When I was last in India I visited a small temple town called Hampi and I fell in love with the place. Although my last visit was about 11 years ago it has held a special place in my heart ever since. I really wanted Andy to see it too so we had added it as a must see on our itinerary. Location wise, it was a bit our of our way as we had planned to travel straight up the west coast of India and Hampi sits almost in the middle. We had a couple of options of how to get there, none where that straight forward so we chose a route which we thought would be the easiest.
We boarded the night train from Kochi to Goa, a 13 hour train which ended up taking 15 hours. For our first train experience in India it went incrediably smoothly, we had booked AC 3 Tier which is the third best quality of class you can book on the trains, it also really helped that the train wasn’t that busy. Our arrival in Goa was only the start of our journey, the train dropped us of in the town of Madgaon in the afternoon and our next train was early the next morning from Vasco Da Gama, about and hour and a half drive north. After another stressful search for a cash machine, which this time led us into a hospital, we began the struggle of working out how to get to Vasco in a cost effective way. I had in my mind a local connecting train which would have worked if our train hadn’t been late. Instead we jumped in a tuk-tuk to the bus terminal and somehow managed to board the right bus, this approach took a bit longer but saved us about £18 overall. The town of Vasco has very little going for it so after dinner we called it a night.
Bright and early the next morning we walked over and boarded our train to Hospet Junction, the closest station to Hampi. We didn’t realise at the time but it was a big Indian bank holiday and all of the trains had been fully booked, we had managed to get seat but this time in sleeper class, which is the fourth best class of travel. The 8 hour journey became 9 hours and was very busy, in sleeper class the seats are all up for grabs. We did get to see a lot more of the Indian train life, from women and children begging to transvestites who dance up and down the train. We started talking to a young guy on the train who said that they all give the transvestites money as they are scared they will pinch, punch or humiliate them by being inappropriate. Outside of the train we also got to ride through some of the most beautiful landscapes; valleys of jungles and huge waterfalls.
When we arrived in Hospet we were greeted by tuk-tuk drivers trying to get our custom to Hampi, we walked straight past as I was pretty sure there were buses which would cost a fraction of the price, and I was right; 6 pence for the first bus and 16 pence for the second! We arrived in Hampi and settled into our guest house with just enough time to grab a quick snack before heading up to a near by view point for sunset.
Once the sun was down we took a walk down the main bazaar where we saw swarms of people standing around a design of paints and clay pots. Within seconds of arriving we were collared into helping – we had to place cotton wicks into each of the pots, there were thousands! Once the wicks where in, a lady came around pouring paraffin into the pots. Just when we thought our services were no longer required, we were then thrust matches and candles to start lighting the pots. We weren’t very good at this and more blew out around us than we even managed to light. We worked out from speaking with people who were also helping out that it was a festival of some sorts and this was the celebration.
When we had decided we had had enough failed candle lighting we stood up, unfortunately for Andy the standing up was short lived as he fainted, I tried to catch him but my efforts were almost as useless as lighting the candles. Luckily for Andy a man standing behind him managed to catch him. It was luck he fell backwards and not onto the flames in front. A bit shaken up and more embarrassed than anything he recovered quickly, a combination of a day on a hot train, not enough food and water plus standing up too quickly seemed to be the cause, so we called it a day on the celebrations and went to get some food and an early night.
Cows roam freely in India and Hampi is no different. With roaming cows comes cow poo. Instead of clearing the poo away it is common practise to water it down and paint it all over the road, I just couldn’t get my head around this, it stank and is not a pleasant way to walk around town. The locals seemed to take great pride in spreading their poo and then creating colourful works of art on top of it. Not for me.
We had planned quite a few days in Hampi as we hadn’t been able to book a train out any earlier on account of the holidays. As time wasn’t an issue we had a lazy morning catching up on sleep and admin, but after lunch we had no more excuses, it was time to make a start visiting some of the numerous temples which surround the town.
Hampi is a very difficult place to explain, in total there are over 1600 remains (temples, forts etc) in 16 square miles, its hard to walk for more than 2 minutes without stumbling across another temple each in varying states of repair. We set off in one direction from town and navigated our way between the most popular temples that we could reach by foot. Each was built at a different time by a different king and in worship of a different God.
We struggled to actually look around some of the temples as we were more of an attraction, at last count Andy had posed for 14 selfies with people on that day alone! (a theme for our time in India)
As the end of the day drew near we made our way up to Matanga Hill, a hill which overlooks the town to watch the best sunset in town. It was beautiful, however the choice of flip flops as footwear was not my best move, one treacherous slip led me to split the seam of my trousers. Another pair bites the dust..!
As there is strictly no alchohol and slightly less strictly no meat in the old town of Hampi the nights were early ones. We had the best intentions for an early morning wake up to watch the sunrise, we should have learnt by now that we aren’t very good at sunrises. The sun rose without us (again).
A new day and another direction to head to discover more temples, this time we took a walk along the river path, one of the best things about hampi is that every rock is something special if you look close enough, I don’t think you could ever stop finding something new there.
On our way back from our days exploration we came across a wild chameleon walking across the grass.
Fearing for my last pair of trousers we decided to enjoy sunset from the comfort of a rooftop restaurant. Sipping tea and watching the colours change over the main temple was my idea of heaven.
Somehow we had managed to reach our last full day in Hampi, I had read that every morning the temple elephant Laksmi heads down to the river for her bath at anytime from 7am, we went and sat by the river whilst we waited we were completely captivated by the early morning activities at the river, families washing, children playing and men praying all in the soft morning light with the stunning backdrop of the mystical boulders of Hampi.
Like the diva she is Laksmi arrived at 8:30am down the steps and into the river where she sat for hours whilst she was scrubbed from head to toe.
That afternoon we thought we would visit the other side of the river to the new hippy side of Hampi where alcohol, meat and other substances are free flowing. The race back for the last ferry meant we didn’t get to explore mucb of this side of Hampi but all the more reason to go back!
The next morning we had a 6am train back to Goa, our time in Hampi had come to an end but was defiantly worth the detour.