We’ve seen more sunrises and sunsets in the past 10 days than in the past 10 years! Our early morning journey to Hampi requiring a pre-dawn wake-up was a 7 hour train ride covering about 350km over the western ghats (mountain range). Travelling on Indian trains is confusing to say the least as there are 7 classes and different types of trains offering different classes. There’s the usual 1st, 2nd and 3rd but also AC and non-AC, sleeper or chair, 2 tier or 3 tier, and figuring out the benefits of the different classes, which train has which classes and more importantly how to book seats, is worth a whole post in itself. For a little less than $15, we got 2nd class 2 tier AC berths which basically means that you have berths in a compartment for 4 people. Perfect, as two can sit on the lower berth and read or whatever and if you want to take a nap, both upper and lower berths are available. Linen is provided and it;s very pleasant to lie and doze to the steady rumbling sound of the train in motion. Everytime the train stops, a fleet of vendors hop on board selling drinks, snacks, fruit, and chai. Then orders are taken for lunch, usually chicken or vegetable biriyani. The journey is never dull and you get a better sense of the country than travelling by air.
Anyway, enough about the trains. We arrived at Hospet junction and took a tuk tuk to Hampi. Words cannot describe this stupendous place, now a UNESCO world heritage site. Giant boulders cover the hills while stone temples with spectacular carvings dot the landscape with the Tungabadhra river running through it. Site of the Hindu Vijayanagar dynasty between the 14th to 16th century, it was reputed to be larger than any 15th century European city including London and Paris. However, its glory did not last long as it was overcome by the Deccan Moslem Sultanates who laid siege to it for 6 months and finally systematically destroyed it. Significant archaeological work is in progress and many of the temples and monuments covering an area of 26 sq km have been unearthed and restored. It really is spectacular and quite unbelievable. If you look closely at the picture on the right, you will see a tiny speck, which is actually a figure in a white shirt, on the extreme right which gives some sense of the scale of the boulders and temples.
We stayed across the river in a lovely location bordering on rice paddy fields and took a little ferry boat to cross to the village and the side where most of the temples are located. The morning crossing was the best part as there was always a lot of activity on the other side. The temple elephant taking a bath in the river, snake charmers, musicians, children going to school and of course vendors of crafts and fruit. The rental scooters were a godsend as we were able to ride around the countryside and see the sights at our leisure.
It was seriously hot so we confined our sightseeing to the morning before noon and the afternoon after 3pm which left the right amount of time for lunch and a nap. A few beers would have been nice but Karnataka is a ‘dry’ state so we had to confine ourselves to water which was perhaps a good thing! Next we go to Kerala.