“I was born here, and I lived all my life in Hampi. I want to die in Hampi” – Says Rama when we share some water at the end of the road, where the small bewildering pathways through the banana plantation take on.
Hampi was once the capital of a powerful kingdom called
The Vijayanagara Empire, stretching from a few kilometers north of Hampi, from the Krishna river, to the southern coast. There must have been many people living and working around Hampi, because the ruins cover an area of 24 km2, with temples and a huge royal area south of Hampi Bazaar. The empire exsisted from 1336 – 1646, but kinda withered after their main leader died, a hundred years before its total collapse. The Mongul wrecked the place during their conquest in India, which is terribly sad of course. If a hindu tempel is sacked, it is lost, one can no longer use it, so there was only a few active temples in Hampi.
North Side is the Best
So getting to Hampi we took a train from Goa till Hospet, which is the gateway to Hampi. It costs a few hundred rupees, we took the Howra Express from Vasco da Gama. Getting from Hospet to Hampi there are many busses, they leave every half hour and cost like 13 rs per head and take max 45 min, or you can take a rickshaw in 20 min for 200-250 rs. We stayed across the river and we had to take a ferry to cross it, first time we took it, it cost us 20 rs and then already next day it cost 50 per person. Even though getting across the river is a little pricey, living on the north side of the river was the right choice for us. It is called “Hippie Island”, although it is not an island, and its where all the young travelers hang out. Coming up from the ferry, the road is lined with restaurants and guest houses and little kiosks and travel agencies. Coming there with your backpack, looking all fresh, people will ask you every 5 meters if you want to rent a bike, if you want a rickshaw, if you have a place to stay… Eventually we took a rickshaw, the guy overcharged us by a lot, we paid 200 rs for 6 km, but it would have been too far to walk with our heavy backpacks. The terrible road continues up after the guest houses and restaurants end, climbing up to the main road. We had already booked accomodation before reaching Hampi, in a place called Dream Mango. It’s squeezed in between ricefields and palm trees and just across the road is Anjaneya hill where the Hanuman temple is located, also known as the Monkey temple. Hanuman is the Monkey god, you see, he can fly and he is a bachelor and stands for inner strength. It is said that when he was little, he was very naughty and flew up into the heavens and ate the sun. But back to the Guesthouse.
I think Dream Mango is a good name, because there are lots of mango trees on the grounds. The staff is great, and we stayed for 350 per night in one of their tents. In the tent you get a blanket and a mattress. It is clean and the food is good and you get good value for your money.
But the best thing about our guest house was their wifi. It was stable, fast and reliable, Best wifi we have had in India so far! The nature around the guest hose (its more like an area with little huts than one house) is magnificent. Once a long time ago, Karnataka must have been the floor of an ocean, because I know of no other thing than water that can created stone structures like in Hampi. They are individual stones, boulders actually, piled together on the hills. The other explanation I have for why this place looks like this is Giants, and being in this magical place, not even that seems too absurd. The rice fields have this intense green colour and water flows freely, little springs singing everywhere. Hampi is paradise. Seriously, we have found paradise. Driving across the land, the rice fields never end and around every turn is another magnificent pile of rocks, in this brown-orange-yellow colour, glittering in the sunlight. It makes you feel small and young, for this area bear witness to an old, ever changing planet.
Having a bike on the north side is a must. The police is cool there and they don’t even wear helmets so you don’t have to either. Foreginers rarely drove on the south side we were told, as the police was know to be gangster-like there. The Rickshaw-drivers-cartel on the south side has a finger in why we could not ride bikes on the south side, it brings them way less business. Having a bike on the north side is freedom though, and since we lived pretty far from main Hampi, it saved us a lot of time.
Hitchin’ them rides
On our first day in Hampi it rained. This is not common at all due to it being dry season. We were walking towards Hampi to have dinner on our 3 year anniversary and we took shelter under a tree, where an older Brittish couple and two young Indians were hiding as well. The Indian girl and boy said that nowadays one cannot predict the weather. Everybody is in agreement that the climate is changing. We had quite a nice chat until the rain ended and they took their scooters and we continued our walk. After not long, a man on a bike stopped and offered us a lift, and he drove us aaaaall the way down to the ferry. He wanted to take his bike across, but this was not possible.
