Friday, April 19, 2013

Surreal Hampi

All I can say is GO TO HAMPI. It is unlike any place I have ever visited in all my travels. Hampi is a surreal site to see and I highly recommend visiting! Thank you to all those voices encouraging me to check it out.

Transportation from Goa
I made the mistake of giving up my luxurious A/C Tier 2 train ticket to spend another day in Goa. It wasn’t really a mistake, but just made my trip to Hampi a sweaty long ride. FYI here are the transit options from Goa to Hampi.
  1. Day Train to Hospet  – About 7 hours leaves in the early am and gets you to Hospet around 3pm. Then you take 30 min rickshaw to Hampi. Note: train only runs 3-4 times a week.
  2. Overnight sleeper bus to Hampi direct – leaves Goa around 8pm and arrives around 6am. Probably the best option if you don’t want to kill a day on the train.
  3. Or you can take various public non-ac bumpy loud buses that take about 12 hours. The true India experience. I'm not going to lie, during my own true india experience I was definitely cursing Daniel and thinking I can’t believe I gave up my ac bed on the train. Drenched in sweat and exhausted, but happy to have the opportunity to have so many warm smiles around me. During this ride I was reading Shantaram and couldn’t believe how perfect the timing was when I read this text: “And I learned more, during those fourteen constricted and largely silent hours in the crowded economy class section, communicating without language, than I could’ve learned in a month of travelling first class.”
A couple FYI’s
1.    Hampi is a dry town – the police actually stopped my bus on the way to Hampi and were confiscating alcohol. You can get a beer on the north side or get people to drive the 5km to the other town to get you a beer, but it’s not legal to sell in Hampi. My new Finnish friend Paavo and I had the delightful experience of a knockout that was brought to us from the near town. 

2.    The ferry that gets you to the north side – I wouldn’t even call it a ferry, it’s a 10 rupee ride in a little dinky boat. Literally it’s a 2 minute ride haha…you could wade across if you don’t mind getting wet. Anyway the boat only runs from around 7am until 6:30pm. 

My accommodation recommendation
Stay on the Hampi bazaar side for a 2 nights and then a couple nights in the peaceful serenity of the north side of the river. I would recommend Sai Guesthouse or Shanti Guesthouse on the north side as they have a really chill atmosphere.

I had just 4 nights and 3 days in Hampi, but made the most of it. I ended up staying on the Hampi Bazaar side because when I arrived I couldn’t get a boat to the north side of the river. The Kalyan guest house was simple, family operated and had 3 pluses – wifi, 24/7 electricity and a fridge to store cold water. That cold water was a saving grace.
My home for a few days...doesn't look like much but in the heart of it all. Seriously check out those boulders right behind the guesthouse.

Where to even start….Hampi is truly incredible. A beautiful river runs through the town where massive boulders are strewn all about. There’s a boat load of incredible temples and ruins to explore right in your backyard. I think lonely planet can describe it best: “Unreal and bewitching, the forlorn ruins of Hampi dot an unearthly landscape that will leave you spellbound the moment you cast your eyes on it. Heaps of giant boulders perch precariously over miles of undulated terrain, their rusty hues offset by jade-green palm groves, banana plantations and paddy fields. The azure sky painted with fluffy white cirrus only adds to the magical atmosphere. A World Heritage Site, Hampi is a place where you can lose yourself among wistful ruins, or simply be mesmerized by the vagaries of nature, wondering how millions of years volcanic activity and erosion could have resulted in a landscape so captivating.”

I was captivated. I wandered around the ruins in Hampi in awe. 

My new friend, Paavo, and I decided to head over to the north side of the river. It heats up very quick in Hampi and is hard to do much between 11am and 4pm. The great part about Hampi is the atmosphere is setup to make you relax, drink a cold lime soda and chill. Most afternoons were spent at a restaurant or guesthouse reading, taking in the view and chatting with new friends.

3 Absolute Musts if you visit Hampi
1.    Sunrise at Matanga Hill
Absolutely magical. There’s something about the sunrise and this one was in my top 3.

2.    A short trek to the “Waterfall”.
It’s more of water rushing through big boulders than a waterfall, but none the less beautiful. The lake is such a relief to swim in. The earlier in the day you can go the better as it feels like you are being baked from both ends while walking on those boulders. The sun is cooking from above and the boulders radiate intense heat from below.
How to get there – from the boat jetty, continue down the road past a small village and banana plantations. Don’t get all the way to the end of the banana plantations, just 100m before the end you’ll turn right down a path towards the water. I’d recommend taking a local guide up on showing you the way. We started walking the wrong way, but a nice man and his dog walked us the whole way to the lake and showed us around a bit. It was worth the 100 rupees. After playing around in the water a bit we made our way back on our own.
Bananas, bananas everywhere. Find me! 

3.    Community bathing & laundry time on the Tungabhadra River
It was pretty phenomanel to see that it’s possible to make laundry and bathing a fun community experience. Even Lakshmi the elephant comes every morning for her bath in the river!

My favorite memory, that still makes me giggle and my jaw drop, is being robbed in front of my face. By a monkey. In my hotel room. I was smoking hot in the middle of the night (no a/c) and couldn’t bear it anymore so I decided to open my door to get a breeze going. Much better! I pass out for a bit longer and around 6am hear a rustling. I flutter my eyes open to see a monkey in my room!!! He looks at me snatches a bag of bananas sitting on a chair and runs. I was tripping for a moment as my wallet was sitting right next to my bananas. Luckily all he wanted was my potassium yellow guns. I was still a bit in shock, how the heck did he know I had bananas in my room? Monkeys do really go bananas for bananas! So funny. Only in India.

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