Still In Hampi, Despite Our Best Efforts

Today we experienced a hint of what Bevan and Eliza call a Bad India Day. We thought we had booked train tickets to Goa for this afternoon, when in fact we had merely paid a bumbling, head-wiggling travel agent to forget to book them and then lie to us about it. (Some say lying is SOP when it comes to business in India – more on that another time.) We were both pretty peeved for a few minutes (Riccardo almost put his fist through one of the ancient monitors in the travel agent’s office), but a hot shower and a cold Kingfisher – as well as the delightful company of Bevan, Jim and Maureen – have since cheered us up considerably.  Instead of tomorrow morning, we’ll get to Goa on Saturday.

Travel woes aside, we’ve been thoroughly enjoying our explorations of Hampi and its eerie surrounding landscapes – yesterday on a motorcycle, and today on a leisurely stroll along the riverbank.

Monkeys raiding rice paddies

It was great to zip around on the bike seeing large chunks of the countryside in such a short time – 15th century ruins, modern temples and mosques, rice paddies occupying every available tract of land, monkeys raiding said rice paddies, adorable children (most smiling, a few sticking out their tongues at us), and a staggering number of assorted livestock roaming aimlessly about and occasionally blocking our passage.

As we sped along near Anegundi, a white-haired Scottish hippie, also on a motorcycle, flagged us down – we thought he wanted to sell us some charas, but he actually just wanted to pass on some good karma and tell us about a great, little-known temple nearby. He wasn’t wrong – it was spectacular; built on a massive boulder with magnificent views of the valley below, and occupied only by us and two dudes playing tablas and singing mournfully on loudspeakers. We got out of there just as they began working themselves into a musical religious frenzy.

We had to cross the Tungabhadra river twice with the bikes – on tiny, dilapidated motorboats with scowling teenage operators. Both crossings were rather chaotic, with the boat guys barking orders at Riccardo, Bevan and Jim to turn their bikes around before backing them onto the boat, accompanied by loud random shouting by other passengers trying to squeeze in alongside the bikes, and on the return, a herd of cows who had SWAM across the river and were emerging from the water at the exact same location as the ferry was being unloaded.

This morning, our river walk started early with espresso (Riccardo remarked that the good thing about being in a touristy area is that you can find decent espresso in lieu of the milky, cloyingly sweet concoction that passes for coffee elsewhere in the country). We stopped frequently throughout our wanderings – for a fresh coconut from a roadside stall, for the shutterbugs to take a picture (that would be Maureen and Riccardo), to watch a crocodile glide by, or most commonly, to chat with curious Indians of all ages. One ebullient group of young men we met in front of some ruins were absolutely enthralled with Riccardo, wanting to know his profession, what he studied in school, and how long it took to get his tattoo (these questions are exasperatingly typical.) Another bold little girl on a school field trip seemed to be dared by her friends to speak to us – she kept shouting “HI!” and “WHAT IS YOUR COUNTRY?” to us, each time eliciting squeals and giggles from her classmates.

By far, though, my favourite thing about today was Riccardo’s decision to buy and wear baggy, semi-colourful Indian clown pants. They’ll likely be a tad more comfortable than the selection of pants he brought, from home and every second European neo-hippie around here is wearing them anyway, so he fits right in. The extent of the awesomeness of these pants cannot be described; it must be beheld, so stay tuned for when our internet connection is good enough to post photos.

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