Call it lack of time or other resources or my ‘one big vacation per year’ rule, Hampi last weekend is the closest to a vacation I’ve had in the longest time and this was just a perfect getaway for the weekend, if a little mis-timed as far as the weather is concerned (40 degrees and up)
Hampi is a temple town that houses the ruins of the Vijayanagar empire, about 365kms away by road from Hyderabad and almost as far from Bangalore, even though it’s in Karnataka state…
After an 8 hour smooth bus ride to Hospet, we woke up to fresh air and rode an auto to the villagetown of Hampi, about 12 kms away and checked into a cheap guesthouse immediately.
The site of Hampi would depress you right now, as there is demolition everywhere and houses are being felled as I type. On asking a few locals, we learnt that the govt. does not want this side of the historical/holi side of Hampi to be ruined by commercialization. ( Basically they don’t want it to become the next Goa). Now here’s an interesting fact. Hampi is divided into 2 parts by a river. The one side of the river is where most of the temple ruins are while on the other side, as we would discover on the 2nd day, is the ‘chilled out’ goan corner with your many shacks and places to lounge about at.
Right from the Virupaksha Temple to the Vitthala Temple with its iconic Stone Chariot, Hampi is dotted with ruins of religious and architectural marvels from the Vijayanagar Empire. We would walk past/through endless roofless corridors leading to epic stone temples with central courtyards, and monolithic pillars engraved with the most intricate carvings of mythological creatures and Gods, all against the backdrop of enormous boulders and palm trees.
Next up, we wanted to go for a swim in the lake so we hired a bike and went riding through a narrow passage along the river and stopped at what looked like a foliage of banana trees. We tripped on red ants, snake-skins and almost got lost in the jungle just before a large of rocks loomed large in front of us. This lake is kind of on/through under the rocks and getting there can be a bit tricky. But once there, you’d thank your decision and feet to have carried you up all the way.
Here was a neat little lagoon, surrounded by rocks, with a clean stream gushing southwards and we had this little piece of nature all to ourselves to enjoy a little dip and banter.
After getting back out of the Banana field into the bike, we had the most awesome Chai money can buy while Andrew chatted up the “Chai gaiz” much to his amusement.
To take care of the munchies warranted by that trek up the hills and across the rocks, we hit up the famous ‘Mango Tree’ restaurant, which was a brilliant call. The place is set on many levels on the stone, in the form of an amphiteathre, nature being the live performance in front of your eyes.
From hummus and Pita, to ” Special Hampi pasta”, this place has it all, but heaven save you if you got some alcohol inside as we were to discover the next day.
Next day we set out early to do breakfast and visit the famous “Stone Chariat” ( chariot) temple. This was a long, and hot 6 km ride up north of Hampi but it was well worth it.
Much monkeying was done on the temples here. Also traveling with a foreigner will always ensure eyeballs and cause of much curiosity wherever you go.”Saar one photu plis”
Just when you have been mighty impressed by the majestic ruins, Hampi surprises you with its totally ‘chill’ side on the other side of the river with its many quaint small eateries and cafes etc. The adventurous souls can explore adrenaline-boosters such as trekking, rock climbing, swimming, or just enjoying a beautiful sunset amidst nature thanks to the natural landscape of the town with its enormous boulders, lakes, tall palm trees, and open fields.
After some much needed chilling after a Coracle ride ( yes we rowed it!) in a lake, we missed our boat! Quite literally. It was 7 in the evening, the river-side was pitch dark and we had a bus to catch in less than an hour with no more boats to take us across the river. At one point, the only resort out was to wade through the chest-high water, endangering the electronics on us, but as luck would have it, we found a lone boatsman who agreed to take us on the other side, well in time for us to catch the bus back to Hyderabad.
And thus the micro-vacation ended on a rather victorious note!
In a nutshell, Hampi is a photographer’s muse, a traveller’s delight, and a glorious labyrinthe with treasures to be discovered at every turn.