Thursday, 29 May 2008

Om Namaha Shiva

woke up early and spent the 1st 20 minutes trying not to scratch my foot. It had spent part of the night outside the mosquito net and had therefore been feasted upon. Sadly, I failed!

Seeing that I was going to be hanging out in Hampi for a while I gave the temple at the end of the bazaar a miss. There is plenty of time and it’s the closest to the hotel. Instead I went over a small hill and clambered down the boulders on the other side. Nearby was a temple surrounded by a courtyard. Inside were some really well executed statues. Across the road were the remains of a bazaar with covered colonnades either side. Off to the left was a tank, small and square with enough water in it to support the most basic forms of life forms.
Spying a goat trail I knew where I was heading next. The track led to large pile of boulders, you would call it a hill. A slightly suspect path led all the way to the top and was met by a simple temple. Inside was a lone priest and I got a blessing and for some reason, unbeknown to me, a flower stuck behind my right ear! The track down the other side gave great views of Hampi bazaar, the river and several temples dotted all over the place.

I was planning to celebrate the fact that it has been one year on the road today, with a beer or two in the evening. However as Hampi is a dry town I had a fruit juice instead…damn!!!!

The night-time saw me tuck the mosquito net under the mattress. I sadly couldn’t do much about the heat or the glistening beads of sweat!

[RECAP TIME:On May the 29th 2007, outside my sister’s house in Wokingham, my legs pushed on the pedals of my trike and started me off on this journey around the world. Well, a year has passed and many things have happened…..

• Amazingly I am even more relaxed and chilled out than when I left
• I’m a damn sight fitter than 12 months ago but not as fit as I was last September, might be because I started smoking again (oh …and my legs were huge back then!)
• I am sometimes inventing stress just to remind myself what it’s like!
• I’ve come across places by chance that has just stuck me with their beauty.
• Other places I made a bee line for and I was greatly rewarded with what I saw and felt.
• Ice cold beer tastes pretty much the same whatever country your in, especially after a long hot day
• I am getting better (I hope) at taking pictures, some of you may even have looked at a few
• People have been really friendly across all the countries I have travelled (yes, even the French!) and the question that I have yet to truly answer is “would I of been as friendly if the situation was reversed?” living in London for 10 years I feel the answer might be no!
• I no longer miss being on my trike. I've seen the road traffic in India…very scary
• I still really really don’t like dogs!!!!

So, one year gone and a few more still yet to come and I can’t see myself getting bored.]

Friday 30th

I was up early to “enjoy” the cool of the morning. However by 8am it was already hot as I made my own path along the river bank, leaping from boulder to boulder. Occasionally I was forced to back track as I have short legs! About 4 kms later I came to the bridge across the river. There is a large gap in the middle due to the fact it’s yet to be completed so I paid the ferryman R10 (but not till I got to the other side). The ferry was a large coracle, made from cane and wicker. The “hull” was made with plastic hessian coated with waterproof tar. They’re big enough to carry a couple of motorbikes at a time.
Once on the other side a short walk led to the village of Anegunda, where I was able to rehydrate. Following the narrow road as it slipped its way past boulder heaps, banana plantations and expectant paddy fields leading me to the Hanuman or monkey temple. Perched on top of a prominent hill overlooking the river. At the bottom of the steps it was time for another family portrait. The steps were easy and the views breathtaking. The monkeys, well they were just being cheeky! After the walk back down a couple of cold cokes at the roadside drinks shack were much appreciated.

I continued walking along the road with the sun at its zenith. The 1st chance I got to follow the river I literally jumped at it. Later on the road and the river converged underneath an old stone bridge. Seeking some shade at a small shrine nearby, the resident holy man and I chatted for a while. His attempt to explain his faith via a drawing was confusing to say the least.
The way back to Hampi led across the river and over Hampi Island. During the dry season, i.e. now, you can walk across the riverbed on the northern side. Up and over the island keeping well out of the way of the water buffalos. Those, along with cows, have joined dogs on my “animals I really don’t like anymore” list. At least with cows when I’m out of India they will not be sacred anymore…Yorkshire pudding anyone?
On the other side of the island it was a 30 second ferry ride across the water to Hampi bazaar. The jetties on both sides were designed with flip flops in mind…not trainers!

Following a siesta it as time for a shave. Due to the poor light levels in front of the mirror in my room, I paid a man to hold a cut throat at just the right angle to the skin on my face, neck and head. He didn’t do too bad a job but for a control freak like me I feel it will be a case of first and last time.

