Somewhat before dawn, we arrived to Hampi. I had ten hours of a night ride behind me, in the bus that was not so rarely confusing streets with air. Every hole on the road and every single speed bump were the main perpetrators for my body’s detachment from a bed. I think that I slowly began to comprehend the notion of weightlessness after that drive.
I took a night bus because I thought I would sleep all the way through and arrive to the destination rested. Yet, that proved simply impossible. There’s no sleeping when an Indian drives a bus down the perfect Indian roads at night.
I go out of the bus and overhear a tale that was floating in a morning air. A tale of one river: “People, if we want to cross it, the only solution is to find a boat” – a voice strayed from a dark background and our gazes gathered together all of us. Since none of us figured out where we are and where to go, we decided to follow that voice and to head towards the river.
Getting closer to the river, we were spotted from a distance by the captain that slept next to the boat. As soon as he woke up and roused from sleep, he started to prepare his boat with a speed of light. However, not the passenger boat with its own drive parked nicely on the shore, but his own tiny boat, handmade, the smallest boat, barely noticeable. Five minutes later…the tiny boat was prepared, captain took its leading, proud position and the sailing could begin.
By the way, I started my day yesterday with hitchhiking that didn’t turn out to be exactly the best for me. India is definitely not a hitchhiking country. Roads are so packed that I couldn’t get noticed in all of that chaos. As an icing on the cake, the things that made me give up on it as soon as possible were motorbikes that would stop every couple of minutes with one or two Indians yelling how I will never catch a ride here “This is India, nobody will stop for you here”. A motivational sentence indeed. “Get a bus ticket and get off the road because you’re wasting your time for nothing”. But… my ego! Of course it wouldn’t allow me to quit just like that and to listen to just anybody. “Well, what do they know? They have no idea that we came all the way to India mostly by hitchhiking”, a little friend in my head told me. “Yes, you are right…I will stay on this road and continue to hitchhike. We will get there somehow. Happy now?” – I ask him. “Yes!!!” – he replies ;). Five hours later, I only moved for 10 kilometers. It turned out that the bikers knew what they’re talking about so, at the end, I listened to what they said. No, I don’t feel sorry for those “wasted” five hours. At least I tried to hitchhike and figured out that I should forget about it in India. I’ll have to look for another option for the few months I plan to spend here. Yes, I’ll have to use their crowded but very cheap trains.
I didn’t catch a break with finding a couchsurfer in Hampi so I had to look for an alternative. In my case, searching for an alternative meant searching for a normal, regular, paid accommodation. At the other side of the river that we just crossed were mostly hostels, guesthouses and restaurants. Whole that area, whole of the other side of the river is “reserved” for tourists only. After we reached land with our small boat, I started the quest for the place to spend a night in or better put, for a refuge. All that area consists of only one street where more or less all the important stuff takes place. Owners of hostels, guesthouses and restaurants with their big and slightly irritating persistence are doing everything to convince you to come into their courtyards. Their conversations begin with the “Hellooo, my friend!!!” sentence, always pronounced with a humongous grin on their faces. That same grin is often used as a camouflage to get to you as quick as possible. At the beginning, I would start conversing with them, but after only a minute I would notice how the big smile disappears and turns into a sales face. The sale starts. They would try to of a room, hostel, whole apartment, breakfast, lunch, dinner…or even renting a bike. In short – they’re selling everything. Only few seconds are sufficient for them to recite everything you can imagine.
At the end of that one and only street a laud Bob Marley music could be heard. A huge flag in Rastafarian colors fluttered in the courtyard. While entering it I noticed that everything has kind of Rastafarian vibe and we all know what that means. A man in his 50s took a joint out of his mouth and asked me trough a thick smoke coming out of him: “Do you need a room?” “Haha, yes, I need a room” – I replied with a laugh. “Great, you can follow me then” – he replied. “Jesus, what just happened?” – I asked myself. I just participated in the most chilled rent of an accommodation, a room…ever.
