pm, we reached the King’s and Queen’s palace. Where it was 10 bucks for Indians to get in, it was 250 bucks for foreigners! Man, the discrimination. Little did they realize that nothing was going to stop us from getting in. We bought the tickets and went in.

Panorama of the King's palace

That’s a panorama shot by the way. Enlarge and take a look around.

From left to right in Panorama:

We first went into the Queen’s treasure trove, which was now a museum of old paintings and figures. It had pictures that compared the state of the buildings around Hampi before the Archaeological survey of India did renovation works on them, with the state of the buildings now.

Then you can see the watchtower, which were guarded by eunuch. Now, that was pronounced “unix” by everyone and I was a bit confused about the pronunciation as well as the meaning until Kiran cleared it both for me. So many there said that eunuch meant transexuals. However, it was not so.

Eunuchs referred to those bunch of males who had their reproductive organ cut off! Oh man, it was disturbing to hear that. Anyway, the King was a smart man having these people on the watch towers so that they could be sure no one messes with the Queen. It also seems to be a fact that in ancient China, only eunuchs were allowed to be a part of the administrative tasks within the Palace. Weird!

You can see the tip of the elephant stables at a distance. Don’t worry. We’ll be getting there soon.

Then you see the summer palace, which is supposed to be air conditioned. The water circulating through the pipes in the palace keeps the place cool all the time. Interesting piece of architecture it was. It was not enclosed, but had a lot of pillars on a plain foundation and it was not that large either. Surprisingly, no one got up on it and I did not see any reason why not to. Just to get a reassurance, I asked Zainab and she nodded her head saying, “Go ahead!”.

When everyone was busy talking admiring the beauty, I managed to sneak upon it. I lifted myself up onto the raised platform which was the foundation, stood up and took a few steps forward – spider sense tingling like mad!

And then I saw it. There was this dark lady standing on the left hand side of the building cladded in a yellow Saree, her eyes fixed on me, the cane in her hand waving, pointing at me! I jumped down and ran back, discreetly mingling with the crowd.

Ben saw this and found it very amusing that I got told off. It would have been fine, had he kept it to himself. But no, of all the people around, he just had to tell it to Zainab, who, found it super extremely amusing and just couldn’t stop laughing out loud, broadcasting the news like a freaking TV channel. Now it was my turn to turn red, the only difference being that it was not due to sun burns. Ooooh, that lady sometimes….!

Leaving behind a trail of shame, we crossed a gate in the wall and got over to where the elephant stables were.

The elephant stables

So that was where the elephants were kept. Take a closer look at the stone walls below. It was interesting to see how they were constructed. As in, the stones were not uniformly cut. They were in random shapes, but fit together with such elegance.

Stone wall up close

We went around the place, decided to return to the bicycle parking place. On the way, we had a brief look at the concert hall. We found a large number of Hanuman statues all over the place. He must have been pretty popular during those times.

Ben in the concert hall.

Starting from there, we reached the Royal quarters by 1.15pm. Man, was it super hot!

The place was supposed to be the heart of activities in the kingdom. Conference halls, meetings rooms, bath rooms, aqua duct water facilities, a raised platform for the royalties to sit and watch the entertainments and processions, etc. However, there was only a little to see and a lot to explain.

Ho ho! You guys must seriously checkout the Tali plates of that time. Imagine going for a buffet with one of these babies in your hand. Lol!

Tali plates

Then there was this awesome looking water reservoir which was only discovered quite recently when a few curious explorers dug up the place there the aqua duct led to.

Water reservoir

Which was fine. But guess what we saw next? Guess what the next picture might be. No, you. Guess.

King's bathing pool

Reservoir? Nope. Conference room? Nope. It is a freaking swimming pool for the king! Yes, just for the king and no one else. You can see KracetheKing coming out of his beloved swimming pool as well. Man, was that luxurious!

The raised platform that we talked about earlier was the final destination. Everyone started walking on the good old path through the floor in order to reach there, while I decided to take the scenic route. Walk over the aqua duct!

So, I’m the troublemaker and the hooligan. Lol! I kept proving myself over and over to Ben and I guess this was the last straw. I somehow convinced him to walk with me over the duct. We followed the duct, which was pretty narrow and we had to balance ourselves quite well in order not to fall off. It was quite high as well. We started walking towards the raised platform from the Kingly swimming pool. The aqua duct led us to a T junction, from where if we took a right, we would end up on the ground, and if we took a left, would get us further close to the path that lead to the raised platform.