Saturday 31st

Today turned out a far longer walk than I had originally planned. I’ll tell you why later…

I headed south along the road towards the royal centre. After 1000 metres or so I went over a rise and went left onto a dirt track towards the noblemen’s quarter, or where the pretentious rich people used to live. The dog that had followed me from Hampi lost interest and I was finally alone. It was peaceful with just the wind and the birds making the sounds. Crossing a road and through a gap in the wall I entered the royal quarter.
Much of the architecture that wasn’t a temple has been robbed. Why quarry for rocks when there are already loads lying around already cut and dressed. The defensive and perimeter walls were still in good nick, either the stones were too big to more or the government put them back!
One temple I went into had inside black stone pillars. All of them carved in fine detail with the different manifestations of the various Hindu gods. On the outside, the walls of the compound had several bands of reliefs from the top to the bottom.
As I was walking around with out a map I stumbled on the elephant stables by chance after crossing a few fields and a couple of small temples. On the opposite side of an immaculate lawn was a big wall with a small doorway. Turns out it was the Zenana Enclosure. Within its walls were the foundations of the queen’s palace and the exquisitely detailed and beautiful Lotus Mahal. Then I went back through the wall to check out the stables more closely. The royal elephants each had a room to themselves but it wasn’t en-suite. Behind the stables, a short walk through bananas was a small simple temple lower today than the country side around it. I sat by the door in the shade and chilled out.
I decided to walk back through the enclosure and out the other side. On the other side was a man in a nicely ironed uniform who asked to see my ticket. What ticket was my reply! R250 later I had a ticket to see the Zenana Enclosure, which I had already seen!!!
The man told me that the ticket was also valid for the Vittela temple which was several kilometres away but only for today. Now you know why my walk turned out longer…yes I could have taken a rickshaw but they don’t go down goat tracks do they!

As I was near the village of Kamalapuram and the archaeology museum a small detour was in order. Outside the museum I was surprised only to be charged R5 entrance fee. The place has 4 small galleries and within each are displays of stonework, metal work, locally found remains and a photo gallery showing before and after pictures of various places around this world heritage site. In the central courtyard was a large detailed model of the whole site, complete with little stone hills.

According to the road sign it was 6 kms to the Vittala temple. Goat tracks are more fun, if slightly longer.

Arriving hot and sweaty at the temple a cold drink and just a little bit of shade was in order.

The temple itself is mighty purdy (as Dolly Parton would say) and one of the highlights is a detailed stone wagon. All four of its wheels could turn, well before they were fixed in place to stop people from checking if it was actually true. Inside the main temple, the by now daily occurrence of me being asked to take family photographs took place. After the photo had been taken literally everyone steamed towards me to be the 1st to look at the result. Kids pushing, grandma’s slapping the unruly grandkids whilst they themselves barged into the foreground. Fleeing from the chaos, I made my way slowly back towards Hampi bazaar. The mid afternoon sun blazing down upon me

Nearing the hotel I spied an ice cream shop…mmm!

Sunday 1st of June

It was a day for chips!

But first, after breakfast a slow and easy walk to the local waterfalls sounded appealing. Along a dirt track, then a slightly muddy path made so by a light shower the previous evening. Passing through bananas I emerged into a wide expanse of rock, with several water courses flowing amongst them. Not a single water fall insight! Hey, it was no big deal. I went upstream zigzagging my way over rocks, sand and water. Seeing an interesting cluster of boulders I went away from the river for a climb. After an hour of fun I was hot and sweaty (again!) and found myself back down by the river.
Not to sure of where to go next I decided that going over a grassy knoll was the best idea. Only because I couldn’t see what was on the other side. Once over the rise I saw…yep, that’s right more rocks. As I transversed my way across the faint but unmistakable sound of cascading water reached my ears.

Eventually I came across a delightful little setting. The river was hemmed in on 4 sides by a huge jumble of rocks and boulders. Upstream the water gushed out from underneath them, whilst 100m downstream the water had over the eons swirled a path through them scouring out smooth arches and curves in the rock. Following the river downstream I ended up on a rock island mid stream. To continue meant performing a 6ft standing jump across the deep and fast flowing water to a sloping rock on the other side. I went back the way I came…I ain’t no fool, well not this time!

Around midday I was heading back to the village, passing a cafĂ© I made a pit stop. Fried eggs and chips for lunch…bloody wonderful!

In the evening I was feeling man hungry for some reason. I settled on macaroni cheese…with a side dish of chips: Me = fat bastard!

I’m off to Goa on the Wednesday morning train and by the evening I’ll be sitting in a beach bar with an ice cold bottle of beer firmly grasped in my hand.

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