Had pretty much decided to not write this blog today. Just didn’t feel like it. Too tired and the foot still hurts. But then there is a certain sense of discipline I am trying to inculcate. Don’t know if this has anything to do with the whole self-discovery angle generally attached to solo trips. But yea, discipline is something I sorely lack. And one of the things that traveling solo does teach you – even if subtly in and small measures – is that you need to be disciplined enough to plan a day well, despite enjoying all the flexibility that the absence of a second voice offers.
Anyway I do intend to keep this one short.
So yea, the day begins on a rather sweet note what with Hampi’s signature Nutella pancake (a really big one for just 90 bucks; forgot to take a pic thought; was too hungry) and an interesting conversation with a Swiss man in his late 40s or so, who’s been chilling in HAmpi for the last two months. He claims to have spent almost 20 years in India — mostly in some parts of south and Hrishikesh as a yoga trainer, pashmina trader, masseur and what-not — before he went back to Switzerland eight years back. The conversation starter really is my bandaged foot. I tell him about the bike accident and he suggests I should get a massage done. (Interesting suggestion) Then he offers to do it himself. (Not bad!) And for free. (Whoopieee!) The conversation mainly revolves around how India has changed drastically in the last eight years and he feels, for the worse. Everything’s become way more expensive but services haven’t improved, making a Cambodia or a Vietnam look more attractive… Then of course, features the demonetization devil and how people are making money out of cash crisis. (A lot of travel agencies in Hampi are letting you swipe the amount you need cash for and charging a whopping 10 per cent. I argued with someone but paid 7.5 per cent nevertheless.) Of course I notice there’s something odd about the Swiss guy Andy’s style. And the fool that I can be, all I want to know is, what has he been doing in Hampi for two months?! He says mostly meditating and making music. I still don’t get it! He says he meditates in the caves. (Get it, dumbass! But I don’t.) I keep on asking silly questions, only to later spot a half-finished bottle of alcohol on his table at 10am. Of course later it turns out to be honey. But the point is, I do eventually figure he’s probably been smoking up for the last two months and floating in his happy space – meditation! (Of course, that’s his deal. But I want to be safe and there is something weird about the way he talks). But then, he does wait for me to finish breakfast. The promise of the free massage you see! The chicken that I am, I knew I would back out even before agreeing. He buys me a Rs 1 Navratna Ayurvedic oil sachet anyway!
I move towards the Virupaksha temple area. Lot of rickshaw-wallahs waiting to fleece me. Particularly because today I’m limping and can’t walk too much. After some solid haggling I hire a five-hour rickshaw to cover the basic touristy places that I had been avoiding. We start with the Vithala temple and the stone chariot. Yes, again! But from a different route this time. The more tourist friendly route I think. Coz I had to buy a 30-rupee ticket and another 20bucks for battery-operated cars plying from the starting point to the main temple area which is quite far. (My rock and boulder route on Day One was far more interesting. But couldn’t have possibly done it on a sprained foot). The architecture is mind-boggling. I think I can see it over and over again and still be awe-struck like a little girl. And then I am taking my own sweet time today, since limping can get a bit painful.
Honestly, I am feeling a bit low. The leg is hurting. But equally painful is the fact that the majestic ruins have turned into a picnic spot today. School children run amock like it is some public park… maybe because it’s a Friday and it is just bad timing. One of the most charming places I’ve seen has just been robbed off its peace.
I discover a really silent dark spot, deep inside one of the three temple structures that hasn’t attracted the school kids yet. And that’s when suddenly the young flautist (from day one) walks up to me. He’s evidently surprised to find me sitting alone in a dark cave. Taneesh, Tanvi and gang are concluding their trip with this temple visit. All college kids, their sheer energy lifts my mood. Like last time, they’ve given a lead on what I can do tomorrow. (I am yet to figure how to ring in the new year. Might just be sleeping in my room mostly, since everything shuts down by 10pm and no shack here seems to be excited about the New Year).
Anyway, I move on to the rest of the usual suspects – Queens Bath, stone sisters, the queen’s summer palace (which guides love to say, had natural A/C), the elephant garage (the Swiss guy called it so. Basically Krishnadevaraya parked his 11 elephants there) and many more.
And I am still walking like a fat old woman with a pronounced limp and totally not liking the feeling. And then of course there’s a sea of school kids again, who unwittingly manage to put me off even more. It’s not about them really. It’s just the general attitude. I don’t even remember the number of foreigners I’ve spotted clicking pics with these kids. What is it with them? Are these kids, (who did look a bit dishevelled and I do assume most of them were from humble families) mere props in their pretty frames? But as I hang around a little more, I begin to feel it’s really the other way around. The kids are loving it. They’re in fact the ones who insist on being photographed and don’t leave you until you take a click with them. Imagine being in a foreign land and being thronged by some 20 unruly kids demanding a click with you. Won’t you oblige? Besides, they are all insistent on shaking hands with firangis, as if trying to touch and gauge if they are as human as them.
And it doesn’t end here. A solo woman, who’s limping with a bit of a baby elephant gait, is also the hand-shake-click-pic material! Honestly, nothing against the kids. They’re just kids. Mostly 10 to 14 year olds. But what was it with the teachers who weren’t bothered enough to guide them, tell them that this is not how you behave! But what do you say, if you find even the teachers being all thankful to foreign tourists for breathing the same air and facing the same camera! (I don’t want to get into the 150-year-of-British-invasion space, what the hell is wrong with us? Does the fair skin still leave us salivating? Or do we see anybody looking or behaving differently as an object of experiment?)
So yes, a bit miffed I keep moving. A few more spots later, (the massive shivling and laxmi narasimha statues are extremely imposing), I finally reach the Ganesha temple, which is at the foothills of yet another sunset point. Foothills on a broken foot?! Right. But then I love watching sunsets (who doesn’t?) and I realize I have more than half an hour at hand. Slowly and unsteadily, I take ages to finish what would have otherwise been a very easy climb. But I do reach the top. It’s a huge space with more temple ruins offering an amazing view of the setting sun. I am only too eager to park myself on a rock and stretch my foot. Slowly, I begin taking the view in.
Day before, the Malyavantha raghunatha spot was mostly mountains and sunset. But today the gigantic Virupaksha temple is dotting the skyline along with a few smaller ones from the other side. And it’s all just so serene. I sit calmly, admiring the beauty… nature’s gift to mankind… long after the sun has set. I do have the task of figuring out an exit around the Virupaksha side, which is much closer to my homestay. But then, faint sounds of Carnatic music fill the air almost magically… I think it is part of the evening aarti at Virupaksha. I sit down on the endless expanse of boulders again. Yes, I know it is getting darker. My limp has become worse. But in this moment, I don’t care. It just feels divine. That’s all I know. This is what I want to take my home. I try taking a few pictures. But I fail miserably at capturing even an inch of what all this really means. I sit still… quiet…
Finally, even as the last of boys sprawling in rocks get going, I decide I should too before it’s too late. A kid selling postcards sees me having a tough time climbing down the rocks and decides to drop me all the way to the bazaar. I’ll sell postcards in the bazaar now, he says. I’m touched. I give him some cash, since I have no other way of repaying him.
The day of course ends on a more foot-friendly note. I get an extremely affordable foot massage done at Raja’s. Foot massage and reiki healing, really. He does just a miraculous job that I don’t feel the need of bandaging my foot anymore.
A minor limp still exists. But I think I can live with it… live to see another day… live to tell another story… Hopefully the other side of Hampi – Hippie islands today again. Let’s see what the day has in store for me!