We took a left and had barely taken a few steps when we heard a shout. Uh oh, spider sense! Turning around, we saw this guard swishing a cane, and charging towards us, cursing and shouting in a language that we were ignorant of. The duct was some 8 to 10 feet above the ground and I was sort of reluctant to make that jump. As I stood thinking what to do, Ben had already made the jump and was waving sorry to the guardsman. While I, being the brave soul that I was, followed my path back to the T junction and took the right turn from there, which led me to a lower level of the duct, from where I comfortably jumped down and caught up with Ben. He gave me a nasty look as well as a hearty laugh.

We climbed up the 75 stairs of the platform and were all high and mighty. Ben surveyed the vicinity with the eye of a jungle cat. Well, a well dressed jungle cat.

King Ben!

The King's view

That was the final stop of the tour. At 2:00pm, we started our journey back, having brief stops on the way for resting as well as having a drink of water. Around 2.45, we made it back to the cycle shop, where we closed the deal and thanked our guide for the wonderful time.

By this time, as you can guess, all of us were hungry beyond words! We got in the second restaurant that we saw (WE SHOULD”VE GOT IN THE FIRST ONE THAT WE SAW!). This second one was called the moonlight restaurant. Well, its a restaurant (or so it says) and we were hungry. So why not?

We made ourselves comfortable and got the menu. They provided a book which was for us to write down the order. We decided and wrote down our orders by 3pm, and rested our tired feet, everyone getting into a few chit chats.

3.15 – Chit chat
3.30 – Chit chat
3.45 – Ben walks out having a headache from someone smoking on the neighboring table
4.00 – Kiran’s order cancelled and Zainab’s served
4.05 – All of us are pissed off.
4.10 – Ben understands the gist of the restaurant’s name. We get served only at moonlight.
4.15 – Kiran and Zainab leaves
4.25 – Nimisha’s, Ben’s and Helen’s food arrives.
4.40 – My food arrives. By this time, we are too tired and irritated to even crack jokes.
4.45 – Krace’s food arrives.
4.55 – We were done and were only too happy to get out of the place. (Don’t ask about the food quality)

So Nimisha was both mentally and physically tired to go back and get her bags. Hence, it was decided she would hangout over there somewhere while we went back and got the bags and stuff.

By the time me, Krace, Ben, Helen and Praseetha got back, Zainab and Kiran were having a good eat from the Shanti restaurant where we left our bags at. Even though Ben had eaten, it was just two vegetarian cutlets and he was still hungry. We grabbed our bags and by the time we reached the ferry, it was around 5.30 and our bus back to Bangalore was at 8:00pm.

Hurrying back, for some peculiar reason, both Kiran and Zainab got into the panoramating mood. Man! It was panorama all round. Up on stones, on the boat, on the toes, on the steps. So, as Zainab and Kiran stood panoramating with ground support from Krace, the rest of us decided to go back up and rest a while before we caught the bus.

As soon as we were about to reach the hotel next to the moonlight one, me and Ben remembered the lookout point at the top of the hill. Something that we could not miss.

“I’m inspector Lookout”, said the policeman from Scotland Yard. “Lookout of the Yard”.

However, Ben was super hungry. So we got into this restaurant, made clear our urgency to the staff and ordered a Shakshuka plus a few drinks. It came in 10 minutes and we had a quick drink as well as an eat. It was almost 6.10 by the time Ben had gobbled up the Shakshuka.

Both of us walked out of the hotel and looked up at the huge mountain on top of which was the lookout point. 8.oopm – bus home. 6.00 already. Tired, longing for a rest, too little time, a freaking long way to go and that too uphill…

“Let’s do it”

And just like that, we were on our way. No idea on how to get there, we tried asking a few of the local inhabitants, who unfortunately had no clue whatsoever. The journey had begun and backing out now was not an option.

“Do we go straight down the market and turn right? Or do we go up from here itself?”, I was ambiguous.

“Up we go!”, said Ben.

Just to give you guys a sense of where we were and where the mountain was. here is the same picture as earlier. Me and Ben were standing here, deciding which way to go and do you see that rocky mountain far ahead to the right? Yes, that is where we were planning to go and come back within roughly a hour.

Contemplative

Yes, we were bloody darn optimistic. But when you have a friend with you who shares the same spirit, only the goal matters. Well, suffice to say,

Jack and Jill
Went up the hill
To get a glimpse of Hampi

Sorry that I can’t complete the rhyme as we really did not fall down (But we were pretty close!)

We ran uphill, on the road which was parallel to where the mountain was. Water bottles in our hands and bags on our backs. We took a left as soon as we saw one. There was a gate in front of us that said, “Private way”. We gave each other a quick look. “To  heck with that…”, we went forward. As soon as we entered the gate, the mountain seemed to have taken a step close to us, and that raised my spirits.

