The 24 hectares of plains, hills, sacred Hindu temple complexes, and bodies of water, located in the Southern State of Karnataka, comprised the old Vijayanagara Empire, dated between the 14-15th Century CE (Common Era = AD). Today, it’s short and sweet – call me “Hampi”, a simplified term given by the English because the official name was too difficult to pronounce, you try: Pampa Kshetra / Kishkindha Kshetra. Exploring this area, its waterfalls, lake and boulders (mysteriously spread about the landscape), it is almost like starring in your favorite video game, and trying to stay alive in this dry hot monkey kingdom. Keep reading and find out how I did.
I live in a UNESCO Heritage Site called Antigua Guatemala in Central America, which was the old Spanish capital during the colonial period dating back to the 15th-16th Century. Hampi is also a heritage site, and, similar to Antigua, Guatemala, it is extremely stunning, and indelible in my travels. Actually, it is at the top of my destination list.
As early as 5:30am we arrived after traveling on the overnight sleeper bus for approximately 8 hours from Goa. The sleeper bus is one of my favorite ways to travel long distances in India since I can sleep without any trouble – on any form of transportation- planes, trains, buses, cars. Sadly, this also makes me the most boring copilot once I snooze. The bus pulled over in the middle of a green field where we could not see much, just a morning haze in the sky. A group of travelers congregated by the bus as they unloaded backpacks and luggages – British, German, American, Guatemalan, Dutch and French, among us. Just a quick point here, a lot of travel is done by bus and train and especially for the longer distances; you will become very familiar with traveling by night. It adds to the experience of exploring India’s corners because as the day washes away you board onto your next destination, sleeping through the night and waking up to the new day in an unknown place.
As tuk tuk /rickshaw drivers came up and began offering transportation we decided to stretch our legs out and begin the new adventure on foot, seeing where the path would lead us.
Meet our wonderful Hampi welcome hosts – girls of HAMPI – all smiles and mischief, they loved posing in front of the camera taking one picture after another, shaking our hands and being playful!
Def. one of the sweetest and most memorable moments arriving to a new place as the sun is rising and all the locals are coming out for a local festival….
When you arrive in Hampi, walk down to the river, take the public boat (approx R50) and stay on the other side. It is much calmer, cleaner and the landscape is amazingly beautiful. Plus you will have waterfalls nearby, a lake to swim, loads of bouldering opportunities, temples and local villages to visit.
We stayed at the first guesthouse on the left side when you walk up from the river on the other side. There is a corner restaurant and next to it just below is the guest house.
Exploring this area on a motorbike is absolutely recommended as it will give you wings to fly, on the road, and that is way more fun. There are many local guys renting motorbikes and it is very affordable at approx. R200-250 / US $3.7 / 3.1 Euros for the day (extra for petrol). Check out the waterfalls and lake.
Set aside another day to go back over the river and do a full day touring of the temple complexes. Tuk tuk drivers may offer you transportation and a bit of history. It’s a good option to move around in the hot weather, otherwise walking or renting a bike is also possible.
Anaconda, -the lady killer- was our tuk tuk driver and guide for the day. He drove us around Hampi to visit the different temple complexes and gave us a little bit of background. It was very hot so being able to move around in a tuk tuk was a better option for us.
I decided to go bouldering in flip flops… obviously unplanned. Nonetheless, it was still really fun. I managed to climb up quite a bit, without injury, with 30ml of water left in my bottle. I sat on a rock and attempted meditation, no success but I enjoyed the company of Internal Flight by Estas Tonne, soaking in these majestic surroundings, from high up.
All over Hampi you’ll see farmers transporting their livestock, and crops, especially more if you venture beyond the touristic area across the river. It is quiet nice to witness everyday life just by watching and observing who and what comes ‘round. This is the first oxcart I have seen in a very long while, or one that was memorable, in any case. It was around 13:00 in the afternoon, hottest time of day, approx 40C/104F, I ran out of water, sweating bullets, mildly sun burnt, and absolutely lost- HAHA. Everywhere looks the same!
