After two hard, fast months interning and traveling and partying in one of the most diverse, beautiful and vast countries in the world, I came to Hampi, and I have to hold my hands up, and without an ounce of shame or regret and say I have discovered more about myself here than I have anywhere else.
Hampi is sacred ground in India. There are temples and things here that are ancient, and the landscape is something otherworldly. There’s no reception or signal or even ATMs. In Hampi, you get to forget the pressures of modern life and remember yourself.
Boulders balance precariously on top of each other looking as if they’re about to topple and crash to the valleys below, crushing life and disturbing the ringing peace that resonates in Hampi. They dont though. They perch on the edge of the horizon, on the edge of time, on the edge of the world, watching over the temples and the sacred rivers that splits old Hampi and new hampi like a silver anklet on an indian womans foot, waving about with ringing bells as she makes her way down to the temple.
We arrived in Hampi before sunrise by sleeper coach. Only a few bicycles and rickshaws rested by the roadside and a chaiwalla with a long braid down her back offered us hot sweet tea. As soon as I arrived in Hampi, a kind of peace settled over me, like a blanket tucked around my shoulders. I was immediately in comfort. We sat with some old men and sipped our tea, blowing into the glass cups and letting the steam chase away the morning dew.
Before long, walking along the wide dusty road towards the main town, we were stopped by a a rick and a Kim character in the back. White as anything but knowing the lingo, and clearly in with the locals, British born James asked us if we’d like to watch the sunrise with them from atop of the boulder mountains. Not one to say no to an adventure, we jumped into the rick, bags and all, and made our way to the bottom of the mountain.
I was still in a prim and proper dress from Goa but I quickly popped on my trainers and scrambled behind our guides. When we reached the top, the view was magnificent. A cross between a moonscape, lush rainforest, ruined temples and arid, dusty roads. The only sounds to cut through the morning peace was the sound of a peacock greeting the warmth of the emerging morning sun. It was beautiful. Dusky grey skies reflected onto the huge boulders till the sun had risen and blessed each rock, stone and tree with its mellow morning light. It was the perfect start to our stay in Hampi.
After watching resident elephant Lakshmi bathe in the river, we freshened up in the Old Town at our hotel where even in the bathroom one of those puzzling boulders acted as a wall! Next, we went down to The Mango Tree Cafe which quickly became my favourite place in the town. After some sight seeing, I found myself returning there to simply drink tea, absorb the atmosphere and think long and hard about my experiences of late. The seconds seemed suspended in timeless Hampi and hours whiled away seamlessly while I sat and simply thought.
That night the entire group ate at the German Bakery where we shared a plethora of dishes including a very unusual but tasty banana curry. We retired early as Hampi has strict rules regarding being out after 11 in preparation for exploring new hampi in the morning.
Bright and early, after banana and nutella pancakes for breakfast, we crossed the River and rented some scooters to explore. The first port of call was the monkey temple. Yannick counted the steps and reported there was 564 steps to reach the top! Our legs where liquefied when we arrived but being on those rocks made you feel like you were on Mars looking down at Earth. Whilst heading back, a swarm of bees or perhaps locusts,made the bright sky grey for a moment as we ducked under a boulder which acted as a shelf to sheild ourselves from it. It was a phenomenal sight. On the way down, I managed to see some friends, Rob and Lorenz, from Bangalore but due to the lack of signal, it had been impossible to coordinate our plans. They remained elusive and mysterious for the rest if the trip.
More explorations ensued and in between feeding the gorgeous monkies, Bill breaking his motorbike and getting a little lost, we ended up at Mowgli’s restaurant relaxing and talking with some great food. Lena told me all about her passion for photography and after seeing her pictures, its easy to see she’s wonderfully talented too.
Check out her pictures on her blog here http://www.goldgreyindia.com/
For the group, our time together was coming to an end. After a couple more hours of finding myself winding back to The Mango Tree Cafe, Niki and I decided to get a massage. I opted for the ayurvedic one. My masseuse Mary was brilliant but no matter how many times I get a full body massage I will never get used to having my boobs massaged! It particularly made me laugh that she introduced herself after the session too.
Following a quick shower, I found myself looking back wistfully at hampi from my rick as we drove to the coach station. It’s easy to understand the fuss about the place now after being there myself. There’s a tranquil spirit about the place that disturbs you into stark honesty with yourself. It’s a self contained world seemingly untouched by modern worries. It was the perfect place to end my travels before starting a new job. A cleanser for my feelings. It was a place that made me ready to face home, and further, the west.
The sense of inner peace was quickly lost on the sleeper coach however after the most rickety journey i’d ever had!
The next post will be my last on my experiences on India!
Namaste for now.