Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy in Hampi

Our next stop was Hampi, former capital of a Hindu empire from 1336 to 1565, until it was sacked in a siege by a Muslim confederacy.  Described as “dreamy” by the Lonely Planet, it definitely lived up to our expectations.  And, for the record, it’s pronounced Humpy, a fact which would not make me giggle, because I’m a grownup.   
Ceremonial altar in front of Virupaksha Temple

Ceremonial altars pulled by 200+ Hindu pilgrims

However, before we were really able to take in the sights, we had to get there, and—as any traveler knows—getting there is often where interesting stuff happens.  I was beside myself with excitement for this journey, because the potential for interesting was strong:  we had reservations for a bed on what was dubbed a “sleeper bus.”  And, naturally, I was unreservedly excited.  Hello?!?!  Who wouldn’t be excited…it’s a double bed!  On an overnight bus!  It was a one of a kind opportunity to live out a dream as not-so-famous musician on tour, complete with my own personal groupie (i.e. technically husband, but whatever).  How very rock ‘n roll!

And it was very rock ‘n roll.  The bed was hard as a rock, and I rolled to and fro most of the evening.  Jon and I had made a rookie error by putting nearly everything under the bus, and even though it was non-A/C, it was absolutely freezing in the middle of the night.  However, the ability to open the windows meant that early on in the journey, I was able to hang my head out the window like a dog.  That was most enjoyable.  Fortunately, we had prime seats on the bottom floor over the back wheel.  Unfortunately, the bus was apparently not equipped with a muffler—neither the noise nor the vibrations could be considered conducive to the manufacture of Zzzzs.  However, despite these considerable handicaps, we still achieved a couple of hours of sleep, and I was still mildly thrilled from our overnight adventure.

Saying that, we were more than a bit groggy upon arrival, which made us prime targets for touts.  Retrospectively, I should have known things would be bad when we stopped briefly in Hospet—a city 15 km away—and were besieged at that time.  Since peak tourist season has ended, the tout to tourist ratio has subsequently increased.  And they had a presence of mind that we lacked.  Like skilled hunters, they moved swiftly, separating and confusing us.  At one point, we were bravely fending off a siege of seven.  “Where you going?  I’ll take you to very nice hotel. 24 hour electricity!”(Hmm…electricity as a selling point? Toto, I have a feeling we’re no longer in Kansas.)  We ended up walking the brief trip into town, and there were only 2 touts left standing, one of whom was nick-named ‘Mosquito.’  Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and say there was explanation necessary for that one.  After haggling over a room, we settled in and took a big looooong nap to recover.

Around 1 o’ clock, we headed into the main bit of town, meaning we walked around the corner.  Hampi really is a teeny place.  We had seen the main temple on the way in, which featured lots of monkeys (!) crawling around on the outside.  On the way, we ran into Koen, a friendly Dutch guy we had met on the overnight bus, and who we ended up spending a good deal of time with in Hampi.  We all headed to the police station to register ourselves, a compulsory process that revealed how toxically hot it was in Hampi.  I felt like I was fixin’ to die on the way down there (sorry about that—sometimes it is necessary to speak Texan to convey the magnitude of a given situation).  So we required a bit of R&R in the form of a light lunch (nearly all liquid for me) before heading to the Virupaksha temple itself.  This was my first Hindu temple, so it was a bit of a learning experience.  As far as temples go, it’s was a great one to start off with…very impressive.

Virupaksha Temple

We checked our shoes at the door, and wandered inside, where we could get some blessings from an elephant.  Unfortunately, we discovered the elephant charges more to bless foreigners, so there were none for us.  We also discovered how hearty some people’s feet were!  The combination of scalding sun, stone, and bare feet was not ideal by any stretch of the imagination.  However, the whole atmosphere of the crowds, the beautiful carvings, and dozens of monkeys (!) scampering about—including some baby monkeys(!!!), more than made up for the toasted toes. 

As we wandered around the temple, we had several requests to take photos with people, and sometimes requests to take photos of people (i.e. please take my photo!).  But as we approached the exit, it reached somewhat of a fever pitch.  Maybe it was because we are all really tall, or very accommodating, but it kind of got a little crazy.  People were taking photos of us taking photos with other people, whilst others were making requests for a photo of their own.  It was as if we were both the paparazzi and the ones getting ‘papped.’  (Maybe they heard about our starring role in Dhoom 3?)  All very funny but a wee bit out of control.

That night, we all had dinner at this German bakery, where the company was good, the food was not, and I got a couple of mosquito bites on my foot, that would later land me in hospital.  But that’s a story for another time.

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