Wonderful Hampi!

The only reason I knew that I had slept on the train was that I woke up early just in time to see the sun rise and get ready for our arrival in Hospet the train station serving Hampi. We really weren’t sure what to expect but we had a suspicion it was going to fairly touristy and our fears were confined when the rickshaw drivers and touts actually jumped onto the train before we had even stopped to start touting for our custom! I see now why our guesthouse had suggested organising a rickshaw to pick us up. To be fair while they were asking for business they all backed off as soon as we old them we had a rickshaw booked and soon enough we were whisked out of the station and on our way to Hampi.

It was quite a surprise to see how green the farmlands were here and it turned out they were watered from a nearby dam and there were fields and fields of bananas, rice and sugar cane. In the background we could glimpse plenty of red dirt and huge boulders dotted about and in amongst the boulders we started noticing temples and other man-made structures. This is Hampi.

We entered the town which was dominated by a huge gopura and just to one side was a ramshackle group of houses which was Hampi town. I think every single place was either a guest house, restaurant, travel agency or shop. The streets were lined with stalls selling jewellery, clothes and various trinkets. It’s strange though how the atmosphere of some touristy places is so different to others and whereas we sometimes feel worn down and a little disappointed that some places seemed to have been ruined by tourists and the trade Hampi definitely has got the balance right.

Although the weather was just about perfect when we arrived we were warned to get anything we wanted to do done before 12 when it would get ridiculously hot, so we set off for a wander. Within a couple of minutes we were at the river watching the locals bathing and washing their clothes. The river with the people and the backdrop of the boulders and the temples was all absolutely amazing and we just wandered around soaking in all in.

We felt the temperature rising minute by minute so escaped a little of the sun by heading into the Virupasksha Temple which dominates the centre of Hampi. It was a mixture of western tourists and Indian tourists in the temple which was quite nice but the highlight was probably the local elephant who would take your money out of your hand and give it to its handler and then bless you with its trunk. Only notes got a blessing if you just have coins then tough luck.

We couldn’t put our fingers on it but the temple felt different to the others we had seen in India. The carvings and lay out were pretty similar but the setting and the different type of stone have it all a very different feeling. We would have loved to have wandered around some more but the temperature had rocketed to well over 40 by this stage so we headed back to the guesthouse to cool down under a fan.

I am not sure if it had cooled down much by 4:30 but we thought we would head out for another walk around anyway. Mercifully it was a dry heat and a cloud came over to give us a bit of relief and we headed eastwards out of town to see what we could find. We passed the area where the bazaars used to be until the government bulldozed them down. The government decided that the whole area of Hampi should be protected so one night came in and destroyed all the buildings, as far as we can see they have just relocated to a different spot (where we are staying). So now the area is just open land. At the end of the street were some steps leading up to a temple so we thought we would try and gain som elevation for a better view.

At the top the view back was fairly spectacular and we were greeted by a couple of men, one of whom was trying to sell us some terrible stone carvings. Once we had convinced them that we didn’t want them we got to chatting and the other man suggested we walked further up the hill and over the other side. So he showed us the way and once we mounted the ridge we couldn’t believe that there was another huge temple complex the other side!!

There was no one else around so we felt quite like Indiana Jones as we descended into the temple ruins. It was incredible just stumbling across such a magnificent sight and completely alone too! We took advantage of the time we had and explored the place admiring once again all the rock carvings and how on earth these places survive the erosion they are exposed to.

We exited the temple to walk through the remains of the bazaar. There are bazaars in front of all the temples and in their day they used to sell a variety of products and people would come from miles around to buy things here in Hampi. It was a major centre of trade for gold, precious stones and a whole other variety of produce.  It’s a bit of a shame they aren’t still used by the people selling from their stalls now.

The goal for our walk had been to climb a hill just near the temples but we had become sidetracked so headed back towards town to try and catch the sun. We weren’t alone this time in making our pilgrimage up the side of the hill and once we got to the top we were able to sit down and cool down and enjoy the amazing scenery around this place.

It is difficult to describe Hampi and it is a surreal experience wandering through a dry, dusty, boulder filled landscaped while admiring intrinsic temples in various stages of ruin. We had only just arrived but it was already looking like it was going to be a very interesting visit. T

The view of Hampi from across the river.

Washing bodies and clothes in the river surrounded by ruins.

The tank and the gopura in the temple complex in Hampi town.

Some more photos of the temple complex in Hampi.

The star attraction.

The intricacies of the carvings have been mentioned before but they are still very impressive to see.  The whole temple area was covered in carvings.

A chariot which had been used in a festival a few days before we arrived!

The streets of Hampi with all its variety of locals.

The bazaar leading up to the temple.

Our view as we walked across the top of the hill.  It was quite an amazing view.

Having some time to ourselves to explore the temple we found.

Such a wonderful setting and such amazing views.

Just wonderful to be able to wander for hours through these ruins, alone, knowing we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

Sunset over Hampi.

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