Unreal and bewitching, the ruins of Hampi are scattered over a landscape that is spellbinding. Heaps of giant boulders, like marbles, haphazardly strewn over the never ending terrain, their brown-red colour complimented by bright green palm groves, banana plantations, sugar cane and paddy fields. Of course, we didn’t see any of this until the sun started to brighten the place up, arriving at 05:35am, a little worse for wear – both of us were airborne at several times during the night from our bunk beds… That’s how bumpy the journey was!! Made our way from the bus stand towards the main temple which was covered in fairy lights. We then decided to make our way through the main bazaar area to find somewhere for a cup of tea. Since nothing was open, we headed to the river and sat down overlooking the elephant temple. We watched as locals came to bathe in the river, as well as wash clothes and release candles into the water. As the sun began to rise, more and more locals came down to the river including several classes of children from different schools who washed themselves, got into their school uniform and headed back to school (presumably). As we sat and watched the world go by, an elephant (we later found out it was Lakshmi, the temple elephant, who will smooch/bless you in exchange for a coin) was brought down to the river and was given a hour long scrub down by two men as people waded over to it so he could spray them with water from his trunk – if tourists were allowed in the river, we would have joined them!! Decided to head back to the bazaar area around 8am just as all the shops and restaurants were opening. Headed to the Tibetan Kitchen were we both stuffed ourselves with fruit muesli, porridge, French toast and fruit juices as we hadn’t eaten the previous evening. Decided to abandon Jayne at the restaurant with the bags whilst I went looking for somewhere for us to stay. Turns out that tonight is a big festival in the town so not only were there not very many rooms, they were also charging ridiculous prices! Managed to find somewhere somewhat reasonable but by the time I had got Jayne and our luggage back to the hotel, the room had gone!! Was stopped by several locals who tried to find us a room by literally walking us back to places we’d already been. Managed, by mere luck, to stumble across a guest house that had a vacancy and would give us a discount as we couldn’t have the room until 8pm that night… Despite wanting a day to catch up on sleep and sort out photos etc. we decided to leave our bags with the guest house and walk around the town. Found a quiet spot over looking the river and enjoyed the view for a bit. Went to a local shop to hired bikes and, for the first time in 5 years, I got Jayne on a bike and cycling!!!Decided to start with the temples furthest away first, thinking that if we got too tired we could return by foot tomorrow to those closer to our guest house. The ruins are divided in to two main areas: the Sacred Centre, around Hampi Bazaar; and the Royal Centre, towards Kamalpuram. Stopped first at a temple near the river – it was nothing special and the path leading up to it was lined with beggars, shop keepers and, since Hampi and its neighbouring areas are mentioned in the Hindu tale of Ramayana as Kishkinda (the realm of the monkey gods), there was a boy dressed as a monkey. Jumped back on the bikes and headed further out of town. Now, Jayne will blame me but I was told to follow the direction of the bus! We didn’t necessarily get lost, per say, but we certainly went further out of our way than we needed to… Walked into ruins and massive rock formations that are littered across the countryside. Chosen in 1336 to be the new capital by Telugu prince Harihararaya, by the 16th century it was a thriving metropolis of about 500,000 people. Deccan sultanates attacked the city in 1565, something that it was never able to recover from. However, many of the temples are still intact having simply been abandoned all those years ago. One favourite was an underground temple that was ankle (and sometimes calf) deep in water. We then went to The Royal Centre, which is a flatter area compared to the rest of Hampi, where the massive boulders have been shaved off to create stone walls. A number of Hampi’s major sites are located here: the Lotus Mahal, the Elephant Stables, the Underground Virupaksha Temple and the Queen’s Bath (deceptively plain on the outside, but amazing within).We also found another underground temple that had pitch black corridors along with several massive statues. After 5 hours of cycling around, we both decided we were shattered (bikes with no gears and hills aren’t a fun combination!!), so we returned the bikes and went back to the quiet river section to watch the sun set. Went back to the Tibetan kitchen for pad Thai noodles and a Tibetan mixed meal before going back to the guest house, checking in, showering (with Thomas the Tank engine towels) and passing out (on Gucci bedsheets!!).
Sunday 27th December 2015