We set our alarm for 6am to get the 7am bus to Hospet. We needn't have bothered. Although India is 90% Hindu there are still a lot of Muslims. This part of India is a little Muslim enclave. So 5.30am and the local mosque fire up the stereo and let the entire state hear the call to prayer. I've always thought if followers are as keen as they make out do they need some geezer wailing through loudspeakers to remind them of their duty? Apparently the answer is yes.
Anyway we went across the road to the bus stand. Fortunately one of the staff spoke English and he pointed us at the correct bus. While we were waiting an elderly chap came for a chat. No sooner had he started talking than a crowd gathered around us to listen. Why? None of them spoke English. It's bizarre.
Once on the bus we had the usual situation of an empty bus but the other three passengers decide to sit next to us and stare. What is it with third world bus drivers? It was the usual horn honking ride until we hit the highway. The government has been engaged on a road building project. New dual carriageway highways are springing up and we were now on one. One of the staring passengers announced it to us as if he thought we had never seen a big road before.
Road building is definitely needed but it's a bit like giving a pilot the keys to the plane before you've taught them how to fly. As we hurtle down our side of the dual carriageway we are met by tractors, motorbikes and carts coming the wrong way. Scary or what? Add to that our driver wants to turn right and rather than wait for the turning ahead he cuts on to the opposing carriageway and travels for one hundred metres on the wrong carriageway. He then gesticulates at someone who doesn't give way to him.
Eventually we arrive in Hospet where we are changing buses for Hampi our destination. As the bus pulls to a stop I'm tapped on the shoulder. 'Are you going to Hampi?' asks the chap. I answer in the affirmative. 'I have a tuk tuk I can take you' he says. Bloody hell we aren't even off the bus yet.
As it happens we are able to haggle the price down to half what he originally wanted. We travel 13kms in a tuk tuk to our hotel. We have decided to stay at a government owned hotel about 4kms outside of Hampi. There are several reasons. First it has aircon which none of the others have. Second Hampi is a 'dry' town and this hotel serves beer. Third it's owned and run by the government so how bad can it be?
Ok, I'll deal with the hotel before talking about Hampi itself. Check in is fine. We are taken to our room which we are proudly told is brand new and recently built. We enter the room and are immediately hit by the familiar smell of damp. We take a quick look around and notice mould on the wall and water dripping from the bathroom ceiling. It also has cobwebs on the walls and the aircon isn't working. Ok let's try another room.
That looks ok. No damp etc. We put our bags down and start to settle in. The tele has some English movie channels and the food in the restaurant is good. Next morning and time for a shower....or not. There is no hot water. Someone comes from reception to help. He moves the mixer lever to the 'blue' cold position and waits. Five minutes later and there is hot water. He looks at me as if I'm an idiot. 'Yes but....' I start to say. Oh never mind.
It's one of those showers where you push/pull a button to switch from the taps to the shower. Jill manages to have shower but the button keeps popping out. Oh and the power has gone off. When I get in the shower the button won't stay in at all so I get wet but can't shower. Jill goes to reception and brings back two chaps. They fiddle for fifteen minutes with the button and eventually get it to stay in so the shower works. I'm in an I hate India mood so I switch it off and make them try again. Another fifteen minutes and they announce it's working. ' That's good' I say. 'So all I have to do to have a shower is fiddle with the button for half an hour then I can wash?' 'Yes' they announce with big smiles. I'm stood, still wet with a towel around me and my patience has just run out. How many F**** can you get in a sentence? A lot let me tell you. Off they go and soon another two chaps arrive and go through the same process. Eventually they move us to room number three. As we move out they change the bed linen ready for the next guest. They clearly are not going to try and fix the shower. The next guest will probably be Indian and will use the tip and pour bucket not the shower.
After we had been out for the day we came back and switched on the TV. In the room next door we had 70 plus channels including some English movie channels. In this one only 50 and no English channels. How can that be? Off I go to reception and a chap comes back to the room. He starts flicking through the channels to confirm that I'm telling the truth. Half way through he finds a programme he likes and starts watching it. Jill and I are sat on the bed pissing ourselves. I feel like I'm in a Brian Rix West End farce. I eventually drag him away from the programme and he starts re-programming the TV. Once he has gone It's time for the shower I didn't get this morning. I turn the lever to the 'blue' cold position like in the other room and wait for the hot to come. Idiot, this is the room next door why would it be plumbed the same. In this one hot means hot. Eventually I got a shower. Hoorah.
Ok, what about Hampi. Well it's an odd place. These days it's only small but centuries ago it was home to 500,000 people. It became home to a prince who set about building palaces and temples in the area. The landscape has been formed by volcanic activity and consists of huge boulders strewn about a lunar landscape dotted with temples. Surprise, surprise it's a world heritage site. Unfortunately most of the temples are now in ruins but some still give a taste of their former glory.
The town or rather village of Hampi is now a ramshackle of small streets lined by mud brick buildings. It is very touristy but quite quaint. The buildings are all guest houses, shops and restaurants. The town is 'dry' so no alcohol. This is out of respect for the temples and religious significance of the area. Unfortunately this respect doesn't extend to not urinating anywhere you please, not defecating by the temple walls and not using the area as a rubbish tip.
The battles fought here centuries ago have been replaced by a new one. The town has extended over time and shops and homes have spread into the temple perimeters. Now it is a world heritage site the state government can smell money. They have built some new houses away from the area and are effectively forcing people from their homes and then demolishing them. The village outskirts look like a bomb site. I commented to Jill that if India and Pakistan ever have a nuclear war apart from the dead bodies you would struggle to see the change.
Having said that we have had a good day today walking around the numerous temple sites enjoying the peace. The village or bazaar area as it's known has a very laid back feel. Jill has been trying to get a sari blouse to wear with her sari. We found a material shop and she picked out some to match. The lad in the shop then took us to a lady seamstress who agreed to make the blouse. The lad asked me if we were German. Agghh. 'No no no' I said. We don't like Germans. He said 'In India we love everyone'. 'What about Pakistan' I enquired. 'Well obviously not them' he replied.
Today as we drove into the village in a rickshaw a police officer flagged us down and jumped in. He spoke purposefully to the driver and we drove off. 'Follow that rickshaw' Jill and I said in unison. Unfortunately we weren't treated to a high speed pursuit. The officer was just blagging a free ride home.
Today has been a very relaxing one. We've sauntered around numerous temple sites in the sunshine. I did have an all too frequent groan when the internet played up. In fairness it's not just here it's a worldwide annoyance. Our hotel has a nice garden so we had lunch sat outside. In all Hampi has been a welcome oasis from the noise and bustle of the towns we have passed through. Tomorrow we are catching a bus to Hubli and then the following day to Goa. We've booked a few days in a beach hut.