A laid back destination, a pilgrimage, Kashi of adventure seekers, a photographer’s paradise, a writer’s inspiration, and a means of livelihood, the soaking experiences of avatars of Hampi will linger on your mind long after you’re gone.
For months I had been contemplating on a story (I donno why buy they just popup from nowhere), a man looking to escape his past but gets possessed by the town instead. He boards the Hampi express ticket less, kills a man to borrow his ticket and assumes his identity. What happens next? Well, come to Hampi and script your own story…
The KSRTC bus from Bangalore directly deposited me in the Hampi bus stand. It was still early in the morning when I reached the town. The ruins were all glowing golden under the first lights of the Sun.
The new hampi bazaar and the whole nearby settlement was slowly waking up, you could see people on the street but the shops were yet to open. I managed past the annoying hotel and tuk-tuk offers and made my way to the river. Like the last time I chose to stay in Virupapuragaddi (also known as Hampi island) on the other side of the river Tungabhadra.
Since it was early morning the boatman charged me five times the normal rate (!), atrocious!
“Yeh toh goron ka rate hai” or “That’s the rate for foreigners” I tried to negotiate to no avail. At a distance I saw a bunch of locals crossing the river on foot, I decided to give it a go. The water level was only up to knee length and I had only a light backpack to carry across. I took off my shoes, rolled up my jeans and I was good to go.
I walked around on the main street from guesthouse to guesthouse until I found one which still had a room. During the season (winters) finding accommodation in Hampi could be really tricky, book in advance if you can. But the thing is only few of the guesthouses accept online booking and most of them can be booked only on a phone or at the spot.
And why is it so? Why do these guesthouses don’t accept online booking? You must be really naive to ask it!
This is tax evasion at it’s finest. These accommodations only issue a ‘kacha receipt’ (no bill) if at all. The same is true for the restaurants as well, no bills. The demonetization might have hit the Hampi industry for a short while but the black money hoarders are at it again with full vigor.
After settling down in my room, I headed straight to the German Bakery (also called Gouthami restaurant), a very popular food joint. The quality of the food is just fine for the price they charge. I sat down in the pad and ordered a special toast and a pot of ginger chai tea (sounds Starbuck-ish?).
The thing is in Hampi is you decide your own pace, you can either sit down and relax at one place all day long or go around exploring the ruins and the landscape.
I decided I wanted the former, I had seen much of the ruins in my earlier trip anyway. It was only in the evening when I decided to go out for a walk on the other side. I had my eyes set on my favorite trail, the path which starts from the Hampi bazaar takes you along the meandering Tungabhadra river and ends in Vitthala temple. I started out following the trail to the point but only to take a detour later, walking on the giant stones fascinated me more than following the dirt trail.
And my efforts didn’t go in vain, towards the end of my escapade I was rewarded with a beautiful image of Lord Vishnu carved on a boulder hidden away. I walked further along the river till I reached the point where I had no way to go. The boatman on the other side called for me to offer me a ride. I smiled, waved a namaste and took the walk back.
The mango shake at Mango tree that I liked so much last time turned out to be a complete dud this time, so much so that I decided not to return to this over hyped place. By the time I finished food the stars were out, and since the boat service had stopped I had to cross the river on foot in pitch dark. And all the while I worried if I’d slip, not because I could hurt but I was concerned for my 10k phone which I was using as a flashlight. For sure for the next time, I am carrying a real flashlight and a plastic bag to cover my phone.
Second day was all about the sunset I almost saw but missed it by a whisker, though all that sweaty trek up the Mathunga hill had its own reward. The peak of Mathunga hill is certainly the best place to gorge on the stunning vista of Hampi.
By the third day, I was quite clueless what to do, I mean I could rent a motorbike and go around but I felt I already had all the fun the first time. I spent the whole day just sitting in German Restaurant, eating and drinking masala chai. It was evening and I had to make a choice. And then it all came back, something I didn’t really want to do.
I remember the last time I was here I turned down my friend’s proposal to visit Tungbhadra dam, I could never move past the nightmares of KRS Mysore (where my last phone was stolen). He so wanted to go that he went by himself, which turned out to be a good thing because I too ventured out and stumbled upon my favorite trail.
After much tussle I shed the indecision and decided to right the wrong. I had to make for the missed sunset on Mathunga hill, I headed to Hemkuta hill, the second best sunset spot in Hampi.
And guess what this one too I almost missed. I reached just a few minutes before the Sun went down. I was just in time to catch the glimpse of the Sun slowly descending behind the distant hills. The Sun burned softly like a dying ember spreading a million hues on the horizon.
The hill is crowded at Sunset but it isn’t difficult to find your own spot.
In fact, it is never difficult to find your own place… and it’s never too late to start the journey.
I once again said goodbye to this enigmatic town, thanking for all the bitter sweet adventures that will remain with me forever.