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INDIA | Wednesday, 10 September 2008 | Views [1229]

05/09/2008 - 10/09/2008

Hampi, Karnataka, India.


10 hours on any bus is pretty gruelling... But 10 long hours on an Indian public bus (one of those TATA jobs, with a spine jarring lack of suspension), on some terrible, terrible roads, with a nasty hangover, dehydrated, a headache.. Oh, woe is me. As much as i could whine about that ride, after the first hour i was used to it, and after the second, quite happy to watch Karnataka fly by my window. Actual travel in India is taxing, but it's part of the journey. The rock hard seats on a poorly maintained bus; roads in an even worse state of repair; sharing a sleeper on incredibly long train journeys; cramming into public 'rickshaw buses' with 6 other people and our luggage... A lot of my stories turn out to be about this, simply cause it's easy to write about!

We arrived at the Hospit bus stand (about 10kms from Hampi) at about 5pm to a mob of waiting rickshaw drivers. Actually, we hadn't even arrived when the first of them were at us for a fare. I had one at the window before we had pulled in (he must have seen my white arm out the window), and 3 of them IN the bus by the time we had stopped. My whole body vibrating, i kindly asked them to leave us alone until we at least got out of the bus. Never the type to listen to a white man, they kept pestering us until Didi gently yet firmly changed my request into an order. Very apologetically, they backed out of the bus to wait for us outside. Eventually we used them after all - the next bus to Hampi was half an hour away, and the one we had just missed was full. They only wanted Rs.40 anyway...

And Hampi.. Wow! Because i knew nothing about it (other than it's existence in the Israeli Planet), i had had no expectations. To my surprise, it was an amazing little town, bisected by a wide river and surrounded by a granite boulder landscape, dotted with ancient ruins and temples over its hills. A very shanti atmosphere, friendly people, monkeys walking the street and those beautiful pink granite boulders everywhere. What a spectactular place to be! I was glad we had awoken early - it was getting dark as we went searching for a guest house. Being the off season, there were spare rooms all over the place, and rather cheap. We had wanted to stay on the other side of the river, but it was too high to cross - quite fast flowing, and with submerged rocks everywhere. The boat drivers would only go when they could see all the obstacles. So, we settled on the Kiran Guesthouse and Rooftop Restaraunt - right near the river and run by an adorable family. The rooms were cheap, their food good, and we had a view to the river from our room.

The 4 days we spent there were pretty typical of a Hampi tourist. We checked out the ruins, the temples, climbed the hill to the ruined temple... Walked the streets, ate great food, smoked chillums with the locals by the river.. Shanti shanti! A highlight was the finale to the Ganesh birthday celebrations - they remove a Ganesh statue from the temple (presumably put there on the first day), load it onto a trailer behind a tractor, and progress down the main street at a snails pace, dancing and singing and letting off fireworks the whole way to the river. There, they cerimoniously throw it into the river. It was all too difficult to find the exact meaning or significance, but throwing Ganesh into the water was a common theme - I had spoken to both a trader at Anjuna and a guy at Palolem who had explained the same ritual.

But other than ruined temples, festivals, time by the river and photoshoots with our host family, Hampi didn't offer that much. And Shai needed to head to Bangalore for his flight.. So, i got him to write down a few tips for the north over our last breakfast together (a scrap of paper i now lovingly refer to as Shai's Planet), and i borrowed his lonely planet to get some bus tips. The night before i had booked a train for Didi and i all the way to Delhi. The train left from Hubli - about a 4hr bus ride from Hospit, and according to the lonely planet, there should be buses every hour. Easy. We left Hampi together in a rickshaw - Shai would get a bus from Hospit also. It was a sad farewell for us all. We have all had a great time travelling together over the past month, and parting was something we had managed to put off. Until now. I really hope i get to see Shai again. And i guess you just never know. It can be a surprisingly small world we live in...


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