Hampi is a place like nowhere I have seen before, within the ruins of the Vijayanagar empire, which are spread all over the city. A mixture of the landscape specially shaped as a result of old volcanic activity, with the millions and millions of boulders and ruins scattered in every direction, contrasting with the azure blue sky and the green rice paddy fields, banana plantations and palm groves, this magical little town is one of the most surreal places I have seen. Earthly Blues, Greens, Browns and a few tinges of Yellow, seems to be the only colours of Hampi.
When we were dropped off at the river, I even had to take my sunglasses off, because it just didn’t look real. We chose to stay across the river, and we hopped on the boat. There is only one boat crossing the river, and it only leaves when it is full (of people or motorbikes). It costs 10Rs per person to cross, and the last boat is supposed to be at 7PM, though we once nearly missed the last boat at 6.30pm, and had to pay 50Rs each because there were no other people there. And no, even though it looks like you could, there is no way of walking across without getting wet.
We could have stayed on the main side of the river, but this other side looked intriguing. Arriving at 7am after a sleepless night on the floor of the back of a bus, we were very hopeful to find a room ASAP. Hema was full, as was Nargila, but the guys at Nargila said that they would have two free rooms for us at 10am. So we waited in their onsite café. Finally, the rooms became available. 250Rs per double ensuite room per night, bed swing outside each room (better than a hammock!) and free WIFI. Granted, there were many power cuts (one day we only had electricity for 10minutes out of 24 hours), so the room was hot, and the internet never actually worked until our final day, but it was a lively, sociable, cheap, and pleasant place to stay, and on our first night, they showed the film Life of Pi.
After a failed attempt of a nap, we explored our ridiculously amazing area. It was sad to see that many businesses had been or were being dismantled because the government want to make this whole side of the river a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, which means eventually no habitants, and no tourists staying here. Luke said that when he came three years ago, it was really different – the street was lined with restaurants and guesthouses, and it was really busy. Perhaps the reason for all the power cuts is to encourage people not to stay at this side of the river?
In the evening, Winnie and I went to watch the sunset from the rice paddy at the top of the hill. We had a little wander around the nearby village, but as there were many signs warning tourists of robbers hiding behind all the rocks, we didn’t want to be on our own when it got dark, so we headed back.
For a few days Brendan and Luke rented motorbikes, and we went exploring. We wanted to find the lake that we could swim in. we heard that the lake was near the reservoir, and stopped for a moment beneath the sign that read “Caution: Crocodiles in the Reservoir”. When we called at a guesthouse/café for a drink, the owner suggested showing us a quiet part of the lake in which we could swim. Leaving the bikes, we climbed over many rocks, past many cacti, and through an area that I can only compare with a desert. Finally we got to the lake, where there was noone to be seen. It was bliss to be in some cool water finally, though we had to keep moving our legs to stop the fish from biting. When we returned, we had another drink, and, as the sun was beginning to set, we headed back.
Another day, Brendan and I went for a trip on our own. We enjoyed breakfast at Funky Monkeys, and then crossed the river to visit the temple, where there wasn’t much to see, apart from the elephant blessing people. We climbed up the nearby hill to the Group of Monuments, where we stopped to sit and take in the view.
When a kid trying to sell his postcards approached us, we let him guide us all the way to the bottom of the other side of the hill, so that we could get some change to buy the postcards, and get him a coke.
Before crossing the river again, we ventured around the little village nearby, where there are a few clothes shops, a book shop, an art gallery and a few restaurants. At this side of the river, everything looks as if it had crumbled, or been demolished, and then just left there. As Luke said that the big, empty road outside the temple used to be full of busy shops, we are assuming that they are going to try to do it all up, a bit Angkor Wat style maybe? That evening, at dinner, we bumped into a Dave, a guy we knew from Hanoi. He was pretty excited to see us!
The following day, we rented motorbikes at the other side of the river (couldn’t be bothered taking bikes on the boat), and we went for a drive yet again. We stopped at so many different temples along the way. I don’t even remember what any of them are called. We also visited The Queen’s Bath, some nearby temples with underground tunnels, and a temple we paid for. That evening, Luke DJ’d for our guesthouse’s bar, and the Indian staff had fun playing with his equipment. It was pretty funny, though not so sure the customers liked it very much. .
Despite our best efforts, we all failed to make the sunrise at The Hanuman Temple (aka Monkey Temple) on Anjenaya Hill. This temple is dedicated to Hanuman, the monkey God who is considered a strong warrior of Lord Rama. So, on our final night, we took a 20-minute rickshaw, and, with sweat dripping down our cheeks, we climbed the 570 steps to see the sunset there instead. It turned out to be totally worth the journey! Previously, we’d also bought some bananas to feed to the monkeys, which to my surprise, were not aggressive, and we watched as the sun floated down, turning the sky into a glowing orange. On the way out, we went inside the temple, and were given holy water by priests who painted our heads red.
Our last day is being spent waiting around until we need to leave for the bus taking us to Mysore.
2 extra things about Hampi:
1. The dosa restaurant near Hema Guesthouse and Nargila Guesthouse is amazing and really cheap (30Rs)
2. Three men dressed in orange Guru outfits walk around asking people to take their picture and charge for it. They have a “donation” book where people write their names and donation amount (200, 300, 400, 500, and 600) – I think they add zeros onto every amount to encourage higher “donations”