Going with the flow in Hampi

[I am extremely pleased to see that KP and those who count in English cricket are reading my blog, and consequently put Ravi Bopara at the top of the order where he scored 60. I may well stage a coup at the Bangalore stadium on Sunday to get rid of the disastrous Peter Moores. He has to go.]

I awoke this morning at 5am in a place called Hampi, an ancient medieval city, set among miles and miles of huge boulder fields. It is a world heritage site, with a dramatic, mystical atmosphere.

Given the ungodly hour, I decided to set off to the top of a renowned 300m high local hill, Matanga, to watch the sun rise. Head torch in place, I enquired of a policeman dozing in his hut as to the best route to the top.

Asking directions in India inevitably induces a vague wave of the arm with an equally vague “go straight”, normally accompanied by a head wobble of varying sorts. Setting off up a hill covered in potentially disorientating huge boulders at 5am, that felt strangely inadequate, especially when the path gave way to rough scrub which it felt like was likely to harbour the entire world population of grumpy hyenas.

I therefore opted for perching on a boulder to watch Surya’s glory rise. The experience was truly unforgettable. I may not have quite achieved the atom of delight , but certainly had a serene two hours feeling the heat of the sun slowly spread through the air and across my weary limbs, and realising how lucky I am to be here.

I could wax lyrical for hours about this place – the monuments, the views, the history, the air – but I won’t, as you really need to come here yourselves.

The journey here from Goa yesterday was by train, in a coach with 2 Australian girls and a Frenchman. The Frenchman was not looking well, and he explained that his personal “phoney war” had well and truly ended that morning. I cheerfully passed on some advice that I have recently been given for the treatment of these things – combining Imodium (acts like a plug in a sink) and Ciprofloxacin (multi-purpose antibiotic) at the same time. That way the AB can have maximum effect on the nasty germs in the sink, so to speak. It was my misfortune however that one of the Australians was a homeopathic doctor. She looked at me as if I was the devil, before giving diametrically opposed advice to flush it all through the system as nature intended. I spent the rest of the journey hiding behind my book.

To get to Hampi, I fluked a ride on the back of a motorbike, arriving with a few hours of daylight to spare. Hampi is increasingly popular, not least with those wanting to lose themselves in a cloud of finest Afghan for a week/month/year or so. As most other people were therefore either half-baked or had wilted from the heat by that stage of the day, I decided to take advantage of my relative freshness with a visit to the Hanuman (Monkey-god) temple.

This required a ride in a coracle across a broad river. As usual, the negotiation for a fee for this trip started with a ridiculously exorbitant request from the 16-year-old boy standing protectively by his coracle, followed by an equally ludicrously low starting point from me. I thought I was doing quite well for a while, even though he had a strong argument that taking one person was more expensive than the 10 the coracle could hold. (I felt that his argument that taking me was like taking two people anyway was a little below the belt to be honest, but probably helped him secure a kings ransom of 70 rupees. The last laugh was on him – I think he enjoyed the downstream journey more than the upstream journey).

The whole experience in Hampi, yesterday and today, from the Monkey temple, to an 8km early morning walk through the awe-inspiring landscape (photos to follow), and of course visiting the fascinating ruins, has been fantastic.

I even managed to witness democracy in action – seeing 40 people sitting cross-legged outside the Archaeological Survey of India, I enquired of a man who looked like he was in charge if they were waiting for work. “No”, he proudly replied. “We’re on strike!” Good on them.

Such a contrast from Goa. Bangalore, where I am heading now by train, will be completely different too.

And on this particular journey tonight (my first night train), I think I’ll keep my mouth firmly shut. For once.

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Filed under 'mind the gap' journey 08-09, All posts, India '08-'09, South India

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