The village of Hampi is the smallest place that we have visited in India. On our arrival following a lovely and peaceful air-conditioned day train we set about scouring the village for the best value place to stay. Despite searching around 5 different places this took us a total of 10 minutes as there are around 5 main small streets that make up Hampi.
It turns out that Hampi has shrunk considerably in the past year, with the main bazaar and all places along the riverside being shut down by the government. Hampi is built within a 26km archeological site – completely illegally it turns out – and so the government has started removing it. The town that remains is a jumble of shops, cafes and restaurants aimed heavily on the traveller crowd. We’ve had a great time in the shops, with carrying bulky things not being too much of an issue now and have come away with a fair few items.
We have spent our weekend here not only lapping up the chilled vibes and chatting to other travellers over great food at an incredibly good value Nepalese-run cafe, but also exploring the ruins that Hampi is built within. The best way to get around the area is by bike, so yesterday we got our two wheels and after a few wobbles getting used to driving the weight of us both (including having to push the bike up a hill) we had a great day zooming around the little roads and dirt tracks between the ruins.
Ruins they are indeed. Despite only being around 500 years old the place is rather delpidated due to its heavy sacking and subsequent exposure to the elements. For example, whilst trying to find the remains of 100 pillars that comprised the base of the king’s palace, we discovered that we had been walking all over them. It literally was just the round patches where pillars had once stood! So the temples themselves couldn’t match the glory of the Ellora caves that we had seen the previous week, however the setting they are in is fantastic: The landscape is covered with huge boulders that seemingly must have just dropped out of the sky. Combined with this there are banana plantations and palm trees, with a meandering river flowing through the centre. The place is beautiful and watching the sunset atop the boulders last night gave the place a golden glow.
Our visit to one final temple as we wandered back yesterday evening delivered a delightful surprise. Within the complex we found Laxmi – a 26 year old, tame as can be elephant – named after the Hindu goddess of wealth! Despite being a fairly small elephant, standing in front of her was still fairly daunting (at least for me, I prefer little cats) and as she lumbered forward I didn’t like to think what would happen if she accidentally stepped on your toes! We found out that she got washed each morning down by the river, so our chilled Sunday morning coffee session was delayed for a trip down there where Joe duly stripped off, got in the water and joined the mahout in scrubbing her down. He tried to beckon the timid watching tourists in, but despite handing out bananas to them for feeding dear Laxmi, Joe flew solo – I settled for feeding her a Banana!
Today we are heading over to the other side of the river using a conacle – a kind of bowl shaped vessel – to then wander to the old ruined town called Anegondi. We have a cards game organised with a Finnish/Australian couple for later and that pretty much sums up our lazy Sunday!
Tomorrow we’re up at the horrifyingly early time of 5am to start what will be one of the most arduous days travelling we’ll have. We have a 7 hour non-AC day train to take us back to Margao (Goa), followed by 5 hours to kill in the charmless town, before finally a 16 hour overnight sleeper to take us down to the state of Kerala. I feel like an office worker not wanting the weekend to end!