The Flinstones meet Hindus and hippys
Trip Start Jan 08, 2007
14Trip End Mar 03, 2007
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2. Hampi bazaar
3. overcoming Monkey-phobia / paying homage to Hunaman
1. Arriving in the town of Hampi is a bit like landing on some strange and wonderful planet. There are huge boulders all over the place (thrown by Shiva-or a meteorite shower is the boring scientific guess) and within these boulder strewn areas is a 26 sq km area of ruins mostly from the 15th century though there are some dating back much farther in time.
The ruins are of old bazaars where the spice and gold trade took place, old elephant stables, old shrines and temples (those which suffered destruction in the hands of the Muslim invaders are no longer used for worship. India's largest 6meter tall Ganesh is a partially trunkless example), water holes, and the place where the Raj would greet his followers. Some of the ruins have only been unearthed in the past decade or so, and they are still finding more of ancient Hampi buried in the ground.
This is perhaps one of the most amazing places I have ever seen in my life. The arid climate and light brown boulders contrast with vibrant green banana and rice fields. You can't walk more than a quarter mile without finding more relics. It's truly fantastic.
2. Hampi Bazaar / bizarre
H.B is the name of the popup town where the guest houses are. It's interesting because while it definitely is set up for tourism, it still retains a village feel to it. I walked out of my room, leaving the large gecco on the wall to eat my mosquitos, and walked on to the street where a man was shooing a large pesky monkey away. A few steps later, a water buffalo came running past me (oh they do actually move!), and of course the chickens, goats, and roosters that crow endlessly in the morning are all over the place.
Also all over the place are shops selling hippy clothing made of cheap thin cloth. The only appeal is that it is hot here, and the materials are cool. However, Indian people dress nicely and find it strange that these rich westerners come over and wear cheap shit. Most of the hardcore hippys stay on the other side of the river (which can only be accessed until 6pm by a 10 rupee-25 cents-boat). The other side is referred to as "little Jordan" because of all the Israelis there. The scene at night is mini-goa (rave/drugs).
3. Hunaman Temple -a visit to the monkey god
Since Jaipur up north, the monkeys have been a constant source of stress for me. I'm not kidding when I say I am really terrified of them. I climbed up to a sunset viewpoint two days ago, and sensing my fear they bared their teeth and growled at me. I made by way down the hill clinging to two Brits-one as afraid as I was.
Something had to be done to confront this fear, so I looked across the river and up high on a rock face to the temple of Hunaman, the monkey god and loyal friend of Rama.
Accompanied by two Austrians (I'd met them down south and randomly bumped into here), Maria and Gary, we caught the boat across the river, walked 2 and a half miles to the temple, borrowed sticks from the people at the base of the temple, and made our way up the 400 steps to the Hunaman shrine. The stick, as it turns out, is the trick. I'd hit the sides of the stairs, hold it out, growl my monkey growl (not needed, but I was feeling empowered), and the monkeys would leave you alone. I had bought bananas to give them too, but when they'd come close, I'd throw the bananas off in the distance for them to chase. I guess the next step will be handing the food to them as the Indians do.
In any case, at the top of the 400 steps, I entered the shrine, paid homage to Hunaman for keeping his cousins at bay, and enjoyed an incredible view.
Tomorrow, I leave with a 6:30 train for Goa. I will probably head south of Goa to a place which is both holy and beach, but it's said that it's possible to escape the ravers of Goa on the south beaches, and of course Goa has culture beyond the hippy rave scene. I have to be there on the 21st because my train to Mumbai leaves from there.