Drank a sip of water and changed gears. 6.15 now. We kind of reached a quite high area and there was a building over there that had a staircase from outside that lead us onto the roof. We climbed up and saw a panorama view. But that wasn’t enough! The mountain was standing behind us and we needed to scale it one way or the other. We got down the stairs and I had over exerted myself. I took a puff of the inhaler and we again moved up, to be greeted by Grott the Hoddle! Ahem… Sorry. An old man.

Well, this old man was an old man who was not too enthusiastic about two enthusiastic youngsters battling their tiredness and braving their way up over to the top of the mountain just to get a glimpse of Hampi. The old man had 3 words for us. “Gate close 6.30”.

We begged! “Can we like go up there and run back?”, ‘Or maybe on that little hill over there?”. “Surely on that raised platform on top of that building?”. The old man had just one thing to say, “Gate close 6.30”. Then he called a small boy who might be at least 9 years of age and told him something in Hindi pointing at us. And then the little boy explains to us what was going on!

“Gate close 6.30”

So we got the idea and decided to head back upon the roof of the other building that we had got on earlier. We went up there and as we were kind of relaxing, we suddenly saw this human figure on one of the mountains which was on the other side of the road which was parallel to the mountain. The one that we ran up on first.

“Let’s go!”

We ran down the slope, reached the place where we took a left and again went a little up on the opposite way, only to find that the gate that lead to the gate that lead to that mountain on which we saw the human figure, was closed. This was the gate to the Ganesha temple that I wrote about earlier.

“Now what?”, it was almost 6.35 and the day was coming to an end. But we had to do something. We looked around and something caught our eye. The stray rocks, or boulders if you may, that were lying there piled up and supported by one another.

“Let’s go up that”, said Ben.

I was reluctant and was not too keen on climbing huge boulders and jumping among them when the sun had already gone down. You never know which rock is waiting out there for a few more pounds on one of its sides so that it could roll down and cause havoc. However, Ben was already on his way, and I followed.

We started climbing up a few rocks and figured that there was no way were going to get onto the one on the edge, the one that we wanted to get on to. And we came back down. We started going back when suddenly Ben saw something that assured him that there was a way to that rock. Back we went and started climbing the rocks again.

So I was scared, but he was quite a trooper. He was adamant about creating a few unforgettable memories during his time in India while I was afraid of becoming a memory myself. Anyway, he blazed the trail and I followed. Jumping between huge boulders, sliding a few down, bending and walking underneath a few, and voila! There was our promised rock right in front of us!

We scrambled up and got on it! Ho HO hoooo. We had done it! We were kings! It was almost 7 and we decided to click a few quick pics.

Up above the world so high!

Ben has a pic with me and him. I’ll put it up as soon as I get it. We savored the moment, admiring and respecting our own bravery for a few seconds. The last thing we wanted to happen was to get stuck on some god forsaken rock on the Deccan plateau and miss our bus back home (or work, rather). So without goofing off for too much time, we got down, rivaled Tom Cruise’s mountain climbing abilities and got down on the road shouting “success!”.

Phew! Was that tiring. We exchanged our super sweaty shirts and joined up with the team at the same restaurant itself. Had a couple of drinks and went over to the bus stand. The bus was only going to start 20 minutes late and we had a nice little chat standing over there. Kiran entertained us with his water bottle balancing stunts for a while.

The balance!

By 8.30, we were all on the bus. We reached Hospet at about 9.30 or so where me and Krace got down and boarded another bus.

So that’s it. Those were two marvelous days of my life. A trip that I am never going to forget!

Epilogue

We’re just getting started man! So I’m sorry. No epilogue for now. It just feels good to have been with all of them and I eagerly look forward to meeting Ben and Helen again real soon.

Oh, and do checkout Helen’s “The adventure of Kyroku!” right here:

Cheers folks! Have a good time!

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17 thoughts on “Hampi – A short and sweet trip.

  1. Firstly i would like to say thanks for sharing this trip…i really enjoyed while reading this blog, you have captured very beautiful images of Hampi..i have never been there but your post prompt me to visit this place once in a lifetime.

  2. Hey! This is a great post. Just wanted to know the name of the place you guys stayed at? Do let me know! Thanks

  3. Loved reading this piece. And guess what only this afternoon i decided to travel to Hampi and soon after came across your blog. Great descriptions and it definitely gonna make my trip easy.

  4. Great Post. Im planning a trip there. Was looking at Shanti Guest House. Looks like it is on other side of village/river. Any problems post sunset? I mean any particular time by when one needs to be back?

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