Sunday, 25 May 2008

Road trip to Hampi

Day one:

At 8 in the morning I chucked all three of my bags into various parts of the car. Sitting on the back seat I gave my driver the nod of approval to proceed in a southerly direction. Seven hours later I cruised up to the Navaratna International Hotel in Bijapur.

Day two:

After a breakfast of caffeine and nicotine it was into the car for a days sightseeing around the town. The first place on the list was on the other side of town. My faith in my driver’s navigational skills completely disappeared as he needed to stop 3 times to ask for directions. The thing is, the place was signposted all the way and he only had to make one turn on the entire journey!
We arrived at Ibrahim Rouza, it’s an Islamic mausoleum built in the early 1600’s. The minarets are said to of been the inspiration for those at the Taj Mahal. It’s rated as one of the most finely proportioned Islamic monuments in India…nice!
Whilst I was looking around the site, my driver employed a local man to give him directions for the rest of the day’s tour!!!
Next, was a section of the old defensive city wall. On top of one of the battlements was a bloody big cannon allegedly weighing in at 55 tons!
Following on from there it was a short drive through the back streets to the Upli Buruj. It is a 24m high watchtower with an external spiral staircase winding its way up to the top. Once there wide views of the city were found.
I then went to Bara Karman, the ruined mausoleum of some bloke called Ali Roza. All that’s left on the raised platform was the carcass of the building.Graceful curving arches, a tome and not much else.

Arriving at the Golcumbaz I was impressed straight out of the car. Built in the second half of the 17th century as a mausoleum (again!) for Mohammed Adil Shah. It has 4 seven storey towers, one on each corner and a dome with a 38m diameter. That’s quite big for a dome! Inside it is plainly decorated with a few carved reliefs. Taking a staircase found inside one of the towers brings you out onto the roof and the entrance to the “whispering” gallery. Due to the large number of kids running around a more apt name would have been the “screaming and shouting” gallery!

For the rest of the afternoon, I gave my driver time off and walked around the town.

Day three:

It was an early start. The final destination was the town of Badami. Before I got there, there were two places to visit.

Alihole: this place was the Chalukyan regional capital from the 4th to the 6th century. It teems with over 100 temples dotted all over the small modern day village. The temples range in size and style and the development of the craft can easily be seen

Pattadakal: this place replaced Alihole as the capital and damn didn’t they do well. Built between the 7th and 8th century AD. It’s a notable improvement in terms of size and quality over Alihole.

Arriving in Badami, turning up at the hotel (overpriced even after haggling a R150 discount) just to dump my bags onto the bed. The town of Badami is split between the “new” part based along the main road and the old part near the tank with its narrow streets.
I went to the caves, yep more caves but this time there was only 4 of them. The caves overlooked the Agastyatirtha tank, which was large! The water here is only replenished by rain water running off the nearby hills. As the monsoon was nearly a year ago the waters were green in colour and faintly whiffy! That didn’t seem to stop the kids from swimming in it and the women washing their clothes.
Back at the hotel I completely missed the entrance and ended up in the bar next door. Two large and ice cold beers later it was time for a long afternoon siesta.

In the early evening I wandered around the old town down by the tank and watched a beautiful sunset. By now I was hungry and I enjoyed my new favourite dish of paneer chilly and jeera rice. Once again failing to enter the hotel more cold beers followed and bizarrely I was asked for my autograph. 1st and last time I’m sure!

Day four:

It was only a 3 hour ride to Hampi arriving in the early afternoon. The hotel is quite nice with a simple room (although it lacks a/c and a TV!). Its best feature is the small garden 3 steps from my room. Overlooking the river with a banana plantation in between. On the patio area, which is under cover are found 3 “hammock” chairs…lovely.

After checking my emails my worst fears were confirmed. There is no diving in Goa in June (or July, August or September for that matter!). So, I have no idea where I’ll be going once I leave Hampi…

N.B: over the 4 day journey I saw, on average, 1.25 Lorries a day either lying upside down in a ditch or wrapped around a tree!

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