I started to follow him and after 50 meters we entered rice fields. Two small houses with five rooms were situated around two hundred meters after, at the end of the field, between palm trees. Two rooms were the owner’s home and the remaining three were for rent. The five square meters room with only a bed and a fen on the ceiling will be my home for the next three days.
The owner lives here with his wife and they’ve been spending the last twenty years or so right here, in this courtyard. They complete their calm, easy and relaxed life by providing accommodation to different strangers every day. They turned it into a business, so it’s a win-win situation for everybody.
I thought at first to skip and don’t write what I’m about to say but I just have to mention it, I just couldn’t resist. The owner and the wife would have heated discussions every night. The woman would shout into his ear every night how he’s stoned all the time and how he’s already 55 and it’s about time for him to get serious. I admit, it was very interesting to observe that show every night from my dark room. A 55 years old man, stoned as a zombie all the time, a wife that’s not going to tolerate it any more…but at the end, somehow it all sorts out :).
Hampi is a village in the northern part of Kartanaka state situated in the southern part of India. In its ancient history it was one of the biggest and richest cities of the world and the epicenter of all the happenings in India. Today, all that’s left from all the richness are empty and deserted temples attracting plenty of tourists.
On the top of some hill lies the temple of Lord Hanuman, the Lord with a monkey head. However, the road to the temple is not that simple. It’s paved with 550 stairs representing the last obstacle for reaching it. I don’t even have to mention that the doubt came to my mind after the 300th stair. “Tomica, why in the God’s sake are you going up there?”. Baba (a holly man) lives at the very top of the hill, in the temple, and feeds all those monkeys celebrating his Lord Hanuman.
At the end of the temple, in its depth, there were two Indians sitting. I didn’t quite get who they were but the boys took their roles seriously. They sat at the carpet by the window and loudly sang mantras until the night came. Really beautiful and unordinary scene. Sometimes I regret that I can’t capture such amazing scenes with my camera. It’s not always appropriate to take my camera out of the bag and to start terrorizing such mesmerizing scenes.
This temple is alluring for one additional phenomenon. It’s situated at such a height that offers you an amazing view of a sunset. That view attracts many visitors in the hours preceding evenings. But, it’s not only people that enjoy its beauty, the beauty of the sunset. Not rarely the monkeys join, taking it too literally and spending half an hour or even a whole hour just staring and staring to Sun. I was quite lucky in witnessing it.
Hampi is situated in middle India and its geographical position is the reason for the enormous and humid heat that plunders here. After 11AM, the Sun begins to scorch so much that it’s unbearable to walk outside. Roads become empty and terraces become full. Everyone withdraws into improvised shades and some even into the rooms with fans.
This unbearable heat that takes out every last atom of energy from you (and look, it’s not even summer yet) has resulted with making a big decision. Having in mind that I can’t really deal with this kind of heat, I changed my travel plans. I’m not going to any southern part of India or to no Sri Lanka that I have previously planned. I’m turning my helm and I’m heading north. That is where the winter is slowly fading and the spring appears more and more with each day. On the way to it, I will visit a region or a small state called Rajasthan. I’ve been listening about how that is the most beautiful part of India all the time. At the moment, the last bearable days of a pleasant climate are ticking out there. Namely, with the beginning of May temperatures in Rajasthan start to grow abnormally and sometimes up to high 50 degrees. If these current 35 degrees are intolerable for me, I cannot even imagine how it will be at 50. Just to explain: 35 degrees here can’t be measured with 35 degrees in Croatia. The humidity here is far more insufferable.
The dark side of Hampi? Yes, I crossed my path with it on daily basis. By the dark side I definitely mean the locals that I had “conflicts” with every day.
