Another spot recommended by KB and boy did she do well with this one!
Before we even arrived we had high expectations with the combination of KB's praise and the hippies in Anjuna repeatedly telling us how great it was, it had a lot to live up to. Luckily it did not disappoint and it has been our favourite place in the South.
It is hard to describe the landscape of Hampi so I am going to steal descriptions from two other sources. The first one being James, he nailed it when he said 'it is how one would imagine Jordan, Petra or Isreal to look'. Whether or not Hampi looks anything like the Middle East neither of us know, but his description made perfect sense to us! The second was from a more traditional source, Hinduism. The Ramayana has a story to explain the landscape and perhaps this will give you an idea of what it looks like: 'The settlement was ruled by the monkey kings Bali and Sugriva and their ambassador, Hanuman. The weird rocks are said to have been flung down by their armies in a show of strength.' And if you are still having trouble picturing it you will have to wait for our videos, shot whilst riding the bikes through the villages!
Not only is there this amazing landscape but scattered in between the giant boulders and fields are the ruins of hundreds of Hindu temples. After one night staying on the Hampi Bazaar side of the river we took the terribly organised boat journey to the other side and settled our stuff in the lovely huts of Mowgli resort. We had the scooter bug from Goa so immediately rented a rundown bike from our hotel owners. When we asked for at least one helmet (for my precious head) the owner looked at us in amazement and said 'no need, there are no highways-just drive safely.' Ohhh OK no problem then! I would have looked a bit out of place with a helmet as nobody wore one in Hampi. It was bad enough in Goa as I always wore my sexy tin hat when (almost) everyone else had their locks flowing in the wind-safety first! We set off, heads naked to the elements and headed… in the completely wrong direction. This didn't matter to us and was actually one of my favourite rides. We drove through two tiny villages and caused some excitement with the locals as I doubt not many westerners go as wrong with directions as we did! It was all going on at the village, children playing during their break from school, women preparing food at the front of their house, men and women toiling in the fields, chickens, goats, so many goats, dogs, pigs and of course cows roaming in between the mud huts looking for scraps of food and the funniest sight of all, a small girl relieving herself at the edge of the road! On the last day when we had seen most of the temples we did this a few more times, just kept driving away from Hampi bazaar until we reached a village, banana plantation or came to a dead end, it was brilliant fun.
The bike wasn't always fun and games as there was a tiny issue of a river to cross. James expertly slid down an extremely steep hill to then drive onto the tiny boat and then drive off the small ramp as fast as he could; apparently this was the only way to do it! We had to cross a few times and each time it was a new experience, a small boat built for about 10 people managed to cram on 30 people and 5 bikes, only in India! We also managed to run out of petrol on the last day, I think this was when we were aimlessly driving to the far flung villages. We were too stingy to put in too much petrol so only paid £1.00 when we hired it, for only £1.00 extra James wouldn't have had to push the bike for about 200m to the petrol station that was fortunately close by! We weren't the only tourists who hired bikes but the most impressive we saw were an Indian couple who were both crippled and could only move by dragging their bodies with their arms along the floor. Not only had these two found each other and formed a relationship they had come on holiday and hired a specially adapted bike so they could enjoy all of Hampi. This may not sound too impressive but in a country without a social welfare system and the only disabled people you usually see are begging as that is the only thing they can do it was so lovely to see this pair enjoying themselves on holiday.
For the most part we didn't get lost and we managed to see every major temple Hampi has to offer. The temples are in ruins and seemingly a lot older than their 400-500 years. This is thanks to the Muslim onslaught and overthrow in the 16th century when the city was devastated by a six month siege. Most of the temples are concentrated in two distinct areas. By complete luck we happened to time our visit of the more popular and well-kept temples to coincide with National Heritage Day, which meant we could visit them for free! The gardens surrounding the temples were beautiful and a great place to relax. The more interesting areas were the Elephant stables, Vitthala temple with ornate carving and musical pillars and Lakshmi the Elephant that gives you a blessing (for one rupee)! Some of the temples had fun areas to explore with hidden walk ways and cubby holes. You could easily imagine the Kings and Queens strolling around the temples, bathing in the water and admiring the views.
Getting blessed by the elephant, Lakshmi is obviously a clever money making scheme and we were a bit wary of how well she would be cared for. She looked well and it turns out the owners take her to the river every morning and give her a scrub, which she loved! I must say her trick is impressive, they have taught her well. You hold out a one rupee coin, she takes it in her trunk, gives it to her owner and then taps you on the head, not very lightly and all the while eating straw and fruit! The most entertaining factor for me were the children who were not enjoying the elephant blessing in the slightest and were crying, in fear for their lives whilst their Mums and I had a good laugh at their expense! I then terrified a child even more as we were leaving the temple. She had been temporarily separated from her family because of some naughty monkeys had stolen someone's food. She was one side of the entrance and her family the other, with the monkey in the middle. She was screaming. I thought she was so scared of the monkey she wouldn't walk to her family. The family were telling her to come to them but she was frozen to the spot. I thought, I'll help, and as everyone in India is everyone's 'Aunty' she must be used to strangers picking her up. She was not. She let out a blood curdling scream as I put my arms out to pick her up and bolted in the other direction! Her family thought this was hilarious and one of them came to her rescue from the evil white woman, we all laughed as the poor child continued to cry!
As usual in India we found a delicious restaurant (KB recommended) called Mango Tree. It had amazing thali, mango lassi and two of my favourite foods combined, a chapatti covered in Nutella-oh man it was good, especially with the addition of banana and grated coconut! I think over the course of 4 days we ate here at least 5 times, we were truly addicted.
On our last evening we found a boulder that looked over Hampi bazaar and made ourselves comfortable to watch the sun setting over this beautiful place. It was a romantic spot and we were enjoying soaking up the views, until… yet another poop for us to watch! This time it was a grown man who had snuck behind one the boulders, I presume to get out of everyone's view, but he didn't realise we were behind him so we got a full view of him unloading his bowels-haha! Fortunately Hampi is so awesome that this is not our lasting impression or memory, it was funny though!