When one person first tells you about somewhere worth visiting you think “I should look into that”. The next time someone mentions the same place, you say “yeah, I heard about that. What’s it like?” The third time you say “everyone says it is great.”
Hampi was one of these places. Everyone talked about it, we knew it contained lots of temples. But in India that doesn’t exactly make it unique. It was a day’s drive from Goa, so when we said goodbye to Romaldo and Morjim, we headed East into the hills. We arrived in Hampi mid-afternoon, to the inevitable clusterfuck.
Our take on millions of dusty, jostling people being badly managed by whistle-blowing officials was not a good one. Later we learnt that this was the first religious festival of the new year, and it was very popular. Way too popular. We parked up, swatting off locals wanting to fiddle with the bike as Nickiy dismounted and forged into the writhing mass to one of the waypointed guest houses. After some time she came back with more bad news. “All the guest houses in town have been shut down”. There were no restaurants or businesses allowed to operate in the old town any more.
I deployed Nickiy to a different guest house to check this was true. We were in India, after all, and this sounded like a really good scam. Unfortunately it wasn’t a scam. Our options were to move away from the sacred area to “New Hampi” or cross the river to “the other place to stay”. New Hampi sounded expensive and completely without character. Across the river was another 1.5 hours driving on loose gravel, finding the bridge (or ferry) and finding somewhere to stay. We chose the latter and it was not amusing.
After some duds, Nickiy found somewhere to stay and we unloaded and cleaned up. It had been such a traumatic ending to a day that had started on the scenic coastline, that we were considering just carrying on our journey the next day. During our dinner, our host came to us to tell us about touring the Hampi sites the next day in a rickshaw (tuk-tuk). It cost real money, but a few beers had eeked out the possibility of doing something touristy instead of climbing immediately back on to the bike.
Hampi is, and was, an amazing place, and we were glad to have been persuaded to see it. The grand civilisation that encompassed the Hampi valley, the royal enclosures, the baths, the temples, the fortresses, the elephant stables, all now partially ruined, was massive. The boulders in the hills make the landscape, and the structures decorate the foreground as the land slopes downward into the lazy river. You could spend days wandering the ruins, the hills and, apparently, climbing the boulders. Our rickshaw driver, Hanuman (monkey god) was perfect for our day there. His father was an archaeologist and he could interpret what our eyes were seeing into tangible buildings, doorways and chambers. We saw a huge number of amazing places, said goodbye, then jumped on to the passenger ferry back in time for sunset back at the ranch.
A pre-dawn departure welcomed us the next morning. Hampi had offered us a different route back north as we began running from the rabid jaws of India. We dealt with forbidden ring-roads, dodgy hotels and pollution so heavy it blotted out the sun until, finally, we arrived at Bhairawa, our gateway to Nepal.