I was very happy to see this farmer as I needed to ask for directions to find my way back. But this took a while longer while I got even MORE lost…surely because they did not understand me and I didn’t understand them, yet our smiles successfully communicated to each other.
After the major exploration of Hampi’s sites, Anaconda took us to the Chill Out restaurant; I think it’s called, located on the Hampi Bazaar side close to the Mango Tree Restaurant. The Chill Out is exactly that, the perfect place to wind down, drink some fresh juice, have some bites, relax and appreciate the green paradisiac views.
This is part of my experience in this beautiful dry hot monkey kingdom, and one of the most memorable so far. If you have any specific questions, I’d be happy to provide more information about this experience and or traveling in India.
THE PEOPLE WE MEET
I met this blue eyed beauty at the beginning of my trip. Were actually assigned as roommates for a silent retreat. The funny thing is, when I saw her, she reminded me of another girl I was also rooming with during my last trip to India.
Getting to know her over the days (AFTER silence!), I learned a few more many things about this particular girl.
Over travels and conversations ranging many topics, she is also very resourceful, getting the local information at the right time, and a veeeery hard bargainer! She can do this with a huge smile and a lot of humor on her face that no one knows what happened I’m Guatemalan, so I also bargain naturally as its customary, but she’s a trip to watch!
As sweet as she looks, this woman is also a soldier for the US Army, where she served 15 months as a bomb squad medic in Iraq, a current medical student at UCLA, and someone whom despite very challenging life circumstances as well as an unusual and unstable upbringing, has managed through thick and thin, to keep herself whole, en route to rock bottom, but then, finding selfless motivation to use her talents and gifts to help others. I believe this is where she has found her life purpose, her reason to keep moving forward. She is only 29 years old, with a lot of life lived. She is a solo female traveler in India and Nepal, for the past 7 months, and recently climbed Everest base camp. After her trip, she will return to the US and continue her specialization in Global Health Pediatrics.
“My journey to India was completely unexpected. I booked a random flight from Chicago and within a week I landed in Delhi. I had no plans, I just went with the flow of the universe and this is what opened up to me:
Within a few days of arriving, I was welcomed into the slums by street performer tribes, I rode a camel through the Thar Desert, learned about the Buddhist life perspective on several topics, experienced 10 day Vipassana meditation, pilgrimaged on the Buddha trail (4 sites), spent a month in a monastery, chanted on Medicine Buddha mantras for 10 days, witnessed and experienced the Dalai Lama, trekked to Poon Hill and Everest Base Camp, bungy jumped 160 meters over the Bhote Kosi River, explored the beautiful Jungle Book of Hampi, dipped into Mother Ganges, and appreciated as many setting suns over the Arabian ocean, off the coast of Goa.
My experiences here over the last 7 months have completely transformed me. I’m happier than I’ve been in my entire life. I wake up every day with a smile on my face, grateful to be alive and experiencing this wonderful world in its entire splendor. ” Kristen
Since Kristen, I have met a few more people on my trip and although every person is different, with their own blessings and hardships, I think we all have one thing in common:
We are all curious for exploring the unknown, and of letting go of the layers (perhaps temporarily) of who we think we are. Traveling allows us to discover our own capacity and mind, to handle all circumstances, while remaining open to the new opportunities that arise which before, or in a different context, we would probably not have been receptive to.
Have you ever visited Guatemala? Antigua Guatemala is a UNESCO Heritage site just 45 minutes from Guatemala City International Airport. Guatemala is a very beautiful country in Central America, with many natural green paradise-like landscapes, mountains, lakes, volcanoes, black sand beaches, underwater garden lagoons and a very rich Mayan heritage. It is still very “untouched” and “underdeveloped” than other countries in Latin America, where the large majority of the population is still indigenous Mayan. For any questions for travel and/or coordinated itineraries get in touch me.
“Coming to you soon: Tea Plantations, Munnar”