If Stanley Kubrick made Star Wars, Hampi is where he would choose to shoot at.
Sitting in an auto for the half an hour ride from Hospet station, as I entered Hampi, the words ‘Wow’ leapt out of me. My jaw dropped and I sensed the feeling of wonder swell up inside me. The scenery before me was surreal - a vast area of land showered with huge boulders and ruins which still looked magnificent in every direction your eye could see. I was awestruck at the scenery and I don’t remember any other place having such a strong effect on me at first look. It was something completely other-worldly.
A friend of mine had told me, “Hampi is not a place to just travel to, it is a place to live in”. Naturally, I went there with high expectations. And, I wasn’t disappointed. Many centuries ago, Hampi was the seat of the Vijaynagara kingdom and the ruins of the grand empire are what remain today. The river Tunghabhadra separates the two sides of Hampi with the majority of temples on one side and most of the ruins on the other. A boat carries you to and fro across the river. The place is pretty much a tourist-only destination. I presume that all the industries that exist there are meant to cater to the tourists - the numerous cafes, bike rental shops, guest houses and the numerous grocery stores. Phones don’t work too well so if you plan to split up from your friends, it is advisable to decide on a common meeting ground and time. Food is an important aspect when I travel, and I am happy to report that Hampi served us delicious food.
I stayed on the temple side of the river in a guest house at the edge of the river, overlooking the flowing stream. The sound of the rushing and gushing of water was such a joy to the overworked mind and ears. The place has a very good vibe about it - relaxing and chilled out. People seemed nice and friendly. The best way to explore the place would be to hire a moped and roam around. The 'hippie' area is on the other side of the river if you care to know. Although, some might argue that you can build your own hippie haven wherever you are depending on whom you are with.
During my stay, I climbed up the ruins/mountains whenever I got a chance. On the hike up the runis, you could relax in the shades of what might have been temples long time ago. I went in one such temple and there was a sadhu of some sort who sat there contemplating. He wasn’t praying but just sitting there casually in complete darkness. I joined him and sat there in silence. At this point, you probably expect that I got some life-changing insight. I did not. But, it was good to just be quiet for a while and feel that the whole world is just a small place inside that dark temple ruin consisting of two people who are sitting silently contemplating on their own lives.
Another time, as I was writing in my journal, under the shade of one such temple, I had a brilliant scenery all around me. The Tungabhadra separated me from the coconut trees in the distance. In the horizon, I could see huge boulders sprinkled like oregano on top of your pizza. A small climb awaited me on my left beyond which another one of these many temples peeked out at me. On the right, downhill, were some more stone structures and I wonder how they were made. To top it off, the cool breeze in hot sun was a godsend.
While writing, a small kid came up to me to sell me maps and other souvenirs. I struck up a conversation and one of the first things he asked me was my mother's name. That's not something I expected. I mean, I don't go around asking people their mother's name as a conversation starter. But, for this little kid, I guess it was pretty normal. He told me his name was 'BaSaVaraJa' and his mother's name 'KaNaKatna' - that is how he wrote it in my diary. Meanwhile, a Spanish couple collected memories in their cameras and we exchanged a few pleasantries in my primitive Spanish.
I made friends with an Englishman, Jasper and we went riding on our mopeds together. We stopped to hike up some mountains. And we kept climbing higher and higher. The thing with mountain climbing, we discussed, is that once you start, you just want to keep on climbing up. We eventually did find a spot to rest. In our 360 degree view, we could’t see a single other soul. We sat together talking about life and sharing stories. He was traveling in India for quite some time and had worked in a Kerala guest house for 3 weeks in exchange for a place to sleep and 3 meals a day. This, I feel is a good arrangement. You can do it too, there is a site for that: Workaway - this is available in many countries and it seems like a great way to travel and explore other cultures.
We met a french dude who had bought a dog during his travel in India and was carrying it around wherever he went. The dog was called Singham. Often he would run away and after coming back, people would shout "Singham returns" - I don't think he ever got the joke. He spoke like there was no tomorrow and told me a story as to how he got the money to travel. He had had a motorbike accident and the insurance company paid him some money. The exchange rate did the rest. An economics dropout, he was going to go back and study art.
I stayed in Hampi for only a day and looking back I feel I did so much in that one day. But, never for a moment did I feel that I am rushing through things. Would I go back? Umm…maybe. Would I want to climb those ruins on which stood many centuries ago the empire of a major South Indian kingdom? Hell yeah!