We tried to find a place called “Mango tree”, which was located on the banks of the river, 9 years ago, having terraces down towards the river under a beautiful mango tree. I was there, in the company of my father and sister. The restaurant Mango tree was a highlight of that visit, but now we couldn’t find it along the banks. Turns out it’s moved into the city after the Indian government tore everything down a few years back, due to the whole Hampi bazaar village being there illegally. They’ve done this twice in the last 10 year on the south side, which made the party move to the north side, so then last time they did it, they did it on the north side. The old location of Mango tree was the reason why I wanted to go there so I was disappointed. The mango lassi is still excellent though, but the food wasn’t great either of the two times we ate there. After dinner we figured out that getting across the river in the night is quite a different experience than in the day. The ferry people have a monopoly, so they can charge whatever they want to take you across. In the night they can’t drive the motor boat, so they paddle across with a round boat made out of bamboo and plastic. It’s quite fun, but that time we crossed in the night we had to pay 150 per head. He said 200 per head, but we only had 300 rs on us at the time.
Walking back up the road, towards the main road, we first got a ride with an Indian dude with a bike, and we saw a wild tortoise!! He dropped us up at the main road, and we walked for a long time, before a rickshaw pulled up and offered us a ride. Since he was going home to his village anyway, we could go for free.
One thing that we both love about Hampi is that everyone working there, comes from there, they are all locals. They are great with tourists and most of them speak good english. In Goa, everyone came from somewhere else, out of state. The people from Hampi, and the villages around are all super friendly, seriously great people. They are inviting and and have kind of a sly humor, which one needs the right mindset to appreciate.
Its good that the Indian government has outlawed settlements and businesses in Hampi, because if they hadn’t, resorts would have poped up all around. It is paradise, so there is money to be made, but any paradise can easily be destroyed by too much tourism. We have seen many examples of this happening in India, its always sad and especially in India, tourism usually means nature gets polluted.
Swapna and the temple grounds
When we woke up with the sun our second day in Hampi, we went to Tutti Café to have breakfast. Tutti Café is the place to eat in Hampi, it’s located between the rice fields and the boulders and palmtrees, “in Nature”, as they also say on their sign. Driving from Hampi on the north side, going towards the Hanuman Temple, it will appear on your left.
It was our first visit to the place, and as we drive up, we see the Indian girl that we met under the tree when it was raining. Her name is Swapna and she’s from Chennai. We had breakfast together and she gave us all the tips for how to plan our trip to Chennai and the east coast! She already had a plan for what to do that day, which was to go see the royal area before afternoon when she had to catch a bus, going back to Chennai. So we jumped on her plan and made company the rest of the day. She haggled a rickshaw for us to drop us out by the Lotus temple (we paid 150 one way), and the driver seemed to like her, because later on he found us again and he gave us the same price back 😉
We paid the foreigner price (600/person) for the ticket which gives you entry to the Elephant Stables and the royal area, as well as the Vijaya Vittala temple and a museum (which we didn’t find). For Indians its 40 rs….
Then we walked around for a couple of hours, talking about interesting things. Swapna explained a lot about Hinduism for us and we discussed religion, culture, conflicts, education, politics and so on.. The conversation was more fun than the old buildings themselves 😛 I think I like the stepping-well the most, even though the guard caught me going down into it, and made Swapna delete the pics she took of me in the well. But this one she somehow managed to keep!
Swapna works with graphic design and used to work as a photographer before, so she has a great camera (and quite some skill, too). I love it when August clicks with someone because then he has a lot to say. I can talk to anyone anytime, but August is more selective. He liked Swapna which greatly contributed to us having an amazing half day with her 🙂 We had lunch together before Swapna had to take her bus, and she showed us the way to eat Thali, as well as the proper indian technique of eating with your hands.
Swapna has just started travelling in India, she does it mostly alone, and she has a newly started blog where she systemetically writes about what she does, how much stuff costs, and what to do. click on link to visit her page: http://chennaiponnutravelling.blogspot.com/
After we parted, me and August went to the Vijaya Vitthala temple, for which the entry was included in our ridiculously expensive ticket. The walk there was very nice and the temple it self was also nice. This is Shivas cart, a very famous sculpture from Hampi, and it’s located inside the temple grounds:
Tired after a long day we went to have dinner at Dudu Falafel on the north side of the river. Better cross the river before 5:30 pm. Its a nice vibe along the road up after the ferry. Lots of little restaurants where you sit on pillows on the floor with a low table, something that is a characteristic for every hippie place we have visited so far. For some reason there are a lot of Israeli people in Hampi, Like ALOT. Like I said about Goa just being filled with Russians in the last post, Hampi is filled with Israeli people. There are people from all over the world though, but overwhelmingly from Israel. All Israelis we have met have been great though, the ones we met told us that they had done their time in the Israeli army, saved a lot of money and are now on a looong, much needed vacation without a deadline. They are interesting people the Israelis, and I want to visit their country one day.
