After a smooth 7.5 hour train trip and a 30 minute rickshaw ride, we arrived in Hampi. The geography of the place is like nothing I’ve seen before – you cannot look in any direction without seeing impressive rock formations, ruins, temples, or banana plantations. We got settled in and went to the roof for dinner and views of the sunset behind Virupaksha Temple. We then, with our train legs, had a wander around Hampi Bazaar (where we stayed) and found a little Western Union where we thought it couldn’t hurt to ask if we could take out Visa cash advances. To our surprise, they could and they were able to exchange all of Beth’s old 500 rupee notes – jackpot! No more stress about money now.
We decided to start day 2 with a guided tour of the ruins and temples given that we had zero knowledge of the history of Hampi. For $30 each, we hired a guide and rickshaw driver for an entire day – it was well worth it, despite the fact I can’t remember a thing our guide told us. I do know that the historic infrastructure that we see now was built between the 14th and 16th centuries and that Hindu mythology is very complicated (i.e. There are 330 million gods, goddesses, and demons).
The funniest part of the day was all the school children that were at the sites on field trips from smaller areas who wanted to have their picture taken with us and then shake our hands – we felt like celebrities. We enjoyed lunch at a friend of a friends of Beth’s (Kiran), including yummy banana leaf curry. We finally got to try paan (see Goa post) which was good to try once, but nothing special. And then finished the day watching the sunset from Malyavantha Ragunatha hill.
Day 3: we got up at 5:45 AM to watch the sunrise on top of Matanga Hill, which was beautiful. The day before, we spotted Lakshmi the elephant from our hotel roof making her way to the river for her daily bath, so we wanted to see her up close. We went in the side entrance of the temple where she lives and gives blessings but were promptly directed out the main entrance because we accidentally had our shoes on. We waited for her down by the river instead and she arrived shortly after. She had a rider/trainer riding and hitting her as she made her way down the stairs. He then hit her repeatedly to get her to lay down in the water. Beth could take no more and I started to cry, so we left and went to a place our guide recommended for breakfast. Beth had described her life changing dosa experience in the Mumbai airport but the dosa I had in Goa was subpar. Thank goodness I gave it another chance – the ones we had for breakfast were amazing & super cheap ($2 for dosa and coffee).
After gaining weight at the monastery (who does that? Me apparently), I am jonesing to be active – Beth, who doesn’t do well in heat, is not. So instead of biking across the river and climbing up 575 steps on the same day as a sunrise climb and dinner plans, we decided to visit the waterfall. It was about a 30-minute walk and 20 minutes in, we met a very nice local that took us to his very small/humble home and then offered to show us the swimming holes and waterfall for a tip. Guides are regulated in Hampi, so he cannot ask for a set amount. We were grateful for his services because the trails through the banana plantation were confusing and I’m not sure we would have made it there otherwise. Some people judge Indians for always wanting money from us and then nickel and diming them to the lowest possible price but considering the average wage in India is $350 CDN per month, I felt okay paying this very friendly local for his time. In fact, the people of India have been extremely friendly so far and I haven’t felt like they are trying to scam us at all – South East Asia was far worse for this.
We finished the day by taking a ferry across the river to Hampi Island where you’re actually allowed to drink. Then dinner at Kiran’s restaurant. Beth thought we should bring beer and the purchase and hiding of it while being shuffled to a far away table in the dark made us feel like we had just bought cocaine and brought it to a kids birthday party.
On day 4 we rented bikes and took the ferry across to Hampi Island again. Picking up a Korean along the way, the 3 of us visited Hanamun temple (575 steps & lots of monkeys) and a few other smaller temples before heading for lunch. I pretty much broke Beth, for some reason exercising in 33 degree heat isn’t fun for her. I left her to nap at the restaurant and went to go visit Sanapur lake. It was beautiful but Beth would have hated that I got lost and unnecessarily climbed a massive hill.
We had no plans for our final day other than visiting the nearby temples and Hampi bazaar, which is right next to our hotel. Unfortunately we got lost and went on an unplanned one hour walk through banana plantations in the midday heat. We hadn’t planned on it, but Lakshmi was in Virupaksha temple, being fed and treated well, so we couldn’t help but receive her blessing. It was pretty special, but I still have mixed feelings about it.
We found a nice chilled place to spend the afternoon, then one last sunset and dinner before catching the 9:30pm train to Bangalore.
It’s so crazy to think it’s Christmas Eve – neither of us are Christmas people, so are more than happy to give it a miss. I hope all of you at home have a very Merry Christmas though.