Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Planet Rock

You'll be pleased to know this is only a short blog, not one of the usual mega-essays, and the last from our four months in India...

Hampi, in the state of Karnataka was our final destination before we left for Vietnam and kind of an addendum to original plans, but it really turned out to be one of the most fascinating places we'd been and it's worth a mention in its own right.

People almost always say when talking about thier travels "the pictures don't do it justice", and while that's undoubtedly a truism here, you can probably get a fair idea from the pics we snapped as to why were so blown away by it - it really is quite unlike anywhere else you're ever likely to visit. Just in terms of the bizarreness of its geological makeup alone, its visual impact is huge. Vast mountains of house-size red boulders sit stacked upon each other as far as the eye can see - almost like piles of pebbles by placed there by giant hands. Lone ones balance impossibly on the tops of hills silhouetted against the blue sky. A winding river flows though the valley floor filled with men on coracles and lush green paddy fields surrounded by palm trees reflect the images of the mountains. Somewhere, an lone eagle screams high over head...OK - I'm taking the piss now but you get the picture. It's easy to see why this place was, and still is viewed as holy land, and there are temples and shrines every where to testify. It really does feel at times like you're on the set of an Indiana Jones film, although in the eternal tradition of fact being weirder than fiction its hard to imagine anything but nature being able to bring to life somewhere so fascinating.

The main town itself is bisected by the wide meandering river with the bulk of it on the South side and the quieter more traveler-friendly area on the North. We stayed on the North bank which is only reachable by boat across the river and even then it seemed only until six pm when you would then have to grab someone with a coracle to get you across. It never failed to entertain how there could be only three people waiting for the boat and literally as it arrived another twenty Indians would appear and pile on in front, usually with half a ton of bananas and pineapples to boot.

We ended up spending five days in Hampi, a few of which we spent exploring the incredible temple complexes and landscape. We climbed the five hundred and fifty odd steps to the top of the mountain where the Temple of Hannuman (the Monkey God) looks over the valley and we watched the sun set over one of the most incredible views in India (which is more difficult than you'd imagine when you've got two red faced monkeys going at it like Pamela and Tommy Lee next to you).

We'd landed on our feet with the hotel too where we had a cottage which looked right across the paddy fields, so we took in a couple of final afternoons of kicking back Indian style before we hit the road for our longest journey yet - a mega ten hours by bus to Mangalore, fifteen hours by train to Cochin, five hour flight to Kuala Lumpur with six hours in the airport before connecting to Hanoi. Still, on the way we got chased in traffic in a rickshaw for three miles by a crazed dog after some takeaway pizza, I got thrown out of a chemist (best not to ask) and accidentally George Bush-style insulted a man with no legs (best not to ask again), got into a seat war with a weirdo from Hospet who insisted that he wanted to sit next to Sam for the entire bus journey and got my photo taken with Ronald MacDonald. At least it wasn't dull!

View our pics here:


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