On the third day we got up early and got across the river to climb a mountain before noon. After noon we had a very light lunch and then headed for the “waterfall”. The walk there felt very long due to us being very tired and it being very hot, but it takes like 20 min to get to the end of the road. It goes trough “shady banana plantations” as Lonely Planet put it, but midday, there is no shade. Its quite a nice walk though. Shortly before we arrived at the end of the road, a man walks out of the plantation and says he’ll show us the way. He takes us through the banana plantation on small foot paths and then though sand and grass, only to come up on the beautiful stony bed of the river. We walk and hop and climb our way west on the stones, over several strong streams, and after a while, in the distance we can see the sun glittering in a large collection of water. Our Guide, Rama, has taken us to a calm pool with high cliffs/stones from where one could jump into the very deep water. He charged us a 100 rs for this service, and it was worth every penny.
When we arrived at the pool, there was a group of israelis chilling in the sunlight. They left and after a while, another guide shows up with two russian girls. We had some good conversations with the guide, we talked a little to the girls, but the language barrier is a problem. We were still having fun though, and after a while they left. Then another group appeared, consisted of some brittish girs and boys aswell as a guide. I was amazed by the swimming skills of the guide. I can tell that he has grown up alongside the river, diving without fear and testing the waters elegantly from all angles. Most Indians cannot swim, that is why this is so special.
This place was paradise. Climbing the sun drenched stones until you get hot enough to plunge into the pool, climbing some more to find the perfect place with as little of the cool breeze as possible on your wet body in the holes in the stones, polished soft by years and years of the river flowing over it. In the monsoon, the river becomes twice the size and covered the whole area we climbed over to get to our “spot”. I would love to see it, forces of nature, moving rocks and drilling caves into them. But the Hampi Waterfall is many waterfalls, it’s not just one attraction.
We found our way back fairly easy and had dinner on the other side of the river. Here, in this natural pool in the river we realized that we had found paradise. What an amazing day. Every day we are so tired we go to bed at 10 pm. One cannot sleep much in a tent after the sun rises anyway, it gets hot very fast. Sleeping in the tent is an experience, because the song of the crickets and the frogs are deafening. Its too loud to immediately become background noise. All the rice fields around are covered in water, thus making it a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of insects, all joining in the crickets and the frogs symphony of the night. When we first arrived, we were taken by surprise by the amount of insects, but the second day we got used to them. According to google, there is a low risk of getting malaria, so do not be too scared of the mosquitoes.
Up early again the next day. We had breakfast at the Dream mango, and then we drove up the road, going to the Sanapur Lake. It’s supposed to be something special, but we just went around it. We stopped at the Jungle Cafe for lunch and the guys there were friends of the guys running our guest house. There seemed to be something wrong with the tires on our bike, we feared there might be a puncture, so one of the staff at Dream mango took us to his neighbor and they went over the tire carefully with water, looking for air escaping and getting caught in the water, turning into bubbles. There was no puncture, so they pumped our tires and when we offered money the guy said no and offered us chai instead ^^. Such amazing people <3. Then we drove some more across this amazing landscape, passing through little villages where the children ask your name and their parents wave at you.
I took so many videos of us driving, but I cannot capture the beauty of this place, because no camera can capture the magic that lies in these lands, the tranquility and peace and serenity and just utter beauty of this place!! Never have I seen such an intense green colour, never have I seen such flourishing fields and such richness in water. Not even the green of the Swedish spring, when the birches bloom can match the green of Hampi.
We took the ferry across again, this time renting bicykles for 50 rs each, and going back to the waterfall. When we arrived we found the guide the russians had yesterday and we had a warm moment with him. It’s like the sun warm all this people up until it overflows onto you.
There was a bunch of kids at our spot, so we explored the river a little to the east. I guess if one goes further down there is a lot more to find, but we just went to the closest waterfall, but the stream was to strong for us to just swim and enjoy. There were two Indian boys there also. I don’t think they knew how to swim, because they were very concerned about us. Their concern became a little too much so we said goodbye, but then one of then squeezed my boob, so we parted in an unfriendly manner. When we came to our tranquil pool we were the only ones there. We put on some reggae music and swam for a while, until these boys also came to our place. They didn’t even swim, they just kinda hovered around, being creepy. Motherfucker, thinking we are gonna hang out with him after disrespecting us in such a way? These kids said they were studying tourism, but dealing with tourist requires more than just economics, one need a lot of cultural senitivity too. Unfourtunetly we are to nice to just tell them to fuck off, its not our spot, so we tried the cold treatment and eventually told the nicer one of the two boys to take his friend home.
