Aah, a month off to travel. I thought it was going to be one long relaxing tour of South India, breathing in the jungles and wildlife, chilling on beaches and going to temples. Despite five months in Bangalore, it turns out I still hadn’t come to terms with the realities of India!
Within an hour of landing in Bangalore, my boyfriend was vomiting his way across the city on the taxi journey back to the flat. Once he’d recovered (a bit) the next day, we did some shopping, some eating, and then on a last-minute whim, booked a sleeper bus to Hampi.
Arriving at something stupid like 5am, we got some geographical advice from a friendly(!) auto-driver at the chai stand, and hopped on the local bus when it decided to finally arrive. As we pulled up in Hampi Bazaar, five or six touts were poking their heads through the door before the bus even stopped. I have never before seen somebody’s face tangibly light up so much. Poor Roy was almost suffocating in the press of men shoving pamphlets in his face, promising that their hotel was the best.
Exhausted by the travelling and being ill, he crashed out and I got over-anxious, to the point where he finally agreed to venture out to the huge Virupaksha Temple dominating the tiny village of Hampi itself.
There we encountered a criminal organisation run by langurs. Male alpha langur ripped one woman’s bag away and stole her Sprite. It was amusing to watch him gnaw ineffectually at it for a while, until in one fluid move he suddenly uprights it and unscrews the lid, before using the lid like a teacup. As if to say, “Nah I was just playing ya. Of course I know how to do this.”
After circulating the ‘natural’ lingam of Shiva inside, and being stared at by various pilgrims, we saw more langurs running over the roofs. One inexplicably had a pair of pants in his hand; the other was running with a pair of scissors. Yet another by our feet grabbed a carelessly held plastic bag, stole a box of matches, and proceeded to try eating them.
The following day we started on a cycle tour of Hampi’s extensive ruins, but Roy wafted off back to our room after the second temple, looking pretty pale. I carried on happily getting my exercise fix, though the midday heat started to make each temple less exciting than the last. Turns out this now-tiny village is the only living remains of an empire that spanned the entirety of South India.
Roy was unimpressed by this news, though he rallied to go insect-hunting around some boulders. I don’t know how he manages to spot half of these creatures amidst the vegetation. We saw the biggest millipede of my life; as thick as my thumb, longer than my hand, and bright red.
Our last full day in Hampi began with an optimistic walk to the nearest main temple, with plans to go bouldering (we even packed climbing shoes!) across the river. After an epic trek through the heat down a never-ending road, we made the 10 rupee ferry crossing, then argued with the auto guys in (my) very broken Hindi for a lift to Anegundi. We stumbled upon a little cafe doing a fantastic banana leaf thali lunch, recooperated a bit, then set off to another temple complex – this one still functioning.
Roy and I had a little spat by the roadside, and whilst making up with hugs, a guy riding past on his moped purposefully drives his handlebar into my back. For what reason we may never know. Hopefully he fell off his bike on the next bend, what with karma obviously being so strong in India.
Jaded, when we reach the temple of Hanuman’s birthplace, I leave Roy at the bottom of the 500 steps. We catch the last ferry back and collapse exhausted on the ghats, and watch people fish in the river. Time for some sleep.
With plans for Gokarna beach, we leave Hampi the following afternoon for a stop-off in Hubli. On the train journey there, Roy gets inadvertently groped by a sleeping five year old. Between Hubli and Ankola and finally Gokarna, endless bus journeys are filled with rain and mist; the fields around Gokarna have become lakes so large, at first I mistake them for the sea.
We find a grotty hotel and settle down, a week into our trip.