As is customary I’ll start with trains, what on one-hand is an impressively vast and, on the whole, reliable network is on the other a very difficult system to conquer for travelers such as us and many others who wish to take a laid back approach to planning itineraries. Such is the demand for tickets that very often trains become booked weeks in advance, Goa represented the point at which our pre-booking of trains ceased and we were immediately punished by finding every available seat pre booked and so it came to be necessary our journey to Hampi was made by overnight coach. Something I had been trying to avoid as anyone who knows Indian roads at night will know it mainly involves swinging in and out between lumbering Tata lorries for the duration of the journey.
After eventually clearing a path through the hoardes of rickshaw drivers clambering for our attention we were able to get off the coach and set foot in Karnataka. The first thing that struck me was that Hampi was quite unlike any place I had been before. The landscape consists of masses of boulder of varying sizes in piles dotted around an undulating stone plain. Imagine Bedrock off The Flintstones and you’re someway to picturing Hampi (it wouldn’t surprise me if Hampi or somewhere similar was the inspiration for the show). Without any understanding of such things our best guess is that the boulders were transported like gigantic grains of sand when the water which has now receded to a smallish river was at its peak – but why this would happen here and not many other places along coastlines may put our theory to bed. You can see how the water level has changed by looking at the different colours of the rocks sitting at different levels above the current river level.
We explored around the ancient temples first day, highlights included a huge stone Bull carved out of a boulder, squeezing past a beautifully painted elephant who had decided to walk through the small passage we were in, and spotting a type of monkey we hadn’t seen before playing with a cow. I quite enjoyed toying with the mischievious monkeys in our chosen restaurant overlooking the river each day by halting there advances towards our meals with a stick and bottle of water in hand.
Despite the temples and religious sites around Hampi being World Heritage listed we were more interested in the landscape which seemed far more interesting than the numerous ancient stone temples, which of course are fascinating but were not too dissimilar to those of Khajuraho, Sanarth or Lumbini. While Sarah went off to read I climbed for the day finding hidden temples and setting up self time photos. Most evening were spent going to a spot above the town to watch the sunset over the hills with the occasional procession of cows to disturb the peace. After our short stay another overnight coach beckons us to the bright lights of Bangalore.