Until Next Time
After that we had a comfortable stay and nature around us starting go get use to our presence. We saw a peacock fly over us and land on the stones on the southern shore. At this point, the afternoon sun was shining a warm and cozy light over the terrain, and other birds, of which I don’t know the name, started joining us. When we were ready to go, two boys, an older and a younger brother show up, holding a car tire each and a bundle of what we later saw, was fishing nets. Their father was on the other side of the pool, and the boys put down their tires, which had a rope in the middle so you could sit on it, in the water and got in. It was amazing to watch them work, and how they put up their nets. I could see how people generations before them had done the same thing, living with the river, evolving with the river over maybe thousands of years. Heading back home over the stones, finding a better way than last time, we arrived at the end of the road after 5 pm, to find Rama, the man who showed us this amazing place the day before. We sat down and conversed with him and his friend, and I told Rama that he lives in paradise.
“I was born here” he said, “I’ve worked here all my life, and I will die in Hampi”. He is a soft spoken man, with a big heart and a true soul.
“Next time we come here,” I said “we want the full tour of this place, 3 days here! In the river”
“Yes, I’ll show you the crocodiles and take you up in the jungle, we can fish and sleep outside…” he said. I cannot wait to go back and explore this place, this river, this nature! I could spend months in Hampi, learning about the river, go upstream and downstream, exploring it, swimming in it, tasting its fish, seeing its life..
Rama came with us back across the river and aaaall the way to Dream Mango because he said “Next time you come, please bring me a phone, I don’t have one”. Lucky for him, I had brought an old iPhone 4 from home. I don’t know why I stopped using it, but I dearly hope it works for him! I could feel the gratitude in his manner when we parted. I brought the iphone just in case my Fairphone would give in during our trip. August says you gotta trust your stuff, so now, in my Fairphone I trust.
We ate at this place a few minuets drive from Dream Mango in the other direction from Hampi. The place doesn’t even have a name, but it’s beautiful. We were the only customers. But the guy who made our food forgot that we are tourists, just as much as we forgot that we were in India, and he made our food waaay to spicy, I couldn’t eat it 😛
We woke up at 5:45 the next morning, and climbed the 500 steps up to the Hanuman temple. When we came to the top it was only us, the priests and two other people. This morning was very hazy, so we couldn’t even see the sun rise above the horizon, but the experience up on the hill was still great. Hanuman is the monkey god, and he can fly. Legend says he build a bridge from India to Sri Lanka with floating rocks, and inside the still active Hanuman Temple, they have one of these floating rocks! Its not allowed to take pictures in the temple, but take my word for it, there is a floating rock.
We had our last breakfast at Tutti Cafe, and after that we explored the river up stream, to the west, driving towards a sign which says Waterfall restaurant, or resort or something, taking a left turn, and then a right turn. We climbed down the rocks and August sat with his feet in the water, watchin the stream, while I ventured up stream, trying to find a pool in which we could swim. I saw people further up, and we took the bike up the road a little, and there is a pool to which many people come. We took a boat tour up to the stream and then down again in one of those round bamboo boats, with a guy named Sinu. It cost us 200 but I’m happy we did it.
It was very peaceful there, before lunchtime. So we went back to our guest house, got our swimming gear, went to Tutti Café for our last meal there and drove back to that place. We climbed all the way to the stream and the swam back down. The water is soft, and smells just like any sweet water in Sweden. By now some more people had started arriving at this “beach” and people were jumping from the cliffs so we joined in. After a while it started getting crowded though, so we went back home, got our stuff and checked out of the Dream Mango.
Getting back across the river, we paid only for ourselves and not for our backpacks, thanks to one of the boat men who we had met many times at this point.
Leaving Hampi felt terribly sad, but we both knew that the time had come, we had already extended our stay with one night.
I cannot tell you enough how beautiful this place is. And it’s calm too, even though it’s a touristic place, you don’t have to go far to totally empty places. The temples are beautiful, but they are all similar to one another, but that river… God is in that water.
Now we are in the south, and a post about Kerala is coming soon to a wifi spot near you.
Lots of Love ❤
August & Linnea