I already mentioned how they start a conversation with a completely friendly tone that after a minute turns into a business… and business only. It became very irritating because every time they would see me or any other foreigner, they would see money only. I’m sorry to say that, but I do think they believe those famous stereotypical stories about white men…if you’re white – your pockets are full of money. It is not a nice feeling at all. It’s especially not for me, a low-budget traveller. Sellers of this and that and rickshaw drivers with their annoying approach would simply drive insane any innocent foreigner walking down the street. At first I was very happy that I at least have some kind of communication with the locals. However, as I’m longer and deeper in India every day, I came to the conclusion that ignoring them is the best cure.
A couple of times I reached a stage when I played the racism card and said “Why are you saying that? Because I’m white?”. By the way, among us foreigners, a famous phrase goes around describing their “attacks”. It is called “skin tax” or “paying extra taxes for the color of the skin”. So yes, no more any conversation or anything, just sunglasses on my eyes and walking straight. Yes, a bit sad fact but it’s the only painless solution. At least here in Hampi.
Of course, my dear readers, these are only my experiences and nobody else’s. It doesn’t have to mean that all the other travellers, foreigners or tourists share the same experiences. Also, it doesn’t have to mean that you will have them as well. If you visit India one day and step your foot into Hampi, maybe it will be the warmest and the kindest place you ever visited. But I will say only one thing to you…good luck 🙂
The day before I left Hampi, my laptop charger broke down, meaning I was now left without a laptop. Argh, that’s one of the bigger tragedies that can crash down on a traveler slight . That tragedy resulted with a guick return to the Goa’s capital, Panjim, where my old couchsurfing friend lives. I can stay at his place for a couple of days till I solve this issue. This time I won’t write about Goa and Panjim, as I wrote about them already in my previous blog. On the fifth day the charger was fixed and it was time to, already for the second time, to leave my friend Sushant and to continue my journey.
With the night coming down, I boarded a bus heading north. The journey there will take two days. For the first day, or the first night, eleven hours of the night drive waited for me taking me in morning hours to the “amazing” city for the layover. This ride was a somewhat more easy-going than all the rides before. From time to time, at least for moments, I would even fall asleep which is a rare case during the night bus rides. In the last flurry of sleep, I was woken up with the noise that my mind subconsciously recognized. The noise I met not so long ago. I opened my eyes, looked around and noticed that the daylight is already seriously noticeable. The look stretched trough the bus window and…a total déjà vu. Bombay!!! Aw, not again…again I’m in the overcrowded and jam-packed Bombay. Through the window, I again noticed the same scenery as during the first days of my arrival to India. Man on man, car on car, rickshaw on rickshaw, and one horn perfectly fulfilling the other one.
“OK, I will spend only a few hours here till I board the second bus”. This time, I won’t let this overflowing city get to me at all. I go out from the bus, put earphones into my ears, turn up the mp3 player, put on my armor and enter my own movie. Soon I found the station and the bus and I spent all the time inside the station waiting for the moment when my ride to Rajasthan will take off. In the last blog I described this hectic, stressful and wild lifestyle in Bombay. If you by any chance read it, then you for sure understand why I can’t stand this city anymore.
The most famous smell in India was circulating in the waiting room. At the wall next to me there was a small window through which you could see a cowshed. Yes, a cowshed. I don’t understand how the full cowshed can exist right in the center of this mega city. Waiting for the ride with the far away the most spread smell in the country. Priceless. Ah, that India. Finally my bus arrives, I board it, I find my seat-bed and I disappear from Bombay. Oh, my Bombay, I hope we will never meet again. The bus was a bit different from the others. Along the windows on the both sides of the bus, there were beds with glass doors that could be closed and provide privacy to every passenger which was a rare case with India’s public transport. On the front wall, there was a small television playing the same Bollywood film over and over again all day long. The film was accompanied with a loud Bollywood music that couldn’t be turned down nor turned off. Every time when the film would end and I would think I was saved from this suffering, the film would start again…and like that into infinity.
But, there’s something good in all of it. With ever new repetition of this wonderful Bollywood film, and with every new crooning of the same old Bollywood songs…the closer and closer I was to Rajasthan.